Someone or other, at the beginning of 2022, said they might watch a pile of 1972 movies on their fiftieth anniversary, and I stole the idea. This is probably why I watched The Inner Scar and The Boxer from Shantung and The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant and Boxcar Bertha and Fat City and Asylum and The Blood Spattered Bride… and sometimes my release years get mixed up so it might’ve been why I watched A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin or Fantastic Planet. It’s definitely why I gathered these 1972 shorts and kept them around for many months before finally deciding on Dec 30 that it’s now or never. Turns out they were all very good.


Ordinary Matter (Hollis Frampton)

The opening seconds, the camera rockin’ and rollin’ over some shingles, effectively demonstrates the weakness of my overcompressed VHS rip. A man speaks single syllables (a Chinese alphabet? you can download the script from Carnegie) with feedback echo, as the low-framerate camera tears ass through the countryside, producing frantically framing foliage. Then a square park surrounded by a columned hallway, the camera running through the halls looking inwards towards the park, the columns providing a film-flicker effect. Then over the Brooklyn Bridge, the camera getting distracted by any stone columns it encounters. Into the earth and grass, the image like an abstract fireworks display with the occasional tire track running through it. The voiceover runs out of syllables during a romp through Stonehenge with ten minutes still to go in the film – that’s poor planning for a structuralist! A shock when the camera stops and lingers in the cornfields. Anticlimactic ending, silently stomping sunward through the bushes. One of the more vibrant Frampton films I’ve seen, overall – part of his Hapax Legomena project.


Leonardo’s Diary (Jan Svankmajer)

Intercutting painstaking journal pages come to life with stock footage of human antics, creating some wild juxtapositions. A really fun one, released the year after the also-great Jabberwocky.


The Midnight Parasites (Yoji Kuri)

More animation, this one a colorful panorama of hellish mutilations. Among all the things gobbling up and shitting out other things, there’s a rare 1970’s human centipede. Real demented Boschian cartoon, the music a nifty electrogroove.

Mouseover for centipede, ya sicko:
image


The Bathroom (Yoji Kuri)

Stop-motion lunacy in a striped room (and sometimes the bathroom). Objects make and unmake themselves and clip through the floor, 3D cartoons and human actors turned into animation. Kuri’s interest in food and butts continues. Then suddenly, sped-up doc footage of crowds visiting a gallery of Kuri’s butt-centric art. Obviously this is all wonderful. The wikis say that Kuri was an early star of the Annecy Film Fest, made 40+ shorts, and is alive at 94.


Winnie-the-Pooh and a Busy Day (Fyodor Khitruk & Gennadiy Sokolskiy)

Alas, the last of the Russian Pooh shorts.
The one where Eeyore cries a lot on his birthday, then finds his lost tail.


Chakra (Jordan Belson)

Richly colored video light, washing like waves, flying like ashes, drifting like clouds, with a better soundtrack than these things tend to have. I bet seeing this projected properly would be gobsmacking.

Chakra (c) Jordan Belson


Take Five (Zbigniew Rybczynski)

Dancers’ images, tinted and overlapping, like these screenshots but in rapid motion over a jazz soundtrack. In the final minute the editing goes berserk, the jazz gets chopped and screwed. Real out there. I’ve only previously seen Rybczynski’s oscar-winning Tango. Take Five was among his earliest work, a thesis film, and the wikis say he’s had a big life since then, becoming a pioneer in video technology.


Top Ten Still-Unseen 1972 Movies:

The Merchant of Four Seasons
Morgiana
Don’t Torture the Duckling
Remote Control / Special Effects
Last Tango in Paris
What’s Up, Doc?
Red Psalm
Savage Messiah
The Death of Maria Malibran
Pink Flamingos

Getting to this movie due to its placement in the latest Sight & Sound lists. Made in between L’Avventura and L’Eclisse, this time Monica Vitti isn’t the protagonist but a third-party temptation. Main couple is Marcello Mastroianni (a few years after White Nights and Big Deal) and Jeanne Moreau (the year before Jules & Jim). Ennui at a party, ends with him on top of her in a golf course sand trap, neither still in love with the other. Won Berlin’s golden bear vs. Godard, Kurosawa – and vs. Bernhard Wicki, who acts in this as the couple’s dying friend. Richard Brody’s Criterion article is very good.

Wedding photographer John and bartender Levi discover supernatural phenomenon in Levi’s apartment and shoot a documentary about it. Maybe his closet is a gateway to another dimension. Finding symbols and coincidences in Los Angeles, like Silver Lake or Lodge 49, but this time it’s not just one conspiracy/coincidence, it’s ALL of them.

