Winter/Spring 2002

All films shown in 16mm unless otherwise noted.

Landscape Suicide and Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy

February 5

presented by guest curator Chris Chase

(1986, 95 min.)
James Benning’s haunting earlier study of the American psyche and space, LANDSCAPE SUICIDE. Landscape Suicide centers on the parallel lives of two famous murderers: Ed Gein, the Wisconsin farmer who cannibalistically mutilated his victims in the 1950’s and Bernadette Protti, a 15 year-old Californian who stabbed a cheerleader colleague to death in 1984. Re-enacted monologues by Gein and Protti are interwoven with Benning’s characteristically subtle and revealing portraits of American life:

"I discovered a matching form of isolation in both. The cold, landlocked landscape of Wisconsin and the suburban, car-dominated, non-communication of California."

— James Benning, notes from San Francisco Cinematheque 1998 screening.

"The murderers in James Benning’s LANDSCAPE SUICIDE are a paranoiac teenage girl and a taciturn Wisconsin farmer. The reconstructive narratives take the viewer through the slants of minds in disturbance, through the ambiguities that surround any act of violence. Both Bernadette Protti, who killed a more popular classmate with a kitchen knife, and Edward Gein, who shot a storekeeper’s wife and then took her body home and cut it up, provide exemplars of ’I couldn’t stop.’ The homicides allow Benning to deal in emotion that is external to him (yet deeply felt), while imbuing his trademark ’still’ images of roads, trucks, billboards, buildings and trees with newly charged meaning. ... As strong as Benning’s photography is, it’s the talking head sequences that prove most chilling. The power of Rhonda Bell’s portrayal of Protti is such that there are moments when we’re convinced she’s the real killer. So, too, with Elion Sucher’s Gein, who looks like he’s been struck between the eyes with a heavy object, his head so caved-in by dementia. There is no actual violence here - save the disembowelment of a deer - but LANDSCAPE SUICIDE leaves you feeling like a witness nonetheless."

— Katherine Dieckman, The Village Voice

"All of James Benning’s features can be regarded as shotgun marriages in which he attempts to wed his distinctive formal talents and interests--framing midwestern landscapes with beauty and nostalgia, using ambiguous offscreen sounds to create narrative expectations--with an intellectual or social rationale. LANDSCAPE SUICIDE (1985) was almost certainly his most successful and interesting foray in this direction since One Way Boogie Woogie (1977). Delving into two murder cases--Bernadette Protti’s seemingly unmotivated stabbing murder of another teenage girl in a California suburb in 1984, and Ed Gein’s even more gratuitous mass slayings and mutilations in rural Wisconsin in the late 50s--Benning uses actors to re-create part of the killers’ court testimonies and juxtaposes them with the commonplace settings where these crimes took place. Boldly eschewing the specious psychological rhetoric that usually accompanies accounts of such crimes, he creates an open forum for the spectator to contemplate the mysterious vacancy of these people and these places, and their relationships to each other. The performances of both actors, Rhonda Bell and Elian Sacker, are extraordinary achievements, and the chilling, evocative landscapes have their own stories to tell; the fusion of the two creates gaps that not even the film’s confusing title can fill, but the space opened up is at once powerful and provocative."

— Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

(1998, B&W/sound, 15 min.)
Arnold’s campaign of deconstruction of classic Hollywood film codes finally turns to film music...The family scenes, which in the original lasts only seconds are not particularly notable, are surgically sectioned into single frames. Using repetition of these ’single cells’ and a new rhythm - a kind of cloning procedure - Arnold then creates an inflated, monsterous doppelgS¹nger of the original cuts lasting many minutes. The hidden message of sex and violence is turned inside out to the point where it simply crackles."

— Dirk Schaefer

Guest Curator:
Chris Chase is a senior programmer at the Olympia Film Festival and former film curator for Conworks (Seattle). He is presently making a feature length documentary on the famous (but now forgotten) 1902 Oregon prison escape of desperado and killer, Harry Tracy.


February 18 - 20

February 18

co-made with the late Hollis Frampton, was shot in 1966 and then abandoned until Wieland completed it after Frampton’s death, it is an elegiac farewell to the past, and to the communal energy created by Frampton, Snow, and Wieland during their work in New York in the 1960s.

