Let’s take a look at another city symphony while we wait for the next MMC! proposal, specifically Francis Thompson’s wonderfully distorted tribute to life in New York City! Thompson’s short film celebrates the rhythms, geometries, and absurdities of city life through a variety of fanciful lenses, prisms, reflectors, and editing techniques (all of which Thompson was quite secretive about). Originally a painter and an art teacher, Thompson began his filmmaking career with The Evolution of the Skyscraper in 1939 and later won an Academy Award for To Be Alive! (1964). In a frequently quoted comment on the film, Aldous Huxley remarked on Thompson’s ability to escape colour photography’s tyrannical claim to verisimilitude and use the medium to further the voice of non-representational art. Huxley observed:
And then there is what may be called the Distorted Documentary a new form of visionary art, admirably exemplified by Mr. Francis Thompson’s film, NY, NY. In this very strange and beautiful picture we see the city of New York as it appears when photographed through multiplying prisms, or reflected in the backs of spoons, polished hub caps, spherical and parabolic mirrors. We still recognize houses, people, shop fronts, taxicabs, but recognize them as elements in one of those living geometries which are so characteristic of the visionary experience. The invention of this new cinematographic art seems to presage (thank heaven!) the supersession and early demise of non-representational painting. It used to be said by the non-representationalists that colored photography had reduced the old-fashioned portrait and the old-fashioned landscape to the rank of otiose absurdities. This, of course, is completely untrue. Colored photography merely records and preserves, in an easily reproducible form, the raw materials with which portraitists and landscape painters work. Used as Mr. Thompson has used it, colored cinematography does much more than merely record and preserve the raw materials of non-representational art; it actually turns out the finished product. Looking at NY, NY, I was amazed to see that virtually every pictorial device invented by the old masters of non-representational art and reproduced ad nauseam by the academicians and mannerists of the school, for the last forty years or more, makes its appearance, alive, glowing, intensely significant, in the sequences of Mr. Thompson’s film.
In anticipation of our next found footage Criterion proposal, MMC! is taking a brief and relevant tour through a favourite genre – the city symphony. We start with the unconventional example of Claude Lelouch’s C’etait un rendez-vous (1976), a thrillingly accelerated tour through Paris, from the Paris Périphérique tunnel, around the Arc de Triomphe, through red lights, up one-way streets, and across centre lines to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and Lelouch’s then-girlfriend Gunilla Friden. Lelouch shot the film himself one Sunday morning in August, driving a Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 with a camera mounted to its front bumper and reaching a top speed of 200 km/h, although the film’s soundtrack is dubbed to the sound of the director’s Ferrari 275GTB. The short gets much of its charge from the fact that Lelouch is obviously not driving on a closed course. In fact, Lelouch had only one assistant along the route, Élie Chouraqui, who was posted at the Rue de Rivoli with a walkie-talkie to caution Lelouch on the blind junction located on the other side of an archway. The radios failed but Lelouch thankfully had a green light.
Those looking to connect C’etait un rendez-vous with our upcoming proposal might consider the short’s unconventional approach to the city symphony, the prominence of driving, and the potentially self-destructive actions undertaken for a beautiful blonde at an old basilica.
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Movie Orgy.
A send-up and a celebration of mid-century American kitsch, Joe Dante’s epic pop culture mash-up, The Movie Orgy, entertained college campuses through the late 1960s and 1970s, drawing upon an ever-changing library of ’50s drive-in movies, vintage commercials, TV westerns, and political speeches. Re-discovered and re-cut by Dante for a revival screening in 2008 into its 280 minute “Ultimate Version,” this legendary cinematic event is now available outside of theatres for the first time. SEE a colossal collage of nostalgia! SEE an experience of mind-rotting celluloid hysteria! SEE thousands of performers in roles that earned them obscurity! SEE bosomy starlets, juvenile delinquency, Christian puppetry, Elvis Presley, Groucho Marx, and Richard Nixon!
- High-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Joe Dante, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- New interview with Dante
- Rated Z, archivist David Neary on the history and significance of The Movie Orgy
- Posters and promotional materials
- PLUS: An essay by director John Sayles
Eclipse is a selection of lost, forgotten, or overshadowed classics in simple affordable editions. Each series is a brief cinematheque retrospective for the adventurous home viewer.
The award-winning team of David Gill and Kenneth Brownlow present a definitive and unparalleled look at the history of silent film in America with Hollywood: A Celebration of American Silent Film. Narrated by actor and silent film enthusiast James Mason, this 13-part series celebrates the birth of an industry and the town and people who made it happen. From the arrival of the filmmaking pioneers early at the dawn of a new century, through the outbreak of the First World War; from the rise of romance to the demise of the Old West; from when comedy was king until the advent of sound, this stunning television program surveys the enormous range of spectacular, innovative, and exciting films created by a business still inventing itself. Brilliantly edited and featuring a multitude of invaluable interviews by stars, directors, and below-line personnel, Hollywood is an irreplaceable document on cinema history and a loving tribute to those that made a legend out of a modest California town.
With notes by Kevin Brownlow.
‘Stead of treated, the kids were getting tricked on Day 3 of the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival. Certainly the SFFF’s most celebrated film was Issa López’s festival darling Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017). MMC! has discussed López’s film on more than one of occasion, and so we’ll take its greatness as read and briefly discuss Jérémy Comte’s Fauve (2018), a Canadian short that feels tailor-made to open for Tigers. A Special Jury Prize-winner at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Fauve concerns a pair of boys exploring a surface mine who “sink into a seemingly innocent power game with Mother Nature as the sole observer.” The short brings to mind Gus Van Sant’s Gerry (2002) and a very specific John Mulaney joke about an impression he had as a child, but these glib comparisons belie the truly heartbreaking nature of Comte’s film. Fans of Tigers would be well served to seek out Fauve.
The Buried Alive Film Festival wraps up this Sunday and MMC! is here to tell you why you should go! In addition to another screening of The Golem with a live score by the band Samadha (just in case you miss the screening and performance this Friday), there are two feature films, two supporting shorts, the “Why Bury Good Meat?” short program, and BAFF’s awards ceremony.
There’s plenty of good stuff to see on BAFF’s final day and MMC! has its favourites. Here, dear readers, are five MMC!-approved titles to BAFF this Sunday: