During a visit to the (incredible) new Exploratorium in San Francisco, I was captivated by Carson "Kit" Davidson's "One Hundred Watts 120 Volts," a 1972 short film where the manufacturing of Duro-Test light bulb is presented as a ballet for Bach's Brandenburg concertos. "One Hundred Watts 120 Volts" (Archive.org)
BB contributor Mark Dery wrote a fascinating rumination on the Spanish surrealist Luis Buñuel, best known for his 1929 short film collaboration with Salvador Dalí, Un Chien Andalou. (Yes, the one with the infamous eyeball-slicing scene, above.) From Dery's essay at Thought Catalog, titled "Thank God I’m An Atheist: Buñuel’s Last Laugh":
Buñuel is a philosopher — a moral philosopher, to be exact, albeit one who makes his case with gleeful, Surrealist savagery, using images dredged from the depths of the unconscious. A sardonic satirist and inveterate practical joker—he once strolled down the boulevard Montparnasse dressed as a nun, complete with false eyelashes and lipstick—he is, at the same time, shadowed by the existential melancholy from which the lapsed Catholic never fully recovers. He loves disguises, and it can’t be mere coincidence that he gets a perverse kick out of passing as a priest. Religion is his abiding theme, there from the first in Un Chien Andalou, in the two priests yoked to the protagonist and dragged unceremoniously across the floor, the dead weight of so much obsolete belief; there at the end in his last movie That Obscure Object of Desire (1977), where the bombing campaign of a gang of absurdist terrorists calling itself the Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus is the backdrop to the movie’s May-December romance (itself fairly explosive!).
"Thank God I’m An Atheist: Buñuel’s Last Laugh
Austrian avant-garde filmmaker Peter Tscherkassky makes compelling cut-up movies from "found" 16mm and 35mm footage and samples from other movies. All of the frames and clips are treated in the darkroom, without digital tools. For Outer Space (1999), seen above,
Tscherkassky chopped up and decolorized bits from The Entity, a 1982 horror film starring Barbara Hershey.
Here's Alex Cox, director of Repo Man (1984), interviewed recently by psychotronic film buff and master poster artist Jay Shaw. Criterion just re-released Repo Man on DVD and Blu-ray, featuring original package art by Shaw and Tyler Stout of Austin's Mondo Gallery scene. Repo Man: Criterion Collection edition (via Mondo)
The new documentary about esteemed magician, magic historian, and actor Ricky Jay opens next week at New York City's Film Forum with screenings in many other cities to follow in May and June. Jay is a fantastically curious and entertaining fellow and I can't wait to see this film. "Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay"
Behold the beautiful grain of director Paul Clipson's Super 8 short film for San Francisco droneography duo Barn Owl's new track "Void Redux." Clipson shot the footage on trains in Zagreb, Geneva, and Berlin. "Void Redux" will be included on Barn Owl's forthcoming album "V," out April 16 on Thrill Jockey. Barn Owl: V
Pioneering sound/video collage artist Christian Marclay's "The Clock" (2010) is a 24-hour montage of appropriated film clips related to time. OK, I'll admit that I haven't seen the whole piece, but the chunks I've watched are fantastic. Above is a phonecam recording of some of it, recording at one of its installations. The Clock will be on view at the SFMOMA starting April 6, which is appropriate given the museum's imminent closure in June for (gasp) three years of construction. "SFMOMA Presents Christian Marclay’s 24-Hour Cinematic Masterpiece The Clock"
For several years, MOVIEBARCODE has compressed entire films and famous film sequences into barcode-like images where the lines represent frames from the movie. There are hundreds in the archive and prints are available too. Seen here at top, Blade Runner, and below that, Dorothy entering the Technicolor of Oz. And here's a Movie Barcode Generator so you can do it yourself! (via @death_waltz_records)
The Source Family, a magnificent documentary by my friend Jodi Wille and Maria Demopoulos, will see nationwide distribution this spring, starting with a May 1 premier at the IFC Center in New York City. The film tells the story of Father Yod and his Source Family, a radical, utopian social experiment that emerged from the Los Angeles freak scene in the 1970s. Boing Boing is delighted to premier the trailer above. Far fucking out.
