Tiff 2017. Wavelengths Preview: The Short Stack

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It’s been an interesting run-up to the Toronto International Film Festival, and in terms of the survival of the species, the good ol’ U.S.A. has been something of a race to the bottom. What would do us in first: violent neo-Nazis whose activities are almost explicitly condoned by the Klansman In Chief? Or a 1,000-year weather event on the Gulf Coast whose magnitude surely owes something to global climate change, and whose aftermath of collapsing dams and exploding chemical factories has everything to do with systematic neglect?Given the state of things down here, who wouldn’t want to repair to Canada for some challenging cinema? As always, the Toronto International Film Festival (Tiff) is the place to be in September, and Wavelengths once again features the best of the fest. This is because the films selected for Wavelengths are the opposite of escapism. Whether they tackle
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Woman in the Moon

Fritz Lang applies rigorous realism and excellent science in the first half of his final silent film, a treat for fantasy fans and those impressed by a Nasa-like moon rocket forty years before the reality. The action on the moon is pure green-cheese fantasy, with breathable air, deposits of gold and evidence of a human civilization. Let's go! Woman in the Moon Blu-ray Kino Classics 1929 / B&W / 1:33 flat full frame / 169 min. / Street Date February 23, 2016 / available through Kino Lorber / 29.95 Starring Willy Frisch, Gerda Maurus, Gustav von Wangenheim, Klaus Phol, Fritz Rasp, Gustl Gstettenbaur. Cinematography: Curt Courant, Oskar Fischinger, Konstantin Irmen-Tschet, Otto Kanturek Art Direction: Joseph Danilowitz, Emil Hasler, Otto Hunte, Karl Vollbrecht, Prof. Gustav Wolff Technical Advisors Willy Ley, Hermann Oberth Special Effects Oskar Fischinger, Konstantin Irmen-Tschet Original Music Willy Schmidt-Gentner Written by Fritz Lang, Hermann Oberth, Thea von Harbou Produced and Directed by Fritz Lang

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
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DVD Savant 2015 Favored Disc Roundup

or, Savant picks The Most Impressive Discs of 2015

This is the actual view from Savant Central, looking due North.

What a year! I was able to take one very nice trip back East too see Washington D.C. for the first time, or at least as much as two days' walking in the hot sun and then cool rain would allow. Back home in Los Angeles, we've had a year of extreme drought -- my lawn is looking patriotically ratty -- and we're expecting something called El Niño, that's supposed to be just shy of Old-Testament build-me-an-ark intensity. We withstood heat waves like those in Day the Earth Caught Fire, and now we'll get the storms part. This has been a wild year for DVD Savant, which is still a little unsettled. DVDtalk has been very patient and generous, and so have Stuart Galbraith & Joe Dante; so far everything
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3D in the 21st Century. Baby, I'm Your Firework

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As an educator, I’m constantly cycling through the history of animation on a zoetrope hamster wheel, noting how each technical development re-investigates the same fundamental principles set forth by painting, literature, theatre, photography, or any method of communication and presentation. The constantly evolving modes of production in cinema foreshadowed our economy of planned obsolescence via a quest for re-perfection. As revealed by animation historians like Donald Crafton and Maureen Furniss, principles of Taylorism—standardized animation production methods spawning uniform products—governed industry practices. This model re-packages pre-existing modes/products with advances in technology. In this case: 3D is sound; 3D is color; 3D is analog/Sd/HD/2K/4K/6K/Xk video; 3D is IMAX; 3D is new media. I ask my students: have you ever noticed that life is actually in 3D? For me, an obscure and underground experimental animator, cinema is about learning or remembering how to see,
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'My Winnipeg' (Criterion Collection) Blu-ray Review

