2003 Shows & Notes
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Click on year for:      2005 Shows | 2004 Shows  |  2002 Shows | 2001 Shows |  2000 Shows | 1999 Shows | 1998 Shows | 1996-1997 Shows | St. Louis Shows

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The purpose of this page is to give you an idea of the typical programming of a ciné16 show, and to provide you with details on films and filmmakers we've showcased. The following programs are chronicled from most recent 2003 show backward to the first of the calendar year.

2003 Highlights: This year, we hosted 60 shows in San Jose, comprising 243 films, all shown without charge.  On April 28, Jim Finn and Dean Rank presented their outstanding roadshow "Men & Animals Tour" at ciné16.  In May through September, Robert Emmett curated and hosted a six-show program of ciné16 films at History San Jose.  On September 25, Peter Carter presented 'Evanescent Fragments Unexpectedly Encountered: A Centennial Celebration of Joseph Cornell'.  

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Thursday, December 18, 2003... The Asian Experience in America: Culture, Conflict, and Assimilation, Part II

For introductory notes, see December 11, part I of this program...

Tonight:

‘Siu Mei Wong --- Who Shall I Be?’ (1970) 15m, dir. Michael Ahnemann. A teen Chinese girl in LA has a desire to become a dancer, which clashes with the professional career path her traditional father has chosen for her. Saving face and respect for one’s parents are two sub-themes to this intriguing and important film.

‘Sewing Woman’ (1982) 15m, dir. Arthur Dong. This film investigates an immigrant woman's work and family, drawing from oral histories to portray a Chicago - born woman and her journey from a traditional Chinese arranged marriage at the age of 13 to working in a sewing factory in San Francisco's Chinatown. It includes old photographs and film clips from China.

‘Nisei: the Pride and the Shame’ (1965) 24m, prod. Isaac Kleinerman. CBS News produced this film for their ‘20th Century’ series. Nisei are people of Japanese ancestry, born in a foreign land (in this case, the U.S.). Here, Japanese - American citizens are herded into detention camps during a wave of war hysteria.

‘Wataridori: Birds of Passage’ (1975) 37m, dir. Robert A Nakamura. Issei are Japanese-born residents of foreign lands (in this case, the U.S.). Using still photographs, and interviews, Nakamura tracks the history three Issei who describe a collective history through their personal memories. Harukichi Nakamura is a painter, who mines his past to provide focal points for his land and seascapes. Koshiro Miura, a fisherman and wanderer, came to the United States in search of personal fortune and adventure. Haruno Sumi discusses the creation of the prosperous Imperial Valley farmlands despite the Alien Land Law. Included are reminiscences of the internment camp at Manzanar.

 

Thursday, December 11, 2003... The Asian Experience in America: Culture, Conflict, and Assimilation, Part I

The melting pot that is America is not, socially or economically, always an easy one to enter. Despite the fact that we’re not as economically, ethnically, socially, or sexually stratified as many Asian countries, the challenge of leaving one’s home country and adopting new mores can be daunting. The challenge crosses generations, as US-born children of immigrants often differ with their parents on the concept of "joining" vs. "acquiescing". In addition, while the prejudices of the old country are left behind, they often reveal themselves anew, this time with different names, faces, and languages. In the 1970s, educational film companies began recognizing the presence of Asian families on American soil, and Asian ethnicities in schools. The thematic material in the films they produced on this broad subject often took one of three forms:

  1. Cultural and historical films, based on the lives of immigrants, describing the challenges of becoming integrated with a new society
  2. Inter-cultural conflict films, in which racial and social misunderstandings cause direct conflict between ethnicities and cultures
  3. Intra-cultural conflict films, which investigate the familial upheaval in the dynamic between parents from the old country, and their children in the new

In the next two weeks, we’ll showcase a number of these important films, which continue to have relevancy today. The ethnicities reflected in these films are of Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese origin, but pertain to elements of all Asian cultures.

Tonight:

‘Reflections’ (1968) 20m, dir. Noel Black. In a poignant film, two sets of parents work together separately to destroy a friendship between a Chinese boy and Hispanic girl.

‘Side By Side: Prejudice’ (1980) 15m, uncredited director. Here, a Chinese girl discovers her white girlfriend is not going to invite her to the prom because her boyfriend insists on going to an all-white country club. The end is purposely ambiguous.

‘Bamboo, Lions and Dragons’ (1979) 27m, dir. Richard Patton. This is the story of two families in Vancouver, the Changs and Lims; one is Chinese, the other Canadian. In this outstanding documentary, we learn a bit about Vancouver Chinatown’s history, and visit with several family members, including Doug Jung, the first Chinese-Canadian parliamentary member.

‘Overture: Linh from Vietnam’ (1980), 26m, dir. Seth Pinsker. ‘Linh’ is a fine ethnodrama on Hispanic-Asian relations, and focuses on two mothers, Latino and Vietnamese, both working in sewing factory. Though their stations in life are similar, the Hispanic woman views her Vietnamese counterpart as an enemy, stealing from her already too-small piece of the economic pie. The enmity filters down to unwritten laws regarding the ethnic groups from which their adolescent children are allowed to date. As an educational film, the ending cannot point fingers at ethnicities or cultures, but Pinsker effectively avoids a syrupy finish.

 

Thursday, December 4, 2003... 1970s California Filmculture: A Tribute to CRM Films

Lately, I've been reviewing a selection of films made by CRM, which made a number of outstanding psychological and science films in the 1970s. Screening a succession of films from the same company affords the researcher the luxury of becoming immersed in the culture of the company, and has the effect of turning the reviewer into a predictor of sorts. "CRM would do this, at this juncture of the film I'm watching", I'll muse, or "If I know my EB, we'll wrap the sequence in 30 seconds, and return to Kip Fadiman's on-screen narration". Somehow, I didn't get to CRM until this year. Over the years, I've catalogued perhaps a dozen CRM titles, but tangents are the stuff of your ciné16 host, and last month, CRM caught my eye (and my fancy). Their films merit an evening or so unto themselves, and a brief history of the company will help, I think, to put them in better perspective.

CRM was a southern California film company specializing in films on sociological, psychological, and scientific subjects, and eventually evolved its marketing model to include mediated corporate training as well. CRM, which stands for Communications/Research/Machines, was founded in 1970 as the film division of Charles Tillinghast III's Psychology Today group, which encompassed the popular magazine, and a textbook division. In 1970, Preston Holdner (b. September 25, 1940, St. Louis, MO), who had been at McGraw-Hill films since graduating from college in 1963, was brought in to become general manager, and Paul Lazarus was hired as the executive producer. Located in the sunny, surf-washed town of Del Mar, CRM was the quintessential laisser-faire California company of the early 1970s. "Friday afternoon, the whole staff would sit around and drink wine and smoke pot", recalls Holdner. "Because of this laid-back atmosphere, it was not uncommon for people to work 60 hours a week instead of 40". The staff photographs on pages 28 and 29 of CRM's 1975 catalogue chronicle an era in style, dress, and demeanor, the women wearing sundresses and bell-bottomed pants, with many of the men sporting long hair, reflective of halcyon times before erstwhile sex partners sued each other for peccadilloes, and smoking a joint would run the individual afoul of draconian racketeering laws. A particularly memorable photograph documents director Steve Katten and producer Larry Logan kneeling behind an Arriflex, shooting in a field of poppies.

In 1973, Tillinghast sold the film division to Boise-Cascade, which, after several public relations snafus, was looking to appear to be a kinder, gentler corporation. Buying an educational film company seemed, at the time, to be the right step. The move resulted in a cultural disconnect for both parties. "The Boise folks would arrive on a corporate jet, and run into staff members leaving in bathing suits and surfboards", recalled Holdner, "they wore three piece suits, and we wore bathing suits." The uncomfortable relationship lasted a little over one year, at which time CRM was acquired by Ziff-Davis. Holdner remembers Bill Ziff as a "tough guy", who was probably more interested in the Magazine than the film company, which was sold to McGraw-Hill in 1975. Holdner left that year to form the Media Guild film company. During his tenure, CRM produced approximately 50 films.

Brian Sellstrum ran the CRM division of McGraw Hill after Holdner's departure, and after the mid-1980s, eventually became the editor of several magazines in the surfing/skateboarding genre. CRM's notable filmmakers included Steve Katten (director of the exceptional 'Biology Today' film series) and Richard Miner. CRM today exists as CRM Learning, producer of industrial training films. Sadly, few of CRM's finest titles from the 1970s era are still in distribution.

Tonight, we'll see several of the films that made CRM notable. They are timeless in content, and reflective of an era gone by.

On tonight's show:

‘Perception’ (1979) 28m, dir, Richard A. Miner. This fine industrial psych film explores observations vs. opinions as they relate to workplace conflict. Included are sequences on perception tricks, and there is an insightful vignette featuring political cartoonist Paul Conrad.

‘Group Dynamics: Groupthink’ (1973) 20m, dir. Steve Katten. An industrial psych classic, the film, based on the work of Psychologist Irving Janis, describes how the tendency to agree interferes with critical thinking. Here we have dramatized examples of concepts such as the Illusion of Invulnerability (which led to the disaster at Pearl Harbor), the Illusion of Morality, Self-censorship, the Illusion of Unanimity (the Bay of Pigs was one result).

‘Fruit Fly: a Look at Behavior Biology’ (1974) 21m, dir. Steve Katten. This fascinating film features wonderful cinematography by Larry Logan and Isidore Mankofsky, and includes shots form the electron microscope. On the way, we learn about homosexuality in the fruit fly world, mutations, etc. Dr Seymour Benzer of the California Institute of Technology is our host.

‘Cell Division: Mitosis and Meiosis’ (1974) 24m, prod. Steve Katten. This remarkable film utilizes cinemicroscopy and the scanning electron microscope to climb inside of cells as they evolve and divide, and was probably one of the first academic films to feature computer animation. The animated sequences involving DNA are exceptional.

 

Thursday, November 20, 2003... Robert Emmett Presents: ciné16 Klessix (Great Films from Past Shows)

Robert continues his series consisting of many of the best films from ciné16’s 367 previous shows. Please take advantage of this opportunity to see the best from our archives.  On tonight’s program:

'City of Gold' (1957) 23m, dir.  Colin Low & Wolf Koenig. This is the story of a Gold Rush Boom town. Told by Pierre Berton, City of Gold is great storytelling, which is an under-appreciated art form. It also presents a rather unique ability that film has, which is to present a montage of images that support the story and make it live.

'Canaries to Clydesdales' (1977) 28m, dir. Eugene Boyko. We agonized over this choice, as it meant supplanting two other films that were very good in themselves. Ultimately, this film, which is at the same time a vocational film, a Western film, and a business film, was so powerful that it couldn't be ignored. An award winner at two festivals, 'Canaries' is a "day-in-the-life" visit with country veterinarians Vic Demetrick & Reg Maidment as they make their appointed rounds. Think you've seen everything? Trust me, you'll need a strong stomach for this one: castrating a sheep, sawing out a still-born calf, removing porcupine quills from a dog's muzzle, and sticking an arm up a cow's butt are all in a day's work for these two. A fascinating film, not the least of which is the playful personal interaction between these old friends at work.

'Face of Lincoln' (1955) 20m, dir. Edward Freed. Abraham Lincoln is considered by many Americans to be its greatest historical figure, and every visitor to the U.S. who carries a penny or ten dollar bill carries a picture of Lincoln with them wherever they go. Lincoln, who was born in a frontier log cabin and was assassinated in Ford's Theatre, was President of the United States during the Civil War in the mid-1800s, and signed the Emancipation Proclamation which outlawed the ownership of slaves. The decade of the 1950s was a dismal one for historical films, but one of the few gems was this exceptional film, which features sculptor/professor Merrill Gage creating a clay bust of Lincoln, evolving the sculpture to age with the events of the life of the president, which he narrates. This film is an example of the "host-scholar" being the focal point of the film, generally unsuccessful if the host is boring or speaks in monotone. Gage, who had performed this lecture many times to students at the University of Southern California, is funny and engaging, as he slaps the ears on the head with abandon, changes hair styles with a flourish, and merrily adjusts the tie. The filming took place over three weeks, in which the crew was continually challenged by the hardening of the clay.

'Memories of Monet' (30m) Meredith Martindale & Toby Molenaar. The film is as lush and radiant as a Monet painting, with those great juxtapositions of painting and the part of the garden which inspired it. But it's more than a pretty picture. There is a wonderful story from an American artist who visited Monet. Through her memories you will get more than an impression of Monet (Sorry). With great music from Eric Satie. 

'Liberace' (1955?) 10m, uncredited director. The world hasn't been the same since this self-effacing, flamboyant, funny entertainer passed away. What's this film got to do with tonight's theme? Nothing, but since we're not having a show next week (Thanksgiving), we've hired the young Liberace, who does everything but wear the pilgrim hat to warm our hearts this holiday season. If you've seen early Liberace, this will be a treat; if you haven't, you absolutely shouldn't miss this one... it's... it's... it's... so FABULOUS!

 

Thursday, November 13, 2003... McLuhan and Toffler, Two Cultural Avatars of the 1970s: Did our Past Predict our Present?

In the midst of the maelstrom of the decade that was hallmarked by LSD, Viet Nam, and non-guilt sex, two cultural observers were simultaneously wielding the telescope of society’s future, while living under those present times’ meditated microscope: Marshall McLuhan, and Alvin Toffler. The reason they were quoted so often, and generated so much controversy, was often due to the fact that the "establishment", which generally meant the older generation, couldn’t figure out just what the hell these baby boomers were doing. Many felt that they were ignorantly killing the society that their parents had tried so hard to build in the Eisenhower years, and protect in Viet Nam. So here came Herbert Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980), the director of the Center for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto, the "Oracle of the Electronic Age", with his book ‘The Medium is the Massage’, to explain electronic media’s role in rapidly changing the social landscape in the West.

From Regent University’s McLuhan page (http://www.regent.edu/acad/schcom/rojc/mdic/mcluhan.html) , we read:

McLuhan believed that the print revolution begun by Gutenberg was the forerunner of the industrial revolution. One unforeseen consequence of print was the fragmentation of society. McLuhan argued that readers would now read in private, and so be alienated from others. "Printing, a ditto device, confirmed and extended the new visual stress. It created the portable book, which men could read in privacy and in isolation from others" (McLuhan, 1967, p. 50). Interestingly, McLuhan saw electronic media as a return to collective ways of perceiving the world. His "global village" theory posited the ability of electronic media to unify and retribalize the human race. What McLuhan did not live to see, but perhaps foresaw, was the merging of text and electronic mass media in this new media called the Internet.

It was up to Alvin Toffler, in his 1970 book ‘Future Shock’ (co-written with wife Heidi Toffler), to explain how the rapidly accelerating change in society’s underpinnings was going to positively transform American business practices to become more inclusive and empowering for more people than ever before. Toffler argued that, rather than resisting change, individuals should understand it, and embrace it. Thirty years later, the book remains an important one, ageless in its historical analysis and recommendations.

Tonight, we’ll investigate McLuhan and Toffler from the perspective of two important films from the 1970s. From the benefit of living thirty years in the future, we can now judge their veracity, and their influence.

To wit:

‘This is Marshall McLuhan: the Medium is the Massage’ (1967) 53m, prod. Ernest Pintoff. In an outstanding film produced by Quadrato Productions, the "High Priest of Pop Culture" investigates the clash between the old and the new, and its impact on the educational systems, the home, privacy, and employment. The visage of McLuhan is here plotted against an ever-changing pastiche of animation, indirect lighting, animation, and new and historical footage. For more information of the life and work of McLuhan, visit: http://www.marshallmcluhan.com/main.html

‘Future Shock’ (1972) 42m, dir. Alex Grasshoff. This film is hosted by Orson Welles, who we first see introducing the film while smoking a large cigar on a moving sidewalk inside a large airport. He repairs to a limousine in London, where he notes that the theme will be, essentially, the impact of "too much change in too short a time", and the "premature arrival of the future". We are somewhat disappointed that there is so little of Toffler in the film, but Welles here is in fine form, with the usual sideward glances, and punctuated parenthetical asides.


Thursday, November 6, 2003...  Lost Literary Films of Russia

U.S.-based filmmakers weren’t terribly welcome in the Soviet Union, during the Cold War years, so during that time, probably the best films on Russian life and culture were produced by the Australians. Such films didn’t appear until the mid-70s, meaning schoolkids of the 1950s and 1960s got their Russian hits mainly from Russian literature. Many school administrators, in fact, were loath to allow teachers to teach anything positive about Soviet Bloc countries (or mainland China), in general. In particular, I remember when Miss Sharon Woodnutt, a beautiful young social studies teacher, asked us if we wanted copies of Mao’s Red Book, and offered to take a collection and buy them for us, so we could study from the real thing. To intimidate her, the principal audited her class every session, but she refused to back down, and we all took the great literary leap forward, studying Mao (I don’t think she was rehired the following year). My literature teacher introduced us to a safer topic, Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ which, although not based on current events, did offer some insight into the Russian character.

In those dark days when many of us existed warily in an intellectual milieu that represented a semi-vacuum, there were certain literary films available, and more than a couple were quite good. I never saw them until recently, and I think they’re important enough to introduce them to you. One is out of distribution, housed somewhere (we think) in the deep recesses of the CBS News archives. The other, an Oscar-winner, seems to have disappeared years ago.

There seems to be some evidence that Russia itself is losing historical perspective on its great writers from the past. A small village of some 55 weathered cottages, nestled outside the city of Peredelkino, has been a protected haven for Russian writers for years, but is now slowly being bought and sold by developers. The field adjacent to Pasternak’s house, it seems, will be host to a number of brick villas, affordable to only the few, and many feel it’s the beginning of the end for this important writers retreat.

Tonight, we revisit some gems from Russian literature that were, at one point in the past, captured by motion picture camera:

‘Russians: Insight Through Literature’ (1963) 55m, dir. Joseph K. Chomyn. Here, CBS News presents scenes from five literary classics, illustrating the Russian way of life, and elements contributing to the Russian Revolution. Included are scenes from Chekov's ‘Cherry Orchard’, Dostoyevsky's ‘Brothers Karamazov’, Turgenev's ‘Fathers and Sons’, Gogol's ‘The Overcoat’, and Pasternak's ‘Dr. Zhivago’. Peter Donat appears in several of the scenes.

‘The Bespoke Overcoat’ (1955) 33m, dir. Jack Clayton. This wonderful version of Wolf Mankowitz' one act play, based on the Gogol story, won the 1956 Oscar for Best Short Subject.

 

Thursday, October 30, 2003... Our Seventh Anniversary Show: It’s Gladiator Day!

Note: Yes, We've been doing ciné16 since October 31, 1996 (with some 365 programs to our credit) and we always plan on something a little bit different to mark our anniversary. Tonight, we present one of our most re-requested films. This is a special event, with door prizes, and a visit from our favorite gladiatress... er... beauty queen... Miss ciné16!

The notes to the show: Back when I was a kid, I used to race home after school every Thursday to be in front of the old black & white at 3:30 pm when Channel 2 would host gladiator films. Maybe you've seen 'em: big, tanned, buffed-out strong guys (unlike Geoff Alexander, who was always the smallest kid in the class), whose mouths worked a mile-a-minute in these English-dubbed films, while the camera tried to catch up, goin' mano-a-mano against each other in pursuit of treasure or equally tanned, inflated blonde dames with black roots and Italian last names. This stuff occurred damn near every Thursday that I can remember, and I was glued to the set each week, fascinated by a world that I was sure existed, somewhere in the dark past. Tonight’s film is a confirmation that that era did, in fact exist, when pre-match breast-oiling was de rigueur for any female fighting champion. All too soon, the western world would plunge into a darkness devoid of make-up, hair colorings, and gilded, push-up breastplates. Come back with us tonight into the past, back to the time of:

'War Goddess' (1973) 90m, dir. Terence Young. If you can fathom Terence ('Thunderball') Young directing a lesbian-oriented, gladiated-type spectacular, with large-breasted females wrestling each other naked for the opportunity to lead Amazons into a battle with Greek men, then you belong at ciné16 tonight. 1970s women's lib themes resound throughout, as the director tries vainly to tie all of these seemingly disparate elements together. What he gets instead is a nasty pastiche that doesn't seem to make any sense at all, through dodgy editing and an ever-increasingly difficult-to-believe story line. So why bother showing 'War Goddess'? First of all, there's the incredible Alena Johnston as Queen Antiope. None of my books on famous female actors have included her, an oddity, given her considerable "talents". And if Alena's not butch enough for your tastes, try Sabine Sun as the evil Orytheia (they're the two that eventually wrestle for the Title, and the opportunity to up against Haystack Calhoun at the Cow Palace). Connoisseurs know the real stars of the film, however: make-up artist Otello Fava's eye-liner fashions are at least a zillion years ahead of their time; and Tony Nieto's tonsorial creations leave veteran glad fans awestruck at how these damsels in the desert could remain so spectacularly coifed through successive bed & battle scenes (no carpet & drape jokes, if you please...).

Ever since we announced this show, veteran ciné16ers have accused us of pandering to the less intellectually-enlightened elements in our city. Some have even accused us of promoting sexist fare (serious feminists please note: EVERYONE gets groped in this film, and your ticket money will NOT be refunded). I can tell you, though, that every single lesbian I've run into during the past week has threatened to gladiate ME if I didn't guarantee 'em tickets for tonight's show. And if you're starting to feel a little scared by both the film and certain members of tonight's audience, you can come & hide behind me: I'm the one at the projection booth wearing the pointed metal hat, holding the mace and net, and sporting the massive, gilded jockstrap.

PS... extra bonus points if you arrive in full or partial gladiator regalia...

 

Thursday, October 23, 2003... Robin Morris Presents: ciné16 Klessix (The Color Out of Space...Rain, Illusion, and Timeless Grace)

About tonight’s show, host Robin Morris sez: "[these] films wring the color out of space, run roiling down the cobbled alleys in lapping latticeworks of light and shadow… or, if you like, look at this show from the center outward...the symmetrical, funhouse wonder and mystery of Escher's mostly black/white worlds within worlds, wrapped in a lovely, rainy old town, and a dance a deux outside of time..."

To wit:

‘Omega’ (1970) 13m, dir. David Fox. We’re not exactly sure what the meaning of Fox’ psychedelic fantasy is, but the notes say it’s about the end of the world. I’m sure ‘ciné16’ viewers stoked on blue barrels, windowpane, and/or ‘shrooms will be better able to explain this bombastic, colorful, spaced-out film than WE can.

‘Rain’ (1929) 13m, dir. Mannus Franken & Joris Ivens. An impressionist view of Amsterdam before, during, and after the rain, filmed over four months, utilizing a hand-held camera.

‘Adventures in Perception (Escher)' (1971) 21m, dir. Han Van Gelder. A beautifully crafted film relying on the two-dimensional drawings of M.C. Escher, master of perspective. A favorite of art school students everywhere, our print is a bit hacked at the beginning before it settles into sprocket-arms of the mighty (but temperamental, mind you) Bell & Howell 552s for a gentle glide to finish. Of the numerous prints we’ve seen, this is the most watchable. An Oscar nominee in 1971 for Best Documentary short.

‘Pas de Deux’ (1967) 14m, dir. Norman McLaren. Slo-mo images replicated in gradual degrees on an optical printer was the technique used by the late filmmaker, known for his meticulous craftsmanship and insistence on quality. With a total output of under three hours of film, McLaren’s short works are legendary. This is one of his finest, and probably his most famous.

‘Matisse: a Sort of Paradise’ (1969) 30m, dir. Lawrence Gowing & John Jones. With striking Technicolor pastiches of numerous paintings, noted author Gowing blazes an evolutionary path through the artistic life of one of the great artists of this century, accompanied by the music of Eric Satie, played by pianist Aldo Ciccolini.

