I passed up seeing The Scarlet Empress in 35mm for this, but it was probably worth it [later note after having finally watched The Scarlet Empress: nope].

Meshes of the Afternoon (1943, Maya Deren)
One of the great poetic movies of the 40’s. Love when she’s climbing the stairs, bouncing off the walls as the camera twists from side to side. Love the multiple Mayas sitting at a table in the same shot (technically impressive, too). Love the movement, the plot (avant-filmmakers take note: an actual plot), the look, that iconic shot of Maya at the window.

Fuses (1967, Carolee Schneemann)
Fairly rapidly-edited shots of director having sex with James Tenney, with other scratched and weathered colored filmstrips superimposed over it. The editing and content are exciting for about ten minutes, but the movie is twenty minutes long, and silent. Girl in front of me tried reading from the reflected light of Tenney’s alarmingly red-tinted penis on the classroom wall, then texted people for a while. I sat wondering why there were so many shots of her cat staring out the window. Maybe it was supposed to be boring, and that was the point. Worth watching on pristine 16mm, glad I saw it, just saying it felt long. Schneemann has few film credits, but they’re in collaboration with Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono and Stan Brakhage. The Brakhage influence can plainly be seen here, and the film process work makes for some wonderful images. This was apparently a reaction to the objectification of women in movies, with Window Water Baby Moving named as an example. The director: “I wanted to see if the experience of what I saw would have any correspondence to what I felt – the intimacy of the lovemaking… And I wanted to put into that materiality of film the energies of the body, so that the film itself dissolves and recombines and is transparent and dense – as one feels during lovemaking.” Won a special jury prize at Cannes.

Reassemblage (1982, Trinh T. Minh-ha)
Black with ambient sound. Then shots of a rural scene in Senegal with silence. More shots with narration. More shots with ambient sound. More narration. Eventually, more black. The sound is rarely commenting directly on the visuals, and even the ambient sound rarely seems to line up. Shots of bare-breasted African women, daily chores, kids (two albinos!), youth playing in the river, and so on, with comments about ethnography. The commentary might make sense written down, but as we heard it, all scattered and edited (the sound editing was pretty poor), it seemed to circle around some points without managing to make any. Got nothing against the film, was fine to hang out in Senegal for a while. L. Thielan: “By disjunctive editing and a probing narration this ‘documentary’ strikingly counterpoints the authoritative stance typical of the National Geographic approach.”


First Comes Love (1991, Su Friedrich)
Pop music by the Beatles, James Brown, Willie Nelson and more, but someone please get this woman a cross-fader – it’s all so abruptly edited. The songs sometimes work really well with the images, though. Image is of four wedding ceremonies, astoundingly woven together into an ethnographic study of heterosexual marriage ceremony, interrupted by a text crawl of all the countries in which homosexual marriage is prohibited (every country but Denmark). Bell & Zryd: “This simple strategy, which contrasts the lush life of heterosexual ritual with the stark legal and constitutional realities of gay and lesbian relationships, reframes the anthropological text with political rigor.” Rigor isn’t something I look for in a movie, but avant-critics love to proclaim it. What rigor! Anyway, would like very much to see more of her work.

Girlpower (1992, Sadie Benning)
I hear the intro feedback of a Sonic Youth song and all is right in the world. Even though this movie (the shortest of the bunch, I expect) is a half-res crap-quality videotape, the music and narration are clear. About the narration – sounds like either a petulant girl or a woman in performance-art mode… an impressionistic video diary of disaffected youth, comfortable with herself but not with society. Aha, Benning was 30 at the time. Lotta shots of the television. Punk film, but with nicer sound editing than the Friedrich, weird. Short, enjoyed it. Ooh, she’s James Benning’s daughter.

A very good movie, though it didn’t strike me as completely excellent – fascinating to see Watkins’ style applied to a fully fictional narrative. This movie’s complete obscurity and unavailability until two weeks ago on DVD really supports the director’s constant claims of marginalization. How can you continue your career when all your past work has been suppressed? It’s a glimpse at where PW’s career could have gone. Also interesting how all the reviews he quotes on the website attack the film’s shooting and editing style, calling it failed art, when I thought it was far more artfully put together than most movies of its time (although it’s not like I’ve seen BAFTA-winning A Man For All Seasons for comparison).

Paul Jones (former singer of top-ten UK band Manfred Mann) plays the top teen idol in Britain, Steve Shorter (sort of all four Beatles in one), who appeals to the youth with pain and rebellion, then is used by the government to promote peace and conformity. Sidetracks along the way for a love interest (who was supposed to be painting Steve’s portrait but that was dropped pretty quickly), TV commercials to push surplus apples, a Mr. Freedom reminiscent (not least of all for its effective cheapness, walls covered in tin-foil) “Steve-mart” superstore, and concert footage including the very nazi-rally-like concert finale (15 years before Pink Floyd’s The Wall). Sure Steve is a tool of the establishment, but he plays it too consciously, usually with an uncomfortable expression on his face (even in public).

Polish cinematographer Peter Suschitzky has had an awesome career, starting with The War Game, going through this and Gladiators, to Jacques Demy, to Ken Russell and Rocky Horror, to Empire Strikes Back and Krull, now shooting all David Cronenberg’s films since Dead Ringers (with time out for Mars Attacks). All great-looking films.


American novelist Norman Bognor and I adapted the script, which we retitled ‘Privilege’, to emphasize the significance of Steven Shorter as an allegory for the manner in which national states, working via religion, the mass media, sports, Popular Culture, etc., divert a potential political challenge by young people.

1970: the first ticker-tape parade in Britain’s history:

Arty love interest Jean Shrimpton:

Steve goes all Mike D. on this advertising billboard:

Behind the scenes on the apple commercial:

Set for the big rally:

Steve drives the message home:

Unlike the cop-out Boogie Nights reissue, this DVD includes the short bio-doc which was the inspiration for the film: Lonely Boy, about teen idol pop singer Paul Anka and his unreasonable screaming female fans. Lonely Boy was released in ’62, the same year he was second-billed (alphabetically, ha!) in The Longest Day with John Wayne, Robert Ryan and Sean Connery. Three years earlier Paul was in the MST3K classic Girls Town. The doc is good, made by two Oscar-nominated Canadians named Wolf and Roman, b/w in “verite” style, but there are voiceovers and lots of editing, so I’m not sure the label is appropriate. Anka is a cutie but his songs aren’t all that. He’s says to the camera that “it’s all about sex”, his manager admits to a nosejob, this was in ’62! Fun to watch them together, since Privilege steals a couple scenes wholesale from the doc.

Lonely Boy:

Kelly’s follow-up Southland Tales starring The Rock and Buffy is finally getting released later this year, or so I’ve heard.

Forgot how GOOD this movie is. Somehow I’d chalked it up as a sentimental underdog fave, but I still really like it.

Donnie’s dad will be in Southland Tales, and we caught him last night in Bring It On.
Donnie’s mom plays the president of Battlestar Galactica.
Samantha Darko is Lilo in Lilo & Stitch and a regular in Katy’s Big Love.
Bunny Suit Frank was in every “cool” teen movie in the 90’s.
Donnie’s teacher is in Southland Tales, No Country For Old Men, and Little Miss Sunshine (as a pageant official).
Recording artist Jena Malone will be in Into The Wild and The Ruins.
Seth Rogen of Knocked Up was apparently in there somewhere.
Donnie’s psychiatrist had starring roles in Butch Cassidy/Sundance Kid, The Graduate, The Final Countdown and Stepford Wives.