Sweeping mountain views and time-lapse skies under opera music… but lo-fi overcompressed found-footage sources aren’t what you look for in a nature doc, so what are we doing? Long focus on hurricane and tornado destruction then random cuts to tidal waves and volcanoes. My second modern b/w movie in a row – this one looked significantly worse than Macbeth. Per Phil Coldiron in Cinema Scope, Pelechian has written academically about montage, and this is his first film in almost 30 years. I wasn’t crazy about it, but still want to check out The Seasons sometime.
Tag: found footage
Terra Femme (2021, Courtney Stephens)
Been a while since I’ve seen a good essay doc. Stephens is fast becoming a fave after The American Sector and Perfect Fifths – though I have concerns about her longevity (she doesn’t expand much on her brain-cloud diagnosis in the voiceover). This is archive footage shot mainly by women on travels, in which the narrator tries to locate the feminine gaze. Chapter headings, and sections devoted to each traveler instead of mixing ’em together. Bonus points for including a sloth and a toucan.
Ida Western Exile (2015)
A little bit of Georgia O’Keeffe painting mountains, but the soundtrack of a woman making calls to companies to prep for a potentially dangerous solo trip takes over the movie – and ties it to the feature about women traveling.
Beyond Clueless (2014, Charlie Lyne)
We didn’t buy the essay part, but were mostly watching for the clips… and even that backfired when it kept focusing on horror, and Katy had to cover her eyes through scenes from Final Destination and Idle Hands.
Cannibal Holocaust (1980, Ruggero Deodato)
Comically gentle music plays over the title Cannibal Holocaust, and I can’t tell if it’s irony or if this is just typical Italian-Horror dissonance. Then we open with a dude on an NYC skyscraper telling us that man is on the verge of conquering the galaxy, but blah blah. This movie has appeared on horror lists for decades, but I would never watch it, because ages ago we made the mistake of renting Umberto Lenzi’s knockoff Cannibal Ferox, which was so distasteful it put me off Italian cannibal horrors for years.
Professor Harold agrees to “journey into Amazonia” to find a disappeared film crew of four absolute losers, introduced via their own rushes: Alan is the director, Faye his “girlfriend and script girl,” and the two cameramen Jack and Martin are “inseparable friends.” This is set up as a found-footage doc, but the moment I meet these bozos I don’t buy a thing they say. It’s a clever conceit though, and as far as Italian courts of the early 1980’s could tell, this is how Americans really behave, so the movie-in-a-movie was assumed to be true and director Deodato was accused of murder.
“Hey professor, I recognize these teeth.” Dr. Harold and his army crew lose a man to a blowgun dart while while they are butchering natives, then they come across the teeth of Felipe, the movie crew’s guide. Meanwhile there’s footage of jumping monkeys, sloths and macaws, before we’re subjected to a mud-covered girl getting raped with some bloody object then murdered. It’s kind of a not-bad, actiony movie, except for the misogyny and probably racism. The prof’s crew is brought to the Tree People’s hideout and Harold decides to “become like them” and strips in the river, where he’s quickly surrounded by excited nude women. Have I mentioned that Harold is played by porn actor Robert Kerman? He also played a cop in Night of the Creeps, and IMDB says “then one day his female agent fired him for no clear reason.” Females, eh?
Porn Prof with Salvatore Basile, an assistant director on this and Cobra Verde:
The film crew is long dead but the prof returns to NYC with the footage from their would-be documentary titled The Green Inferno (yo, Eli Roth). A rookie Italian mistake, which should have been disqualifying in the murder trial: the “found footage” is dubbed. I turned away from the screen during the infamous turtle slaughter scene, which felt very long. Our film crew finds a village, and just frightens and torments people, then burns some villagers to death for no apparent reason except they’re horny and drunk on power, the director and his girl proceeding to then have sex in front of their cameramen and the entire village.
The Yanomamo freak out over a tape recorder:
“Been walking through the jungle for days with the harrowing feeling that we’re moving in circles” – this predates The Blair Witch Project by two decades. Their guide Felipe is bit in the foot by a snake and they quickly chop off his leg – not quick enough, I reckon. When they come across the Yanomamo “tree people,” they ingratiate themselves by immediately raping a woman, and when the script girl interferes (not to prevent the rape, but to protest that recording it wastes precious film) they assult her too. The tribe catches up with the crew, and when Jack is first on the menu, the cameramen don’t seem like “inseparable friends,” as the other enthusiastically films the butchering. Faye is gang-raped, of course, and the other two are quickly dispatched when discovered. The movie gets to have it both ways as Harold condemns the doc footage as inhuman. “I wonder who the real cannibals are,” as the camera meaningfully pans up to the NYC skyscrapers.
