Friday, February 24, 2017

The Language Of The New Music - Documentary about Wittgenstein and Schoenberg, 1985

This is a film about Ludwig Wittgenstein and Arnold Schonberg; two men whose lives and ideas run parallel in the development of Viennese radicalism. Both men emerged from the turmoil of the Habsburg Empire in its closing days with the idea of analyzing language and purging it with critical intent, believing that in the analysis and purification of language lies the greatest hope that we have. They never met and might never have fully understood one another, because while the nature of their genius they found themselves alone breaking new ground of the very frontiers of their respective disciplines. But their work springs from the same soil and shares a common ethical purpose, so that their ideas and methods echo and illuminate those of each other to a remarkable degree.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Une Femme Coquette (Jean-Luc Godard, 1955) with English subtitles

Jean-Luc Godard's Une Femme Coquette has had less than half a dozen public screenings since the 1960s; we were able to track down the only known 16mm print to a national film archive in Europe, where it was being stored unlisted for a private owner, to be loaned out only with the personal permission of Jean-Luc Godard himself. This makes it the holy grail of the game-changing New Wave era—a film so rare that it has often been listed as lost by biographies and film history books. And it might as well have been. No other surviving narrative film by a major, big-name director has been as difficult to see — until now.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Lives of Performers (Yvonne Rainer, 1972)

Lives of Performers, the first feature film by the choreographer, cofounder of the Judson Dance Theater, and author of 1965’s “No Manifesto.”

In her transition from dance to film, Rainer said yes: “Having survived my various physical and psychic traumas”—including a suicide attempt in 1971—“and emboldened by the women’s movement, I felt entitled to struggle with an entirely new lexicon. The language of specific emotional experience . . . promised all the ambivalent pleasures and terrors of the experiences themselves: seduction, passion, rage, betrayal, grief, and joy.”

Yet that surfeit of emotion is presented austerely and disjunctively in Lives of Performers, parenthetically labeled “a melodrama” by an opening title card. Indeed, the film revolves around a love triangle, a standard setup of the genre, focusing on a man involved with two women. These romantic entanglements, however, are delineated only after a prologue of sorts, featuring Rainer leading a rehearsal of Walk, She Said, a dance that includes the four main “protagonists” in the film: John Erdman, Valda Setterfield, Shirley Soffer, and Fernando Torm. (Of this quartet, only Setterfield, a member of Merce Cunningham’s troupe from 1964 to 1974, had previous professional dance experience.)

Over this footage, we hear Rainer’s directives: “Foot open, gaze goes to the window, gaze goes to closet.” The audio, save for a few instances, is almost entirely offscreen. Though the performers deliver their lines, as Rainer does, without inflection, their voices are distinct, a mix of accents from the UK (Setterfield), Chile (Torm), and Kings County (Soffer); the few sentences in a buttery French intonation are uttered by Babette Mangolte, the redoubtable cinematographer with whom Rainer would make two more films. (The same year that Lives of Performers was made, Mangolte began another important collaboration in New York, shooting Chantal Akerman’s La Chambre and Hotel Monterey.) We hear the pages of the script being turned, further estranging us from this spartan soap opera about a man who “can’t make up his mind”—though this distancing device never dilutes our fascination with the intensely private moments, sourced from dreams, perhaps from letters or diaries, presented on-screen.

William S. Burroughs - Valentine Day Reading (1965)

Gangster funerals, airline crashes, and Vietnam. Sound familiar? It should. The Dutch Schultz recording echoes the Death and Disaster series initiated by Andy Warhol in 1962 and concluded in 1965. Burroughs’ obsessions parallel Warhol’s closely. The Dutch Schultz cut-ups make me think of Warhol’s Gangster Funeral (1963) or his Electric Chair silkscreens. The 1962 silkscreen 129 Die in Jet touches on Burroughs’ fascination with airline crashes, such as that involving Captain Clark. Furthermore 129 Die compares in form and content with Burroughs’ scrapbook pages, particularly Tornado Dead: 223. Warhol used a June 4, 1962 Daily Mirror front page for this silkscreen. In fact, Warhol used newspaper and magazine imagery for much of the Death and Disaster series. In this period both Warhol and Burroughs manipulated and detourned mass media images for artistic and political effect. - Reality Studio

Saturday, February 04, 2017

The Summer Of Rave 1989 (BBC Full Documentary)

Documentary by the BBC on the development of rave culture in the United Kingdom during the summer of 1989.