Saturday, January 21


Repenting my Cinematheque

I don't know how it happened that I somehow forgot to include among my list of top cinema trips of 2005 the Peter Kubelka lecture and film screening I attended at the Pacific Film Archive in late October. This was a one of those film experiences that seems to re-arrange the connections made in my brain into new configurations, and though I sense that over the past few months since the screening the old pathways are becoming dominant again, I suspect that I'll always retain a bit of the wisdom Kubelka imparted. In preparation for a screening of his newest film, Poetry and Truth, he showed three of his "Metric Films", Adebar, Schwechater and Arnulf Rainer.

Though the films themselves were eye-openers, to say the least, it was the context he supplied through his lecture that made the evening particularly intellectually invigorating. Kubelka shared his philosophies on life and art, anecdotes about the making of these films and his attempts at creating an "ideal" screening room, and brought the projectionist down from the booth to deliver a demonstration of the physicality of film. He demystified 35mm film by having the audience unspool the reel we had just watched, letting the strip weave up and down the first several of the PFA's wide rows. He then remystified it by showing the minute-long film (Schwechater) once again. I was most taken with Arnulf Rainer, my first experience with a flicker film, and one that reinforced for me what the film medium shares with music, namely rhythm in time, silence and sound. Poetry and Truth was something else again, a collage film that superficially resembled the technique and rhythm of a film like Bruce Conner's Report but on closer inspection is quite different and brings forth notions about the nature of acting and staging that only conspiracy theorists might find in the Conner film.

Poetry and Truth, in case you missed it at the PFA or at the sold-out screening of Kubelka's "Metaphoric Films" at the Yerba Buena Center shortly after, is going to be shown again on Friday, February 3rd at the California College of the Arts (formerly known as California College of Arts and Crafts) on a program called For the Record. It's part of the new January-March SF Cinematheque calendar, not yet online but found in various bookstores and other places around town. Frankly, this is one of the most appealing (to me) seasons this experimental film organization has put together since I let my membership lapse a few years ago. I already posted a bit about the Sunday programs scheduled for Yerba Center (though the new blurb on the Feb. 12 Stan Brakhage Sound Film night makes no mention of the Stars Are Beautiful but does include other films like Christ Mass Sex Dance) and the screenings at other venues are at least as enticing. The Art Institute will host two nights of the 9th Annual Activating the Medium Festival, for example, and a CCA program Feb. 17 called Fame as Form looks totally fascinating. But perhaps the biggest must-see for me is the Nagisa Oshima double bill there March 31: Death By Hanging and Diary of a Shinjuku Thief, neither of which I've seen yet.

Brian--In case you're not acquainted with Invisible Cinema.
It's funny, girish, I was actually planning to change my Arnulf Rainer link from the Fred Camper link to that interview, but somehow I forgot to. Thanks for getting the link in anyway.
Kubelka must have had a surplus of Schwechater prints, that's what he unspooled for us at the 2004 Views from Avant-Garde program too. :) Of course, I was sitting in the back row and totally missed out on dibs. :( It was also funny to hear him talk about the materiality of film because I had seen films from his disciples like Peter Tscherkassky and Wirgil Widrich before seeing his films, and it was interesting to see where that germ of idea of physically manipulating film came from.
I missed out on dibs too, but only barely; I was in the fifth or sixth row, seated behind the guy at the end of the reel. At least I was close enough to see some shapes and colors on the strip. Tscherkassky is coming to the PFA February 14th and I plan to be there (of course, plans don't always materialize; I planned to see Naruse's Mother and Repast there yesterday too, but lost my cellphone on the bus ride over and aborted the trip.)

Some people don't like these filmmaker-in-person appearances. I haven't seen Unsere Afrikareise or Kubelka's other "Metaphoric" films, but Eric did and wasn't impressed. Reading his account makes me wonder if I'm smart enough to recognize when I'm being condescended to. Or maybe the "Metric" films just lend themselves better to explication.
Seriously, I wouldn't endorse my behavior there. I think I probably just had a bad day. On the other hand, I've heard accounts of walkouts outside of Minneapolis hipster college campuses. Maybe a lot of people have bad days before seeing Kubelka speak. (I've sense included Unsere Afrikareise at the tail end of my list of favorite '66 films as a token of my first impression, rather than the second.)
Interesting. I wonder if (a) Kubelka defied Chris F's expectations and altered his lectures to decrease walkouts in subsequent tour stops, (b) his "Metric films" lecture is less condescending than his "Metaphoric" one, (c) Pacific Film Archive audiences are just more forgiving, as I didn't register a single walkout, or (d) a combination of the above.
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