Our director Deodato was assistant director on Django, later known for making unsavory stuff like a Last House on the Left remake and this movie’s predecessor Jungle Holocaust. The writers worked on Devil Fish and Demons 5: Devil’s Veil. Composer Riz Ortolani has hundreds of credits, including Don’t Torture a Duckling and The Dead Are Alive. DP Sergio D’Offizi also shot Deported Women of the SS Special Section and Today We Kill, Tomorrow We Die!
Claire Diane on Letterboxd:
This film is an evil spell … I have no idea how to rate it, as conventional senses of quality really have no place with a film like this. It is profoundly repugnant and yet also seems somehow a pinnacle.
The Green Fog (2017, Guy Maddin & Evan Johnson & Galen Johnson)
I thought about watching this, then rewatching Vertigo, then rewatching this… but I’m not made of free time here, so I just wikipediaed Vertigo then watched this once. It’s 90+ percent footage from San Francisco movies and shows (credited at the end in a dizzying rush of title cards), with some added effects: manipulated TV and film screen images, dialogue chopped out leaving behind only pauses and breaths, and the titular fog. Everything is fit into 4:3, a few bits of dialogue or voiceover are left in, and the whole thing is accompanied by great string music by Jacob Garchik and the Kronos Quartet.
I probably would’ve enjoyed this just as much without knowing the story concept, but having the Vertigo storyline to follow makes it more memorable. Favorite sections: the “women looking at paintings” scene, the “Chuck Norris being pensive” footage, and especially the ending, a montage of bickering couples and earthquakes leading to the final death plummet. Good use of screens and tape recorders, and humor throughout – this isn’t as extreme as Tscherkassky or Martin Arnold in its found-footage manipulation, but just as enjoyable. David Cairns points out there’s a Bill Morrison equivalent, Spark of Being as a found-footage Frankenstein.
The Thoughts That Once We Had (2015, Thom Andersen)
Some really beautiful, extended clips from great films.
Nice to sit for 100 minutes and watch the clips. Frustrating, though, that I have no bloody idea what this movie’s point was. I’ve never understood Deleuze – his books The Time-Image and The Movement-Image have promising titles but I’m not smart or patient enough to read them through. Andersen doesn’t help, using no narration, just short scraps of written quotes. Just as I played guess-the-movie with the clips, which aren’t identified, I suppose film theorists can play guess-the-context for the quotes.
The Thoughts That Once We Had, in accordance with its analytical subject matter, is less a work of criticism than of classification and philosophical contemplation … The director describes The Thoughts That Once We Had as a “musical film,” and there is indeed a sequence dedicated to the movie musical, as well as interludes devoted to the allure of Maria Montez and Debra Paget, the differing though equally magnetic intrigue of Timothy Carey and Marlon Brando, and the use of blues music in American film—there’s even an extra-cinematic consideration of Hank Ballard and Chubby Checker’s nearly identical versions of their signature hit “The Twist.” As in his prior films, there’s a joy to be had in simply watching the clips unfold and comment on each other in alternately humorous and shrewd fashion, and Andersen seems particularly inspired here when diagramming the symmetry between images of a certain spiritual accord, even as they date from diverging periods.
Willow Creek (2013, Bobcat Goldthwait)
Short, found-footage movie where Jim (Bryce Johnson, unsympathetic fiancee in Sleeping Dogs Lie) is a bigfoot obsessive visiting the site of some famous footage, and Kelly (Alexie Gilmore, Robin’s girlfriend in World’s Greatest Dad) is the girlfriend filming and humoring him. In the first half they interview locals and get warned away from the woods, but they forge ahead, and in the second half they’re tormented then killed (after laughably not bringing a map or compass or any way of finding their way out of the woods) by the very bigfoots they hoped to observe.