 

Thursday, October 16, 2003...  Robin Morris Presents: ciné16 Klessix (Robin's Round -Trip to Apocalypse)

Tonight, we introduce the first of two programs by guest programmer Robin Morris.  Robin describes himself as "interested in way too many things, most of them art-related, songwriter, poet, video editing student, hack essayist... I'm trying not to be a mile wide and an inch deep, and that's hard for me! As for motion pictures, I have always enjoyed psychologically involved and fantastic films, sci-fi and some of the great directors' efforts... but only recently have I really looked beneath the surface to find that a almost all of the best of film has escaped me all my life... as I read and research, and develop a modest collection of my own, I find there is so much more in academic film than ever I knew."

Robin has helped us tremendously in acquiring films (he drove his own truck to LA to help us move the donated Anaheim Library collection), and he's got good taste.  We welcome him as a programmer, and invite you to attend his shows.  

On tonight's show, he writes: "I have chosen as tonight's theme the title "Round Trip to Apocalypse", as the three main pieces tonight center, in a way, around the concept of Death; how we hold it at bay with our Art, our Fantasy, our Desire and our Spirit."

To wit:

'Le Paysagiste’ (Mindscape) (1976) 8m, dir. Jacques Drouin. Alexandre Alexeieff, one of the best-known early animators, was the developer of the pinscreen technique, in which, like those toys you see at museum shops, each image was formed by the manipulation of pins. The National Film Board of Canada eventually acquired Alexeieff’s pinscreen, which was used by Drouin in this beautiful but haunting story of an artist who climbs over his easel and into the landscape he has just painted, and begins his three-dimensional journey through a self-realized two-dimensional world. Rather than utilizing a photograph, Drouin uses animation in a similar fashion to the photographic work created by the other filmmakers on the program, as a means of conveying the transparency of an otherwise fixed medium.

‘An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge’ (1962) 27m, dir. Robert Enrico. A spy about to be summarily executed breaks free from his constraints and flees home, to freedom, or death? Winner of an Oscar in 1963, this film, which explores travel through time and space, was undoubtedly one of the biggest selling titles in the history of educational film.

'The Portable Phonograph’ (1977) 20 m, dir. John Barnes. With thousands and thousands of educational films filling the market between 1960 and 1985, it would be difficult to state authoritatively that find any one film that could be called the greatest educational film ever made, but so far this one is at the top of the list. Here, a vintage recording of Debussy's Nocturne played by Walter Gieseking becomes the vehicle by which four lovers of the humanities hover together in a cold post-apocalyptic shack of sandbags to mourn weekly over lost art and loves gone by. Barnes, who must be considered among the greatest filmmakers ever to work in the educational world, forcibly illustrates, through flashback sequences and close-up shots, how the humanities --- music, painting, literature, and theatre --- are perhaps the most enriching of all human endeavors. Their ultimate and devastating loss may have never before or since been shown with such terrifying passion. This, Barnes’ final film, would have benefited from general theatrical release; if it had, it certainly would have picked up some well-known awards. It one of the most powerful short films ever made, and one which bears as much, if not more, value for adults than children.

'La Jetée’ (1963) 29m, dir. Chris Marker. Told through still photos and narration, the story of a post-apocalyptic attempt to change the present by reworking the past. A remarkable and pensive film suggesting the folly of attempting to reorder the inevitable, and one which has influenced countless filmmakers.

Thursday, October 9, 2003... Barinda Samra presents: ciné16 Klessix...  (Exploring Moral Dilemma in Science and Medicine: Wolf Koenig’s ‘Discussions in Bioethics’ series, a reprise of our September 7, 2000 show)

Tonight we feature a small portion of the remarkable body of films from Wolf Koenig, producer of 159 films for the National Film Board of Canada, and described by filmmaker John Spotten as "the most brilliant mind at the Film Board, who could have more original film ideas in thirty seconds than others might have in years". Koenig was born in Dresden in 1927, but his parents moved to Canada in 1937 when it became apparent that life would be unbearable in Nazi Germany. Arriving at the Film Board’s prestigious Unit B film cooperative in the mid-1950s, he joined luminaries such as Roman Kroitor, Colin Low, and Stanley Jackson in making some of its most significant films. His work at the Board is catholic in scope and includes titles such as ‘Glenn Gould’ (On & Off the Record), ‘City of Gold’, ‘Corral’, and his technical acumen helped to pioneer the use of lightweight camera gear for his ‘Candid Eye’ series of television programs. No longer making films, Koenig today lives far enough from the city that an occasional bear will ring his doorbell ("After that, I’m not going out for walks alone much, these days"), and continues to frame his thoughts and musings in cinematic terms, producing continual ideas for short, poignant, powerful films:

There’s such a need for films on the process of aging. I remember the day I had to take my father to a retirement home. It was his last day in his own home, and I shaved him, and put a hat on him. Before we left, even though his thoughts had not been too focused recently, he managed to make his way back to his bedroom, where he sat on the bed, wrapped his arms tightly around the bedpost, and just looked at me. And that’s how the film ends…

Tonight’s films will introduce ciné16 viewers to an important producer, too little known here in the U.S., whose oeuvre consists of hard-hitting, challenging social films in the tradition of John Grierson, yet which bear the remarkable and recognizable stamp of Wolf Koenig. For a comprehensive look at his produced films, visit the following page at the National Film Board of Canada: http://www.nfb.ca:80/FMT/E/prod/K/Koenig_Wolf.html

For his directed films, 29 in all, visit: http://www.nfb.ca:80/FMT/E/real/K/Koenig_Wolf.html

Of particular interest to ciné16ers are two socio-dramatic series of films produced by Koenig, ‘Wednesday’s Children’ and ‘Discussions of Bioethics’, the latter of which is the subject of tonight’s program. Prior to the ‘Bioethics’ series, virtually all science films were largely about "doing", science, with very little about ethical issues inherent in their application. To this end, Koenig produced ‘Discussion of Bioethics’, a series of eight films dealing with ethical questions faced by scientists, biologists, and medical personnel, in which human life is, or could be, at stake. Each film was approximately 15 minutes long, in order to allow time for classroom discussion, was rehearsed and shot in four days, and edited in two weeks, for a budget of $100,000 Canadian per film. Issues such as a patient’s right to die, abortion, biological warfare, and deciding which of two ill patients will get the one hospital bed, were addressed by the series, but clear answers were never provided, as the end of each film could be "written" by anyone engaging in post-film discussions. Tonight’s films include:

‘Family Tree’ (1985) 13m, dir. Norma Bailey). Here, Cedric Smith and writer/former stripper Linda Lee Tracey are cast in a tale of an abusive mother, pregnant again. Her doctor agonizes about the future of the baby, and questions whether he should sterilize her without her consent.

‘Critical Choice’ (1985) 13m, dir. Gary Poole. A liver transplant is desperately needed by two people, only one of whom can afford it. As a medical professional, how would you choose?

‘If You Want a Girl Like Me’ (1985) 13m, dir. Sandra Huyke. Another choice: a baby born with a spina bifida and hydrocephalus condition... abortion or birth?

‘Old Person's Friend’ (1985) 13m, dir. Annie O’Donohue. An elderly woman refuses treatment... do we treat her against her will?

‘Chronic Problem’ (1985) 13m, dir. Cynthia Scott. The Oscar-winning director (‘Flamenco at 5:15’) introduces us to a bed-ridden, dying chronic patient, while a recovering patient desperately needs her bed, in this resource-depleted hospital… who has priority?

‘Courage of One's Convictions’ (1985) 14m, dir. Gil Cardinal. A teenage girl refuses medical treatment for an otherwise terminal condition, on religious grounds. As an understated element in the plot, we suspect the doc's also in love with her...

The subject matter of these films is played out daily in hospitals throughout the Bay Area. Watching these films causes us to reflect on our own mortality, and provides an insightful look at the realities behind the decisions made by medical personnel who treat our friends and relatives.

 

Thursday, October 2, 2003... Big City Beat

I remember the first time we ran a program featuring vintage police training films. I thought hey, today’s cops would get a kick out of seeing what police training looked like 30 years ago, so I ran down to SJPD with a bunch of fliers, and asked the watch commander to post one or two on the bulletin board. Rather than seeing the fun in the program, I got responses ranging from dirty looks to outright paranoia. I’m sure my fliers ended up in the trash, and this taxpayer wasted an afternoon of his already busy life. Sadly the whole thing appeared to be yet another chapter in the book entitled "Us vs. Them".

Unfortunately, the powers that be in San Jose give a lot of lip service to "community policing", while helping to create a visually unappealing nightlife environment in its economically under-performing downtown area. On weekend evenings, out of town visitors are incredulous at the police motorcycle line-up on St. John & San Pedro streets, the command center in the parking a block or so to the east, and the black & whites stationed in the middle of the intersection of First & San Salvador Streets, where headlights are trained on club-goers. Community policing is really about officers parking their cars off the main drag, getting out and walking the beat. Fair-minded police officers with a bit of PR training can work wonders in forging a cooperative relationship within the tavern owner/bar patron/peace officer triad.

I have something like 39 countries stamped on my passports, and have a pretty good knowledge of totalitarian régimes, having spent a fair amount of time in Francisco Franco’s Spain, and a few other countries with a less-than-enlightened view of human rights. In no city, have I seen a police presence, in times of peace, as disturbing as San Jose’s. It’s embarrassing to try to explain this to out-of-town friends, who come from Boston and Cape Town, and wonder where the heck the riot is.

Over the years, San Jose has done a better job of killing a downtown area than any city of its size in the U.S. In the 1950s, historically important buildings were leveled, tearing out a large part of its heart. In the past few years, many vibrant small business have been made to feel unwelcome, and have left or been forced out, taking away a large part of this city’s soul. Now, our own citizens are being forced to walk a police gauntlet when leaving a night spot, a pity, because the police are paid by citizens’ tax dollars, and theoretically report to them. Patrons and punters are taking their money elsewhere, where the environment is a good deal more friendly, and it’s going to require a be a hell of a sales job to get them back.

Tonight, we’re showing a couple of films that deal with the officer-citizen dynamic, each of them from a different perspective. ‘Station 10’ is a snapshot into the real world of big city policing, in this case, the back alleys of Montréal. ‘Informers I’ examines the ways police officers relate to people paid to spy and inform on their friends.

‘Station 10’ (1973) 58 m, dir. Michael Scott. If Weegee -- the prototype crime photographer of the post-WWII war years --- had a movie camera, the finished product might have looked like this, taken from Scott’s two months at Montreal PD’s downtown precinct, Station 10. Whether it be the discovery of a week-old suicide by rifle, the death of a fellow cop, an illegal arrest, or abuse hurled at the cameramen by those being arrested, the action is shot without the benefit of opinion or apology. The dull, matter-of-fact narration, spoken by a weary Captain Jacques Cinq-Mars, speaks as much about life in Montréal’s demimonde as does the film, Scott’s precursor to ‘Whistling Smith’, an ongoing favorite at ‘ciné16’. An example of cinéma vérité work at its finest.

‘Informers I’ (1970?) 30m, dir. Jonathan Lucas. This was one of three films made in a series that explored the common theme of using paid and unpaid informants to elicit information leading to the arrest of a suspect. Here, when bikini-clad buxom bombshell Joyce Mandel (known today by her pin-up name of Alexis Love, as was determined by your AFA research team) finds she’s been burgled, she jiggles --- I mean runs --- up the stairs to heavingly --- I mean breathlessly --- call Redondo Beach's finest for assistance. They’re there so fast that you’d swear they’ve got the address mammar --oops, I mean memorized. She’s lost her chest --- I mean chess set, which is "the only thing she got from her marriage". The cops eventually get around to visiting their favorite snitch "Gabby", who as played by Al Dennis, is the best and funniest actor in the whole series.

 

Thursday, September 25, 2003...  Peter Carter presents 'Evanescent Fragments Unexpectedly Encountered:  A Centennial Celebration of Joseph Cornell'

Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) was a noted assemblage artist who experimented with the film medium as well.  There is quite a bit of information about Cornell on the internet, but  http://www.artandculture.com/arts/artist?artistId=90 is especially interesting, particularly the bit about Audrey Hepburn returning his gift.  

Peter Carter is our guest curator for this special evening.  Several weeks ago, Peter contacted us and offered to host a show dedicated to the films of one of his favorites, experimental filmmaker Joseph Cornell, and we gratefully accepted.   This promises to be an exceptional program, and an opportunity for you to view films that are rarely, if ever, shown in San Jose.  While we can never judge the number of people who attend, we advise you that if you're a late arrival, you may have to expect to stand.

Peter wrote the following filmnotes:

"Please don’t speak too glowingly about my dreams re: film to Stan [Brakhage]. After effusions I find it necessary to remind myself that a wicked amount of time has been consumed with them and very little to show as compared with my medium proper."

—letter from Cornell to Carolee Schneemann, June 13, 1956

The year was 1936 and former fabric salesman Joseph Cornell was operating the 16mm projector for a show he had put together. Included in the program was "Rose Hobart," a film Cornell had made by rearranging and adding to segments from the tropical adventure film "East of Borneo." Among others in attendance at the screening was Salvador Dalí. The artist was in town for the landmark Surrealism exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art (where Cornell was also represented). Suddenly, halfway through "Rose Hobart," Dalí leapt up and knocked over the projector in a rage. It was as if, he insisted, Cornell had stolen the film from his head before he had a chance to make it himself.

A long time lover of the cinema, Cornell brought to filmmaking his appreciation for found moments (the filmic equivalent of found objects) and his ingenuity for assemblage—attributes that concurrently revealed themselves in the shadow boxes that made his name. In addition to collaging films from his personal collection, Cornell enlisted other filmmakers as assistants and cameramen. On the hundredth anniversary of his birth, it is these collaborations that remain in circulation.

The phrase "evanescent fragments unexpectedly encountered" comes from an homage to Hedy Lamarr published by Cornell in "View" magazine in 1941-42: "Among the barren wastes of the talking films there occasionally occur passages to remind one again of the profound and suggestive power of the silent film to evoke an ideal world of beauty…"

On tonight’s program:

‘Centuries of June’ (1955-196?) 10m, dir. Joseph Cornell and Stan Brakhage. The title, given by Cornell after the film’s completion, is taken from Emily Dickinson’s poem "There is a Zone whose even Years." "This film comes to exist because Joseph Cornell wished, one fine summer day, to show me the old homes of his beloved Flushing…It would be too strong a word to say he ‘directed’ my photography; and yet his presence and constant suggestions made this film entirely his. He then spent years editing it, incorporating ‘re-takes’ into the film’s natural progress…"—Stan Brakhage

‘Cornell, 1965’ (1978) 9m, dir. Larry Jordan. Larry Jordan lived with Cornell at his house on Utopia Parkway in Flushing, Queens while assisting him with his boxes and films. He shows Cornell here in the only existing footage of the artist.

‘Cotillion/The Midnight Party/Children’s Party’ (1940s) 19m, dir. Joseph Cornell. "These are the first three of the six films Cornell gave me to finish before he died. I have not changed the editing structure. I have made them printable. They are the first known fully collaged films, i.e. films made from found footage…[Cornell] collects images and preserves them in some kind of cinematic suspension that is hard—impossible—to describe. But it’s a delight to anyone whose soul has not been squashed by the heavy dictates of Art"—Larry Jordan

‘Carrousel/Jack’s Dream/Thimble Theater’ (1940s) 24m, dir. Joseph Cornell. "Cornell’s editing has not been tampered with. It is sometimes minimal, sometimes extensive, always sensitive…I have added soundtracks to two of the films using existing notes which Cornell left."—Larry Jordan

‘The Aviary’ (1955) 5m, dir. Joseph Cornell and Rudy Burckhardt. Cornell’s first film made with Burckhardt, shot in Union Square, Manhattan. "At one point a male dwarf, dressed properly in an overcoat and hat, strolled into the park. Burckhardt elbowed Cornell, knowing his interest in misfits. ‘Yes, yes, film him,’ Cornell whispered excitedly, ‘but don’t hurt his feelings!’"—from "Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell" by Deborah Solomon

‘Nymphlight’ (1957) 7m, dir. Joseph Cornell and Rudy Burckhardt. Filmed by Burckhardt in Bryant Park behind the New York Public Library. The film features 12-year-old ballet student Gwen Thomas.

‘A Fable for Fountains’ (1957-70) 6m, dir. Joseph Cornell and Rudy Burckhardt.  Cornell met Suzanne Miller when she played a boy in an off-off-Broadway production of Moss Hart’s "Climate of Eden." He remarked at her resemblance to the Medici boy and girl of his boxes and later persuaded her to appear in this film, shot by Burckhardt in Little Italy, which became one of his personal favorites. The film is intercut with lines from Garcia Lorca’s "Poet in New York."

‘Gnir Rednow’ (1955-196?) 5m, dir. Joseph Cornell and Stan Brakhage. An unfinished, mirrored re-edit of Brakhage’s film "The Wonder Ring" that had been commissioned by Cornell with six subway tokens and Kodachrome film stock in the interest of preserving the memory of Manhattan’s Third Avenue elevated train line before it was torn down.

 

Thursday, September 18, 2003... Undercurrents

This program is about the things that go bump, scratch, and bang under the sea, and inland waterways. If you’re in the camp that falls asleep during science films, this program will wake you up, and at least one (‘Lampreys’) may cause you nightmares…

‘Fire Under the Sea: Origin of Pillow Lava’ (1971) 14m, dir. Lee Tepley. One of the more extreme geological films made in the academic genre, in terms of affective value and danger to the participants, was this, filmed underwater off the coast of Hawaii’s big island. To explore the formation of pillow lava, Tepley, Gene Rugroeden, and a crew of diver-cinematographers are assaulted by tumbling clunks of volcanic debris as they explore vents of red-hot lava, exploding and imploding inches away from their hand-held cameras. At one point, a diver is hit in the back by a forcefully extruded chunk of rock, while others poke the emerging lava with spears and hammers, seemingly comfortable in the 110° waters.

‘Insects vs. Alligatorweed’ (1970?) 20m, uncredited director. As we discover in this fascinating film made by the USDA Etymology Research Division, wildly proliferating alligatorweed chokes water passages through inland waterways in the deep south. To control its growth, a voracious variety of beetle is introduced, with rather interesting results…

‘Life of the Sockeye Salmon’ (1977) 20m, dir.

 Gray. Wilf Gray is perhaps the most mysterious of our "lost" filmmakers, a man who seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth, sometime during the last couple of decades. The folks at Journal Films, who distributed his work, barely remember him, and have no records of his whereabouts. His films were outstanding documents of the Pacific Northwest. Sockeye is one of the five species of Pacific salmon, and here Gray sets his camera near the confluence of the Adams and Fraser rivers. Perhaps this film should instead have been called "Death of the Sockeye Salmon": the fish begins its four year life in mountain streams, spends its first year in a freshwater lake, then flees to the mighty Pacific, eventually returning 6,000 miles (at the rate of 17 per day) to spawn & die.

‘Aquaculture in Japan’ (1984) 20m. uncredited director. Here, Tokyo’s Iwanami Productions examines aquaculture - the breeding and propagating of marine life - as Japan's solution to the problem of food scarcity. We find the seeding of oyster beds, particularly interesting, and mouthwatering at the same time. Our passion for sushi and other underwater delights is arrested somewhat by the scenes of hormone injections in loaches.

‘Great Lakes Invader; the Sea Lamprey’ (1953) 13m. uncredited director. Lawdy, lawdy. This is an absolutely terrifying story of the parasite that nearly wiped out Great Lakes trout. Fortunately, electric and electromechanical weirs are designed to weed ‘em out and kill 'em. This is where we really made our break from PETA…  For more on this nasty predator, visit: http://biology.usgs.gov/s+t/SNT/noframe/gl129.htm

 

Friday, September 12, 2003... Please join us for a special AFA benefit tonight

Abhi and Quentine Acharya are patrons of the Academic Film Archive of North America, and have generously offered to host a special benefit for us, in support of our effort to preserve academic film. It will be at 7:30 pm on Friday, September 12, at their home in Saratoga. They will provide South Asian appetizers, the cost is $10 per person, and attendance is limited to 30 people. 

We will show three rare ethnographic films that evening, including 'Wild Men of the Kalahari', probably the most significant lost film in our collection. The print is fragile, so we show it only once every two years or so. Like the other two films on the program, it offers a westernized, colonialist view that today is decidedly politically incorrect, but was the norm for the day. The subjects of these films are treated as exotic remnants of the world's past, and the films were made by adventurer-filmmakers, before the widespread influence of the science of anthropology.

To register for this event, please mail your check, for $10 per person, made out to "Academic Film Archive of North America", and include your email address on the check. Your donation is tax-deductible. We believe this event will sell out in advance, so please register early. When we receive your check, we'll email you the exact location of, and directions to, the event. This is a great opportunity to support our preservation efforts, meet other AFA patrons, and enjoy Abhi and Quentine's hospitality.

The films on the program are as follows:

'Wild Men of the Kalahari' (1930) 30m, prod. C. Ernest Cadle. In one of the earliest "talking pictures" shot in western Africa, the infamous expedition leader and lecturer Dr. C. Ernest Cadle of the Cameron-Cadle expedition describes the Kung Bushmen as "among the most treacherous creatures on earth". He then "baited them as we would an animal" to gather them for camera shots, and noted their eating habits ("he doesn't chew, but simply swallows like a dog"). This rare ciné16 print is the only one we believe to be in existence today.

Born in Spokane, Washington in 1893, cameraman Paul Hoefler gained early notoriety in the late 1920s when, as a member of the Denver African Expedition, he returned with what was reportedly the first film footage of Southwest Africa's Bushmen. He produced the first sound film of Africa (Africa Speaks, 1929), and in 1936, Hoefler founded "Paul L. Hoefler's World Picture Service", a negative library containing stills from his travels. After his WWII stint as the Middle East director of public relations for the US Air Force, Hoefler moved to southern California, began producing films for the educational market (primarily on subjects such as Monument Valley, Yellowstone Park, Jordan, and the Panama Canal), and became a friend of Walt Disney. Like Disney, Hoefler's films on international cultures suffered from the "edu-tainment" malaise, which, with their omniscient narration, insipid "elevator" music, and dubious factual quality (hippos aren't amphibians, as was stated in East Africa, c.1970) were more akin to TV travelogues than films with real educational value. The Disney-Hoefler link continued into the 1950s, as Hoefler distributed Disney titles in South Africa in return for Disney's distribution of Hoefler films in the U.S.

'Blizzard on the Equator' (1931?) 30m, unknown director. Unknown today, host Carveth Wells, was one of the most famous lecturers on the "expedition circuit", his fame being eclipsed perhaps by only Richard Halliburton and Lowell Thomas. Wells was also a prolific writer, and wrote a book about the filming of this Cudahay-Massee expedition to the Ruwenzori Mountains. This film was shot under trying conditions, and we believe these were the first moving pictures ever shot of the "Mountains of the Moon". Wells' narrative style is dated and silly, which makes this film a real period piece, and a good example of the way students of another generation were introduced to cultures defined as "exotic", "primitive", or "curious".

'Hunting in India' (1930?) 30m, uncredited director. Here, Sir Frederick O'Connor, the British envoy to the court of Nepal leads us on a tiger hunt with 558 men and over 100 elephants. Extremely colonialist from a narrative perspective, the film depicts an era in which tigers really did terrorize the countryside, picking out tasty human morsels at whim. The film is occasionally hilarious, never boring, and somewhat sobering. 

Sunday, September 7, 2003... Robert Emmett Presents: the History San José Film Series, Part VI:  'Transportation'  


This program was funded in part by a grant from Arts Council Silicon Valley

Robert Emmett is the Academic Film Archive's Public Relations Officer, and also the host of KFJC's venerated 'Norman Bates Memorial Soundtrack Show', heard every Saturday morning between 9 am and 12 pm, on 89.7 FM.  Rob is the host and curator of this monthly film series, each program of which will occur on the fourth Sunday of the month.  This program will be held at the Old Fire Station at History San José's 1650 Senter Road (visit http://www.historysanjose.org/directions-kp.html for directions).  Films will run continuously from 1 pm - 4 pm.