Before receiving Criterion's new Blu-ray release of Guy Maddin's 2007 feature My Winnipeg I hadn't seen any of Maddin's films, and about 30 minutes into this one I felt I'd made the right choice. However, as the short, 80-minute, "something like a documentary" played out, I found myself increasingly intrigued. The Lynchian vibe matched with visuals appearing as if it had been made in the mid-'20s, slowly drew me in. I was fascinated by the preposterous (but true) story of Winnipeg's "If Day", the idea of a "Ledge Man" television show and then those frozen horse heads... I'll get to those in just a second. Described as a "docu-fantasia" by the folks at Criterion, Maddin sets out to tell the story of his hometown of Winnipeg, but in his own unique fashion. Using stories of his childhood to the point he even hires actors (including iconic femme fatale Ann Savage
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Anti-Animator: A Conversation with Jodie Mack

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Above: New Fancy Foils

My new favorite filmmaker is the American animator Jodie Mack. In 2012 I was in the audience at the Views from the Avant-Garde sidebar of the New York Film Festival and had the unexpected experience of dropping my jaw and having it remain fully in that position throughout the surface loveliness and aggregating intensity—both analytic and sensual—of Mack's lace flicker film Point de Gaze. Its young filmmaker has been making films since 2003—several of which are viewable on her website—with a flurrying productivity which belays the painstaking efforts taken to bring her animated films to life. The screening was the revelation of incredible talent, a moving effort of hands and mind, and it promised a great deal for the future.

That promise had already paid off in spades at the 2014 International Film Festival Rotterdam in January, which presented a program of Mack's recent short films not as a profile,
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Rotterdam 2014. Projectile Bombardment

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Bombardment: textures. If you, like many, have been waiting so many years for Soviet/Russian master Aleksei German (My Friend Ivan Lapshin; Khrustalyov, My Car!) to finish what, upon the director's passing last year, has ended up being his final film (with finishing touches by his wife and co-writer Svetlana Karmalita and his son Aleksei German Jr.), you will have to embrace muck. You will have to swim in shit, slather yourself with grime, dirt, and water, enrobe yourself in filthy fog, feel roughened leather, splintered wood, caked and hardened cloth, rusted and creaky iron armor; you will have to embrace the damp, dank, dirty opus of cinema that is Hard to Be a God. It is cinematic texture taken to an extreme.

Based on a 1964 novel by the Strugatsky brothers (literary sources for Tarkovsky's Stalker and Aleksandr Sokurov's Day of Eclipse, among other adaptations), its barely sci-fi
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Oskar Fischinger: the animation wizard who angered Walt Disney and the Nazis

This pioneer of experimental animation grew up in a brewery, was branded a degenerate by the Nazis, did animations for Disney and influenced John Cage. Prepare to be mesmerised

Here come the circles, radiating from a single point to fill the screen. They keep on coming. Are they approaching or vanishing? Am I looking up at a dome of light or down into a black hole? Patterns collapse inward, and circles of light turn and turn. Everything spirals and surges with an abstract radiation.

"It's just like Bridget Riley!" someone in the dark gallery at the Eye film Museum in Amsterdam says – but even as she speaks the image has moved on. Spirals, a series of patched-together experiments in abstract animation by Oskar Fischinger, was made in his studio in Munich in the mid-1920s, and comes near the start of a major exhibition of the animator's work.

The Eye
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Underground Film Links: September 9, 2012

This week’s list is very short, but most of the articles are substantive and extremely filling, starting off with two Absolute Must Reads:

The first Absolute Must Read is David Bordwell’s essay on how to watch an “art film.” Initially, as a fan of “art” films, this sort of sounded like a strange topic and I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy the article, but — Bang, Zoom! — Bordwell’s analysis of the first 15 shots of the Spanish film Sueño y silencio by Jaime Rosales is an infinitely captivating and intriguing read that had my head swimming with ideas of how to write about films.The second Absolute Must Read is an absolutely fascinating Washington Post profile of Colorlab, the Washington, D.C. area film processing and restoration company. The best part of the article is that in recounting Colorlab’s 40-year history we get to learn how
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Daily Briefing. Global Roundup

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The Newport Beach Film Festival

opens today and runs through May 3.

Bertrand Bonello will preside over the Jury for the Nespresso Grand Prize for La Semaine de la Critique (Critics' Week), while João Pedro Rodrigues will be President of the Jury for the Nikon Discovery Award for Short Film. The awards will be presented on Closing Night, May 24, and, once again, here are the lineups they'll be taking in.

