MARK TOSCANO. CARTE BLANCHEIn generously being given carte blanche by (S8) to construct a program which draws on my restoration work, I decided to curate a selection entirely intuitively, but one which also gives a diverse set of examples of different approaches to the restoration of experimental film. So although I actually have some hard-to-explain thoughts about how these films do conceptually relate to each other (something to do with a prismatic subjectivity and the fragmentary relationships between the self and the outer world, I think), I also simply wanted to share some of my favorites with you all.
The title of this program —“Window Lights for Wanderers”— comes from a lyric by Scott Walker, who died this past March, and whose music is meaningful for me and probably many of you. This past year or two has been marked by a bewildering number of deaths of very special artists and figures in the experimental film community, some of whom I have worked with as an archivist, and many of whom I was quite fond. The choices in this program, and its title, were certainly influenced by the feelings associated with these losses. Thinking about this, it furthermore seemed essential to me that the program close with the ecstatic and exhilarating Bent Time, by one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met, the incomparable Barbara Hammer, who also died this March. Like so much of her work, Bent Time engages in a sort of richly empathic, experiential cinema, one in which we are reminded of the feeling of being alive, moving, thinking, feeling bodies and minds in the world. In it, Barbara suggests themes of heightened subjectivity and radical connectivity, and it positively vibrates with an emotionally charged life energy, so I was determined to share it with you to close out the program. Barbara and I want you all to leave the cinema buzzing!
Program and notes: Mark Toscano.PROGRAMANSELMO
Chick Strand, USA., 1967, 16mm, 3 min.
One of Chick Strand’s earliest films re-enacts the giving of a gift as an ecstatic, impressionistic celebration through original and found footage, multiple film stocks, and kaleidoscopic editing. This film was restored in 2016 from the original reversal A/B rolls and magnetic soundtrack.
Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.GRAIN GRAPHICS
Dana Plays, USA., 1978, 16mm, 6 min.
Repeating human movements are multiplied with rephotography techniques in various configurations until what seem like millions of little film frames fill the screen. As simple gestures are magnified and multiplied, they form ripples across the frame, a visual echo of the film’s tape-manipulated gamelan soundtrack.
This film was restored in 2012 from the original reversal A/B rolls and magnetic soundtrack.
Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.ROSEBLOOD
Sharon Couzin, USA, 1974, 16mm, 8 min.
Initially produced on 8mm, this highly textural and fragmentary collage film combines a dancer’s movements with unusual and often dissonant compositions and motifs. Couzin employs complex, enigmatic optical printing to create an unfolding and kinetic work that seems to communicate in an arcane language defined by mystery, instability, and rupture.
This film was restored in 2019 from the original 16mm reversal blow-up master and a magnetic-stripe print.
Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.FIRE OF WATERS
Stan Brakhage, USA, 1965, 16mm, 6.5 min.
One of Brakhage’s last black and white films, and also one of his rare 1960s sound films, Fire of Waters uses striking, minimal imagery shot largely during a nighttime lightning storm to underscore a Colorado residential landscape with a sense of anxiety and anticipation.
Restored by the Academy Film Archive and The Film Foundation with support from the George Lucas Family Foundation. This film was restored in 2018 from the original reversal picture roll and the original edited optical soundtrack master.
Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.——— ———————
Thom Andersen & Malcolm Brodwick, USA, 1967, 16mm, 12 min.
Conceived as a radical proposal for a new form of documentary in which information is organized by a pre-determined structure (partly expressed by the film’s title), Thom Andersen’s memorable short was also intended as a deliberate yet impossible time capsule of a place, time, culture, and attitude. The end result is a progressive accumulation of dizzyingly fleeting moments that occurred in Los Angeles, 1966-67. It’s also one of my favorite films I’ve ever worked on, and one which only gets more poignant and thrilling as it ages.
The film was restored in 2008 from the original reversal A/B rolls and magnetic soundtrack.
Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.CHICAGO LOOP
James Benning, USA, 1976, 35mm (originally 16mm), 9 min.
This lesser-known short by James Benning examines three different locations in 1976 Chicago, each filmed entirely in single frames with camera movements that contrast opposing views, perspectives, and aspects of their subjects.
This film was digitally restored in 2013 from the original reversal picture rolls and optical soundtrack negatives.
Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.SAUGUS SERIES
Pat O’Neill, USA, 1974, 35mm (originally 16mm), 18 min.
One of O’Neill’s most beloved short films, Saugus Series functions as an album of seven dynamic and unpredictable compositions, showcasing some of the filmmaker’s most adventurous and expressive early optical compositing work.
Restored by the Academy Film Archive and The Film Foundation with support from the George Lucas Family Foundation. This film was digitally restored in 2019 from the original reversal A/B rolls, the original internegative, and the original 35mm magnetic soundtrack master.
Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.BENT TIME
Barbara Hammer, USA, 1984, DCP (originally 16mm), 22 min.
A searching, roving, subjective consciousness explores locations of concentrated energy in a state of cinematic rapture. Music by Pauline Oliveros.
This film was digitally restored in 2018 from the best surviving original Gevachrome print, and a digital copy of the original music.
Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.