Monday, December 11, 2006

I Didn't See Out 1 (Yet)

(a viewing journal)

While almost every other NYC cinephile, and many from elsewhere, was sitting before Out 1 this weekend (was initially shut out because I dared wait until a week beforehand to reserve my ticket; damn!; but fortunately I now have my tickets for the March encore, thank you), I managed to see a few other films over the weekend.

Rossellini's Augustine of Hippo (1972)--not to my mind a very major film of RR's, its aesthetic interest (the soundtrack, the zooms, the framing) seemed spread thin and to only cluster into fascinating moments intermittently. The shot where Donatists attack a few of Augustine's underlings (passing out bread to the peasants in the countryside) is an amazing example of zoom & subtle camera movement, for instance.

(Before we saw Augustine, some friends and I checked out MoMA's Brice Marden exhibit. Favorite overheard art criticism in recent memory, said in an exasperated, ripped-off tone: "Brice Marden, Brice Marden ... hey, these paintings are all by the same artist!")

Robert Breer films; I had seen this program back in January, and it was just as great this time around. Breer himself was in attendance for some reason or other, muttering about how the focus was off. People were clapping a bit between each film and after the third or fourth time Breer announced to his companion, "They wouldn't do that if I wasn't here." The artist's final verdict: Anthology's prints were a bit washed-out, color-wise. While certain films in the program (70; Blazes; Pat's Birthday) have slightly more of an immediate impact for me, again, I think it's Fuji that best summarizes and demonstrates what makes Breer special, and what appears to be the key themes and formal tropes of the preceding two decades. Now if I could just see Breer's late work ...

Bruce Conner's A Movie (my third, fourth, or possibly fifth viewing), Conner's Report (first viewing), and the whole reason I went to Anthology that evening, The Flicker by Tony Conrad (relevant to the paper I'm finishing up this week). A Movie is absolutely great, of course, high-energy artisanal melodrama ... in comparison Report extracts the analytical impulse of the earlier film and focuses it more intensely upon its object (media surrounding the JFK assassination), so that the repetition of fetishized a/v footage becomes the material itself, makes it weirder as well as rubbing in its familiarity. The cultural associations one has with a film like this make for a reverberant sort of experience.

As for The Flicker, well, as I've mentioned to a few people already, there was one point in the screening where I said to myself, "I honestly don't know if I'm five minutes into the film, or twenty-five." Of the flicker films of the 1960s-70s I've seen, this is the one where individual perception is most forcefully and purely isolated and foregrounded as a component and structuring device of the artwork itself.


Anonymous said...

Soooo, what did you think of "The Flicker"? Did Anthology screen this film with sound? The only version I've seen was with a soundtrack by John Cale, and I swear I was never the same. :)

ZC said...

Jen, I liked it quite a bit, but don't know if I can really say much more than what I've already put down. The soundtrack was just a low constant buzz. Don't know anything about a Cale soundtrack--is it stuff he's already done or did he make it specifically with/for Conrad?

Anonymous said...

Hey Zach,

This is one of my favorite films, but I have so much to learn about the avant-garde pioneers. I think that Tony Conrad is a composer & that he collaborated with John Cale. There are several variations of the flicker. I was curious about the screening you attended, because I think that the sound was really essential to my experience. . . Your post really made me think about Bruce McClure's expanded cinema performances, and how these are a contemporary extrapolation of the very best flicker films. (Coincidentally I ran into Bruce on the subway this morning!)

Have you ever contacted Anthology about researching their archives? I bet that you would find some amazing things for your paper.

Thanks for this post!