Nina Menkes will not only be on the International Jury at the Jeonju International Film Festival, opening today and running through May 4; she'll also be presenting her 1996 feature, The Bloody Child, one of only five films selected to represent 50 years of the Jeonju sister festival, the Viennale.

Michael Guillén previews the lineup of the International Film Festival of Panama, opening today and running through Wednesday.

"12 projects from francophone Sub-Saharan Africa have been selected for Open Doors, the Festival del film Locarno's co-production lab.
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Tiff 2011: Wavelengths 1: Analogue Arcadia

In its eleventh year, Tiff's Wavelengths programme - which is curated by Andréa Picard and spotlights much of the world's best avant-garde shorts and features - was reduced from six screenings to five. It's anyone's guess as to what prompted the slim, but the end result, in theory, suggested there would be a concentration of the sidebar to only the most superb work, whittling out some of the stragglers and fillers. And - if I may say so myself in as unbiased a voice as possible (my film Coorow-Latham Road screened in the Space is the Place programme) - that is exactly what happened. For this first programme, Picard aggregated a set of films that address - or at the very least were shot on - celluloid itself. It's no radical prediction at this point to suggest that we are living in the 'end times' of analogue image-making formats. Like
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Jordan Belson, 1926 - 2011

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Sadly, the Center for Visual Music confirms the news many of us first heard from Jacob W. when he responded to yesterday's entry: "George Kuchar and Jordan Belson on the same day, yet another enormous blow…" Cvm, which released the DVD Jordan Belson: 5 Essential Films in 2007 and offers further research material at its site, notes that Belson "died peacefully early Tuesday morning, September 6, at his home in San Francisco, of heart failure. He was 85. A memorial screening is planned for October 19 in the San Francisco Bay Area, plus tribute screenings in several other cities later this fall. Details will follow soon."

Last year, Cindy Keefer, archivist and curator at Cvm, wrote for Sfmoma, "Jordan Belson is an enigma and a legend of the experimental film world. He has produced a remarkable body of over 33 abstract films over six decades, richly woven with cosmological imagery, exploring consciousness, transcendence, and the nature of light itself.
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Wavelengths 2011. Notes from a Dark Room

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As has been noted many times before, by me and others, the Wavelengths series of the Toronto International Film Festival is like a festival unto itself. So far removed from the red carpet nonsense, the deal-making, and the me-firstism of web journalists hoping to hit the Web with their initial impressions of some new Bryce Dallas Howard vehicle, Wavelengths affords breathing room to cinema and video at its most formally adventurous and, yes, uncommercial. We come here to look and listen, not to look “at” or listen “to,” and if that sounds hopelessly pretentious, come on down to the Jackman Hall and see for yourself. It’s actually quite cleansing, often funny, and a guaranteed good time, at least in part. (Short films are like the weather in my hometown of Houston, Texas. Don’t like it? Wait a moment. It’ll change.)

Sadly, Wavelengths 2011 will be the final year for series curator Andréa Picard.
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Underground Film Links: May 1, 2011

Hooray, hooray, the first of May! Outdoor linking begins today! (My old, dear poetry professor Sam Abrams taught me that one, except he didn’t use the word “linking. He used one that began with the letter “f.” But, enough of that silliness. Onto the good stuff!)

This week’s Absolute Must Read is an extremely passionate commentary by donna k. on the need for art to speak out on injustice, something she finds lacking today — a subject on which I wholeheartedly concur. It’s an exceptionally well-written, moving piece that I hope inspires a filmmaker or two or more.Tromadance has come and gone and completely terrorized the community of Asbury Park, NJ. Metromix has the wrap up, saying that The Taint drove the audience wild, as it well should have.The website Pyramid Beach posted up Part 3 of their series on avant-garde pioneer Oskar Fischinger. You can go
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Underground Film Links: April 17, 2011