On today's program:

'Roads Across the Bay' (1963) 30m, dir. Frank Robinson. Farther north, the crisis of moving people across the water is solved by the building of the Bay Bridge, bringing a welcome end to the slow-moving ferries, and the beginning of the end to inter urban trains. This well-made 
documentary chronicles the building of the bridge through contemporary footage, with cursory mention of the GGB, and Richmond San Rafael span.

'Floating Logging Camp' (1979) 20m, dir. Carl A. Jones. Forty five air minutes outside of Ketchikan, Alaska lies a nomadic village of loggers & their families. As the work moves to different localities, so does their village, moored offshore, and built of logs. These giant log rafts have houses, markets, and schools. A fascinating look at people who seem to embrace a certain kind of loneliness.

'Rallye des Neiges' (1961) 30m, dir. Donald Wilder. A cine16 classic! Crazy Quebecois rallye in terrible winter conditions with old Volvos and VWs; lots of spinouts with a hot jazz track by Norman Bigras.

'Third Avenue El' (1955) 10m, dir. Carson Davidson. A crazy drama played out on New York's Elevated, with music by Wanda Landowska.

 

Wednesday, September 3, 2003... Lost Films of Literature, Part III:  A focus on Bill Deneen’s ‘Searching for Values’ series

Tonight's show is part of our ongoing focus on films that are no longer available through distribution, in any format. It is the second in a three-part series on lost language arts films. When considering academic film, most people think of science, history, and art films, without considering the dramatic impact Literature films had on classroom instruction. We will attempt to ameliorate this with some outstanding films, showing over the next three weeks.

Why do we call these "lost" films? They are no longer in distribution, and the people who made these films are either no longer distributing their films, are lost, and/or the film companies that produced and distributed them no longer exist. These films are an essential part of the preservation work that we, the Academic Film Archive of North America, include as a core element of our charter. We are the only archive in the United States focusing on preserving academic films, such as the ones on tonight's program; approximately 13% of our collection is defined as "lost".

Adaptations of feature films for classroom use have rarely been artistically or educationally successful, as evidenced by the spotty Teaching Films Custodians abridgements in the 1940s and 1950s. Bill Deneen’s Learning Corporation of America was the educational arm of Columbia Pictures, and, in addition to producing some of the most critically-acclaimed academic films of the 1970s, had full access to Columbia’s feature films. Deneen’s vision was to utilize these in an academic framework, and the result was spectacular, each film operating on a different philosophical theme, edited from a single Columbia feature release.

In Ontario, teachers Jim Hanley and Don Thompson had founded a company , Visual Consultants, that shared a similar vision, but had been unable to interest major studios in cooperating with them.  Eventually, they linked up with Deneen, and a project was begun to create non-hosted/narrated films of approximately 15 minutes in length from a given feature film, derived from LCA’s parent corporation Columbia Studios.  These short films, brilliantly edited by Christopher Castelyn,  were then marketed, collectively, as the ‘Searching for Values’ series.  In this fashion, 'To Sir With Love' was edited to become 'Spaces Between People' (1972), showing poignant moments from the film in an elegantly seamless adaptation that stands surprisingly well on its own, and thus becomes a worthwhile vehicle for classroom discussion. Some of the other titles in this extremely interesting series were 'Politics and Power & the Public Good' (1972, from 'All the King’s Men' with Broderick Crawford), and 'Right to Live... Who Decides?' (1972, from 'Abandon Ship' with Tyrone Power). LCA also distributed the ‘Great Themes of Literature’ series, hosted by Orson Welles, each episode featuring a thematic treatment of one aspect of the human condition. Two of the most notable of these films were 'Authority & Rebellion' (1973) from Edward Dmytryk’s 'Caine Mutiny', and 'Power & Corruption' from Roman Polanski’s 'Macbeth' (1971).

When LCA was sold by Columbia, some of these wonderful adaptations were distributed by Phoenix Learning Group, but others were not.  On tonight's program, 'The Right to Live.. Who Decides?' and  ‘Politics, Power and the Public Good’  have been removed from public circulation; we feel that it’s highly unlikely they will ever return.  We are showing them tonight, along with others that remain in circulation.  They are important artifacts of a meritable yet troublesome partnership between an academic film company and a Hollywood giant, and are gems in their own right that highlight important subtexts, defined and honed by extremely creative film editors.

On tonight’s program:

‘The Right to Live... Who Decides?’ (1972) 17m, dir. Richard Sale. Triage in a lifeboat, from Columbia Pictures' ‘Abandon Ship’, starring Tyrone Power.

‘Politics, Power and the Public Good’ (1972) 19m, dir. Robert Rossen. Starring Broderick Crawford, form ‘from ‘All the King's Men’.

‘Spaces Between People’ (1972) 18m, dir. James Clavell. From ‘To Sir With Love’ starring Sidney Poitier.

‘Loneliness… and Loving’ (1972) 16m. dir. Bob Rafelson. Jack Nicholson and Karen Black battle, from ‘Five Easy Pieces’

Also on the program, from LCA’s ‘Great Themes of Literature’ series:

‘Man and Woman’ (1973) 33m, dir. Franco Zeffirelli. Richard Burton and Liz Taylor from Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’, hosted by Orson Welles.  Bill Deneen tells us that, as part of Welles' contract, a case of vintage Dom Perignon champagne was delivered to the set after each day's filming, which Welles generously shared with the crew.

 

Wednesday, August 27, 2003...  Lost Films of Literature, Part II 

Tonight's show is part of our ongoing focus on films that are no longer available through distribution, in any format. It is the second in a three-part series on lost language arts films. When considering academic film, most people think of science, history, and art films, without considering the dramatic impact Literature films had on classroom instruction. We will attempt to ameliorate this with some outstanding films, showing over the next three weeks.

Why do we call these "lost" films? They are no longer in distribution, and the people who made these films are either no longer distributing their films, are lost, and/or the film companies that produced and distributed them no longer exist. These films are an essential part of the preservation work that we, the Academic Film Archive of North America, include as a core element of our charter. We are the only archive in the United States focusing on preserving academic films, such as the ones on tonight's program; approximately 13% of our collection is defined as "lost".

Tonight’s films are:

‘Houseman Directs Lear’ (1975) 55m, dir. Amanda C. Pope. How strange that the co-founder (along with Orson Welles) of the Mercury Theatre and one of the great actors of our time would become better known as the spokesperson for a commercial enterprise (as they say at Vienna’s Bestattungs funeral museum, "he urned it"). Houseman was a wonderful director, as witnessed by the painstaking approach he takes to blocking the action, initial and dress rehearsals, and final performance. Texture Films was founded by Herman and Sonia Engel, and their films are no longer in distribution.

‘Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene II - the Forum’ (1946) 19m, dir. Henry Cass. This early Shakespearean academic film was made by the British Information Service as part of its "Famous Scenes from Shakespeare" series. Here we see the funeral oration of Mark Anthony, delivered by Leo Genn, with Felix Aylmer as Marc Antony, in a production by Compton Bennett. The acting and directing are somewhat spotty and stilted, but the film has merit, juxtaposing early educational films with the superior Shakespearean treatments of latter years, exemplified by the Houseman film.

'Stage in the Street' (1973) 25m, prod. Gordon Waldear.  This rare San Francisco film, narrated by Owen Spann, is a documentary of the Western Opera Theatre performance of Brecht's "Three Penny Opera",  directed by David Ostwald.

 

Sunday, August 24, 2003... Robert Emmett Presents: the History San José Film Series, Part V:  'Native Americans' (Held at History San José)


This program was funded in part by a grant from Arts Council Silicon Valley

Robert Emmett is the Academic Film Archive's Public Relations Officer, and also the host of KFJC's venerated 'Norman Bates Memorial Soundtrack Show', heard every Saturday morning between 9 am and 12 pm, on 89.7 FM.  Rob is the host and curator of this monthly film series, each program of which will occur on the fourth Sunday of the month.  This program will be held at the Old Fire Station at History San José's 1650 Senter Road (visit http://www.historysanjose.org/directions-kp.html for directions).  Films will run continuously from 1 pm - 4 pm.

On today's program:

'Geronimo Jones' 1970, 20m, dir. Bert Salzman. Possibly Salzman's hardest hitting film, Geronimo is a Papago-Apache youth who has been given the gift of an amulet worn by his grandfather. In buying a birthday present for the grandfather, Geronimo trades the amulet for a TV, which he places before the grandfather. When Geronimo turns on the TV, the two are instantly reminded or the relationship of the native American to contemporary society. A gripping film, winner of numerous festival awards, and perhaps the first and only educational film ever screened in the giant Radio City Music Hall in New York

'The Loon's Necklace' (1949) 10m, dir. F.R. Crawley. In spite of its didactic narration, this film has possibly won more awards than any other Canadian film, and has been seen by an estimated 33 million people. A native tale told through masks borrowed from the National Museum in Ottawa, the film has elements of Caligari, with ghost-like figures suddenly appearing against a set painted by cameraman Grant Crabtree, reminiscent of the work of Charles Burchfield.

'Dawn Riders: Native American Artists' (1976) 30m, dir. Donna & Bob DeWeese. Featuring Plains artists Woody Crumbo (Kiowa), Blackbear Bosin, and Dick West, who utilize pure color & line, eschewing shadows. Sociological and historical aspects of the art are discussed, with startling examples from the Philbrook Art Center and Gilcrease Museum collections of Tulsa.

'Discovering American Indian Music' (1971) 30m, dir. Bernard Wilets. Wilets' 'Discovering Music' series was not always as successful as the 'Man and the State' films (we're gonna ask him why the sitarist plays "The First Noel" in the 'India' film), but some were quite good, and this one was the best of all, avoiding the one-dimensional, austere sets which characterize much of the rest of the series. Showing the music of nations such as the Ute, Seneca, and Navajo in traditional surroundings, the film is a great ethnographic and cultural document, especially in the incredible hoop dance by George Flying Eagle of Taos, and the fine modern percussion ensemble led by Louis Ballard, Cherokee.

 

Wednesday, August 20, 2003...  Lost Films of Literature, Part I

Tonight's show is part of our ongoing focus on films that are no longer available through distribution, in any format. It is the first in a three-part series on lost language arts films. When considering academic film, most people think of science, history, and art films, without considering the dramatic impact Literature films had on classroom instruction. We will attempt to ameliorate this with some outstanding films, showing over the next three weeks.

Why do we call these "lost" films? They are no longer in distribution, and the people who made these films are either no longer distributing their films, are lost, and/or the film companies that produced and distributed them no longer exist. These films are an essential part of the preservation work that we, the Academic Film Archive of North America, include as a core element of our charter. We are the only archive in the United States focusing on preserving academic films, such as the ones on tonight's program; approximately 13% of our collection is defined as "lost".

Tonight’s films are:

'W.B. Yeats: a Tribute' (1950) 22m, dir. George Fleischmann & John D. Sheridan.  His coffin rides on bow of ship, returning to Ireland. This beautiful, brooding film is a fairylike visit to Yeats' Irish haunts punctuated by examples of his prose & poetry, read in a wonderful lilting manner. Aye, there's a visit to his grave, too, with the poet's (1865-1939) epitaph carved into the cold marble: "Cast a cold eye on life, on death. Horseman, pass by." This film was produced the Film Institute of Ireland.  2006 Update:  Archivist  Sunniva O'Flynn  writes that The Irish Film Archive of the Irish Film Institute has film copies as well as VHS and Beat SP reference copies of this film.

‘Days of Dylan Thomas’ (1965) 20m, dir. Graeme Ferguson, prod. Rollie McKenna. This beautiful film contains many still shots from the archives of producer McKenna, and features poems in Thomas' own voice, including the familiar strains of "Do not go gentle into that dark night" written for his dying father. Thomas was born in 1914 in Swansea, Wales, and died four days after drinking 18 straight whiskies, on 9 November 1953. McKenna, of whom the Guardian noted "did more to create the image of Dylan Thomas than anybody except Thomas himself", was a star in her own right. Her obituary makes interesting reading at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/news/obituary/0,12723,1002311,00.html This film was distributed in the U.S. by the long-defunct McGraw-Hill films.

‘Edgar Allen Poe: The Fever Called Living’ (1979) 20m, dir. Edwin L. Wilber. Poe grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and married his 14 year old cousin, who died of tuberculosis at the age of 24, plunging the writer into a life of melancholy. Poe was born in Boston in 1809, and died 7 Oct 1849, after being found in the street, delirious. This film is a tour of Poe's houses and various museums, and utilizes paintings by Bosch to illustrate his poems & stories. Leo Handel's Los Angeles-based Handel Film company, makers of this film, produced approximately 150 titles on numerous subjects. We believe the company went out of business sometime in the early 1990s, and its films are no longer available through any known source.

‘Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: a Self-Portrait’ (1975) 30m, dir. Harold Mantell. The noted author of ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ and other favorites talks of his youth, literature, and life. Mantell’s films are no longer in distribution.

 

Wednesday, August 13, 2003...  Lost Films of México, Part III: Art and Culture of México

'El Cumpleaños de Pepita' (1957) 14m, unknown director. Meant to be shown to students learning Spanish, this film transcends the didactic, and provides a glimpse into the Mexico that has, in many places, all too quickly disappeared. Pepita and her uncle travel to Lake Patzcuaro, get their pictures taken by an itinerant photographer, see wonderful dancers, and attend a birthday party. A sweet, wonderful film. (In Spanish)

‘Mexican Ceramics’ (1966) 18m, prod. Reino Randall andRichard Townsend. This highly informative, well-made film focused on four geograophical areas: 1) Coyotepec, 2) Metepec (the art of Timotéo), 3) Tonalá (the work of señores Palacios and Galván), 4) Puebla. Here we see low-fire pottery making as it was done by primitive methods before the potter's wheel, and the manufacture of the beautiful blue and white and polychrome high-fire pottery of Puebla. Randall, who is no longer living, was Associate Professor of Art, Central Washington University Ellensburg.

‘Market Place in Mexico’ (1974) 12m. dir. Severo & Judith Anne Pérez. This film addresses the socioeconomic conditions in the rural village marketplace of Ocotlán, illustrating how artisans, such as a serape maker, a potter and a rope maker, are dependent on one another's skills. Los Pérez compare similarities and differences between the contemporary market and its ancestor, the Aztec market of 500 years ago.

‘Textiles and Designs of Mexico’ (1947) 12m, prod. Kani Evans et al.. In Santa María del Río (San Luis Potosí) we see the making of rebozos on the backstrap loom, serapes, hat weaving , and sisal production.

‘Orozco Mural Quetzalcoatl’ (1962) 23m, dir. Robert Canton. Noted painter José Clemente Orozco was commissioned to paint a mural at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. His work is here accompanied by an outstanding orchestral score by Theodore Newman. This film was last distributed by Brandon, and became unavailable in the 1990s.

‘Posada’ (1964) 10m, dir. José Pavón. José Guadalupe Posada chronicled México’s revolutionary era through his woodcuts and broadsides, prior to the use of photographic reproductions in newspapers. A favorite target were ‘Los Científicos’, a cadre of intellectuals who ruled México in the epoch known as the "Porfiriato".. He also invented the ubiquitous ‘Catarina’, a skeletal woman who represents the vacuous nature of political dealings by President Porfirio Díaz and his associates.

 

Wednesday, August 6, 2003...  Lost Films of México, Part II: Pedagogical Films by Norteaméricano Filmmakers

These films were made by U.S.-based filmmakers, most of whom owned one-man companies, and shot, edited, and distributed their own work. As larger film companies tended to focus on U.S.-based subject matter, it was itinerant filmmakers such as these who introduced México to U.S. students. Films such as these were sold primarily to school libraries for use in elementary and junior high school classrooms in the U.S. While critics can correctly report that, in many cases, narrations are halting, and the occasional misappropriation of flamenco music is annoying, the scenes of 1950s México are charming and often spectacular, and the documentation of important artists and artisans is historically important.

‘Maguey: Plant of a Thousand Uses’ (1952) 14m, dir. Ralph Adams. Adams is a filmmaker whose life and work appear to be completely unknown today, as we have conducted a fruitless search to obtain biographical and filmographic information. Judging by the three films on tonight’s program, he covered a breadth of territory, and we suspect that he might have made dozens of films on Mexican themes. His narration is not the finest, but he was a very good cinematographer, and apparently insisted upon superior print materials, as his color is exceptional for the era. Here, he describes the myriad uses of this interesting plant, including fences, paper, tequila, pulque, needle and thread and rope.

‘Fisher Folk of Lake Pátzcuaro’ (1951) 16m, dir. Ralph Adams. The Taracsan Indians, living on the island of Janítzio, are shown fishing with their butterfly nets, in a rare and damaged film we’re hoping to completely restore, when finances permit.

‘Pottery Workers of Oaxaca’ (1952) 14m, dir. Ralph Adams. Adams features the legendary Zapotec potter Doña Rosa Real de Nieto, and her traditional technique of below-ground firing.

‘Mexican Village Life’ (1958) 15m, photographed by Willard C. Hahn, prod. Paul Hoefler. We profiled the life of this somewhat bizarre, peripatetic filmmaker on our show of November 5, 1998 (visit http://www.afana.org/98chrono.htm , then search for the date). Here, he travels to the village of San Diego de Tecoltepec (sp?) 6 miles from Toluca. He focuses on the harvesting of maguey juice, the washing clothes in-stream, and the town’s water cistern as the village has no running water. The villagers board a beautiful old bus to take their goods to the nearby market in Toluca, and walk home to avoid paying the fare of several centavos. Hoefler’s films are completely lost, as apparently there are no familial descendants. We were able to obtain the last vestiges of his own collection on a pallet of material from Hoefler’s estate that was sold to a gun collector as part of what was, presumably, a collection of arms and materiel.

‘Guadalajara Family’ (1958) 13m, photographed by Willard C. Hahn. Another Hoefler production, focusing on an upper-class family, military school, garden parties, etc. They enjoy life at a pristine lake nearby, and enjoy themselves and the rustic beauty, where father intends to build a development.

‘Taxco: Village of Art’ (1957) 17m. photographed by Willard C. Hahn, prod. Paul Hoefler. This film focuses on the art and architecture of Taxco, and visits the well-known Figueroa family of artists and dancers.

 

Wednesday, July 30, 2003...   Lost Films of México, Part I: Caminante del Mayab

Tonight’s show is part of our ongoing focus on films that are no longer available through distribution, in any format. It is also the first in a three-part series on lost films of México  In many cases, the people who made these films are lost, and the film companies that produced them no longer exist. These films are an essential part of the preservation work that we, the Academic Film Archive of North America, include as a core element of our charter. We are the only archive in the United States focusing on preserving academic films, such as the ones on tonight’s program; approximately 13% of our collection is defined as "lost".

An important aspect of our work is to bring attention to the fact that academic films are rapidly disappearing from libraries and archives around the globe. We do this in two ways: 1) by compiling notes on films and filmmakers on our www.afana.org website for the use of film scholars, and 2) by hosting public programs, to alert viewers and scholars alike that a film preservation crisis is at hand, by providing superior examples of such films in a cinematic setting. As always, you may participate in our important cause by making a contribution (we’re a 501c3 non-profit); you’ll find more information on our donation page at: http://www.afana.org/donations.htm A significant and common use of your donations is to pay shipping charges for film libraries donated to us; these film libraries are usually brought to our attention by organizations such as the Library of Congress, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the Smithsonian Institution, who understand the value of preserving these films, but cannot house them in their own collections, for varying reasons.

In three separate evenings, one week apart, we now focus on the lost films from México in our archive. We are confident you’ll enjoy their beauty, their content, and occasionally, their quirkiness. We believe it is the case as well, that unfortunately, you’ll probably only have an opportunity to see them here, at our venue.

Tonight’s films are:

‘Maya Are People’ (1951) 22m. dir. Les Mitchel.  Many explorer-adventurer hosts of historical/cultural films seemed to  view their subjects as "objects", rather than people, poking fun at their naïveté (e.g. Paul Hoefler and Carveth Wells), and picturing indigenous adults as children.  This is not the case with the wonderful and forgotten Les Mitchel, who treats his subjects as peers, obviously concerned about their fate in the increasingly modernized, mechanized world.  Here, he arrives in the Lacandon area of the Yucatan, shows the chief Obregon K’in (of Agua Azul village, Palenque) how to fire a pistol, then takes him on a plane-ride to view his ancestral ruins at Palenque.  Much of this magnificent film was shot at Lacanha Chan Sayab.  Overly-sensitive individuals will be put-off, no doubt at Mitchel’s politically-incorrect use of cigarette-as-tool, burning the leaf of a jungle plant to show its reflex to heat. At the end of the film, Mitchel delivers a heartfelt plea to save the culture from encroachment. All our attempts at finding any information on the filmmaker have failed.

‘Fabricantes Mexicanas de Ollas' (1962) 9m, prod. Stuart Roe. A wonderful film, depicting the making of ollas, large earthen jars, featuring Carmen Portillo of the Mayan village of Ubalama, firing clay above ground, utilizing branches and old boards for fuel. Like many films of the era, it is marred somewhat by the inclusion of a flamenco soundtrack, a musical form not indigenous to México. We are unable to find Roe, who lived in Sunnyvale, CA.

'Centinelas del Silencio' (1971) 18 m, dir. Robert Amram. The real star here is the late aerial photographer James Freeman, whose breathtaking helicopter shots of Mayan and Aztec ruins at sunrise and sunset won an Academy Award for this film in 1971. Although the English version was narrated by Orson Welles, the Spanish version we'll show tonight features narration by Ricardo Montalban, is in better keeping with the ethnic aspect of the film, and no knowledge of Spanish is needed to appreciate his dramatic impact. Don't be put off by the heroic musical score: this film is memorable, the last word on spectacular ruin cinematography. ‘Centinelas’ remains available on VHS only in México, while Amram has, according to at least one report, vanished south of the border. Freeman was killed while scouting a location for a commercial sponsored by Eastman Kodak.

Also on the program:

‘Ensenada’ (1956?) 23, prod. Bill Burrud. Burrud was the host/producer of the "Vagabond" travelogue series, popular in the mid-1950s. Here, he guides his Olds Rocket 88 down the backroads of Baja, guided by the legendary Sano Hussong. In addition to Ensenada, they visit the Babayov (sp?) family in the Russian town Guadelupe. 105 Russian families had migrated to Mexico in 1905, and founded a village and farmed the surrounding area. In this film, only 22 families are left, and remaining residents are concerned about their future, due to the declining birth rate. Burrud and Hussong also search out and find the last living immediate family member of Pancho Villa’s family, youngest brother Chico Villa, who lives on a remote ranch in the interior. Also mentioned is "Carlos the Trader" who takes Bill on a flight to San Quentín, for some duck hunting. This film is inaccessible to the public, and the original sits in the vaults of the late Burrud’s (b. Jan 12, 1925 - d. Jul 12, 1990) production company.

‘Baja California: the Pacific Coast of Mexico’ (1949) 12m, prod. Silas Johnson .  This film boasts beautiful color footage of old Baja, before Pemex stations lined the Cuota and Libre. Hunt travels from Ensenada to Cabo San Lucas, enchantingly stopping at the waterless village of Magdalena Bay, Tortuga Bay, and the vineyards at Santo Tomás.

 

Sunday, July 27, 2003... Barinda Samra Presents the History San José Film Series, Part IV:   'Archaeology'      This program was funded in part by a grant from Arts Council Silicon Valley. 

This program will be held at the Old Fire Station at History San José's 1650 Senter Road (visit http://www.historysanjose.org/directions-kp.html for directions).  Films will run continuously from 1 pm - 4 pm.

