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.
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:
Probably the only thing that improves upon Bo McGuire’s astonishing short, Socks on Fire: Uncle John and the Copper Headed Water Rattlers (2017), is that the film is available on his website right now to see – click HERE to visit his site and watch! The 15-minute short is an experimental fantasy of some family drama that resists easy description. McGuire labels it on his site as a “lyrical meditation exploring personal family relationships, archetypes and myths through a variety of means & textures” and a rough cut to a feature-length “transgenerational docudrama,” while the Chattanooga Film Festival offered this synopsis – “A failed poet takes up cinematic arms when he returns home to Hokes Bluff, Ala. to find his aunt has locked his drag queen uncle out of the family home.” When asked about his inspiration for the short by Indie Grits, McGuire offered this:
Gail Bryant was a lady from my hometown of Hokes Bluff. She had a tick where she would snap her neck to throw her silver hair to the side. One day Gail was snapping that neck and the next day she was in the ground. That pissed me off. The same thing happened to my Nanny and Papa without the neck snaps and that really pissed me off. Then my Aunt Sharon went behind everyone’s back and tried to sell Nanny and Papa’s house, and Meryl Streep got up on the Oscars hollering, take your broken heart, make it into art.
McGuire, the self-described “queer son of a Waffle House cook and his third-shift waitress on the corner of George Wallace Drive in Gadsden, Alabama,” crafts a Southern Gothic dreamscape that is equal parts John Waters and Terrence Malick. Steeped in corner store pageantry, Socks on Fire veers from scenes of straight documentary to magical realist reveries, with McGuire appearing in oscillating roles of interested relation, impartial chronicler, co-conspirator, and mystical trickster. While often ostentatious and unabashed, McGuire never stoops to exploitation but rather preserves an air of respect and poetic gravity throughout the short. It is McGuire’s greatest success here, creating a kind of cinematic eye dialect from the iconography of slim cigarettes, pick-ups, fireworks, Crimson Tide merchandise, and nature’s damp, inevitable power. It’s a mini-masterpiece and I can’t wait to see Socks on Fire in its full, feature-length glory!
Shout out to the Chattanooga Film Festival and to Bo McGuire! I was lucky enough to spend a little time with Bo (even catch a screening of Rock Steady Row with him) and he’s as affable and charming a guy as you’re likely to find. Bo was definitely a personal and cinematic high point of my CFF experience. Thanks Bo!