This week’s Absolute Must Read: Ian Olds has a long and touching remembrance of helping the late Garrett Scott make the documentary Cul de Sac, one of the greatest, little-seen documentaries ever made. Read and learn how genius comes together. It’s not an easy or pretty process.The second Absolute Must Read: Filmmaker Jennifer Reeves is thankful to be alive and ambulatory after being struck by a car. Send good wishes her way.Simple, but really cool: Phil Solomon posts up a film loop of about 4 frames that Stan Brakhage once gave him. Click Phil’s tiny image to get the embiggened version, which is quite astounding looking.The S.F. Weekly has a brief preview of this week’s Ata Film & Video Festival retrospective at the Roxie. The Weekly calls it “a killer selection of experimental works,” with which I have to agree!While the 2011 San Francisco
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Canyon's Crisis

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To name Stan Brakhage, Kenneth Anger, Shirley Clarke, Bruce Conner, Oskar Fischinger, Nathaniel Dorsky, Ernie Gehr, Ken Jacobs and Lewis Klahr is to merely scratch the surface of the inestimable wealth stored in the Canyon Cinema collection of 16mm and 35mm prints and DVDs. In the early 60s, George Lucas, still in his teens, would drive out to Canyon, California to watch informal screenings in Bruce Baillie's backyard before Canyon Cinema, Inc was founded as a distribution company in 1967. It's since grown to around 320 members worldwide and the collection currently boasts more than 3200 films and DVDs. And it's in trouble.

Executive Director Dominic Angerame has sent "a very serious letter," an open plea for help to the film community in which he outlines the scenario — an overall decline in rentals, sales, distribution fees, bank interest and occasional donations — that has led to the very real possibility that Canyon may
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1946 Art In Cinema: Official Lineup

In the fall of 1946, Frank Stauffacher mounted a major, and very influential, retrospective of avant-garde film in the U.S. at the San Francisco Museum of Art. The series was called “Art in Cinema” and it featured ten different programs from filmmakers in the U.S., France, Germany and Canada.

By the mid-’40s, the avant-garde hadn’t taken a strong hold in the U.S. yet, so the majority of the films screened came from Europe, or by Europeans who relocated to the U.S. However, by that time also, the European avant-garde had pretty much completely petered out. Still, Stauffacher wanted to show that there was a continuity to avant-garde film history that, up until that point, had yet to be fully considered.

In conjunction with the series, the San Francisco Museum of Art published a catalog, pretty much like one would find with any major art exhibit.
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Center For Visual Music: Fischinger Preservation Benefit

September 23

7:00 p.m.


5750 Wilshire Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90036

Hosted by: Center for Visual Music

The Center for Visual Music — the Los Angeles-based archive dedicated to the preservation and promotion of both classic and modern avant-garde and experimental media — is holding a special benefit to raise money for their Fischinger Preservation and Conservation Project. Tickets can be purchased directly from Event Brite. (To be clear: This event is Not a screening, so don’t go expecting to see a screening of Fischinger’s films. This is simply a benefit.)

The event is being held on the occasion of the 100th birthday of Elfriede Fischinger (1910 — 1999), the widow of experimental animation pioneer Oskar Fischinger (1900 — 1967). There will be paintings and unshot animation drawings by Oskar, but half of the exhibition will be about the life and work of Elfriede. Also, there will be a wine reception and a silent auction.

Oskar Fischinger
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Underground Film Timeline: Phase 1 Complete

Announced somewhat prematurely a couple weeks ago, Bad Lit’s Underground Film Timeline has reached the end of its first phase, which involved inputting all of the significant events, films and filmmakers in underground film history culled from Sheldon Renan’s An Introduction to the American Underground Film.

Despite Renan’s title, he does cover the early European avant-garde, so many filmmakers from England, France, Germany, Holland and Russia — such as Oskar Fischinger, Luis Buñuel, Marcel Duchamp, Len Lye, Joris Ivens, Dziga Vertov — appear alongside the usual U.S. suspects, such as Kenneth Anger, Jonas Mekas, Stan Brakhage, Shirley Clarke, etc.

Actual events are few and far between, but they’re there if you dig around, like the meeting of the International Congress of Independent Film and its swift disbanding; and the formation of the New American Cinema Group. One thing that Renan included a lot of that I like
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