On today's program:

'Riches of a City' (1970?) 30m, dir. eight directors. As jumbled as any film made by eight different cooks would be, this film none-the-less is a fascinating look at the Portland riverfront revitalization project, centered on Skidmore Fountain area. San Jose take note: good urban sculpture can be a reality, and saving important buildings can become the standard course of business, as witnessed here by the Portland Friends of Cast-Iron Architecture.

'Early Civilizations' (1979) 20m, dir. Wayne Mitchell. A history film, describing early communities and cultures from the Tigris to the Mediterranean.

'Centinelas del Silencio' (1971) 18 m, dir. Robert Amram. The real star here is the late aerial photographer James Freeman, whose breathtaking helicopter shots of Mayan and Aztec ruins at sunrise and sunset won an Academy Award for this film in 1971. Although the English version was narrated by Orson Welles, the Spanish version we'll show tonight features narration by Ricardo Montalban, is in better keeping with the ethnic aspect of the film, and no knowledge of Spanish is needed to appreciate his dramatic impact. Don't be put off by the heroic musical score: this film is memorable, the last word on spectacular ruin cinematography.

'Archaeologists At Work' (1962) 13m. Mitchell shows the process by which archaeologists search for Basketmaker artifacts along San Juan River, New Mexico (In Spanish)

'Mesa Verde: Mystery of the Silent Cities' (1975) 14m, prod. Bert Van Bork. Few could argue that this film sets the standard for historical films based on the Anasazi (an ancient Indian culture of the southwest U.S.) Flying within impossibly narrow canyons to achieve dizzying shots of cliff-dwellings, Van Bork burned through two pilots, one of whom quit in the middle of the shooting out of fear for his life. Van Bork's masterful shots were accomplished by removing the helicopter door, mounting the camera on a fixed mount, then directing the pilot through headphone microphone to fly in various trajectories. As if the breathtaking displays of the terrain and dwellings aren't enough, Van Bork also begins some pan shots with abstract architectural designs abruptly jutting out from behind incomplete shadowy formations, resembling more a German expressionist painting than an ancient, deserted town built into the rock. The filmmaker tells an interesting story about the narrator of the film, Jack Palance. Contacting the actor by telephone, Palance agreed to do the narration provided the script was acceptable, and, after reviewing it, suggested they meet at one of Hollywood's finest restaurants to discuss the project: Bob's Big Boy (the MacDonald's of its day). With Palance's dramatic interpretation of the text accompanied by the haunting percussion ensemble musical score by Hans Wurman, the film transcends the didactic historical and dry anthropological, and transfixes the viewer instead by offering an in-motion armchair view of the extreme location these long-forgotten people chose as home.

'Frames of Reference' (1960) 26m, dir. Richard Leacock. Utilizing a fascinating set consisting of a rotating table and furniture occupying surprisingly unpredictable spots within the viewing area, Frames of Reference (1960), features fine cinematography by Abraham Morochnik, and funny narration by University of Toronto professors Donald Ivey and Patterson Hume in a wonderful example of the fun a creative team of filmmakers can have with a subject that other, less imaginative types might find pedestrian.

 

Wednesday, July 23, 2003... Tales from the Dugout: Stories from the Baseball Archives

Although San Jose is the eleventh largest city in the U.S., one of the beauties of living in the shadows of San Francisco is that we have our very own Class A minor league baseball team, the San Jose Giants.  It's hands-down a heckofa lot more fun to visit Municpal Stadium on a warm summer night than it is to witness a ballgame at SF's PacBell Park, largely because of the minor league promotions like "smash-for-cash", in which an old jalopy is wheeled onto the field, and players attempt to throw a baseball through the headlights in order to win a lucky fan a pizza.  My own favorite is the "Beer Batter", a weak-hitting member of the opposing team.  Whenever he strikes out, all beers are 50% off for the next 15 minutes.  Major League baseball is too grown-up for that kind of stuff, and too bad.  I absolutely DREAD a major league team moving down here and taking away our fun, so I'd like to focus instead on major league baseball of the past, with two fine films that have merit whether you know the words to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" or not:

‘Biography of a Rookie’ (1961) 50m, dir. Mel Stuart. Stuart was probably best known for his compiliation documentaries made for David Wolper Productions. In 1961, he visited the LA Dodgers’ rookie camp to chart the progress of Willie Davis, a teenage track athlete trying to crossover into baseball. On the way, Willie & his mom sign the contract, he gets tutored by a paunchy, cigar-smoking talent scout, and we meet some of the players who were once and future legends. The film ends as the decision is made to keep Willie on the big club.  Davis went on to a noted career: he was a member of the National League All-Star team in 1971 and 1973 and won three Gold Gloves, 1971-73. In 1969, he had a 31-game hitting streak, tying the longest in franchise history. 

 In life, as in basebaIl, not every story has a happy ending.  On 04/15/97, USA Today reported:

Former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Willie Davis was arrested March 14 while waving a samurai sword and ninja-style throwing stars in a confrontation with his parents over $5,000. Davis, 55, was picked up outside his parents' suburban Gardena home near Los Angeles. Davis, a former All-Star outfielder who played for the Dodgers from 1960 to '73, was clutching the weapons when deputies arrived at the home, authorities said. Charlie Davis, 85, and, Maudest, 76, who had locked themselves in a room of their house, told authorities their son demanded they give him $5,000. ''He told deputies that he would burn the house down if his parents wouldn't give him the money,'' deputy Jim Hellmold said. Davis was booked for investigation of assault with a deadly weapon, attempted extortion and exhibiting a deadly weapon.


The Glory of Their Times
(1969) 50m, dir. Bud Greenspan.  Years ago, Lawrence Ritter wrote a wonderful book of the same name, chronicling the reminiscences of baseball player from years past, most in the 1910s and 1920s.  This film features a combination of audio interviews  with these old players, mixed with Greenspan's file footage of early baseball.  I'll confess it: the stentorian tones of narrator Alexander Scourby were never my favorite, but here, he's overruled by the rich pastiche of memories from a marvelous cast of characters, most of whom have since passed on.  

 

Wednesday, July 16, 2003...   Barinda Samra presents:  ciné16 Klessix... Can the power of poetry bring social, political and cultural change? 

This was the question asked at the recent "first-ever" national Poetry and Politics conference held in New Hampshire to discuss the role of poetry in society. In honor of this, we reach back into our "Klessix" vaults and revisit some of our favorite poets and experience the power of the spoken word...

‘A Visit with Carl Sandburg’ (1953) 30m, dir. Martin Hoade. Between 1952 and 1956, NBC embarked on a wonderful series of interviews with aging giants of the art world, called ‘Conversations with Elder Wise Men’ (ciné16 has already programmed two of these, Frank Lloyd Wright and Wanda Landowska). Here, the animated, 75 year old poet waxes profoundly on Republicans and hangings, discusses his arrest for riding the rails, reads from "Phizzog" "A Couple", and Sliphorn Jazz", plays guitar & sings "The State of El-a-noy" and "Before I’d Be a Slave". His sincerest passion, however is for Abraham Lincoln, as he discusses his life, and the joys of writing the biography of his beloved president.

‘Gwendolyn Brooks’ (1967) 30m, dir. Aida Aronoff. Here, the 1950 Pulitzer Prize winner reveals the lighter and darker elements of the Black urban and suburban experience, and the differentiation between "loneliness" and "alone".

'Wholly Communion' (1965) 35 m, dir. Peter Whitehead. The best poetry film we’ve ever seen... let's take the wayback machine to London's Royal Albert Hall in 1965, for a poetry convention featuring Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Adrian Mitchell, and our personal favorite Ernst Jandl (whose wordless poetry brings down the house in a pandemonious riot). About halfway through the film, the poets start heckling and fighting each other, and it breaks down into a great anarchic mess. A lovely film, and a great document of the short era between "beat" and "hip".

‘Speak White’ (1980) 10m, dir. Pierre Falardeau/Julien Poulin. Michèle Lalonde's acerbic French poem attacks the KKK, wars, protests, and poverty. Brilliantly read by Marie Eykel, accompanied by Julien Poulin’s neat musique-concrète score. Proof that the power of the forceful spoken word, accompanied by pictures, can overcome one’s inability to fully comprehend an unfamiliar tongue.

 


    photo by Lois Siegel

Thursday, July 10, 2003...  Transition and Crisis: A Retrospective on the Child and Teenaged Angst Films of George Kaczender

Note: This program originally ran on March 5, 1998, with the filmmaker present.  In the five years or so since this program, ciné16 audiences have changed, grown, and evolved.  I would guess that few have had the pleasure of experiencing the work of this important filmmaker. Kaczender's films were among the finest (and, we think, most important) academic social films of their time, and represented a revolution in the manner in which troubled children and youth were treated in film.  I feel that his films will eventually be recognized, historically, for their uniqueness of perspective and quality of execution.  

- Geoff Alexander

Notes to the show:

As opposed to the sanctimonious drivel often found in US-made films for and about teens “in trouble”, the National Film Board of Canada took the approach that angst can be an important element of the process by which an individual learns to live in a changing world. Emerging sexuality, a sense of independence, and poor or absent parenting may all contribute to the alienation portrayed by teen actors in the Film Board’s “sociodramatic” films, which generally ended without black and white conclusions or value judgments. After spending seven years editing some of the finest Film Board titles in the fifties and early sixties (two ‘ciné16’ favorites, ‘Rallye des Neiges’ and ‘Nahanni’ among them), filmmaker George Kaczender wrote and directed some of the strongest films ever produced on the important and challenging subject of young people in transition and crisis, and in doing so, heralded the important ‘Wednesdays Children’ series of films produced by Wolf Koenig two decades later. Using nontraditional camera angles, tight editing, and taking forays into surrealism, the Hungarian-born director’s films are so powerful that they were considered to be “political propaganda” by the Lyndon B. Johnson administration, who pushed the Department of Justice to attempt to force distributors to report who in the US was ordering the films (two of the films on tonight’s program, ‘Phoebe’, and ‘World of Three’, were among the targeted films) in order to classify such distributors as “foreign agents”. Kaczender left the Film Board in 1972, started an independent production company, and began making films for Bill Deneen ---  a guest several years ago at ciné16 --- at Learning Corporation of America. 

Unlike many of the greats of 16mm film, Kaczender thrives today as a presence in the 35mm film industry, both as a director (‘In Praise of Older Women’) and as a member of the selection committee for foreign film for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

In case you’d like to rent videos of George Kaczender’s 35mm work, you may obtain a complete filmography by visiting the Kaczender page on the AFA website.   

We at ciné16 were amazed at the beauty, craftsmanship, and relevancy of these films, now over thirty years old. All five Kaczender films in the ciné16 archives are exceptional, and it was difficult to select the “top three” for the show.  

Tonight’s show includes:

‘You’re No Good’ (1965) 28m, dir. George Kaczender. Michael Sarrazin in his first dramatic role plays Eddie, who steals a motorcycle, then finds neither understanding nor compassion from friends, his girlfriend, or cops. Neat music score from “The Mersey Brothers”.

‘Phoebe’ (1964) 28m, dir. George Kaczender. This was the first half-hour drama produced by the Film Board, and is its second best seller of all time (US distribution was eventually picked up by the Learning Corporation of America). Adolescent Phoebe has just become pregnant, and deals with confusion, school, boyfriend, and parents. In portraying a young woman still sexually engaged with her boyfriend, the film angered religious elements in the U.S., and the State Department soon acted to ban this film. As a result, the "Rolling down the hill to a kiss" sequence, in the NFBC original from 13:30 to 14:26,  was deleted from US version by the Film Board.  Winner of five international awards, Kaczender’s Fellini-like drama speaks to adults and adolescents who choose or are forced by circumstance to swim against the stream.

‘World of Three’ (1966) 28m, dir. George Kaczender. Films about infants can be among the most boring films in the world (the Film Board has its share of these too, trust me), and if one doesn’t have children, they can be excruciating. It was therefore with a great degree of trepidation (and a few stiff shots) that your ciné16 review committee viewed ‘Three’ for the first time. To our shock, we found a film of startling beauty and mystery, as Kaczender views the world as a three year old. The camera tracks at a height of two feet, and words from adults are jumbled and we can’t always understand what’s being said. We explore the world around us, and can’t quite comprehend why those bigger people have the rules they do. Like the other films on tonight’s program, ‘Three’ brings the viewer into the perspective of the protagonist. Unlike the others, ‘Three’s cast is not given credit. Good thing we asked Kaczender: dad and mom are noted actors Peter Donat and Michael Learned, and their three year old son Lucas (now a filmmaker, incidentally) is the boy. Kaczender practically lived with the family for three weeks in order to get it right, and Lucas still remembers how difficult it was to break a vase as instructed (he knew it was wrong), and remembers his mom telling him that even though she might yell at him, it was only playing. Provocative, entertaining, and never “cute”, this is the best film on early childhood we’ve ever seen.   

 

Thursday, July 3, 2003... Fernandel: ‘The Sheep Has Five Legs’ (Le moutin à cinq pattes) 1954, 96m. dir. Henri Verneuil

From an original story by Albert Valentin, this film showcases the renowned French comic, Fernandel, who here plays the role of six people, a father and five sons who return home from various worldly adventures. The actor’s facility in portraying different roles is a remarkable tour-de-force.

Fernand Joseph Désiré Contandin was born in Marseilles in 1903, and began his career in 1921 in comic theatre. He adopted the stage name Fernandel after his mother-in-law referred to him as "Fernand d'elle". His film career began in 1930, and spanned 40 years, encompassing nearly 150 films.

 The author of the http://frenchfilms.topcities.com/nf_fernandel.html website notes: "Through his phenomenal film career, Fernandel became one of the icons of French culture in the Twentieth Century, instantly recognizable and regarded with affection by almost everyone who has seen his films. His blend of burlesque comedy, sardonic wit, engaging charm and poignant naïveté has a timeless quality which makes his films as watchable today as when they were first made… the director and writer Marcel Pagnol described Fernandel as the man who knew how to make people laugh, even those who have more reason to cry".

Fernandel, who died in 1971, is a name that more-than-occasionally crops up in discussions of the French comedy film, yet his work is nearly impossible to find in American cinemas. Again, we at the Academic Film Archive of North America encourage you to attend yet another rare screening of a film that you might not run across otherwise, and an actor whose talent transcends language.

Also on the program:

'Le plat du jour' (1972) 15m, dir. Georges Spicas.  This is another of those brilliant, witty foreign shorts that is good enough that it has undoubtedly won prizes, yet appears neither in the best-known film histories and catalogues, nor on the internet.  Same for the director.  One of the funniest films we've seen, 'Plat' is a non-narrated series of vignettes taking place in a terrible French restaurant, starring the animated Max Durand. 

 

Thursday, June 26, 2003... Two By Truffaut, Part II: 'Two English Girls' (held at the Agenda Speakeasy...)

"I understood that with this film, I had wanted to squeeze love like a lemon."

   - François Truffaut

'Two English Girls' (Les Deux Anglaises et le Continent) (1971) 108m, dir. François Truffaut.  Truffaut made 'Jules and Jim' in 1962 as a result of his discovery, in a bargain bookstore in 1955, of the Henri-Pierre Roché novel of the same name.  He soon discovered that this was the first published novel of a man 74 years old.  Eight years later, he would make "Two English Girls', based on Roché's second novel, 'Les Deux Anglaises et le Continent'.   Contrasting the two, the director would say "'Jules and Jim' is the story of two friends who love the same woman for a large part of their lives.  'Two English Girls' is that of two English sisters who love the same man for some twenty years."  Prior to making the film, Tuffaut read and re-read the book several times each year, until he knew certain passages by heart.  He would make annotations to the parts he felt would lend themselves well to the art of cinema, and turned over his notes to collaborator Jean Grault, who provided him with a daunting 500 page script.  Eventually, it was whittled to 200 pages.  

Although having acted on stage and radio, actresses Stacey Tenderer and Kika Markham has never appeared in a film, and had never acted in French.  They were tutored daily by the director.  Léaud, a veteran of Truffaut films as a child and adolescent actor, made his adult role film début here, and is surprisingly stiff, and seemingly uncomfortable in the new character.   I confess to being somewhat baffled at the interest the young women show in the dilletantish Léaud, but, upon reflection, remember the interest 20 year old female friends of mine once showed in a simple fellow from south San Jose who talked in a fake English accent.  In the western world, I'm clearly not the best judge, it seems,  of what makes the romantic heart tick in the clock of most relationship time-bombs.  

The story of the film surrounds the three protagonists, Léaud, Tenderer, and Markham, who meet each other in their early twenties, and are drawn to each other, romantically and platonically.  They are, to a degree, controlled by the actions of Léaud's mother, who has plans for her son that reach beyond the tendrils of romance.  The action plays itself out over decades.  

Truffaut noted that, due to the fine work of chief cameraman Nestor Almendros, it was the first color film of his six that he was totally satisfied with from first frame to last.  It was not initially greeted with critical acclaim, causing Truffaut to cut fourteen minutes from the release.  He pronounced himself satisfied with the final cut version, which we are showing tonight.  He deposited the original print with the Cinémathèque Française "for lovers of complete versions".

 

Sunday, June 22, 2003, at History San Jose... Robert Emmett Presents: the History San José Film Series, Part III:   Literacy

Robert Emmett is the Academic Film Archive's Public Relations Officer, and also the host of KFJC's venerated 'Norman Bates Memorial Soundtrack Show', heard every Saturday morning between 9 am and 12 pm, on 89.7 FM.  Rob is the host and curator of this monthly film series, each program of which will occur on the last Sunday of the month, and be shown at the Old Fire Station at History San José's 1650 Senter Road (directions) location.  Films will run continuously from 1 pm - 4 pm.

On today's program:

'Alphabet Conspiracy' (1959) 55m, dir. Robert Sinclair. This is the only Bell Science film to explore a subject not specifically related to a traditional "hard science", the study of language. Frustrated by the ambiguity inherent in the English language, the Mad Hatter (Hans Conreid) and Jabberwock attempt destroy Language by lighting an explosive charge under the world's great literature. On a fantastic, enlarged cartoon library set designed by William Kuehl, they convinced a young girl to  join their conspiracy, when Baxter as "Dr. Linguistics" arrives to illustrate the value of the written and spoken word. Guests range from jazz trumpeter Shorty Rogers, who banters in beat phrases, to  psychologist Keith Hayes, whose research on chimpanzee communication was made with chimp family member and guest Viki. 

'Strange Case of the English Language' (1968) 48m, prod. Andy Rooney. While 'Alphabet Conspiracy' can be viewed as a great children's film that adults may like as well, 'Strange Case' is a funny, occasionally acerbic film for adults that also appeals to bright kids. Rooney's tenure as '60 
Minutes' resident curmudgeon often masks the fact that he was a magnificently witty writer (e.g. his sobering 'Black History: Lost, Stolen or Strayed').  And how many reporters today are as adept at interpreting irony, amusement, and intellectual bewilderment as was the film's host, Harry Reasoner? But the real highlight of this film is an amazing interview with Peter Ustinov, who mimics American speech patterns.

'The Golden Lizard: A Folktale from Mexico' (1977) 19m, dir. Tom Smith. The director also tried his hand at 'magic realism', in one of the more unusual films distributed by Encyclopaedia Britannica Films.

'Maurice Sendak' (1965) 19m, prod. Morton Schindel. Sendak began his Caldecott winning book 'Where the Wild Things Are', in 1955, but it wasn't completed until 1963. Upon seeing this film, it's not difficult to see why it took so long. Sendak is a perfectionist, who built elaborate 
wooden toys as a child (he shows us a few of them, here), and counts Francisco Goya as one of his bigger influences.

'Where the Wild Things Are' (1976) 8m, dir. Gene Deitch. See notes above.


Thursday, June 19, 2003, at the Agenda Speakeasy... Two By Truffaut, Part I: Woman Next Door (La Femme d'à Côté)

It’s hard to believe: François Truffaut died in 1984. I think many of us who grew up with his films have them so firmly etched in our memories that, even though we know he’s gone, we swear it happened only last year, or a couple of years ago, perhaps. Next year, in late October, with mark the twentieth anniversary of his death.

At ciné16, we’ve been fortunate in being able to acquire several of his films. Generally, when they come up for sale, they’re ignored by most buyers, confounded by the French titles. In such cases, we’re grateful that most North Americans can’t speak French, as we’re the fortunate beneficiaries of our country’s relative lack of language expertise. Here, we’ve already shown Truffaut’s ‘Jules et Jim’ and ‘Shoot the Piano Player’, and for the next couple of weeks, have the pleasure of presenting two more films by this writer-turned-filmmaker, who became one of the mainstays of the nouvelle vague that washed across the Continent in the mid-to-late 1950s, and influenced a generation of world filmmakers. ‘Two English Girls’ and ‘The Woman Next Door’ are not the first films mentioned by those who admire Truffaut’s work, but each is a finely crafted story of psychological drama, exploring the aspects of romance that are unsettling but not uncommon.

Here in San Jose, I often bemoan the lack of resources for film scholarship. Once you’re out of college, good luck at finding venues here willing to program films of the French New Wave or Italian Neo-Realism schools. And too bad, because viewing such films forms a sound framework for understanding the cinema that came later, from the perspective of language, conventions, and spirit. For the next two weeks, we’re programming films made by a master auteur who died before his time. These films are not easily seen today, and we hope you’ll take advantage of the opportunity of viewing them now.

This week's film:  

'Woman Next Door' (La Femme d'à Côté)  (1981) 106m, dir. François Truffaut.   Here, Truffaut offers his treatise on "extreme states of love", a story of out of control passion within the boundaries  of traditional marriage.   The principals, played by Fanny Ardent and Gérard Depardieu, are not married to each other, however.  They find themselves placed in close proximity, for the first time in eight years, by virtue of the accident of a house that becomes available for rent.  Their compulsion to relive the past becomes stronger than their desire to remain cloistered in safe relationships, challenging viewers to question the definition, and perhaps the value, of marriage within the western context.  

This is Ardent's first film.  She had apprenticed for five years in French theatre, and Truffaut selected her for her "vitality, courage, enthusiasm, humor, intensity... a shy wildness, a touch of savageness..."  Depardieu, after the shooting of the first scene, told the director: "When Fanny looked me in the eyes to say hello, she terrified me and now I can see what we're going to make: a film about loves that strikes fear."  

Ultimately, the film serves as a fine antidote for the sappy pabulum that constitutes virtually every romantic film made today.  In discussing the film, Truffaut noted "In times past, the happy ending was the wedding.  Yet Sacha Guitry used to say: 'A comedy that ends in a wedding, that's a tragedy that's beginning.'  For me, a happy ending is not necessarily a happy end."

 

Thursday, June 12, 2003... First Run:  "Lost" films for the Aurora Picture Show's ‘Media Archaeology’ program.

Earlier this year, Houston's Andrea Grover asked several film archives to participate in a film symposium on elements specific to their collections.  We were among those chosen to participate.  We've elected to present an important part of our collection, "lost" films that will, in all probability, never be in distribution again in the United States.  Although the program is scheduled to run in Houston in Grover's Aurora Picture Show (www.aurorapictureshow.org) in 2004, we are previewing it here, first, in San Jose.  Our film notes are as follows:

The mission of The Academic Film Archive of North America (San Jose, CA) is to acquire, preserve, document, and promote academic film by providing an archive, resource, and forum for continuing scholarly advancement and public exhibition. We have presented more than 325 programs in San Jose (since 1996), and launched programming in St. Louis, Missouri, in October, 2002. We are the only institution in the U.S. dedicated to documenting the history of this endangered film genre.

What is "academic film"? Of the over 100,000 educational films made in North America between the early 1900s and approximately 1985, many of the best were in the subject fields of art, history, social science, literature, and science. These we refer to as academic film, as opposed to those made in health, safety, civics, and other non-academic educational subject areas, which are not the focus of our collection or programming.

