film


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.


In 2010, Londoner Gemma Atkinson was restrained, handcuffed, and threatened with arrest for an “act of terror” after using her phone to film police as they engaged in a random stop-and-frisk of her boyfriend. She launched a legal battle, and, with the money from a settlement, produced the following short film about her experience and how to resist police abuse of power:




Todd Strauss-Schulson’s expertly constructed short film Valibation depicts circumstances going horribly awry after a man becomes too fixated on the twin streams of validation he derives from checking his smartphone and engaging in casual sexual hookups. Could this be the nightmarish next stage in human evolution?

Be advised not to watch this at work, if sexually explicit, stomach-churning Videodrome-style body horror doesn’t fit at your office:


Dreaming of planned libertarian communities seems to be all the rage. But perhaps the only place they can succeed is in outer space. Via Smithsonian Magazine, Matt Novak on the 1978 think-tank-produced movie Libra:

Produced and distributed by a free-market group based in San Diego called World Research, Inc., the 40-minute film is set in the year 2003 and gives viewers a look at two vastly different worlds. On Earth, a world government has formed and everything is micromanaged to death, killing private enterprise. But in space, there’s true hope for freedom. Viewers get an interesting peek into what daily life is like when a Libra resident shows off her Abacus computer,  which is a bit like Siri.

The film’s vision for 2003 isn’t very pleasant — at least for those left on Earth. The people of Libra seem happy, while those on Earth cope with the world government’s dystopian top-down management of resources.


How much of the ACLU’s prescient 2004 short film Ordering Pizza, which envisions ordering a pizza online in a future dystopian electronic surveillance state, has is already starting to come true? Getting takeout has never been so traumatic:

We are facing a flood of powerful new technologies that expand the potential for centralized monitoring, an executive branch aggressively seeking new powers to spy on citizens, a docile Congress and courts, as well as a cadre of mega-corporations that are willing to become extensions of the surveillance state. We confront the possibility of a dark future where our every move, our every transaction, our every communication is recorded, compiled, and stored away, ready for access by the authorities whenever they want.




From art group Anti-Banality, the first segment of their new feature-length film Police Mortality. It was created by splicing together countless blockbuster action and cop movies, and tells the story lying underneath — a cop’s sudden existential crisis leads to the nation’s police turning on each other:

Police Mortality is Anti-Banality’s latest wish-fulfillment symptomology of, as one character hallucinates it, “a precisely formulated national conspiracy of police genocide.” It is a paranoid-schizophrenic blitz against police subjectivity, skimmed off nearly 200 movies by that other social superego–Hollywood.

In this opening scene, the immaculate suicide of one LAPD officer begins to reveal the contradictions of police existence to a force which, finding itself multiply irreconcilable with itself, resorts to terminal civil war, eradicating the prevailing organization of life in the process.



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…





BREER1-obit-articleLargeHis style was followed by everyone from Monty Python to MTV, but for sheer optical pleasure, Robert Breer’s short avant-garde animations can’t be beaten. The New York Times eulogizes:

Robert Breer, an animator whose use of novel techniques opened up a new language for film, died on Aug. 11 at his home in Tucson. He was 84. Mr. Breer, a painter by training, early on saw the potential for breaking with the narrative sequences and anthropomorphic forms that defined the medium [of animation].

Viewers were bombarded with wiggling lines, letters, abstract shapes and live-action images that jumped and flashed, zoomed and receded. “He was a seminal figure in the new American cinema and the American avant-garde beginning in the 1950s and continuing right up to the present,” said Andrew Lampert of the Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan.



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.