The Making of an Underground Film, originally broadcast on CBS News with Walter Cronkite on New Years' Eve 1965, begins with reporter Dave Dugan saying, "Not everyone digs underground movies, but those who do can dig 'em here." in front of the Bridge Theatre in New York City's Greenwich Village. An interview with avant-garde filmmaker and exhibitor Jonas Mekas then segues into footage of the making of Dirt by filmmaker/poet Piero Heliczer, as a pre-Nico incarnation of the Velvet Underground (with both Maureen Tucker and original percussionist Angus MacLise) plays silently in costume in the background. Other highlights include interviews with Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick, plus the uninterrupted airing of a Stan Brakhage film in tribute to poet Michael McClure.
Los Angeles Plays Itself is a dazzling cinematic essay by the filmmaker Thom Andersen about how the city of Los Angeles is portrayed in films. Watch it now on YouTube: Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 [more inside]
The Knickerbocker Theater was an old-fashioned movie palace in Washington, DC designed by Reginald W. Geare for local theatre mogul, Harry Crandall. On January 28, 1922, while patrons were watching Jimmy Durante's film debut in the comedy Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford, 28 inches of snow caused the Knickerboof's roof to collapse, killing 98 people, in an event still known as the Knickerbocker snowstorm of 1922. [more inside]
Digital Poetics is a film blog with a proposal for an interesting experiment called 10/40/70: write a film review of a DVD with three screen captures taken at arbitrary intervals (10, 40, 70 minutes into the film) and see how it changes the way you look at films. This 10/40/70 approach has led to some interesting interpretations of The Conversation, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Blue Velvet, Godard's Vivre Sa Vie, and 12 Angry Men, as well as a contrarian appreciation of Hudson Hawk. The blog Spectacular Attractions has even upped the ante by using a random number generator to determine where to select screen caps. Results include Jaws Randomised and This Is Spinal Tap Randomised with Two Brains. It's like Dogme 95, but for film bloggers.
Art Binninger was a sci-fi buff in the 1970s with the resources of the audiovisual squad at Vandenberg Air Force Base at his disposal. The result was Star Trix, a claymation Star Trek parody, that spawned three short films and Star Trix: The Flick (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). Art Binninger himself explains the whole saga on his web site.
In Scenes from an Overrated Career, film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum writes a rare New York Times op-ed arguing that the work of recently deceased director Ingmar Bergman is overvalued compared to Carl Theodor Dreyer and Robert Bresson. Both Roger Ebert and David Bordwell respond to Rosenbaum's takedown of Bergman, while Rosenbaum writes a brief eulogy blog post on Bergman. Meanwhile, another blogger discusses how Antonioni and Bergman hated each other despite recent obits that have paired them together.
The Other Side of the Wind is the lost last film of Orson Welles, a reputed unseen masterpiece, that may finally see the light of day in late 2008. The film tells the story of Jake Hannaford (played by John Huston), an aging movie director who has to film a low budget sex-and-symbolism flick to avoid getting overtaken by the Movie Brats of the Spielberg/Coppola generation. After providing voiceovers to two documentaries on the Persepolis ceremonies of 1971 and an intimate portrait of the Shah of Iran, Welles obtained Iranian financing to finish The Other Side of the Wind. Unfortunately, after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the bank accounts of his Iranian financier were seized, which led to the negatives for the film getting locked in a French vault. After Orson Welles died in 1985, his lover/collaborator Oja Kodar had to settle his estate with Orson's estranged (but never divorced) wife Paola Mori. There the matter might have rested, if not for an unfortunate coincidence. (More inside.)
Sleazoid Express (this post rated NSFW) was a New York film fanzine that championed the grindhouse cinema that played in sketchy Times Square movie theaters during the pre-Giuliani era. Featuring in-depth reviews of film fare such as Pets, Nanami: Inferno of First Love, and Let Me Die A Woman, the Sleazoid Express zine later inspired a book, which can probably take some credit for stoking Quentin Tarantino's interest in grindhouse filmmaking. (An excerpt from the book, Sleazoid Express, can be found here, and here's some original grindhouse trailers thrown in for good measure.)
The most inspirational film ever has an underexamined dark side, including a 1947 FBI memo that branded the film as subversive and "a rather obvious attempt to discredit bankers." The film's script was influenced by the liberal populism of the 1930s, used suicide as a plot point, and was criticized by a Christian Right website for "lax attitudes on alcohol and drunkenness." The film also inspired a feminist art project on "bad girl" Violet Bick and a dead-on parody of a right-wing Christian movie review. Meanwhile, Jimmy Stewart paid back Frank Capra for reviving his post-WWII career by spying on him for the FBI. The hidden backstory behind It's A Wonderful Life.
This month, the Vancouver International Film Festival will screen the legendary Jacques Rivette film, Out 1: Noli Me Tangere, for the first time ever in North America. At approximately 750 minutes long, the work is the fourth longest film ever commercially released. A Holy Grail for cinephiles, the film was finally dug out of the vaults again for a rare British Film Institute screening, where New York film critic Dennis Lim made a pilgrimage to see it. Long championed by Jonathan Rosenbaum, the film finally makes its American debut at a complete Jacques Rivette retrospective at the American Museum of the Moving Image this November.