Why is academic film important? With the launching of Sputnik in late 1957, millions of dollars in federal funds soon became available to academic film companies, as government and education officials desperately raced to bring American students to an academic level above that of their Soviet counterparts. Federal funds flowing to academic filmmakers via film companies represented the greatest governmental largesse ever bestowed on makers of non-feature films. We often refer to this as a socialist film movement thriving in a capitalist context.

Of the more than 2,000 films in our archive, approximately 13% are what we consider "lost" films. These films are no longer distributed, and in the vast majority of cases, the copyright owners have disappeared, died, or gone out of business. They are films that have little chance of being resurrected, because they are out of circulation, and are largely forgotten. Nearly all film companies stopped producing academic material in the 16mm format by 1985, and very few of these lost films were ever distributed on VHS.

It is these "lost" films that are the focus of tonight’s presentation. They run the gamut from art, to literature, to animation, to international culture. Each of them are memorable, and, in their own way, exceptional pieces of filmmaking. They make the case, better than words can, of the importance of recognizing the genre of academic film, and the critical need to save them. Although we think these are among the finest of the Lost, we would find it just as easy to create ten additional such programs with lost films as important and interesting as the ones you’ll see tonight.

The films on tonight’s program are as follows:

‘Symmetry’ (1966) 10m, dir. Philip Stapp. Stapp was one of the greatest animators working in the 1950-1975 era, using stylized, often pointillist abstract imagery, in a floating world sometimes surrealist, at other times reminiscent of Japanese "ukiyo-e" illustration. His spectacular ‘Symmetry’ is his greatest film, a fantasy of dancing images breaking apart, spinning, and converging. For more information on Stapp, visit: http://www.afana.org/stapp.htm

‘Silent Snow, Secret Snow’ (1966) 15m, dir. Gene Kearney. Alienation, angst, and schizophrenia are the themes addressed subtly and powerfully by Kearney in this adaptation of a story by Conrad Aiken.

'Iran' (1971) 18m, dir. Claude Lelouch. Far more than a travelogue with pretty pictures, this little-known film is among the best of its type ever made. 'Iran' consists of spectacular geographical and archaeological footage interspersed with "slice of life"' shots, with the best juxtapositional editing we've ever seen. This is a buried masterpiece from the director of ‘A Man and a Woman’, ‘Happy New Year’, and ‘And Now My Love’. Lelouch seems reluctant to discuss this film, and why? We suspect the Shah of Iran may have been involved in funding it, judging by the heroic equestrian footage toward the end of the film, and the more than occasional showcasing of the royal family. One could further guess that international dissatisfaction with the excesses of the Pahlevi regime negatively affected the distribution of the film, a shame, because few films treating similar themes are its equal. The musical score by Francis Lai is a priceless timepiece, resplendent with heavy early-70s euro-pop wah-wah guitar. An intriguing, beautifully crafted, and dynamic film, this visual poem transcends the didactic.

‘Hands of María’ (1968) 15m, prod. J. Donald McIntyre. Mara Martinez was a well-known and historically significant Jemez potter from San Ildefonso, New Mexico, whose work is in most major southwestern museum pottery collections. Here, she is seen building large pieces by building coiling ropes of clay. An unusually large percentage of lost films are based on southwestern or American Indian themes, perhaps reflecting the fact that, from a school curriculum perspective, they are no longer the ethnicity du jour

‘Visite à Picasso’ (1950) 20m, dir. Paul Haesaerts. A poetic treatment which includes the artist painting on glass while facing the camera, shot at Picasso’s home in Vallauris, accompanied by some fairly moody organ music in this very dark film. The artist here takes on the character of an eminence-grise, an alchemist engulfed in the "sol y sombra" of his laboratory-studio, filmed in gorgeous black and white.

'Gallery' (1971) 7m, dir. Ken Rudolph. In seven minutes, Rudolph astoundingly serves over 2,000 major works of art.  It's dizzying and brilliant, your MFA in Art History in a bottle.  

 

Friday, June 6, 2003... Make Mine Morlam: Cutting Edge Culture from the Rice Paddies of Roi-Et to the Back Streets of Bangkok

This show is a special one-night-only program held at Sugars Café, 1082 East Santa Clara Street, between 22nd and 23rd Streets, downtown San Jose.  Directions: 101 to East Santa Clara Street exit.  Proceed west, toward downtown San Jose.  22nd Street is approximately 5 blocks away, with plenty of on-street parking.  

Although Sugars does not serve alcohol, it faithfully replicates the Southeast Asia bar-scene, where Morlam is often heard.  Our show will be seen on several large screens and televisions simultaneously.  The show will start at 9 pm.

On the program:  We'll be featuring 20-odd songs from our extensive Morlam video CD library, PLUS the brand-new VCD made of Jintara Poonlarb's red-hot road show.  This show includes 50 dancers, twelve musicians, and she performs morlam, lukthung, and string music from Thailand.  She is an exceptional performer, and this is probably the first time this concert has been screened in the U.S.  Our notes to the morlam portion of the show are extensive, and can be viewed (and printed) by visiting:  http://www.afana.org/morlamnotes.htm

In addition, scholars wishing to know more about how Morlam music fits within the Thai-Isaan cultural dynamic may visit: http://www.afana.org/morlam.htm

 

Thursday, June 5, 2003... Sculpture, part II

‘Sculpture: Kitsch Catch or Creative Space?' (1976) 19m, prod. Philip Hobel.  This film is yet another example of an important film that is no longer available for distribution.  Here, we visit with historically important conceptual sculptors such as Christo (who tries in vain to curtain Colorado River), Robert Smithson, who discusses his spiral jetty project, and the ever-bizarre Vito Acconci, who puts his viewers at physical risk by re-defining the gallery as an interactive field in which viewers are foced to become participants.  Also interviewed are multimedia artists Les Levine, polyester resin sculptor Jimenez, and publisher (now art dealer, as of this writing) Charles Cowles.  The film today remains in the vault of the producer, and it is perceived as having so little commercial value that is has never been transferred to VHS for further distribution.

‘Claire Falkenstein: Sculptor’ (1977) 25m, dir. Jae Carmichael. Critic Allan Temko (well-known for his book on the architecture of Notre Dame) discusses the work of the noted sculptor, who is filmed at work and play.

‘Inner Eye of Alexander Rutsch’ (1972) 15m, dir. Roger Seiler.  Rutsch, an Austrian sculptor/painter who recently passed away, here draws his children, and carefully selects driftwood on beach. (L)

‘Michael Jean Cooper: Sculptor’ (1979) 25m, dir. Robert L. Burrill. The beauty of Cooper’s elaborately carved, shaped, and polished work initially seems more craft than art, but beyond the wooden motorcycles and pistols lies a subtle sense for erotic humor, and a crazy belief that his handmade vehicle will actually be roadworthy.

 

Thursday, May 29, 2003...  Sculpture on Film: a Two Week Retrospective

Think sculpture doesn't provoke powerful reactions?  Several years ago, while wandering through Paris' Tuileries gardens, I became enthralled with the castings of Aristide Maillol's bronze women, and began taking pictures.  Sculpture is best seen, for the most part, in the round, in a 270 degree viewing area, which means under and all around, and, if one can ascend to a point above the piece, one adds another 90 degrees for the full 360 treatment.  Every plane offers essentially, a different work, which is why books can't adequately offer the full experience, although films do get closer.  So here I am, lying on my back, looking at these wonderful organic forms against the deep blue July sky.  My view has taken Maillol to the utmost abstract: I know that no one who sees this photo will be able to guess its subject.  I'm taken out of my would of beauty and wonder for a moment when I hear those magical words, uttered in the unmistakable American cant: "What a pervert."  I look around, and there she is, 250 pounds of hometown intellectualism, clad in Bermudas and Birkenstocks and accompanied by her brood, glaring at me, and viewing my project as yet another way for a guy to get away with looking under a woman's skirt (hint: Maillol's girls don't wear one...)  This attitude toward nude sculpture (and naked bodies, in general), seems in the Western world, anyway, to be a particularly an American one. As an indisputable and sad fact,  you'll be hard-pressed to find a 19th century American nude sculpture that actually has nipples.  Sculptors of the nude form DO care about finishing the backside, unless they're working in relief, but so many museum attendees miss the around-the-world view, because (I think) they're afraid someone may be watching.  The Xenophobic reaction of my countrywoman is alas, all too common; uneducated as to the mores and values of other cultures, they travel the globe attempting to conform the sexuality of cultures thousands of years old into that of our Calvinistic one.  Returning to my camera after this hasty bit of pondering, I decided to forgive my countrywoman for her ignorance of the joys of appreciating the grace and magnificence of a fact and force of nature, since she probably didn't have nipples anyway.

It's high time ciné16 hosted a sculpture film retrospective, since it seems we've been giving such titles the short-shrift when we've been assembling the numerous art film programs we've done over the years.  Now we're going to rectify that in a magnificent two-week retrospective, highlighting some of the exceptional films that have been made on the subject.  Everyone with, or without nipples, will be allowed to attend.  On tonight's show:

‘Sculpture Today’ (1969) 20m, dir. F. Geilfus.  A review of contemporary sculptural styles, focusing on the art rather than the artist. Poetic. Includes examples of the work of Adam, Arp, Calder, Gabo, Giacometti, Hepworth, Laurens, Manzu, Moore, Walrauens and Zadkine.

‘Brancusi Retrospective at the Guggenheim’ (1970) 20m. dir. Paul Falkenberg and Hans Namuth. This is a fine retrospective of the work of the sculpture who suggests that "only Africans and Rumanians know how to carve wood".

‘Mobile by Alexander Calder’ (1980) 25m, dir. Robert Pierce. Calder’s large mobile in the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art presented design, engineering, and installation challenges unpredictable at the time, and largely unappreciated today. Here, we have a fascinating glimpse at how large sculpture derives from its models. .Architect I.M. Pei and engineer/artist Paul Matisse collaborate with the artist. This is the last film involving Calder, whose speech is halting, and who died before his sculpture was to be installed. The film also features interesting early footage of the mechanical ‘Calder Circus’.

‘Henry Moore at the Tate Gallery’ (1970) 14m, dir. Walter Lassally & David Sylvester.  This film is  a "catalogue" of a retrospective curated by co-director Sylvester in 1968.  Moore's surrealistic figures here occasionally are reminiscent of Mayan Chac Mool figures...

'Sam Maloof: Woodworker'  (1973) 17m, dir. Maynard Orme.  The sculptural elements in Maloof's furniture suggest this film is more than appropriate for tonight's program.  Here, he discusses his work and philosophy, which eschews modern materialism.  Among other gems, Maloof prefers working with walnut, because rosewood sawdust makes him sneeze.  With music by noted jazz musician Willie Ruff.

 

Sunday, May 25, 2003... Robert Emmett Presents: the History San José Film Series, Part II.  'Family Stories'

Robert Emmett is the Academic Film Archive's Public Relations Officer, and also the host of KFJC's venerated 'Norman Bates Memorial Soundtrack Show', heard every Saturday morning between 9 am and 12 pm, on 89.7 FM.  Rob is the host and curator of this monthly film series, each program of which will occur on the last Sunday of the month, and be shown at the Old Fire Station at History San José's 1650 Senter Road (directions) location.  Films will run continuously from 1 pm - 4 pm.

On today's program:

'Food, Clothing, and Shelter in Three Environments' (1989) 20m, dir. Wayne Mitchell. People from the mountains of Japan, tropics of Samoa, and desert of Pakistan are juxtaposed.

'Ted Baryluk's Grocery' (1982) 10m, dir. John Paskievich/Michael Mirus. From his grocery in northern Winnipeg, Baryluk describes, through black and white still photos, the tremendous diversity of his small store's patrons, and his sorrow that his daughter doesn't want 
to run the store upon his retirement.

'Lee's Parasol' (1979) 25m, dir. Paul Saltzman. Beautifully painted parasols are a craft indigenous to the village of Bor Sang, near Chiang Mai, Thailand, and Lee's friends and family are involved in the entire process: cutting large bamboo stalks, trimming shoots for the intricate pieces, making dye for the paper. As in many of Saltzman's films, there is drama here as well, as Lee's boss is faced with the prospect of having to give away Lee's first creation to satisfy an important customer.

'Marcelo Ramos: Artesano Pirotécnico' (1980) 15m, dir. Judith Bronowski. The Ramos family from San Pedro Zumpango, Mexico build their fireworks and mighty rockets for the La Purísima Concepción festival. Even grandma gets involved, weaving fuses, and the two-year olds are running around stuffing powder in tubes. My favorite? How about the wooden-barrel mixer, powered by a really sparky old electrical wire. Bronowski is probably the greatest of all the filmmakers who explored the Mexican artisan genre; this film explains why. (In Spanish)

'El Cumpleaños de Pepita' (1957) 14m, unknown director. Meant to be shown to students learning Spanish, this film transcends the didactic, and provides a glimpse into the Mexico that has, in many places, all too quickly disappeared. Pepita and her uncle travel to Lake Patzcuaro, get their pictures taken by an itinerant photographer, see wonderful dancers, and attend a birthday party. A sweet, wonderful film. (In Spanish)

'Ezra Jack Keats' (1970) 17m, dir. Cynthia Freitag. Here' the noted children's author is shown in his New York City studio, discussing his books, and his technique of collage mixed with painting. Additionally, Keats is shown making the paper he uses for some of his backgrounds, which he produces by introducing plain paper into a bath of water, in which oil paints have been introduced, but not mixed. The result is a mottled, swirling pastiche of color. Included as part of the film is his 
'A Letter to Amy' (7m.).

 

Thursday, May 22, 2003...  Michael Selic presents ciné16 Klessix (stellar films from past shows)

‘Pioneers of Science’ (1978) 20m, dir. Richard Ashworth. In the U.S., it’s a shame that the Arabs never get their due as producing perhaps the intellectual light that shone brightest during what we refer to as the Dark Ages. These master scientists created magnificent devices such as wind towers that cooled whole cities, and subterranean water channels that stretched for miles under the scorching sands to bring life to otherwise remote cities. They still exist today, as evidenced by this terrific film from John Seabourne’s ‘Mideast’ series.

'Iran' (1971) 18m, dir. Claude Lelouch. Far more than a travelogue with pretty pictures, this little-known film is among the best of its type ever made. 'Iran' consists of spectacular geographical and archaeological footage interspersed with "slice of life"' shots, with the best juxtapositional editing we've ever seen. So who paid for the film? We suspect the Shah was involved, judging by the heroic equestrian footage toward the end of the film; one could guess that international dissatisfaction with the excesses of the Pahlevi regime negatively affected the distribution of the film, a shame, because few films treating similar themes are its equal. The musical score by Francis Lai is priceless, with heavy early-70s euro-pop wah-wah guitar. An intriguing, beautifully crafted, and dynamic film, surprisingly moving as well...

‘Charles Doughty --- 1877’
(1976) 50m, dir. David McCallum. In this, perhaps the finest of the series, the noted Arabist travels in a poetic haze of colors and cultures, accompanied by the singing, languages, and sounds of the Maghreb. Director McCallum (about his only directing effort to date) told ciné16 that the filming was done in the El Foud area of Morocco due the fact that much of Doughty’s Arabia was engaged in military activity, and that many of the region’s homeless were hired as extras. The idea of utilizing McCallum as a director was suggested to the BBC by Latham, who had noticed that the actor always took a keen interest in camera set-ups whenever he was not on-camera himself. Although Doughty’s diaries are cited in the narration, the viewer is soon swept away in master cinematographer Fred Hamilton’s oriental fantasy world, which would appear to be a precursor of Bertolucci’s adaptation of Paul Bowles’ ‘Sheltering Sky’, done some fifteen years later. 

 

Thursday, May 15, 2003...  Robert Emmett presents ciné16 Klessix (stellar films from past shows) 

(Note: we presented this program on February 13 of this year.  It has been one of our most requested repeats, and Rob's programming it this week.  The original filmnotes were extensive, and included poignant commentary by the filmmaker, Ricky Leacock.  To view them in full, click here.  

‘Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment’ (1963) 47m, prod. Gregory Shukar for Robert Drew Associates. 

The film addresses one of the most critical racial situations encountered in the 20th century, when Alabama Governor George Wallace attempted to block two black students, James Hood and Vivian Malone, from being the first to register for classes at the University of Alabama in Montgomery. In Washington, the camera is eyewitness to discussions in the White House between JFK, RFK, Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, and a host of advisors, as they develop a strategy for forcing Wallace to abide by federal law, while avoiding bloodshed. Kennedy weighs opinions including whether to jail Wallace, if needed. Simultaneously, Wallace is comfortable in the governor’s mansion, hugging his young daughter, and in meeting his team of advisors. Wallace candidly observes that he is doing what’s best for whites and blacks, and declares that he will block the doorway through which the two students plan to enter. Back in Washington, the camera travels to Bobby Kennedy’s office for more strategy sessions, and follows Katzenbach to Alabama, where his duty will be to confront Wallace and, if needed, use the 17,000 National Guardsmen at his disposal. In the interim, before the showdown, we see Hood and Malone rehearsed for how they will act, dress, and speak before Wallace, school authorities, and the press. We also witness a touching moment at the McLean, Virginia home of RFK, as he puts his infant daughter Kerry on the phone with Katzenbach, who lightheartedly discusses Alabama weather with her, in a brief respite from the tension.

Also on the program:

‘Ku Klux Klan: Invisible Empire’ (1965) 45m, dir. David Lowe. In another outstanding program in the ‘CBS Reports’ documentary series produced by Fred W. Friendly, we visit a number of interesting individuals and organizations, including Matt Murphy, Chief Council of the United Klans of America, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Robert Shelton leader of the United Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and Attorney General of the state of Alabama, Richard Flowers. A history of the Klan is provided, including the somewhat surprising statistic that, as of 1925, there were 6 million clan members in the United States. The film has a number of memorable sequences, including an initiation rite. David Lowe, who directed a number of outstanding ‘CBS Reports’ documentaries (including ‘Abortion and the Law’, which we’ve shown previously) was an exacting director whose work is timeless.

The two films on tonight’s program provide fascinating bookends to the ongoing series of events that defined the struggle for racial equality in the 1960s. They continue to be timely reminders of how far we, as a nation, have gone, and the distance we’ve yet to cross.

 

Thursday, May 8, 2003...  Barinda Samra presents ciné16 Klessix (stellar films from past shows)

‘River of No Return’ (1949?) 40m, dir. Frederic & Sylvia Christian. ciné16 has become fairly well-known for asking our audiences to take the extra step, whether it be for unusual film content, or for our bohemian viewing environment in the old downstairs speakeasy. Tonight we’ll be asking you to take a giant leap with this film. ‘River of No Return’ is a work print, in other words, there is no sound track, no music, no talking. The filmmakers are virtual unknowns, a husband and wife team from Spokane who filmed their personal journey down Idaho’s Salmon River in their simple flat-bottomed boat, which we see them building beside the river. At first, the film appears to be little more than a home movie filmed by better-than-average cinematographers, using fairly decent equipment. Along the way, however, the film becomes magical: the scenery is magnificent, the vignettes along the wayside, from the beaver to the slo-motioned rodeos, to the horse riders venturing down canyon trails, are wonderful. The film ends somewhat abruptly (we suspect this may be the first of more than one reels) with the Salmon River churning into the Pacific Ocean, and by this time we found ourselves asking again and again: who were these people? Was there ever a soundtrack associated with this film, or was it unfinished? If it was unfinished, why? Here’s what we do know: Frederic Christian died, and Sylvia married filmmaker Paul Hoefler. When she passed away, what was left of Hoefler’s films --- and her films as well --- were probably sold at auction and ended up in a couple of pallets at a warehouse out in the country. The historical museum in Spokane knows nothing of Frederic and Sylvia Christian, so we guess that they’ll remain a mystery for a long time to come. What has been left is a very pretty film that in its own way is timeless, and haunting as well, as one watches these two very alive people from the past, in an unintended deaf-like silence.

‘Bakhtiari Migration: The Sheep Must Live’ (1973) 27m, dir. Anthony Howarth. Here, we see 500,000 people and millions of animals on their twice yearly, 200 mile trek between summer and winter pastures. The Babadi clan faces six major challenges crossing the Zagros mountains from the Khuzestan Plain to Esfahan: among them are River Jobar and Monah mountain, 9000 feet high, in southern Iran. Persian folk-singer Shushu is featured.

‘Morning on the Lièvre’ (1961) 13m, dir. David Bairstow. The Canadians seem to have a lock on the concept of filmed poetry, often going beyond recitations accompanied by pretty pictures to the wonderful prosaic films narrated by Stanley Jackson. ‘Lievre’ is a breathtaking example, depicting, through the poems of Archibald Lampman, the languor of a September day, beginning with the foggy, leaf-strewn, half-hidden banks of the Lièvre River in Quebec.

 

Thursday, May 1, 2003...  African Anthro: Central Africa

'Rhythm of Africa' (1940) 17m, prod. François Villiers.   In cooperation with Jean Coctau, Villiers filmed dances of the people of Chad, the Ubangi, and others. 

'Gentle Winds of Change: Uganda' (1961) 33m, dir. Marshall Segall.  Segall, a professor of Psychology  at Columbia, here investigates the impact of Western Civilization on Uganda, in the area of Mbarara, Ankole region (Ba-nyankole people).   Scenes include a traditional wedding and the making of plantain beer.   Segall originally traveled to Uganda for the purpose of making a sociological study, but decided to craft his footage into a film upon returning to the U.S.  This remarkable work is the only film Segall ever made.

'River People of Chad' (1969) 20m, uncredited director.  This interesting film documents the life of the Kotoko people, who fish, heard cattle, and build their houses near the Chari river.  Eventually, they go to the open air market in Fort Lamy, the capital of this large, landlocked country.

'Images of the Wild: a Portrait of Robert Bateman' (1978) 22m, dir. Norman Lightfoot.  Turning away from the anthro focus of tonight's program, we present a film on this noted wildlife artist, who is not above mounting real elephant dung on his desk to use it as a model for a painting in progress.  

 

Monday, April 28, 2003... Men & Animals Tour 2003:  The Films of Jim Finn and Dean Rank  

Note: this program will be held at 7 pm at  Blake's Steakhouse, inside the Clouds Room,  17 North San Pedro Street, between Santa Clara and St. John Streets, downtown San Jose . Parking is free after 6pm at the garage on San Pedro Street, across from Blake's.

We're honored to be included in the 26 city North American tour of Chicago filmmakers Jim Finn and Dean Rank.  Although most of their films were originally shot on 16mm, their traveling show will be presented on video.  

Biographies:

Jim Finn's films have screened at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, New York Underground Film Festival, Impakt in the Netherlands, Museo Tamayo in Mexico City, Cinematexas in Austin and the L.A. Freewaves Festival. His film comunista! was featured on the PBS show EGG the Arts in November 2001 and 'el güero' was chosen to take part in the touring 2002 European VideoGallery. Snow and Farm, a photo from a series using miniature models and Prozac pills appeared in the January 2000 issue of Harper's. His latest film is 'super-max'.

"Jim Finn now lives in Chicago making films and videos about the struggle of capitalism, communism, history and love and are sort of odd, quirky and charming."  - Videoart Center Tokyo

Dean Rank studied film and video at the University of Illinois Chicago. His work has been screened at the Thaw Film Festival in Iowa City, the Aurora Picture Show in Houston, Blinding Light in Vancouver, Vox Populi in Philadelphia, and the Butcher Shop Gallery in Chicago. His last project was an experimental music video for the band Shipping News, which screened at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio. On this tour he is premiering his short film opus, 'Team'.