It sounds very bad, but wait, it’s by the great Bobcat, creator of some of my favorite recent comedies, so surely there’s more going on, some subversive genius to this seemingly dated and pointless movie, or at least a great comic twist? Nope, just the Blair Witch-meets-Grizzly Man premise described above. There’s a kinda great 15-minute shot where they wake up hearing approaching bigfoots (making me imagine the movie’s better with surround sound), and the actors are both committed, but overall it’s a bust.
Craig Baldwin: Living Cinema
Baldwin, director of one of my favorite 1990’s movies, Tribulation 99, and the great, more recent Mock Up on Mu, visited film-culturally-deficient Atlanta with a greatest-hits program of mostly montage/found-footage films (none made by himself, but some distributed on his label) streamed from laptops and DVDs. Baldwin seems as energetic and knowledgable in person as you’d expect from his films – overall an excellent program. Fortunately I took a photo of the chalkboard listing titles/creators and was able to find many of them online to watch again.
Urine Man (2000, Greta Snider)
Short doc starring a homeless conspiracy theorist who promotes drinking one’s own urine.
Assassination in Dreamland (2011, David Sherman)
Discussion of McKinley’s assassination at the pan-american expo, an event dominated by Edison’s new inventions (light bulb, x-ray) and documented by his movie camera. Sherman mixes different Edison company films to tell his story, which ends with the assassin executed in Edison company’s electric chair.
Way Fare (2009, Sylvia Schedelbauer)
Montage of footage inherited from a photographer. Mostly I remember the praying mantis from the beginning. More quietly paced than the others.
We Edit Life (2002, People Like Us)
Totally groovy, PLU remixing graphics and film clips the same way she does classic records in her music. Oriented around “new” technology of the 70’s, computer-generated music and picture, the dream of robots.
Altair (1995, Lewis Klahr)
Another pensive one, made from composited magazine cutouts. I loved the couple dancing inside a pitcher of orange beverage. Youtube uploader describes: “color-noir culled from late-40’s pages of Cosmopolitan, which induces a sense of claustrophobia and dread through its use of Stravinsky’s The Firebird.”
The LSD No-No (2009, James Blagden)
Dock Ellis’s voice, recorded off NPR in 2008, telling about his post-baseball career as a drug counselor. No of course not, he’s telling about the infamous LSD no-hitter. Music, sfx and original animation make this a hilarious little film, which I’ve gotta remember to show Katy.
The S From Hell (2010, Rodney Ascher)
I can’t put it better than its creator did: “a short documentary-cum-horror film about the scariest corporate symbol in history.” He edits stories about the traumatic logo with re-enactments of dreams and other fun graphic bits. I dug the use of footage from Halloween III. Can’t wait for his full-length treatment of The Shining conspiracy-theories.
Bigger Better (2004, Ton Meijdam)
America/corporate-power music video starring smiling Fuhrer Bill Gates. This has such a nice look to it. I kinda feel bad that it puts one of the world’s biggest philanthropists in a nazi uniform. Might I suggest Steve Jobs?
Walt Disney’s Taxi Driver (2011, Bryan Boyce)
Scenes from Taxi Driver with Disney elements added in. DeNiro’s Mickey ears looked too computery in you-talkin-to-me scene, but taking Cybill to a double feature of Lady & The Tramp and Steamboat Willie at the porno theater looked great.
Lord of the Rings (2003, Jino Choi, excerpt)
Scenes from LOTR subtitled to illustrate its political context, with Sauron representing Empire. After Dock Ellis, this is the one I most wanted to show Katy, but it’s not available online.
No Business (2007, Negativland)
Fun and creative music video about stealing music.
Hitler on SOPA (anonymous)
More Downfall meme. Not as good as the one about the limited availability of Kraftwerk tickets, but still golden.
Uso Justo (2005, Coleman Miller, excerpt)
Hilarious, self-aware experimental found-footage film, characters from soap operas coming to realize that they’re in a montage. The whole 20-some-minute work is available online (at the moment).
Not Too Much Remember (2003, Tony Gault)
Felt long compared to the others, but internet says it’s only 11 minutes. Conspiracy theories about the CIA and drugs, as imagined by a disturbed interview subject.
Most of the footage comes from educational films dating from the 50’s and 60’s, concerning psychological experiments and mind control. The loose, narrative, structure is centered on a psychiatrist’s interview with a man named Richard. Richard is the subject of scientific experiments with LSD administered by the CIA. Throughout the interview footage from other films with similar experiments on children, and other cinereous that can be possibly interpreted as his life as a child, are spliced in. Collectively, the new arrangement of footage makes for an eerie tone that contradicts it original intention of the educational pieces.