“Why did you play yourselves in the recreations?” Feels pandemicky, the writers/directors playing the lead roles, set in an apartment. As they start to mistrust each other, doc interviewees cast doubts on the histories and findings, and the movie we’re watching itself, speaking of visual effects tests to create the floating crystals and stuff. But it ends – in typical Benson/Moorhead fashion – with a possible callback to a previous film (someone falling inexplicably from a great height).

Weirder and more pathological than expected. Yes I’ve seen In Bruges, but that starts out in a violent context while this is about gentle island people in 1923. We get a hell of a character from Brendan Gleeson, who abruptly wants to be left alone to write fiddle tunes, showing he’s serious by psychotically mutilating himself until he can’t play anymore. We get a sick payoff to Barry Keoghan finding a stick with a hook (“What would you use it for, I wonder… to hook things that were the length of a stick away?”), the loss of a great donkey, a shitty cop, some terrible loneliness, and a nearby civil war nobody seems to comprehend.

Mostly set in Berlin. Lydia’s former protege Krista has killed herself and “grooming” accusations have been made, wife Sharon is leaving and taking their kid, new cellist Olga might live in a crumbling ghetto or be a ghost. This joins Nope as a movie less satisfying in the moment than thinking about afterwards (and I’ll bet Nope would be more fun to rewatch). Really enjoyed the Dan Kois article in Slate. Shout out to Caroline Shaw!

Digging back into the revised edition of Film as a Subversive Art for some shorts on the destruction of time and space. “No other art can so instantaneously and so completely expand, reverse, skip, condense, telescope, or stop time, or so suddenly change locale, abolish or accent perspective or distance, transform appearances or proportions of objects, or simultaneously exhibit spatially or temporally distinct events.”


The House (1961, Louis van Gasteren)

Good stuff – a couple of family generations live in a house with a stuffed owl until the nazis take over. Love affairs, birth and death, the editing jumping between timeframes, including the house’s present-day demolition. Orchestral score, very little spoken dialogue. As a confirmed Resnais nut, this kind of thing is up my alley. Vogel: “There is no looking back, since time never exists as a fixed point; everything is now.”

A Dutch movie – one of the cinematographers also shot Vogel-approved The Reality of Karel Appel, and later, Daughters of Darkness.


London to Brighton in Four Minutes (1952, Donald Smith)

Trick/stunt film, just a time-lapse train voyage, taking us “faster than sound” with normal little bookend segments.


Power of Plants (1949, Paul Moss & Thelma Schnee)

Awful educational-film acting, but watching time-lapsed tendril vines move around is cool. This was a segment of a series hosted by talk-show scientist John Kieran. The married directors also wrote an Alec Guinness detective-priest movie. “A magical film” – Vogel really loved time-lapse, but there’s not much point in taking stills from these, since the magic is in the motion.


Renaissance (1964, Walerian Borowczyk)

Excellent stop-motion. Walerian makes a still-life scene of fruit, musical instrument, furniture, doll, and stuffed owl (tying this film nicely to the stuffed owl in The House), violently destroys it all, then re-creates the scene using stop-motion in reverse. This was completed halfway between Boro’s moving to France after the Jan Lenica collaborations, and his first feature film (Goto in 1968).

Fascinating alternate take on the Krafft legacy, with the same footage but a different focus from Fire of Love. That one’s story goes that their volcano research and publicity saved lives, while Herzog opens by saying they’ve been criticized for convincing others to move closer to the same eruption that caused their deaths. FoL tries to get inside their relationship, Herzog compliments the technical excellence of their filmmaking and photography while showcasing the destructive forces of nature. The Ernst Reijseger requiem music perhaps goes too big, but Herzog’s fourth(?) volcano movie is predictably great.

Failed folk musician goes decades without realizing his records became a bootleg sensation in South Africa, flies there for massive concerts then returns to his humble Detroit life. “It remains too strange to be true.” Archive footage, some of it just vintage mood stuff, bit of rotoscoping, some fun jump cuts. Repetition or rambling in the interviews is preferable to the dodgy dialogue editing we usually get in these things. This won an oscar (vs. three govt/military stories and an AIDS activism doc) and Rodriguez has now played a bunch of live shows, for which he hopefully got paid, since he’s getting nothing from the oscars or those album sales.

“There are radicalized Muslims in my living room.” Jean-Charles Clichet is a dumpy jogger who convinces a prostitute to sleep with him for free, and also delicately balances helping out a homeless kid with trying to get him arrested. Clichet’s secret power: he’s a Linux Guy. Not as warmhearted as Le Havre, but it’s another French movie about community circling around an immigrant visitor, feeling somewhat like a state-of-the-nation film – with wonderful and bizarre moments, as would be expected from the follow-up to Staying Vertical.