Tonight's program includes:

'wüstenspringmaus' (2002) 3 min, 16mm on video, dir. Jim Finn. "The Golden Age of Hollywood takes on the history and evolution of this delightful household pet"—Rotterdam International Film Festival

'el güero' (2001) 3 min, 16mm on video, dir. Jim Finn.  Spanish karaoke with a dancing man and a white rat.

'comunista!' (2001) 3.5 min, 16mm on video, dir. Jim Finn. Karaoke about love, birthdays and capitalism.

'super-max' (2003) 14 min, 16mm on video, dir. Jim Finn. "That the beast will come to our world and his black fortress would be seen in the land."

'Decision 80' (1999) 10 min, 16mm on video, dir. Jim Finn. Jimmy vs. Ron.

'Team' (2003) 17 min, 16mm on video, dir. Dean Rank.   Uniformed men and the sport they love.

'Diagram' (1998) 14 min, 16mm on video, dir. Dean Rank.  Auditions, dancing, and sprinting.

'Portraits' (2000) 10 min, video, dir. Dean Rank.  Men at work.

 

Sunday, April 27, 2003... Robert Emmett Presents: the History San José Film Series, Part I.  'San José Lost & Found: a Past Look at Our Present'

Robert Emmett is the Academic Film Archive's Public Relations Officer, and also the host of KFJC's venerated 'Norman Bates Memorial Soundtrack Show', heard every Saturday morning between 9 am and 12 pm, on 89.7 FM.  Rob is the host and curator of this monthly film series, each program of which will occur on the last Sunday of the month, and be shown at the Old Fire Station at History San José's 1650 Senter Road (directions) location.  Films will run continuously from 1 pm - 4 pm.

Films on today's program:

'Quicksilver' (1967) 30m, dir. Alex Zanini. Produced at KNTV, this is a history of New Almaden, essential to the Gold Rush era, producing toxic cinnabar, a material which releases gold from its rocky prison. It ends in an odd, upbeat note: mining will soon return to New Almaden!

'Valley of Heart's Delight' (1948) 18m, unknown director. No no, not the pristine, black and white film from 1925 showing in the display at History San Jose, but a spanking new version, touting the glories of the Clapp's Baby Food factory, the American Can Company plant, FMC, San Jose Steel, and Moffett Field, all accessible via the old Monterey Highway, or after arrival on the Coast Daylight locomotive-driven train.

'San Jose 70/71' (1971) 27m, unknown director. This defines the concept of 'lost' film. The credits having been stripped off somewhere in the distant past, no one seems to know who produced this film, but it's brightly optimistic tone is indicative of the youthful energy of this city of only 500,000 people. Here we visit City Hall, with Ron James as mayor, the impossibly young future mayors Norman Mineta and Janet Gray Hayes, and their Council counterparts Virginia Schaeffer, Joe Colla, Walter Hays, Kurt Gross, and the ever-testy Dave Goglio. A city with a future! The redevelopment agency is hard at work here, bringing you the spanking new Park Center Plaza development, and the highly touted, remarkable Performing Arts Center, just beginning construction, which will finally put San Jose on the cultural map of the nation.

'Roads Across the Bay' (1963) 30m, dir. Frank Robinson. Farther north, the crisis of moving people across the water is solved by the building of the Bay Bridge, bringing a welcome end to the slow-moving ferries, and the beginning of the end to inter urban trains.  This  well-made  documentary chronicles the building of the bridge through contemporary footage, with cursory mention of the GGB, and Richmond San Rafael span.


Thursday, April 24, 2003...  African Anthro: Eastern Africa

In our continuing look at some of the finer ethnographic films, we present another Robert Gardner classic, accompanied by an additional exceptional film by lost filmmaker Frank Gardonyi.

'The Nuer' (1970) 75m, dir. Hilary Harris, George Breidenbach; prod. Robert Gardner.  Here, the Peabody Museum film crew from Harvard travels to the village of Lara, to the Gaajak Jikany region of southwest Ethiopia, next to the Baro River.  They lived with Nuer herdspeople during the dry season of 1968, chroncling their life.   The Nuer discuss the return of a barren bride (her brideprice was 25 head of cattle, but the bride's family claims the husband is impotent).  The men drink grain beer, build a house of straw and clay, and sacrifice a goat to appease a ghost, while the women pound grain and tend to the children.  Some of the more interesting sequences cover two ritual scarification events.  In the first, close-up footage reveals that scar patterns are made by the prick-and-lift of a safety pin, with the raised skin clipped off by a single-edged razor blade.  Boys are brought to manhood by radial head scars as the result of long, thinly-spaced knife cuts along the skull, from ear to ear.  All is not happy for the Nuer, as evidenced by the onslaught of smallpox.  For more on this film, visit:  http://www.filmstudycenter.org/NUE.html

Earlier this year, we screened Hilary Harris' '9 Variations on a Dance Theme', an arresting film shot of one dance, shot from nine different angles.  In 'Nuer', watch for Harris' wonderful rapid-fire sequence of various pipes and bracelets.   

'African Community: the Masai' (1970) 20m, dir. Frank Gardonyi.  Gardonyi was an exceptional filmmaker specializing in films on African subjects, and who, unfortunately, we've been unable to find.  Here, he explains many of the practices of the Masai, who display many of the same behaviors of the Nuer.  This community portrayed in this film consists of four families totaling sixteen people, living on the floor of Tanzania's Ngorogoro crater, 7,000 feet high.  In the dry season, their main source of food is a mixture of cattle blood, milk, and salt, obtained by bleeding their cattle.  This is done no more than once every two or three months to each animal, and no  more than a quart is taken at each occurence.

 

Thursday, April 17, 2003...  African Anthro: Western Africa

'Pygmies' (1976) 46m, dir. Hans-Jurgen Steinfurth.  Featuring the Bajanka (sp?) of Central African Republic, showing their adaptation to their environment, and cautioning of their potential threat of extinction.

'Daily Life of the Bozo People' (1967), 20m, dir.  Hermann Schlenker.  Another exceptional, non-narrated film from this German filmmaker, focusing on the cooking and weaving of the Bozo people of the Niger River, Mali.

'African Craftsmen: the Ashanti' (1970) 11m, dir. Frank Gardonyi.  These master craftsmen from Ghana are here engaged in the making of clothes, and woodcarving.  In the former, weaving, dyeing, and blockprinting are shown.  In the latter, woodcarvers utilize axe, adze, chisel, and knife to make Ashanti stools, each of which, from a design perspective, derives from a particular king.

'Adama, The Fulani Magician' (1985) 22m, dir. Taale Laafi Rosellini.  Adama Hamidou, a renowned deaf West African street performer and practitioner of the ancient Yan Taori magic tradition, practices his craft among the people of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (Upper Volta).  As a deaf man, Adama has found a unique, witty means of communication.  The film draws an intimate portrait of the man and his culture through both performance sequences and interviews in which Adama tells his own story of how he became deaf and how he became a magician, in West African sign language. 

 

Thursday, April 10, 2003...  South Seas Anthro

We’d love to show more ethnographic material, but the best of the bunch are difficult for us to get, and always expensive. Over the next several months, we’ll be hitting the vaults to bring you some of the finest examples of the genre in our collection. Tonight’s ‘Dead Birds’ is a must-see, and a cornerstone to virtually any grad-level anthro film course. See it here, without having to pay $50,000 for your next degree for the privilege…

‘Dead Birds’ (1968) 83m, dir. Robert Gardner. Gardner, an anthropologist, traveled to New Guinea as a member of the Harvard-Peabody expedition of 1961, and filmed the Dani of Irian Barat, Indonesia. Here, he follows Weyak, a farmer and warrior, and Pua, who cultivates pigs. Filmed prior to the Dutch pacification, Gardner is witness to battles, raids, rituals, and the everyday doings of mountain life. In addition to the retributional killings (which here, include that of a young boy), the Dani also sacrifice the digits of their young girls: when a close relative dies as a result of warefare, the last joint of a finger is chopped off by a stone axe.  To western eyes, among the most fascinating sequences involve the actual battles, filmed from nearby hills.  This continual killing, taking place over generations, lies in stark contrast to the early 20th century introduction of the game of cricket as a substitute for war in the Trobriands, as documented in Jerry Leach’s film ‘Trobriand Cricket: an Ingenious Response to Colonialism’ (1975), which we showed in 2000.  

 

Thursday, April 3, 2003...  Women of a Certain Age

Compared with the number of outstanding roles given to men in Hollywood feature films, I think we'd possibly agree that women get short-sheeted a bit. This slight becomes even more glaring as actresses age, probably having something to do with demographics and perceived sexuality and box office receipts. It's not just women either: the United States is uncomfortable with older people, as a rule, and, in our throw-away society, we'd be just as happy recycling them if we could figure out a way to do it and still maintain a clear social conscious. It makes us uncomfortable when older people don't "act their age", and even people who would ordinarily be considered intelligent don't have a problem characterizing intergenerational daters as "dirty old men", or "women who are being taken advantage of" because of their money. Western culture, alas, has little understanding, respect, or interest in people past the age of procreation; we want them in an easy-to-assemble box, portable, so it will fit into any small corner, away from foot traffic, ears, and eyes. And yes, I'm pointing fingers at all of us now, because we're most assuredly the victims, later.

Age prejudice is not as common in many non-western societies: Isaan writer Pira Sudham, in his novel ‘The Force of Karma’ relates a conversation between two individuals, one of whom is involved in a relationship with a person thirty years his senior. "Can’t you pick a man whose foot isn’t in the grave?", asks a friend. The younger person replies, "I didn’t pick him, he picked me. Besides, it has been said in old Siam that loving old people gains one a lot of merit."

Tonight, I want to celebrate the fact that certain filmmakers have chosen to gain merit by selecting some of the least marketable examples of what our society has to offer, and have cast them in leading roles. One of tonight's films, 'Ruth Stout's Garden', is probably our most-requested title, and it makes it onto a ciné16 program at least once every year. The others are unforgettable, and as a whole, remind us of the forgotten treasures of our society, and how important it is to recognize them while they're still around to appreciate it.

On tonight's show:

'Encore un Hiver' (1979) 15m, dir. Françoise Sagan. This wonderful film focuses on an older woman waiting on a park bench on a cold winter day for a lover who returns every year.

'At 99: a Portrait of Louise Tandy Murch' (1974) 30m, dir. Deepa Saltzman.  Here, Murch describes the elements that contribute to her long life, including this: "I have a piano, for companionship... I don't have a TV (I don't want one)".  The director was married to filmmaker Paul Saltzman when she made this film, and now directs under her maiden name of Deepa Mehta.  She has subsequently made several feature films on women's themes, including 'Earth' (1999) and 'Fire' (1997).

‘Ruth Stout’s Garden’ (1976) 20m, prod. Arthur Mokin. The story is that Mokin’s wife read about the octogenarian gardener in the NY Times, and they all decided a visit would be in order. The visit produced a film, based on the life and philosophy of an iconoclast suffragette and political progressive, replete with tales of nude gardening. One finds it difficult not to mentally attempt to smooth old layers of skin to reveal the girl beneath. An outstanding film, and one of our most-requested titles.

'Grandma Moses' (1950) 22m, dir. Jerome Hill.   A country painter from the from central New York state, Anna Mary Moses lived for over 100 years (1860-1961).  She began painting at age of 78; by then, she had already outlived 5 of 10 children.  Read her bio at: http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/2aa/2aa516.htm This is yet another "lost" film, no longer available for public viewing except at ciné16.

‘Eudora Welty’ (1975) 30, dir. Richard O. Moore.  Born in 1909, Welty was one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, a chronicler of southern life, and a master of the short story.  She died in 2001, living just short of a century.  Here, we have a beautiful and charming interview with the lively author, who reads for a spell, then talks about the South.  For more information on her life and work, visit http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/english/ms-writers/dir/welty_eudora/ 

 

Thursday, March 27, 2003...  Cinematographer Extraordinaire: a Tribute to Ray Garner 

Earlier this year, I saw a film called 'Ancient World: Egypt' that featured some of the most startlingly beautiful cinematography I'd ever seen.   In the credits, I was anticipating seeing the name of someone with whose work I was familiar, but no such luck: the writer, producer, director, and cameraman were all Ray Garner.  Garner was not a household name in academic film, nor was he all that familiar, apparently, at the networks at which he free-lanced.  An internet search turned up nothing substantial, except a fleeting reference to USC.  I called a friend there, who seemed to recall a Garner working at Idylwild Art Center, in a little town in the mountains above the high desert.  A call to the art center led me to the late Ray Garner's wife and collaborator Virginia.  After several conversations, Ginny agreed to give us the remainder of Ray's films.  Tonight is a tribute to his work, and a celebration of the fact that we've put up a web page for him at: http://www.afana.org/Garner.htm  Future film researchers will now be able to access the  filmography of a filmmaker who might otherwise been lost to time.

About Ray Garner:

Born in Brooklyn in 1913, Garner began his photographic career in 1935, filming a Boy Scout climbing expedition in the Grand Tetons.  This 8mm effort has been lost.  In 1937, he was appointed to the position of staff photographer to the New York University Rainbow Bridge-Monument Valley expedition sponsored by the American Exploration Society.   His first major film undertaking was an extended project in the Belgian Congo in 1938 where, with his wife and collaborator Virginia, he made a series of ten films for the Harmon Foundation, founded by real estate developer and former governor of Alaska William E. Harmon (1862-1928).  Active from 1922 to 1967, the foundation was established in New York City to recognize African American achievements, in the fine arts, business, education, farming, literature, music, race relations, religious service and science.  Its director was Mary Beattie Brady, who was the governess of Harmon's children, and later became well-known for her support of nurses' rights.  Brady financed the African films, as well as other Garner films, through 1956.  The Garners were not under formal contract, and never received a set yearly amount of financial support.  Virginia Garner reminisced recently that "the Harmon support was wonderful, but it wasn't always there on schedule.  The way it worked was we'd write a letter when we ran out of money, and sooner or later it would arrive."  The Garners would occasionally have to pawn their films to bide time, waiting for the check.

From 1955 through 1958, Ray Garner traveled as a lecturer, illustrating his talks with his films.  He  began making films for NBC News in the early 1960s, and directed various segments in John Secondari's 'Saga of Western Man' series for ABC News in the early 1970s.  

Garner was an intellectual and an adventurer.  He learned to pilot an aircraft so he could better understand the technology for his 1941 training film 'How to Fly a Light Airplane', which featured the African-American Tuskeegee airmen.  Later, he flew in WWII as an Army pilot in the Air Transport Command.    He was a member of the American Alpine Club, leading climbs in North America, Europe, and Africa.  He was the first mountaineer to successfully climb Brussels Peak, in the Canadian Rockies.  A free-thinker, he made several films for religious institutions, purely for financial reasons.  

The were two signature elements to Garner's filmmaking technique: long takes of ruins, encompassing changes in light, and editing to the rhythm of the musical soundtrack.   Of particular notice in his Egyptian and Greek films, his static shots of ruins alternate light and dark as clouds pass, resplendent in the Technicolor prints he insisted upon for distribution.   Garner used orchestral soundtracks in nearly all his released films, and his editing to soundtrack is seen to its greatest extent in his 'Portraits in Music' films, and his work on Egypt, Greece, and Israel.

Ray Garner passed away in 1986.  He was a true auteur, whose greatest contribution to academic film was in his breathtaking cinematography, honed to a fine point in his films on Egypt and Greece.

On tonight's program:

'Ancient World: Egypt' (1952) 66m, dir. Ray Garner.   This film traces the story of Egypt from the prehistoric period to the time of the Ptolemies, paying particular attention to the Nile temples, Pyramids and the Sphinx.  "Luscious" would be an apt word to describe the cinematography here:  Garner's signature shots are static takes of ruins, alternating light and dark as clouds pass, reproduced in gorgeous Technicolor.   Garner used orchestral soundtracks in all his films, and cut his films to the rhythm of the music, here by Menelaos Pallandios.   If there is a weak point to the film, it's in the stilted narration by Michael Kane, easy enough to overlook in an otherwise exceptional work.  Garner's writing reflects the majesty of the timelessness of art.  To end the film, he writes:    "For Egypt is a monument, not to the conqueror or statesman, but to the artist, the architect, the painter, the sculptor, whose works will remain in the minds of men, when pomp and ceremony are but whispering echoes in the corridors of time."

'Ancient World: Greece' (1955) 66m, dir. Ray Garner.   Like 'Egypt', this film is outstanding from a cinematography perspective.  Its narration is from translations of Greek authors and accompanies visual impressions of Greek religious philosophy and history through the golden age.  Highlighted are Crete, Knossos, Mycenae, the sculptures of Athens, the Persians at Marathon, then 10 years later, Xerxes at Thermopylae.  Narrative text  is from writings by Hesiod, Pindar, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, and Plutarch.

 

Thursday, March 20, 2003...  Relationships in Transition

While major studio romantic comedies deal with building of interpersonal relationships, life in the real world is often about their deconstruction.  I've always found films dealing with the latter category to be more compelling.  For those of us condemned to yet another Meg Ryan film while flying continental routes on major air carriers, tonight's fare is a reminder of the richness of films that remind us that what could go wrong, often does.  They are exceptional films that, I predict, you will not soon forget.

‘Our Last Days Together... In Moscow’ (1987) 51m, dir. Martin Duckworth. As the film unfolds, the viewer so desperately wants to know more about pianists, lovers, and fellow travelers Pierre Jasmin and Kuo-Yen, as they end their personal and professional relationship as Kuo-Yen Lee competes for first prize in the 8th Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow. Told in the second person by the emotionally freefalling Jasmin, the story operates both as a love story and as a metaphor for the conflicting conditions of decay and rejuvenation in Russia as well. As for the romance, she’s obviously the one breaking it off, and we never know why, because the story’s told through the eyes and letters of the hopeful but myopic Jasmin. In the mean time, we see snapshots of their meeting years ago in Vienna, then vodka with friends; a visit to the home of a noted poet, more vodka with friends; a small gathering of piano players in a tiny Moscow apartment where they all play and drink. All the while, Kuo-Yen looks at Jasmin with boredom, joylessness, and reservation... that is, when she looks at him at all. The massages and bright eyes are for the husbands of the other women, and while we wonder just what the hell is going on with these two for the entire movie, we finally conclude that, just like most breakups, words are left unspoken, neither party willing to articulate what body language has so nakedly shown to the camera. Amidst the frustrating yet exhilarating aura of one of the world’s great musical competitions, one asks if this relationship is going to right itself, or like yesterday’s political ideal, die as sure as a driverless car that listlessly and terminally, runs out of gas on the lonely, forgotten desert road of the heart...

‘The Stronger’ (1969) 15m, dir. Jeffrey Young. A powerful adaptation of August Strindberg’s one-act play, featuring Viveca Lindfors in a dual role the as rejected wife, discussing her marital relationship with her mute rival. James Rieser’s well-crafted camerawork cleverly allows Lindfors to juxtapose a purely visual character with that of her verbose counterpart.

‘Why Don't You Dance?’ (1990) 13m, dir. Steven Condiotti. From a story by Raymond Carver,  filmed in El Cerrito.  Here, a sad man puts his possessions on in his front yard to sell, and two strangers arrive as buyers.  They remain, to become part of the tableau. Two sets of relationships here are in a state of transition, and who's to say who's better off?  A beautiful, touching film.

‘Discussions in Bioethics: Happy Birthday’ (1985) 14m, dir. Jefferson Lewis.  ‘Happy Birthday’ is a remarkable drama: broke but happy, the parents of a two year old stage a party. Two older guests show up, with good news about a job offering to the out-of-work chemist father: a job that pays well, working for Uncle Sam. Not a very happy birthday any more, as mom confronts the truth of her husband’s lucrative-but-discomforting career path...

 

Thursday, March 13, 2003...  a Tribute to 'Films for the Humanities' 

Tonight, we showcase the exceptional material on arts and letters produced by Harold and Marianne Mantell's 'Films for the Humanities' company in the 1970s and 1980s.  The films on tonight's program are no longer in distribution, and therefore are rarely screened in public.

'Films for the Humanities' was founded by producer Harold Mantell, and his wife Marianne, in 1959. In 1952, Marianne Mantell (nee Roney), along with Barbara Holdridge (then Cohen), had founded Caedmon Records, which specialized in spoken word recordings, including those of well-known poets such as Robert Frost and Dylan Thomas ("The proprietors of Caedmon were, in January of 1952, apparently the only two graduate students in New York who had never been at a party with Dylan Thomas", said the liner notes to their first recording, ‘Dylan Thomas: Reading his Complete Recorded Poetry’ ).

Like Caedmon, Films for the Humanities (later to be Films for the Humanities and Sciences) specialized in films on arts and letters, and was particularly strong in drama, with many of its titles, including those in the ‘History of the Drama’ series, produced by Harold Mantell. Eventually, the Mantells would seek out dramatic films made in European countries, and bring them back to the U.S. for distribution, translated by the multilingual Marianne Mantell.

After selling their company to K-III Communications in the early 1990s, the Mantells stayed on board in a management capacity until December of 1996. The Mantells, however, retained the distribution rights to all Mantell-produced films, which were, for a time, distributed by son Michael Mantell’s edudex.com website. Films for the Humanities and Sciences now produces and distributes its own films (including 185 drama titles, as of February, 2002), under the Primedia corporate umbrella.

On tonight's program:

'Shakespeare and His Stage: Approaches to Hamlet' (1975) 46m, dir. Daniel Seltzer.  While there have been notable academic film treatises on Hamlet (John Barnes' is one of the best), we love this one, as it juxtaposes the struggling rehearsals of a young actor, Stephen Tate, with legendary filmed portrayals by John Gielgud, Nicol Williamson, Laurence Oliver, and John Barrymore.  Included views of Shakespearean landmarks in London, Stratford and Warwick.

'e.e. cummings: Making of a Poet'  (1971) 30m, dir. Harold Mantell.  Born in 1894 in Cambridge, MA, Edward Estlin Cummings was a major force in 20th century poetry. Here, we are introduced to the writings, drawings, watercolors, paintings, and history of this Renaissance man, as he reads from his work.   Of particular interest are photographs from his early years, and his thoughts on his third wife,  model, actress, and photographer Marion Morehouse.  Cummings (there is some controversy as to whether he ever legalized the lower-case spelling of his name)  died in 1962, of a cerebral hemorrhage.  Two fine websites detailing the life of the poet are:  http://members.tripod.com/~DWipf/cummings.html#note and http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/8454/eec.htm 

'Woody Allen: an American Comedy' (1977) 30m, dir. Harold Mantell. Allen discusses his life as a writer and comedian, and describes whimsically and poignantly his early efforts in film.  Allen confesses that he never read books or did homework prior to age 17, having obtained his literary sense from reading comic books.  

 

Thursday, March 6, 2003...  Hard Science on Soft Tissues: BioScience and the Human Body

We're gratified that since we first raised the hue and cry in 1996, many film archives and media libraries around the United States have re-assessed the value of their academic film collections.  In addition, a new generation of film programmers has sprouted, and uses us as a resource for film information, and occasionally films themselves.  More and more, we find ourselves touting science films, as a relatively unheralded (by programmers) portion of the academic film genre.  Science films were among the first to receive public funding, post-Sputnik, and the best of them combined superb cinematography and engaging writing.  A good science film might include photomicography,  slow-motion sequences, and well-designed models explaining minute structures.  A good many worthwhile science films were made in Europe, and distributed to schools in the United States, including these two exceptional films on tonight's program.