The Source Family’s outlandish lifestyle, popular celebrity hangout restaurant, rock band, and beautiful women made them the darlings of Hollywood’s Sunset Strip; but their outsider ideals, controversial spiritual leader Father Yod, along with his 13 wives, instigated local authorities. They fled to Hawaii, leading to their dramatic demise. Years later, family members surface and the rock band reforms, revealing how their time with Father Yod shaped their lives in the most unexpected ways. These personal accounts, along with interviews with outsiders, make up the interviews in the film. However, the story is largely cinematic, expressed through the use of the group’s extensive film and audio archive maintained by Isis Aquarian, one of Father's wives, Family documentarian, and a central character in the documentary (as well as being associate producer). The film’s soundtrack is composed entirely of original Source Family music produced from 1971-1975.
The film was inspired by The Source: The Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wa 13 and the Source Family, a fantastic 2007 book written by family members Isis Aquarian and Electricity Aquarian, edited by Jodi Wille, and published by our pals Process Media.
The Source Family: A Documentary
Sol Yurick, author of The Warriors (1965), has died. The novel -- which in 1979 led to the classic cult film of the same name -- was inspired by Yurick's experiences working in the New York City Department of Welfare.
“Some of the children of these families were what was then called juvenile delinquents,” Mr. Yurick wrote in an introduction to an edition of “The Warriors” published in 2003. “Many of them belonged to fighting gangs. Some of these gangs numbered in the hundreds; they were veritable armies. This social phenomenon was viewed, on the one hand, as the invasion of the barbarians, only this time they came from the inside rather than from the outside.”
"Sol Yurick, Author of ‘The Warriors,’ Dies at 87
" (NYT, thanks Gil Kaufman!)
Folkstreams is an incredible online archive of documentary films about American folk and roots music and culture. Above, an excerpt from "Born For Hard Luck," a 1976 film by Tom Davenport about harmonica player and comedian Arthur "Peg Leg Sam" Jackson." (A clip of this film appears in the French movie Amelie.) Below are just a few of the hundreds of films you can watch for free, right now. Shame about my deadlines this week.
• “Adirondack Minstrel.” Hudson, N.Y.: Bowling Green Films, 1977. (19 min.)
Folkstreams: The Best of American Folk Films (Thanks, Bob Pescovitz!)
[Jack Ofield film on woodsman/musician Lawrence Older]
• “Land Where the Blues Began.” New York: Cultural Equity, 1990. (58 min.)
[Alan Lomax film on Mississippi blues, from his “American Patchwork Series”; parallels his book of the same title]
• “The Amish, A People of Preservation.” Harleysville, Pa.: Heritage Productions. (52 min.)
[John Ruth film on Amish life, with Hostettler as consultant—and some surreptitiously shot footage]
• “The Sacred Vision of Howard Finster.” New York: Museum of American Folk Art, 1995. (30 min.)
[Interviews with Finster talking about his art, visions, and religious beliefs, with scenes of his creations, his preaching, and his home]
(Spoken in booming movie trailer voice): If you see only one Red Dawn remake this year, see this one. New York City artist Annamarie Ho, known to regular BB readers for her Betelnut Girls art installation and other daring works, created this filmic provocation titled Dread Spawn (Head Wrong) that asks "how would the fantastical storyline of the Red Dawn remake function if the Chinese People’s Liberation Army were to invade New York City’s Chinatown instead and was met by multicultural, brainy high school students?" Of course, the fact that the current Red Dawn remake's producers, MGM, did a last-minute digital switch of the "villains" from the Chinese to North Koreans only makes Ho's commentary more compelling. Annamarie will be in attendance at three Dread Spawn (Head Wrong) screenings this week and next, and I'm honored that she's asked me to introduce the film in San Francisco on December 6.
Dread Spawn (Head Wrong)
Wednesday, November 28 at 3pm
Saturday, December 1 at 4pm
Queens Museum of Art
Thursday, December 6 at 7pm
Ninth Street Independent Film Center
You can now stream Alfred Hitchcock's "The White Shadow" (1924), the earliest surviving feature by the director. As I posted
in 2011, the "lost" movie turned up in a New Zealand film vault. The film stars Betty Compson as twins, one angelic and one evil. Unfortunately, only half of the film's six reels were found, making it a true cliffhanger.
"The White Shadow" (1924)
"Earliest Surviving Hitchcock Film Debuts on Web" (Hollywood Reporter via Open Culture)
Meet Me, Jesus is a strange 1966 experimental film by Walter Ungerer. It is Ungerer's first narrative short, following his 1965 documentary The Tasmanian Devil, about drag racing. (via toys and techniques)