Enjoy a chilled-out Sunday with a short dose of avant-garde fungal strangeness. I HATE THIS FILM muses:

Film by Vic Atkinson, who has proven that to make a dope movie, all you need is a damp forest of fungi and Chappell’s TVMusic 101-104 on wax. Throw in a few bugs and dead leaves for added ambience, and you’ve got yourself an instant classic.

One of my favorite movie-going experiences of 2012 was spending four Saturday and Sunday afternoons watching Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film: A 15-hour history of cinema that A.O. Scott of The New…

Avant-garde filmmaker Pramod Pati created luscious, poetic, beautifully-scored short films on behalf of the Indian government (sometimes with social-educational purposes such as promoting family planning). Highlights include Abid, below, and 1968’s symbolism-rich Explorer. The Seventh Art provides some background:

Pramod Pati, who died an untimely death at the age of 42, worked for the Films Division of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in India, which commissioned feature-length and short documentaries as well as short animation films for the purposes of cultural archiving and nationwide information dissemination. The documentaries generally consisted of profiles of artistes practicing traditional forms, educational films for adults, and simple moral tales and basic literacy courses for children.

Although there was an obvious restriction on the type of subjects filmmakers can choose, the Films Division, like the Kanun in Iran, was free from commercial concerns and thus presented a higher scope for formal experimentation for directors.

Beginning in 1959, filmmaker Jess Franco walked the line between art and exploitation, dreaming up underground classics that combined shock, sex, perversion, the surreal, and groovy soundtracks in groundbreaking fashion. 1970’s Vampyros Lesbos, below, established the cinematic trope of lesbian vampires. Via FEARnet:

Euro-cult great Jess Franco has passed away after producing nearly 200 films. A unique filmmaker, Franco’s work fits in a category all its own, combining art, the erotic, and the macabre into titles like Lorna the Exorcist, The Awful Dr. Orloff, Succubus, Venus in Furs and of course, the eponymous Vampyros Lesbos. While Franco isn’t to everyone’s taste, he certainly stretched the definition of erotic horror cinema.

The art group Anti-Banality Union has created a feature-length movie which is impossible to stop watching. Fifty Hollywood blockbusters portraying the spectacular obliteration of New York City were cut up and interwoven (somehow fitting together seamlessly), revealing the meta-narrative running through them all — the “death-drive on the part of capitalist culture”:

Unclear Holocaust is a feature-length autopsy of Hollywood’s New York-destruction fantasy, gleaned from over fifty major studio event-movies and detourned into one relentless orgy of representational genocide. It is the unrivaled assembly of the greatest amount of capital and private property heretofore captured in one frame, that, with unfathomable narrative efficacy, suicides itself in an annihilatory flux of fire, water, and aeronautics…We see the Cinema as it really is; an unequivocal annihilation, the auto-genocidal mass fantasy of a megalomaniacally depressed First World.


The Center for Visual Music on under-seen, under-known pioneer Jordan Belson, who sought to create films that could convey formerly unrepresentable ideas and be experienced like music, via psychedelic, kaleidoscopic light manipulation performances. Belson’s work has been added to the Library of Congress, but there has been general difficulty in preserving it:

Between 1957 and 1959, Belson collaborated with composer Henry Jacobs on the historic Vortex Concerts, which combined electronic music with moving visual abstractions projected on the dome of Morrison Planetarium in San Francisco (and also the Brussels World Fair in 1958). These pioneer Light Shows used filmed imagery as well as multiple projections of geometric and polymorphous light phenomena. The Vortex experience inspired Belson to abandon traditional painting and animation in favor of creating visual phenomena in something like real time, by live manipulation of pure light. Many of the films share certain images which Belson regards as “hieroglyphic-ideographic” visual units that express complex ideation not easily stated in verbal terms.

In the mood for a lost landmark? The Smiling Madame Beudet, from 1922, may be the prototype of feminist cinema. Directed by Germaine Dulac, the lone female figure among the notable French avant-garde filmmakers of the 1920s, it’s an impressionistic, surrealist, silent tale of a woman’s psychological imprisonment. Her primary source of release is playing her piano, to which her husband holds the keys. Futher explanation available at The House of Mirth and Movies:

After Hollywood began producing films with soundtrack music, a publicity campaign foretold that recorded (“canned”) music, symbolized by hostile robots, would choke the art, color, and humanity out of society. Scoff if…

Le_Voyage_dans_la_luneDreamy and surreal, it lives up to its name:

A Trip to the Moon (French: Le Voyage dans la lune) is a 1902 French black-and-white silent science fiction film. The film was written and directed by Georges Méliès, assisted by his brother Gaston. It is based loosely on two popular novels of the time: From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne and The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells.

It is the first science fiction film and uses innovative animation and special effects, including the well-known image of the spaceship landing in the moon’s eye.

Kevin Voight writes for CNN:

Hong Kong, China – China has been cracking down on dissent of late, as the recent detainment of artist Ai Weiwei suggests.

But the latest guidance on television programming from the State Administration of Radio Film and Television in China borders on the surreal – or, rather, an attack against the surreal.

New guidelines issued on March 31 discourages plot lines that contain elements of “fantasy, time-travel, random compilations of mythical stories, bizarre plots, absurd techniques, even propagating feudal superstitions…

Annalee Newitz writes for io9:

Inception cleaned up in the effects categories at the Academy Awards because they go to movies built around cool ideas. In this case, literally. The centerpiece of the film is a machine that allows clever intruders to enter other people’s dreams and steal their ideas – or implant new ones. Inception is the latest standout example of the mind-manipulation movie, following in the tracks of Memento and classics like George Cukor’s Gaslight. Call them neurothrillers.

What makes neurothrillers relevant now? Sure, we’ve always had psychological suspense flicks, but over the past decade they’ve been coming fast and thick…