'DNA Story' (1976) 45m, dir. Ronald Fouracre.  It continues to amaze us, the number of films that are "lost", films without distribution, and where the original materials are, from a practical standpoint, unlocatable.  Such is the case with this film, which documents the efforts of James D. Watson and Francis Crick to solve the structure of DNA.  Watson and Crick, who engage in a spirited dialogue here, are the stars of the film, and judging from the ebullient muses of Crick, major facets of their work were determined in tea rooms and pubs.  Next to Crick, Watson seems neatly buttoned-down, except for his hair, which grows more unruly as the film progresses, finally resembling the rambling DNA model that brought the two to fame (director Fouracre probably recognized a comic element in this, as he went on, several years later, to direct British comedian  Benny Hill's film 'Benny Goes Bonkers').   The film addresses hard science as a detective story, fought by gumshoes in labcoats instead of trenchcoats, clipboards instead of snubnose 44 specials.  Along the way we meet important players such as Maurice Wilkins, who left the world of nuclear weaponry, and discover his professional battle with Rosalind Franklin at King's College.  Linus Pauling muses on his wrong-way path down the polypeptide chain, and mentions a head cold he acquired  "prior to vitamin C".   The film is an important documentary in the genre of science; perhaps our showing of it, and its subsequent appearance on our film chronology website, will give it a new life, sometime in the future.

'Children of the Future' (1984) 55m, dir. Ove Nyholm.  Here, the scientific and philosophical challenges of genetic engineering are presented through artistically beautiful models of DNA and cellular structures, probed by what might appear to be a laparoscopic camera.  Several experts in the filed are interviewed, and discuss their work.  Nyholm, born in Denmark in 1950, is a master craftsman, presenting an intellectual subject in graphically interesting terms.  After a degree in philosophy and courses at the BBC and the National Film School of Denmark, Nyholm produced and directed short and documentary films, most of which have a scientific and/or political content. His latest film is his fifth feature length documentary, 'The Anatomy of Evil', a film essay which includes interviews with the perpetrators of genocide committed over the last 50 years, from World War II to the Balkan conflict.  

 

Friday, February 28, 2003...  Make Mine Morlam: Cutting Edge Culture from the Rice Paddies of Roi-Et to the Back Streets of Bangkok 

Gary Singh writes about our introduction of Isaan Thai Morlam music to U.S. audiences in San Jose's Metro, February 27 - March 5 issue:  http://www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/02.27.03/morlam-0309.html

This special program consists of cutting-edge morlam video CDs from the Isaan area of Thailand.  To our knowledge, this is the first time this music has been presented publicly to Westerners.  This will be an exciting program, and you will the first among your friends and colleagues to hear the music, and see the performers.  Filmnotes for this program are extensive (we're programming twenty songs), and are available by clicking here.

Note: this special program will be held at the Stop Art Gallery, 333 Santana Row, San Jose, hosted by Flipo and Lilou.  The program will start at 8 pm.  Visit their website at http://www.stopartgallery.com 

 

Thursday, February 27, 2003...  The Middle East and Beyond: Stephen Cross' 'Traditional World of Islam' (this program will be held in the downstairs speakeasy at the Agenda Lounge, 1st & San Salvador Streets, downtown San Jose)

In 1978, producer/director Stephen Cross made a series of six films on the subject of Islamic cultural and philosophical influences on countries ranging from Spain to India. His 'Traditional World of Islam' was more than simply a treatise on a religion, instead evolving to encompass the art, architecture, and knowledge spread throughout the region by traders, travelers, and scholars. In a genre of film that is admittedly rich, his films stand out for their breadth of focus, and their magnificent cinematography. Tonight, we'll show four of the finest, in an evening that will probably go slightly over our two-hour time limit, but will have you on the edge of your seats the whole time (as it did us). These remarkable films are non-didactic interpretations of the fascinating world encapsulated within the Islamic dynamic.

On the program:

'Knowledge of the World' (1978) 28m, dir. Stephen Cross. Here, we learn about education in mosques and madrasas, and travel to Ispahan, Iran, to visit the last of the astrolabe makers, whose traditional craft assisted seafarers for centuries. Jai Singh's architectural observatory in Jaipur, India, is seen. The medical writings of Avicena are brought to light, as we witness hospitals in Damascus (built in 1155 ACE), and the medical center in Edirne, Turkey.

'Nomad and City' (1978) 28m, dir. Stephen Cross. The Arab world, in particular, has always combined an amalgam of urban and rural life and customs. The film begins with the traditional musicians of Marrakech, and increases its scope to include the rest of the Magreb, the Levant, and Central Asia. We experience the yurts in the latter, and learn that the carpets made by their inhabitants are small, because looms have to be portable. The cities of Sana'a and the medina (old city) of Fez are particularly interesting. Warning: the cinematography is spectacular, so be prepared for a pleasant assault on the senses. We also witness a circumcision procession, for those who only vaguely remember their own.

'Patterns of Beauty' (1978) 28m, dir. Stephen Cross. The traveler to this part of the world is immediately struck by the beauty of the architecture and calligraphy of this part of the world, the latter of which appears as a design element on everything from buildings to carpets. Islamic geometric designs are shown to great beauty in the cities of Bursa and Edirne, Turkey, Yazd and Ispahan, Iran, Agra (India), and in the Istanbul palace of Topkapi.

'Unity' (1978) 28m, dir. Stephen Cross. Some of the most fascinating places in the middle east include the great ziggurat at Zamara, Iraq, and the numerous caravanserais (hans) which scatter the landscape along the old silk route. To us, though, nothing in this film was quite as powerful as scenes of the Janissary marching band of Turkey. The film does not tell us that traditionally, the Janissaries were made up of orphans and children delivered by their parents into this warrior class, never to return. And how did much if the evolution of these art forms come to a halt? The film cites the decline of the great Islamic dynasties as being due to the Portuguese traders/warriors who plied their trade in the Indian Ocean, led by their Islamic guides, who, after all of the other talents had been exhausted, had not yet perfected the ability to see into the future.

 

Wednesday, February 26, 2003...  Reel Art :: Cinema at Anno Domini, San Jose

Music, Madness and Matisse: a Journey

On the program: 

'Glenn Gould's Toronto'
(1979) 30m, dir. John McGreevy.  The reclusive and eccentric classical pianist hosts a tour of his hometown. A challenge of making the film was that Gould never actually went anywhere; the director presents Gould's reaction to places he had never encountered.

'Rendezvous' (1977) 10m, dir. Claude Lelouch.  Having rigged a camera to a Mercedes, Lelouch drove through pre-dawn Paris in a wild tour through well-known sites, in what appears to be a frantic nine-minute race to a meeting with his wife at Sacre Coeur, overlooking the city. The director uses a Ferrari for the sound track and accelerates the speed of the film, in a wonderful work of cinematic slight-of-hand.

'Matisse: a Sort of Paradise' (1969) 30m, dir. Lawrence Gowing and John Jones.  With striking Technicolor pastiches of numerous paintings, this film profiles one of the great artists of the 20th century. Accompanied bythe music of Eric Satie, played by pianist Aldo Ciccolini.

‘Kienholz on Exhibit’ (1969) 21m, dir. June Steel. Born in 1927 in the border area between Washington and Idaho, Kienholz moved to Los Angeles in 1953, where he began making a series of bas-reliefs with found material.  Prior to his death in 1994, he was primarily known for his "Assembly Art" sculptures, consisting of mannequins, stuffed animals, and pieces of clothing, focusing on subjects such as controversial as bordellos, back seat sex, and abortion. Steel’s extremely entertaining film consists of audience reactions to a Kienholz exhibit at the LA County Museum of Art, which includes his well-known pieces ‘"The Birthday’, ‘Back Seat Dodge’, and ‘Roxy's’.

'Calder's Circus' (1963) 17m, dir. Carlos Vilardebo. From his home in Saché France, the gruff and funny Alexander Calder hosts, in French and English, a circus consisting of his small wire, cork, and cloth sculptures.  They perform to the tune of Mrs. Luisa Calder's Victrola, to a small-but-raucous   audience of friends. This documents some of Calder's finest work, which he stopped formally exhibiting "when it filled 5 valises".

 

Thursday, February 13, 2003...  Two Documentaries that Defined America: Cinéma Vérité and the American Racial Experience

‘Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment’ (1963) 47m, prod. Gregory Shukar for Robert Drew Associates. In the six years or so I’ve been programming films, I only occasionally preview a film that gets me so excited that I run to my computer, slam some filmnotes together fast and furiously, then shove other programs out of the way, so you can see the film RIGHT NOW. ‘Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment’ is just such a film.

It’s exceptional on several levels, not the least of which is that President John K. Kennedy, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and Alabama Governor George Wallace all allowed Robert Drew’s film crews 24 hour access over several days, to film them and their associates, as they battled over the admittance of the first black students to enter the University of Alabama. The film is also a powerful argument for the value of Vérité documentary filmmaking. As developed by Drew, Ricky Leacock, and several others, the most common elements of the Vérité documentary were:

  1. filming real people in uncontrolled situations
  2. no re-created events
  3. no interviews
  4. no point-of-view narration
  5. no music

The film addresses one of the most critical racial situations encountered in the 20th century, when Alabama Governor George Wallace attempted to block two black students, James Hood and Vivian Malone, from being the first to register for classes at the University of Alabama in Montgomery. In Washington, the camera is eyewitness to discussions in the White House between JFK, RFK, Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, and a host of advisors, as they develop a strategy for forcing Wallace to abide by federal law, while avoiding bloodshed. Kennedy weighs opinions including whether to jail Wallace, if needed. Simultaneously, Wallace is comfortable in the governor’s mansion, hugging his young daughter, and in meeting his team of advisors. Wallace candidly observes that he is doing what’s best for whites and blacks, and declares that he will block the doorway through which the two students plan to enter. Back in Washington, the camera travels to Bobby Kennedy’s office for more strategy sessions, and follows Katzenbach to Alabama, where his duty will be to confront Wallace and, if needed, use the 17,000 National Guardsmen at his disposal. In the interim, before the showdown, we see Hood and Malone rehearsed for how they will act, dress, and speak before Wallace, school authorities, and the press. We also witness a touching moment at the McLean, Virginia home of RFK, as he puts his infant daughter Kerry on the phone with Katzenbach, who lightheartedly discusses Alabama weather with her, in a brief respite from the tension.

Katzenbach’s confrontation with Wallace on the steps of the university on June 10, 1963, is high drama of the first magnitude, and gripping political drama rarely seen in real time. Although observing decorum, they challenge each other firmly, with no quarter given. Katzenbach needs to seek RFK’s advice on using the Guard, and so, in the era four decades before the wide-spread use of the cellular phone, he walks to a squad car, where he uses his police radio to call the local Department of Justice office, where an operator relays his words by land-line telephone to Washington.

Filmed by a team comprising Ricky Leacock, James Lipscomb, D.A. Pennebaker, and Hope Ryden, The film documents one of the defining moments of the twentieth century United States, as well as the human elements of three men who would soon be felled by assassin’s bullets (George Wallace alone would survive, confined to a wheelchair). Wallace, even, is surprisingly personable: his last scene on camera shows him being whisked away in his automobile, where, smiling, his last words to the press are "y’all come back and visit us in Alabama."

The story behind the film

After reading a newspaper article about Governor Wallace and his refusal to obey federal law, producer Gregory Shuker approached the White House with the idea of documenting the story, which ultimately would involve five camera crews. After the filming had been completed, controversy erupted over whether the president could be expected to function adequately in the presence of a camera crew. A New York Times editorial advised that filming such an event "could only denigrate the office of the president." The film was not aired until October 21, 1963, and still controversy raged, much of it directed at President Kennedy, ostensibly for allowing filmmakers to intervene in his policymaking.

On January 24, 2003, Ricky Leacock wrote to us regarding the filming:

[Robert] Drew and I had first met when he saw TOBY AND THE TALL CORN, 30 min 1954, a film I had made for the cultural program OMNIBUS, about a travelling tent theater show in Missouri, which, even though it was made with a heavy, bulky, Mitchell 35mm camera and a huge 35 mm Reeves magnetic sound recorder with all their attendant tripods, mike-booms, gobos, lights, etc. managed to give the viewer some sense of "being there". Drew, an editor at LIFE MAGAZINE, was determined to develop a new television journalism using non-existent lightweight equipment to make observation rather than verbal interview the prime goal.

Drew had commissioned specially modified equipment to be constructed to augment our 16mm camera connected to a Perfectone tape recorder. However while this was still being worked on, a story came up that Drew couldn't resist. I thought he was nuts but went along with him.

We flew out to Pittsburgh where Senator Kennedy was campaigning to be the Democratic party's candidate for President. He was too busy to talk to us but told us to fly back to Washington on his private plane and we would talk on the trip. Again he was busy in his very private back section of the plane so we caught up with him at his home in Georgetown the next day. He had a cold and was in his bathrobe playing with his little daughter Caroline while Drew explained what he had in mind, First he remarked that the man we worked for at Life, who was supporting our film project, had been a fellow PT Boat commander with Kennedy during WW-II. He then went on to explain that we wanted to create an entirely new genre of TV Journalism which was to be based on observation with little or no intervention. In order to achieve this in covering JFK's campaign in the Wisconsin Primary, he wanted to get permission for me to be present in his private suite at his hotel while he and his closest associates listened to the results of the elections; just me, no tripod, no lights, no questions, no mike-boom, just me and my small, hand-held silent camera. Kennedy thought about it and responded that this was a very personal and private moment and that I could make him look very foolish. I responded that I thought that that would be very foolish on my part but that he had to trust me as he trusts people who work for him, and besides, we both went to Harvard! He laughed and said that "if you don't hear to the contrary, you can assume that you can do it", and we left.

We put together our gang, Pennebaker, Al Maysles, Terry Filgate filming. The only synchronous camera and recorder was the one that Bob and I had, an Auricon modified by Mitch Bogdonavich. The others were to film with wild Arriflex cameras and wild Perfectone recorders. We took with us a crazy machine that Loren Ryder had made for us in California which could stretch or shorten sound without changing pitch. By cranking a wheel Pennebaker could bring wild sound into synch. Lets call it "semi synch" and that is what Pennebaker spent endless hours doing with the footage that was pouring in, developed by a local Lab and us lining up the footage ourselves in a hotel suite in Wisconsin. Five days of madness. We were like jewel thieves stealing what we could and keeping true to the basic principal that Bob Drew had established. No interviews, and all the other "NOs" including no mike booms, no radio mikes, no wiring people up for sound. Just steal what happens as it happens and don't ask anything. And that is how we all worked; literally. I got into the car with Sen. Humphrey with a tiny little 50 ft magazine load spring wind camera that no professional would be seen dead with; and under my jacket the smallest tape recorder we could find and a very small microphone. He probably thought I was someone's uncle making home movies and he ignored me, perfect; He fell asleep, even better, then woke up and talked nonsense about how the snow brings nitrogen to the soil. This footage, like all the rest was made synchronous on the Ryder machine by dint of Pennebaker's infinite patience and skill. After the election we stayed and edited ourselves, our own footage. Rewinds and synch blocks, nothing fancy and in three weeks we had one hour cut and took it to New York to mix the sound. And of course the film is subjective.

The basic difference was that we were not a group of technicians. We were filmmakers and journalists trying to capture something. We went on to make more than a dozen films in this tradition. It was a wonderful period.

The last film that I was involved in with Drew Associates, has become a "classic", CRISIS. A PRESIDENTIAL CONFRONTATION. [Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment] 1963. Here, combined with our technical advantage, we had a relationship with the President that was unique. Pennebaker and Shuker were in Washington filming with the Attorney General, Robert Kennedy and the President.

I started out working down South with Jim Lipscomb (a journalist and film maker, not a "sound man") filming Governor George Wallace. They, in Washington had a slightly vague agreement with their subjects. We had none and spent a couple of days waiting outside George Wallace's office, being ignored. Finally we collard him as he strode past, and explained what we wanted to do; to make an honest record of his confrontation with the administration to prevent the court ordered integration of the University of Alabama. He invited us to breakfast in the Governor's mansion. He greeted us with my camera rolling, introduced us to his young daughter and to a portrait of a civil war General who died young, in combat. Wallace turned to me and said "his dying words were ‘I'd rather live a short life of principal than a long life of compromise, I guess that wouldn't mean much to you fellows’ ". My camera was rolling.

As we went in to the breakfast room he turned off Jim's Nagra then shook his head, put the Nagra and my camera in a closet and locked it; he then regaled us with stories of his experiences as a night court magistrate and the grotesque excuses that people, especially blacks had for their crimes; he was an excellent mimic. From then on we had limited but real access to him. Later, Jim took over shooting with Wallace and I started filming with the Deputy Attorney General, Nicholas Katzenbach with Pat Powell taking sound.

We filmed in a small office at the University and to my astonishment, plans were still being negotiated via telephone. At our end, we had no way of knowing whether Pennebaker was filming at the other end of the line. Maybe they had been thrown out? Gone out for coffee? Gone to the toilet? And half a phone call doesn't add up to much. So we just went on filming. At one point, while I was reloading the camera, Katzenbach turned and said "I know you have others filming outside, if you tell them one word of what you have just heard, I will see to it personally that you spend a very long time in a federal penitentiary!" We had "others"; Jim Lipscomb with Wallace and Abbot Mills with the black students and when we emerged to film the final confrontation they were at least "puzzled" by my refusal to tell them what was going to happen.

This whole event was an extraordinary one for us. The New York Times, when they learned that Pennebaker had been filming in the Oval Room at the White House had written an editorial condemning the Kennedy's for "turning the oval room into a TV Studio"; this made the administration more sensitive and they asked Drew to eliminate the dialogue in the White House. It went on the air sponsored by Xerox with narration covering this sequence but the rest of the film intact. To this day it amazes me that the Kennedys did not ask that the conversation between young Kerry and Katzenbach be eliminated.

My own reaction was that when we finally got the footage of both ends of the telephone conversations and loaded them on two projectors and YES we had both ends and my God was I thrilled!

But overall, I found that the film to be a little bit flat. It can give the impression that the civil rights movement was driven by virtuous white people and nothing could be further from the truth, these politicians were Johnny come lately to what was going on. And that bothers me. I am leery of "Documenting", with the inevitable shortcomings of the pure film form for dealing with complex situations that need text, writing, and yes, when Drew first talked to me in 1954 his dream was to combine writing with film. Something that is now possible with books tied to DVDs. My latest goal.

 

Also on the program:

‘Ku Klux Klan: Invisible Empire’ (1965) 45m, dir. David Lowe. In another outstanding program in the ‘CBS Reports’ documentary series produced by Fred W. Friendly, we visit a number of interesting individuals and organizations, including Matt Murphy, Chief Council of the United Klans of America, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Robert Shelton leader of the United Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and Attorney General of the state of Alabama, Richard Flowers. A history of the Klan is provided, including the somewhat surprising statistic that, as of 1925, there were 6 million clan members in the United States. The film has a number of memorable sequences, including an initiation rite. David Lowe, who directed a number of outstanding ‘CBS Reports’ documentaries (including ‘Abortion and the Law’, which we’ve shown previously) was an exacting director whose work is timeless.

There are several formal interviews in the film, and therefore it is not shot in textbook vérité style. The scenes are unrehearsed though, and cameraman Ricky Leacock (who shot much of the film’s footage) told me that meeting --- and working --- with the Klan was, initially, unsettling. Eventually, he gained a certain level of comfort with them. Stephen Mamber, in his book ‘Cinema Verite in America: Studies in Uncontrolled Documentary’ quotes Leacock, discussing the working relationship with his subjects:

Film can really be a sort of research data. This leads to interesting problems, like how do I spend eight weeks with the leadership of the Ku Klux Klan, where obviously I don't agree with them. But I find them very interesting, and this gave us a sufficient ground in common so that they tolerated me and I tolerated them. Now some people think that this is sort of immoral. You have to have some basis of respect for each other, and with me, I think, it's just that these are fellow human beings. I may disagree with them tremendously, but still I find them extremely interesting. I want to know why they do the things they do. I want to know what they're like.

Ricky Leacock described the filming to us, in his letter of January 24, 2003:

CBS-Reports wanted to make a film on the Ku Klux Klan but their public affairs production people had been refused access by the leaders of the KKK. I, rightly or wrongly, had a reputation for being able to get along with just about anybody but my friend Noel E. Parmentel Jr. was the key to this situation; born and raised in Algiers, Louisiana, across the river from New Orleans, ex Marine, whose hobby was baiting muddle-headed liberals, Noel had a consummate knowledge of southern politics; he knew just about every one of importance. His friend, the distinguished novelist, Walker Percy, who wrote THE MOVIE GOER, called his cousin Mat Murphy, the Grand Klonsil (Council) of the United Klans of America who arranged a meeting with the Imperial Wizard, Robert (Baba) Shelton. We met and explained that we were filming for CBS-Reports and would have no control over the editing, and, miraculously, they concluded that we were good guys and yes we could film. We spent three whole months filming - Cross Burnings, initiation ceremonies, you name it.

At one cross burning I had my camera under my arm with a wide-angle lens, filming a Kluxer, he turned on me and, in no uncertain terms, explained what he would do to me if he caught me filming him. I was in terror that my camera would run out of film and go klunk, klunk, klunk and he would realize that it had been running all the time; I was lucky. Never an argument. I was not there to convert. I was there to observe. Several times I was invited to join but fortunately I was born English and was not eligible.

Flying in a little single engine plane that we called the Klairforce, a four seater so the pilot and Noel sat up front and the Wizard and I in back. Somewhere between Birmingham and Laurel, Mississippi, the engine started to sound a bit weird. The pilot asked Noel to look at a little gauge on his side; Noel leaned forward to take a good look and said with his best southern drawl "Zeero! See it!". We circled down and made a beautiful landing in a meadow. We were on our way to attend a trial of three Klan members who where being prosecuted for the murder of a civil rights marcher, Mrs. [Viola]Liuzzo. This trial received national media attention so Noel and I thought it would be interesting to introduce two Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, Jimmy Breslin and Murray Kempton to the Klan leaders. They were game and we did it but within minutes they managed to get embroiled in fatuous arguments.

Mrs. Virginia Durr, Supreme-Court Justice Black's sister-in-law, was attending the trial. She was from Alabama and a leader of the civil-rights movement there. Noel and I wanted to talk with her but we did not want our KKK buddies to know about it, so we met her outside and arranged to have lunch with her at a little known restaurant some miles out of town. We met, we were eating and talking when low and behold, the whole leadership of the Klan walked in to have their secrete meeting. Later they asked us "What you and Rick doin' with that Communist Hooar?"

The three accused were acquitted for "lack of evidence".

Meanwhile I was living on Hamburgers without the bun. I lost 64 lbs. 9 inches at the waist!

I wish that we had been involved in the editing. I think both Noel and I were surprised at the kind of people we found there. I had expected the crowds to be "red-necks". Not so; dentists, doctors, lawyers, teachers, you name it. We were impressed by the general attitude of "conspiracy". We were having drinks with Calvin Craig, the Grand Dragon of Georgia, at a hotel in Atlanta (Noel recalls that he drank 17 Scotch & Cokes!) anyway, he picked up the check and paid in cash, the waitress returned with change and Calvin claimed that he had given her a much bigger note. She said that she would check the cash-register. While we waited, Calvin speculated that the hotel had recently been purchased by the Union that Mrs. Liuzzo's husband belonged to and that this short changing had been planned by them in order to make him appear stupid to us. The waitress returned to say that she had not short-changed him etc. etc. We encountered several such incidents. 

The meetings were dominated by talk of the international conspiracy of Communism, the protocols of Zion, the Jews etc. Conspiracy is what they live by and is also the justification for them to conspire. In our view the most powerful tool at our disposal was ridicule and we were able to get some wonderfully ridiculous scenes viz. At an induction ceremony there were four new members, the man who marched them in gave the ommand "Right turn!" when it was obvious that he meant "Left turn", they hesitated and slowly turned left, the CBS editor had it reprinted flipped from right to left! So humor was not in the vocabulary of the CBS editor. The film THE INVISIBLE EMPIRE was a mix of our material and other. It won an EMMY and a Peabody award. After it went on the air I called the Wizard and asked how they felt about it. "Oh, Fine! We got a lot of applications for membership!"