A Movie (1958, Bruce Conner) / A Movie (2010, Jen Proctor)
I mostly watched Bruce’s. The synch was good and remaking a classic experimental montage film is a fun idea, though trying to watch two movies at once left me with little memory of either.
Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America (1992, Craig Baldwin)
See, used to be I’d go to the video store and rent anything that looked interesting, and I’d come home with wild, awesome, insane movies. But one Tetsuo The Iron Man and a pile of Richard Kern films later, I start to get wary of the weird stuff. It seems the few weird, random films I rent these days are crappy movies trying too hard for cult success (Sukiyaki Western Django, Tokyo Gore Police). Eventually I get this crazy idea that I should seek out good movies instead of bad ones, and become obsessed with lists of great and important films and magazines like Cinema Scope. So imagine my surprise when C.S. did an article on Craig Baldwin, one of those purveyors of cult-reaching found-footage hyper-weirdness peppering the video shelves. Bug had been a C.S. recommendation and that wasn’t so bad, so I finally overcame my angry memories of Baldwin’s Negativland documentary Sonic Outlaws and I rented this.
And wow is it a mindblowing pile of awesomeness. Footage from ALL sources (godzilla/molemen/cartoons, star trek scenes played as news footage, actual news footage superimposed with sci-fi business) combine to form a tell-all exposé of aliens from planet Quetzalcoatl who landed on earth in the year 1000 and live underground for centuries, waking after nuclear bomb tests to affect global climate change and politics in South and Central America and the U.S., leading to annihilation of the planet in the future year of 1999.
Movie is a wild, hilarious masterpiece of montage, with the nutty stuff woven into actual history, then 45 minutes in, after I thought it had just ended, it refocuses on Africa and becomes kind of dull. Turns out this was the short RocketKitKongoKit (1986), with no opening title so I didn’t know what was happening. Story is more news reporting with less fanciful writing, with stuff on Mobutu (evil ruler of Zaire/Congo) and others I already can’t remember, and I think there was stuff about Germany in there. Loved the conspiratorial half-whisper of the narrator in the first film, so the dull, accented narrator of this one lost interest in comparison.
Next up on the DVD: Wild Gunman (1978), apparently featuring scenes from a dragon’s-lair live-action cowboy video game, but I guess they didn’t have laserdisc players in ’78. Clever montage of advertisements, cowboy shows, repeated bits back and forth (not quite Martin Arnold-obsessive, just for fun). All three movies are divided into numbered sections… the last one used reverse-images of a girl holding up numbers and this one’s got film countdown leader. Playful and fun, brings back the energy the middle film lost.
Internet says Baldwin is a Bruce Conner devotee – no surprise there.
Video distributor says:
Baldwin’s “pseudo-pseudo-documentary” presents a factual chronicle of US intervention in Latin America in the form of the ultimate far-right conspiracy theory, combining covert action, environmental catastrophe, space aliens, cattle mutilations, killer bees, religious prophecy, doomsday diatribes, and just about every other crackpot theory broadcast through the dentures of the modern paranoiac… a truly perverse vision of American imperialism.
T. Maloney in Senses of Cinema:
On the surface RocketKitKongoKit is the true story of a German rocket firm leasing land in the Congo (then called “Saire” under Mobutu’s reign), for testing rockets. The larger implications, that of Europe’s colonial attitude towards Africa in the 1960s and the exploitation of its people for a program the Europeans didn’t want in their own backyard, is not an entirely inaccurate one. History is, of course, highly malleable, and interpretations of any event can continue for decades – especially with relatively recent and well-documented events. The direct links between the ESA’s rocket program and deteriorating conditions in Africa are made more forcefully than would a more conservative historian, and the information is presented with the authority and integrity the documentary form affords.
and on Trib 99:
Organised into 99 chapters, each with a terrifying title screaming out in full screen capital letters, (9) the structure of the film invokes both conspiracy theories and biblical texts. And yet a great deal of the narration in Tribulation describes a readily verifiable history of American intervention in Central America from the 1960s through the 1980s. It is mixed in with vampires, voodoo and killer robots, but it is there.