More in the slideshow at Criterion Current.
When I first started to work with cutouts, I naively thought of myself as an animator, but eventually it seemed an inaccurate term. I came to understand myself first and foremost as a collagist and an experimental filmmaker. The expectations of collage, which puts the focus on my source materials, provide better entry to my films than do the expectations of animation. Since I was a boy I’ve been sensitive to what was disappearing. Once an object or image is outmoded, it is dead. So I primarily work with dead images, which makes me a reanimator, not an animator.
—Lewis Klahr interviewed in Artforum
At some point, Prairie understood that the person behind the camera most of the time really was her mother, and that if she kept her mind empty she could absorb, conditionally become, Frenesi, share her eyes, feel, when the frame shook with fatigue or fear or nausea, Frenesi’s whole body there, as much as her mind choosing the frame, her will to go out there, load the roll, get the shot. Prairie floated, ghostly light of head, as if Frenesi were dead but in a social way, a minimum-security arrangement, where limited visits, mediated by projector and screen, were possible. As if somehow, next reel or the one after, the girl would find a way, some way, to speak to her…
—Thomas Pynchon, Vineland
Of course, the production and collection of albums on vinyl and the production and exhibition of film on celluloid are different things. Articles […] claiming that film will be “dead” by the year 2015—when it’s estimated only 17 percent of global movie screens will run 35mm—talk about celluloid still existing as a “niche projection format,” but the obstacles to that are severe. Pressing albums for a niche market is cheap, and record-owners can drop $20 on a copy and it’s theirs; film is a much more complicated and expensive transaction, because it costs thousands to strike a 35mm print, and there are rental fees and rights issues bound up in screening them.
—Scott Tobias, “Sweet Emulsion”
From a 2002 interview with Peter Kubelka on the translation of Arnulf Rainier to video. Youtube wasn’t created until 2005.
PK: My film Arnulf Rainer on a television is…it is…
HC: It is an anomaly!
PK: Exactly! That does not make any sense! Once again, there are various categories of cinema. But even a film very literary, Hollywood, loses content when one watches it on a television. It is very important! That joined with what I said earlier on the relationship between Super 8 and video: to make a film on film, let say in the 1930’s and 1950’s, the director and the operator were much more intense. Of course for economic reasons, but also because they could not see the final result immediately, which is possible in video. Dreyer would wait three days to see his rushes. For those who handle the archives, we must ask firstly: for whom is the cinema being preserved for? For the producers? They preserve it only for the money. They destroyed an immense part of the silent films in the 1930’s, believing it was better to make a profitable new speaking version than a keeping a silent film with an exhausted commercial potential. But with television, they understood that one can make money with old films, and now they preserve them all. And unfortunately, it is their idea which dominates: we preserve for the paying public, for commercial use. It is very difficult to render comprehensible with the directors of museums and the State museums, which subsidize these cinematheques, that we preserve for archaeology. We preserve for future generations who will want to understand what the filmmakers thought by making their films. For example, if today my films are digitalized and that, within fifty years, three new supports appear on which the film will be transferred again, then in 2050 will it be possible to understand what I wanted to do with my work? The sources will be lost because it is the film strip that taught me what to make. For example when I talk about the ancient music, music of the Middle Ages, one can play it on a flute of the time, but one can also play it on a synthesizer! This melody of the Middle Ages, played on a keyboard, is very easy to interpret, so much that one can say that it is a primitive music which, slowly, evolved to another kind of erudite music…That immediately gives a condescending position towards the past. Only, when one rebuilds instruments like those used in the Middle Ages, this melody becomes very difficult to play and especially very beautiful. Add to this music the play of architecture with echo, in contrast to the controlled digital levelling of the sound. One can then understand the genius in the music. I basically believe in this intrinsic link between the work, its content, and in the hardware on which it is recorded.
In 1957, Peter Kubelka was hired to make a short commercial for Scwechater beer. The beer company undoubtedly thought they were commissioning a film that would help them sell their beers; Kubelka had other ideas. He shot his film with a camera that did not even have a viewer, simply pointing it in the general direction of the action. He then took many months to edit his footage, while the company fumed and demanded a finished product. Finally he submitted a film, 90 seconds long, that featured extremely rapid cutting (cutting at the limits of most viewers’ perception) between images washed out almost to the point of abstraction — in black-and-white positive and negative and with red tint — of dimly visible people drinking beer and of the froth of beer seen in a fully abstract pattern.
When you see the films of certain young directors, you get the impression that film history begins for them around 1980. Their films would probably be better if they’d seen a few more films, which runs counter to this idiotic theory that you run the risk of being influenced if you see too much. Actually, it’s when you see too little that you run the risk of being influenced. If you see a lot, you can choose the films you want to be influenced by. Sometimes the choice isn’t conscious, but there are some things in life that are far more powerful than we are, and that affect us profoundly. If I’m influenced by Hitchcock, Rossellini or Renoir without realizing it, so much the better. If I do something sub-Hitchcock, I’m already very happy. Cocteau used to say: “Imitate, and what is personal will eventually come despite yourself.” You can always try.
Hausu cast eating a Hausu cake.
As thriller plots have lost their moorings in the real world of causes and effects, something valuable has been lost. When actions become arbitrary, stories lose their power to help us make sense of the world and they become strictly formal patterns.
—Thom Andersen, “Collateral Damage: Los Angeles Continues Playing Itself”
Here’s an interesting studio visit with Los Angeles filmmaker Lewis Klahr. I had the opportunity to see his collage-noir Two Minutes to Zero Trilogy (2004) last night, and I highly recommend seeking out his work. The trilogy takes it’s source material from the 77 sunset strip comic books, telling the story of a bank robbery gone awry in three narrative speeds. The first film, Two Days to Zero clocks in at 22 minutes, while the second film is a more taught 8 minutes and features a Rhys Chatham soundtrack. Finally the last film, Two Minutes to Zero is roughly a minute long burst set to Glenn Branca’s The Ascension. Sadly, I was unable to find any clips of that particular film online, but this video has clips from several of his other works.