The two films on tonight’s program provide fascinating bookends to the ongoing series of events that defined the struggle for racial equality in the 1960s. They continue to be timely reminders of how far we, as a nation, have gone, and the distance we’ve yet to cross.

 

Thursday, February 6, 2003...  Introducing Gwynne Dyer

In 2001, I finally found Tina Viljoen. A native South African, she is a fine filmmaker who had made several significant films for the Canadian International Development Administration on the subject of African urban and rural development (we showed her ‘New Look For Naledi: Upgrading a Squatter Settlement’ here at ciné16 on March 26, 1998). We sought her out to discover her story, something we do with dozens of filmmakers every year, in our attempt to document some of the history of 16mm academic film. It turns out her father was an urban planner in Pretoria, giving Tina much of the passion for telling tales of those displaced, without homes. We visited with her in her London home, and interviewed her and her partner, Gwynne Dyer.

Dyer is a larger-than-life lecturer, writer, military historian, and on-screen host, whose expertise is war. He is an iconoclastic cynic, whose wry perspective on military activities is contrary to that which we’d ordinarily expect in a military historian. Born in Newfoundland, his global view has extended through Russia, the Middle East, Africa, South America, and the United States. Dyer served in the Canadian, American and British navies, taught military history and war studies for two years at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, and four years at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, England. He is a compelling presence on screen, a weaver of fascinating tales of intrigue written in counterpoint to the chorus of death, the inevitable consequence of belligerence. Today, Dyer is primarily known for his twice-weekly syndicated column on international affairs, appearing in 150 papers in some 30 countries (none, unsurprisingly, in the Bay Area). His CV can be found at: http://www.gwynnedyer.net/

Dyer suffers the fate of virtually every famous Canadian: he is almost completely unknown in the United States. A week after I interviewed Dyer, I shared a few beers with a young Canadian woman in a pub in Edinburgh. She asked what I was doing in the UK, and I explained that I was there to interview a Canadian writer. "Who would that be?", she asked. When I told her, she nearly jumped out of her boots: "OHMYGOD! Gwynne Dyer, you’ve got to be kidding, he’s been my hero forever!" I dare say that you won’t find many Yank kids whose real-life heroes are hosts of war films and writers of documentaries, and trying to understand the reasons for the differences between Canadian and U.S. young people is going to take a whole lot longer than it takes to down a couple of beers in a Scottish pub. Dyer, however, neatly spills out some major differences between our two countries in tonight’s ‘Space Between’, and, mind you, he isn’t exactly a Canadian flag-waver either.  

Dyer’s a guy who we all should know about, but we’re unfortunately never exposed to him. That’s what tonight’s program’s all about (if you'd like to peruse some recent Dyer newspaper columns, visit: http://www.hamiltonspectator.com/dyer/index.html )

On tonight’s bill:

‘The Space Between’ (1986) 57m, dir. Tina Viljoen. No, I haven’t forgotten Viljoen… we’ll have a retrospective of her films sometime in 2003, and will show this film again, as part of that program. Here, Gwynne Dyer does more than cast aspersions on Canada’s unholy alliance with its neighbor to the south; his brutally frank comments on the US abuse of its friendship with Canada are couched in an offhandedly humorous screen presence that’s so casually cynical that one wonders if this film would have been shown in the US at all. In fact, right after this film was initially screened in Canada, Minister of External Affairs Joe Clark came publicly to the defense of the NATO alliance that Dyer derides. Dyer’s visit to NORAD HQ is hilarious in a black-humor sort of way, as we see Canadians in Colorado working merrily under the maple leaf with the Hot button close at hand. The way the US was able to con Prime Minister John Diefenbaker into accepting US nuclear presence on Canadian soil is the subject of the film, and it’s said that this series of events is what ultimately doomed the Diefenbaker regime. This timeless film remains a classic tale of political and military intrigue.

‘Deadly Game of Nations’ (1983) 57m, dir. Paul Cowan. So you think the Middle East has changed in 20 years? Look again. Here, Dyer, Cowan, and crew interview kibbutz members and military personnel, and in the midst of filming, Israel enters Lebanon, an act which would ultimately leave the country torn in nearly unrecoverable shreds. So much for a "buffer zone". Dyer makes no judgement calls, only asking us to question the decisions made by the people paid to be the experts. The experts are rarely in the position of the man in the last scene of the film, an amputee gingerly loaded into a "sherut", hardly in a position to fight any more battles. This film dramatically illustrates the value of watching twenty year-old documentaries. The arguments are the same, although the players have changed somewhat, and Israel is at identical crossroads to where she was in 1982. A sobering film.

 

Thursday, January 30, 2003...  The Art of Clay Animation, part II: Will Vinton and Claymation

Will Vinton is given credit for coining the term "claymation", and indeed, he’s the individual most responsible for developing the epic-length clay film. 

Will Vinton was born in McMinnville, Oregon on November 17, 1947.  He began making films while an architecture student at UC Berkeley, influenced by the fluid architecture and detail work of Antoní Gaudí.  Partnering with Bob Gardiner, his 'Closed Mondays' won the Oscar for Best Animated Short in 1970.  From a financial standpoint, Vinton is probably the most commercially successful clay animator, producing the well-known "singing raisins" commercials for the California Raisin Advisory Board in the late 1980s.  Today, the Portland-based Vinton Studios remains a successful animation concern, focusing on commercial television and corporate accounts.   

Vinton is known for his emphasis on narratives and character development, as opposed to most animated shorts, which had focused on the plasticity of the medium, rather than on telling a complex story.  His talent for animation, though, may not be mirrored by an equal facility in terms of the soundtrack.  The music in 'Rip Van Winkle' is irritating, both in execution and appropriateness to the story.  In 'Dinosaur', the wisecracks made by the offscreen commentator is absolutely grating.  In spite of these shortcomings, Vinton's films represent some of the most technically exacting animation ever done in clay.  

The films on tonight's program are among his earliest, and offer a range of subject matter, from the mechanics of crafting a clay film, to the restructuring of a many-times told tale.

'Claymation' (1978) 17m, dir. Will Vinton. This exceptional film shows how Vinton goes about making a clay film, from choosing clays, to dyeing, to positioning characters, to shooting.

‘Rip van Winkle’ (1978) 27m, dir. Will Vinton. A psychedelic musical, if there ever was one, with wonderful sets by Don Merkt, and interesting character design by Barry Bruce.  Nominated for an Academy Award in the best animated short category, 1978.  

‘Legacy’ (1979) 5m, dir. Will Vinton. The creation myth, as told in clay and watercolor.

‘Little Prince’ (1979) 27m, fir. Will Vinton.  The St. Exupéry fantasy, with multi-image movements in clay possibly influenced by Norman McLaren's 'Pas de Deux'.

‘Dinosaur’ (1980) 15m, dir. Will Vinton. This one, a chalkboard-to-clay animation subject, nearly got thrown in der trashenhamper, because of the disconcerting, wiseacre schoolkid voices by Michele Mariana. Or do we blame writer Susan Shadburne?  The animation’s clever enough to warrant being shown, but you may want your neighbor to give you a wet willie while yer watchin'.

 

Wednesday, January 29, 2003...  Reel Art :: Cinema at Anno Domini, San Jose  'Shorts of all Sorts'

'Pas de Deux' (1967) 14m, dir. Norman McLaren.  A famous animator's most famous film.  McLaren abstracts, in breathtaking slow-motion, the movements of a ballerina and her partner.

'Operation Cue'  (1964) 15m, uncredited director.  The Office of Civil Defense matter-of-factly answers the question: what happens to people and buildings in a nuclear explosion?  A classic document of the Cold War.

'Synchromy'
(1971) 8m, dir. Norman McLaren.  "See" music happen as colors stretch, collide and gyrate to create this film's unique soundtrack, literally drawn onto the film by the animator.

'The Street'
(1976) 11m, dir. Caroline Leaf.  Based on a Mordechai Richler story, animated in oil on glass.  Nominated for an Academy Award in the best animated short category, 1976.  (1971) 7m, dir. Ken Rudolph.  What would you say if someone told you that in seven minutes they could tell you everything you'll ever need to know about art? Rudolph can, and does.

'Housefly'
(1982) 16m, dir. Georg Schimanski.  Startling microphotography: houseflies flying in place, feeding off  glass-top tables and standing still long enough to photograph every hair and  orifice.

'The Fly'
(1980) 3m, dir. by Ferenz Rofusz.  Winner of an Academy Award in the best animated short category, 1980.  (1950) 10m, dir. by Robert Cannon.  A Dr. Seuss story about a boy who is persecuted for his terrific speech impediment. One of the funniest and most remarkable cartoons ever made.  Winner of an Academy Award in the best animated short category, 1950.  

'Gerald McBoingBoing' (1950) 10m, dir. by Robert Cannon.  A Dr. Seuss story about a boy who is persecuted for his terrific speech impediment. One of the funniest and most remarkable cartoons ever made.

'Gallery' (1971) 7m, dir. Ken Rudolph.  What would you say if someone told you that in seven minutes he could tell you everything you'd ever need to know about art? Rudolph can, and does.

 

Thursday, January 23, 2003...  The Art of Clay Animation, part I

The malleable characteristics of damp earth have traditionally provided a rich palette for the animator and his stop-motion camera, and the school of clay animators is large and varied. Over the next two weeks, we’ll explore some of the best clay animated films in our collection, with the second week being given over to the films of one studio, that of the late Will Vinton.

On tonight’s show:


 Eli Noyes making 'Fable of He and She'

‘Clay: Origin of the Species’ (1964) 8m, dir. Eliot Noyes, Jr. The son of a renowned architect, Noyes had the enviable summer jobs the rest of us, who delivered televisions and legal summons, wished we’d had instead, namely two summers with Norman McLaren at the Film Board’s animation studio, and two others with Charles Eames. Ending up at the English department at Harvard, Noyes became acquainted with anthropological filmmaker Robert Gardner (‘Dead Birds’) at the Carpenter Center, where he began experimenting with clay. The result was this film, which was nominated for an Academy Award in the best animated short category, 1965.  Noyes tells the story of how, as a still impetuous youth, he, sans appointment, carried the film to the office of Leo Dratfield, the finest distributor of his day. Dratfield took the film and ushered him out, but called back soon with a contract. Upon hearing this, Harvard claimed rights to the film, and took its percentage. Today, Eli Noyes continues to get occasional royalty checks from Harvard

‘Fable of He and She’ (1974), 10m, dir. Eliot Noyes, Jr. After his stint as an undergrad, Eli Noyes attended architecture school "which I hated", then joined the Peace Corps in Tanzania. Returning to the U.S., he lived in New York City, working for Sesame Street, where he caught the eye of Bill Deneen and Linda Gottlieb, from Learning Corporation of America. Gottlieb, who he remembers as being "tough, but nice", took a short story by LCA staffer Marie Winn, and asked Noyes if he’d be able to craft an animated version for $17,000. Familiar with the work of Lotte Reineger, Noyes bought two sheets of glass, and fashioned himself a multi-plane camera, which he installed in his attic. The result was ‘Fable’ which featured inventive clay figures made from Noyes’ fingerprints, in this fanciful tale which pokes fun at traditional gender-based roles. Eli Noyes went on to make one more film (‘Sandman’), worked for MTV, founded a company that made commercials, then moved to San Francisco, where he "rode the internet for awhile". Eli Noyes is an outstanding artist whose 16mm output was all too small, truncated by the economic realities of making a living as an animated filmmaker.

‘I am Joe’s Heart’ (1971) 25m, dir. Nick Nicholson. This film explores matters of the heart, from a non-romantic perspective. Here, animator Art Clokey (who developed the ‘Gumby’ syndicated series), produces, out of clay, an energetic beating heart, set against a Dalíesque surrealist landscape. Stop and reverse-motion cinematography illustrate functions of the heart.

'Toilette' (1976) 7m, dir. Joan Freeman. A clay figure wakes up, looks at her image in the mirror, then makes instantaneous body changes. A propos, a friend ‘fessed up the other day that she ordered her breasts by the cubic centimeter, choosing to be a 300cc girl, not wanting to be in the 400cc heavyweight class (guys, did you know this is how it works? Me neither…) Oops! I guess this side discussion runs counter to the point of the film…

‘Dinosaurs: Terrible Lizards’ (1971) 10m, dir. Wah Chang. Here, dangerous prehistoric animals are produced by clay animation, especially impressive when projected on the side of a building...

‘Waltzing Matilda’ (1985) 8m, dir. Richard Chataway, Michael Cusack. Here, we’re serenaded by denizens of the outback… you know the tune.

‘Munchers: A Fable’ (1973) 10m, dir. Art Pierson. Clay and polymer tooth puppets bring decay to life.

‘Whazzat?’ (1975) 10m, dir. Art Pierson. Here, nondescript clay figures attempt to identify an elephant.

‘Rhymes in Clay’ (1985) 10m, dir. Neil Warren. My mother used to read ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ to us when we were kids, and I’ve loved it ever since…

‘Butterflies in Formation: an Introduction to Public Speaking’ (1982), 10m, dir. John Milestone. Nervous while speaking in public? Here’s how to fix it!

 

Thursday, January 16, 2003...  The ciné16 Animation Festival, Part II: Recent Acquisitions

Tonight, we present eight more animated shorts, in the second program in of our four-part festival of animation.

‘Grandpa’ (1989) 30m, dir. Dianne Jackson, prod. John Coates. Coates headed up the animation company TVC, whose history can be found at: http://www.awn.com/mag/issue1.4/articles/mcgreal1.4.html Here, we have wonderful use of dissonance in an exceptional musical score by Howard Blake, performed by the Wroughton Middle School Choir. Transformations are the rule in animation technique, perhaps my own favorite being the sequence in which a roller coaster becomes a jet. The ending is somewhat sad, but thankfully not sappy. Storyboards, treatment, layouts are by Jackson, heading up a team or 20 or so animators. In 1992, Jackson died of cancer, well before her time.

‘The Lion Has Escaped’ (1972) 10m, dir. Piotr Wojciehowski. In this charming children’s film form Poland, an animated lion escapes from one child's drawing to another, not wishing to be fierce, caged, or to perform. The annoying, out-of-tune singing only lasts through the first minute or so of the film.

‘Pandora’s Box' (1978) 10m, dir. Kevin Brown. Colorful, simple shapes animate the Pandora myth, accompanied by Jonathan Klein’s engaging soundtrack.

‘Two Balls of Wool’ (1969) 10m, Hermina Tyrlova. The contents of a sewing box become alive in this fascinating film from the Czech Republic.

‘Kick Me’ (1975) 9m, dir. Robert Swarthe. Here, the animator’s simple, yet sophisticated human line morphs legs, baseballs, and spiders.  Nominated for an Academy Award in the best animated short category, 1975.  

‘Unicycle Race’ (1980) 10m, dir. Robert Swarthe. Swarthe’s persistent line legs return, to participate in a crazed sporting event.

‘The Resistance’ (1978) 7m, dir. Boro Pejcinov. The damn nail just won’t stay hammered down, in this metaphorical film from the eastern bloc.

'Frank Film' (1973) 9m, dir. Frank Mouris. In a dizzying array of 11,592 collage shots, Mouris utilizes multiple voices to summarize his life, an amazing film that challenges the visual and auditory senses to the extreme.  He made this film while teaching at Harvard, on a production schedule that involved seven consecutive 10 hour days.   Nominated for an Academy Award in the best animated short category, 1973.  

 

Thursday, January 9, 2003... The ciné16 Animation Festival, Part I: Recent Acquisitions

Know why I don’t program animated shorts very often? It’s because it’s such a problem to thread these films onto a projector, making sure they all load correctly, and are synched up and ready to go. By the time I’m done loading one, the previous film is finished, meaning I’ve got to rewind, and start all over. The result? You guys get to watch ‘em, and I don’t (that’s me at the projector, swearing like a sailor because an old splice just broke). What am I tryin’ to tell ya? See these next four shows, because it will probably be ten years before I program these damn animated shorts again. Oh… forgot to tell you… these are all exceptional films, including many Oscar-winners and nominees.  Like most of the films we show, they're exceptional, and too rarely seen

'Snowman' (1982) 20m, dir. Dianne Jackson, prod. John Coates. This magical film begins with a live-action shot of a man walking, describing the characters he’s invented, when animation morphs his own character into screen. The people who made this film were of the first rank: Coates was the producer of the Beatles’ ‘Yellow Submarine’, the talented Jackson compiled and a team of crack animators, while David Bowie performed the narration.   Nominated for an Academy Award in the best animated short category, 1982.  

‘An Old Box’ (1975) 10m, dir. Paul Dreissen. An elderly man finds an old box in the trash. Reveals that when he paints it and pretends it is a music box, the box becomes a rainbow of colors and Christmas scenes.

‘Walking’ (1968) 5m, dir. Ryan Larkin. A treatise on two-foot transportation, with an impressive musical score by David Fraser, Christopher Nutter, and Pat Patterson.  Nominated for an Academy Award in the best animated short category, 1969.  

‘Syrinx’ (1965), 3m. dir. Ryan Larkin. Lasting a mere three excruciating minutes, Debussy’s masterpiece for flute has beguiled musicians for decades. Not so Larkin, who cheats by animating, rather than having to play it.

‘Street Musique’ (1972) 11m, dir. Ryan Larkin. A study in transformational animation, as real musicians take imaginative flight.

‘A Line is a Line’ (1972) 6m, dir. Urs Graf. A chalk line evolves, to Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor.

‘Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa’ (1977) 10m, dir. Caroline Leaf. A Kafka story by Leaf, using her well-recognizable oil-on-glass technique.

‘Evolution’ (1971) 10m, prod. Michael Mills. Here is a funny interpretation of the "dog eats dog" evolutionary process, from one - celled water organisms to complex human beings.  Nominated for an Academy Award in the best animated short category, 1971.  

‘Boomville’ (1967) 10m, dir. Yvon Mallette. A dizzying, animated look at the coming of the white man to the western hemisphere, his quest for development and sprawl, and his projected future, after he has filled his world with objects large and small.

‘To See or Not to See’ (1969) 15m, dir. Bretislav Pojar. The psychology of that little person inside of us, and how he perceives his world…

 

Thursday, January 2, 2003...  Social Justice and the  Activist Church of the 1960s

I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been very charitable to organized religion. In addition to having no belief in the afterlife, or "sin", as such, I believe in strong separation of church and state. I have little patience for sanctimonious individuals or organizations that wish to inflict their moral beliefs on others, particularly in matters relating to sex, in all its permutations. That said, there is some basis for understanding some of the positive contributions progressive churches have made to correcting social injustices. In many cases, such activities have been initiated by activist preachers, who often acted in a manner contrary to that of their respective national ruling bodies. Someone once told me, when discussing the civil rights movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s, that the white guys on the front lines, sporting crew cuts, horn-rims, short sleeve white shirts and ties remain the best untold story in the struggle for equal rights in the deep south. In effect, these were socially conscious preachers who believed actions speak louder than words.

Tonight, I’d like to showcase two films that underscore a facet of religion that, certainly today, doesn’t make for interesting press. The travails of Jim Bakker, defrocked priests, and wayward nuns frankly, makes for better reading (the ‘Freedom from Religion’ newsletter even has a monthly column entitled "Black Collar Crime" that runs to two pages, in infinitesimally small type). One look at any of the shows on the Trinity Broadcast Network, and you’ll encounter the biggest advertisement for atheism I’ve ever seen. In short, organized religion does a very good job in advertising its idiocy, so much so, that the social progressives who consider themselves believers seem to operate in subterfuge, under the cloud of religious pomposity created by their infamous counterparts.

Both ‘Men For Others’ and ‘A Time for Burning’ focus on social activism, and the philosophies of the people who put themselves on the line to make life better for people in the very real now, rather than focusing on the nebulous hereafter.

On tonight’s program:

‘Men For Others’ (1965) 60m, dir. Vincent Tovell. First, there was the philosophy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who spent many a month honing it as an unappreciative guest of the Nazis. A number of progressive individuals within various churches read his work on social activism, and soon, were leading their congregations to fix segregation, unfair housing practices, and the uneasy ethics of the scientific-military juggernaut. Refreshingly, there’s nothing here in the way of candlelight vigils, or collective hand-wringing. Interviewed are writer Sol Alinsky, James Robinson (of the "Crossroads Africa" project), Rev. Linward Stevenson (sp?, of the Woodlawn organization in Chicago), and Harvey Cox at Miramar in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, who discusses the ethics of science, and social responsibility). This is a fascinating film, documenting the early years of a loosely-knit political system that had a direct impact on the nation we are today.

‘A Time For Burning’ (1966) 58m, dir. William C. Jersey/Barbara Connell. In this "direct cinema" style documentary, Pastor Bill Youngdahl of the Augustana Lutheran Church attempts to get other white churches in Omaha to agree to join him in a program to promote racial understanding that would, in cooperation with black churches, coordinate home visits between parishioners of different churches and races. Youngdahl’s efforts represented a small battle that turned into philosophical warfare between him and more conservative members of the white church council, who feared that blacks would then take the step of attending white churches, resulting in the loss of white members. In keeping with the tenor of the times, bigoted council members also feared that black attendance at white churches would lead them to living in white neighborhoods, where, with two families per house, they would erode property values "like the Mexicans". In addition to the fascinating view of the extreme conflicts to be found within religious institutions are the riveting characters, which, in addition to the compelling Youngdahl, include a white minister whose approach to the issue evolves during the filming, and the outspoken and insightful. From the black perspective, Connell and Jersey’s camera joins a group of men in a barber shop, one of whom, barber Ernest Chambers, provides an articulate, powerful, and poignant perspective throughout the film, as he questions whether black aggression against the Vietnamese would be as valuable to the black community as would armed action against the white ruling class in the United States. A customer of his notes "a church isn't really a showcase for saints; it's a hospital for sinners".

Youngdahl, for his part, continues to push for this small step of integration, hoping to forestall the potential violence he sees as a growing undercurrent in Omaha, but all does not end well for him. The otherwise thought-provoking ending of this film is almost destroyed by the insipid folk song (brought to you by the Weavers’ Ronnie Gilbert and songwriter Tom Paxton) that accompanies the final footage, a crime unfortunately prevalent in many social documentaries and peace gatherings of the era. Lest the viewer be too judgmental on the white Lutherans that make up some of the more conservative church people in the film, please note that it was produced and distributed by the Lutheran Film Association. I talked to Youngdahl (he's retired and living in northern California), thirty or so years after this film was made, and he provided some fascinating information about the events that led up to the film being made, and the results of the aftermath. 

Youngdahl was the son of a three-term governor of Minnesota, and attended a seminary in New York, where he developed his ideas toward an "inclusive church". Sent to Omaha by the Lutheran Church, Bill was admonished by his dad not to preach his first six sermons on Civil Rights (Bill responded that he'd promise to only do three).  The events shown in "Burning" led to his resignation from Omaha's Augustana Lutheran Church, and Bill eventually landed in Berkeley, California, where he continued his activist-spiritualist role as an advocate for Gay and Civil Rights within the Church. Barber Ernest Chambers went on to become a well-known State senator from Nebraska, still active as of today. Ray Christensen, the churchman whose opinion changes radically during the film, developed a passion for vérité film, formed his own film company in Minneapolis (Charthouse Learning), and has made several noted documentaries. Bill Jersey's Quest Films continues to produce documentaries in Berkeley. The Augustana Lutheran Church, in the ensuing years, has become the progressive church Youngdahl was striving for, a leader in interracial spirituality. The goal of the Lutheran Church in the making of this film was to provide similar churches across the United States with a document that could be used to provoke discussion and spark dialogue within their own congregations as to the role of the individual church within a racially and socially diverse community. Thirty some-odd years later, the film remains a powerful statement and an important reminder of the ignorance and fear that form the foundations of prejudice and bigotry.


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