A film about a women’s strike action

a silent 5-minute short film comprised of "outcuts from a Job Corps documentary which features hand-tinted sections. The film is full of small movements and actions, gestures begun and never completed. Repeated images, sometimes in color, sometimes not. A beautifully realized type of chamber-music film whose sum-total feeling is ritualistic" (Robert Cowan, Take One, as cited in FMC 1975)

co-made with Betty Ferguson, "a collage film. We started out with a dull film about a little blind girl named Mary and ended up with something that made us get crazy".

an abstract domestic film with music by Carla Bley, Mike Mantler, and Ray Jessel

February 19 + 20

"perhaps Wieland"s most ambitious project, an 80-minute feature film about her homeland. As an artist, Wieland was deeply involved in the creation of this particular film, a consideration of the positive values inherent in Canadian society, as opposed to life within the relatively repressive social fabric of the United States."

— program descriptions from "The Exploding Eye", Wheeler Winston Dixon. JOYCE WIELAND - BIOGRAPHY

"One of Canada’s best-known Avant-Garde filmmakers, Joyce Wieland has also carved out a thirty-year career as a multi-media artist, working at various periods in plastic, cloth, assemblages, bronze, watercolors, and oils, as well as film in all gauges. She made her first film in 1958, and in 1962 moved with her then husband Michael Snow to New York, where they became founding members of the structural film movement.

"Wieland’s films investigated the film apperatus,playing with light, reflections, masking, and lenses, using leader, piercing the emulsion, and other similar devices of the material or structural film. They were also precisely formal in structure, many of them single-image films, or based on a single formal premise such as an editing technique (repetition or looping, for example) or a specific kind of shot. Unlike some of the other films from that group, Wieland’s were also always personal and sensual, often lyrical, meditative, or ritualistic, and whimsically humorous. Her use of text on the screen in combination with particular images or editing techniques, as well as her investigation of forms of narrative, anticipate many of the issues of the deconstructivist, semiotic, or oppositional avant garde, and her erotic self-relflexivity, using her own body as part of the work, anticipates what would later be called ’l’ecriture feminine’."

— Kay Armatage, The Women’s Companion To International Film

Four Wall Cinema will display the work of local artist Tracy Cutts in conjunction with this screening. Cutts employs similarly (to Wieland) varied techniques in combining image, text, and ephemera in her print and visual media.

The Man Who Envied Women by Yvonne Rainer

March 4 + 5

"Yvonne Rainer’s THE MAN WHO ENVIED WOMEN is the story of Jack Deller, a professor of Foucauldian and Lacanian theory, whose wife of four years has just left him. And yet, as with all of Rainer’s films, a simple plot description does not suffice, for her films are also ’about’ narrative and film structure. Reversing Hollywood convention whereby women are ’to be looked at’ and men heard, here the man is represented on the visual track and the woman on the sound track. The disjunction between sound and image, emphasizing the disjunction in their marriage as well as in each of their lives, is a continuation of Rainer’s concern with contradictions and juxtapositions: between emotional and intellectual life, personal and historical processes, and social and sexual expectations. All of this emerges in a film replete with images of everyday life: while the husband, on the image track, pursues his routine ( which includes psychotherapy ), on the voice track his artist-wife, recently having turned fifty, reflects on the implications of menopause on her daily existence. Rainer’s film structure reflects her multiple concerns; she interweaves fiction and documentary, narrative and theory, but always with an emphasis on portraying personal experience."

—Kathy Geritz

"The Man Who Envied Women, in [Rainer’s] words, takes on "the housing shortage, changing family patterns, the poor pitted against the middle class, Hispanics against Jews, artists and politics, female menopause, abortion rights. There’s even a dream sequence." Working with the speeches and writings of more than a dozen figures, ranging from Raymond Chandler to Julia Kristeva, Rainer confronts and parodies male theoretical discourse (Michel Foucault in particular) as a mode of sexual seduction. Politics has been present in all her features, but usually folded into so many distancing devices it comes out mainly dressed in quotes; here she allows it to speak more directly and eloquently, letting it charge the rest of the film."

— Rosenbaum

" During the 1950s [Yvonne] Rainer trained with Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham, co-founding the Judson Dance Workshop in New York with Steve Paxton in 1962 and becoming an influential figure in U.S. modern Dance in the sixties and early seventies. In 1968 she began to integrate slides and short films into live performances, and her first feature film, Lives of Performers (1972), evolved directly from her performance work."

— Pam Cook

"Of her dance work it was said that she worked at "tearing away the facade of artificiality" and suggested that "no one who has ever been exposed to her work can again succumb to theatrical illusion with quite the same innocence." The same might be said of her work in cinema, where this theme of innocence forever lost has been a constant thread, linking Rainer’s frustration of narrative continuity with her jabs at character identification and her landmining of emotional terrains. Initially conceived within the context of the performance world, Rainer’s films have grown in complexity and assurance."

— B. Ruby Rich

"Formally, her films belong with the New York- based minimalist/ structural movement of the early seventies, exemplified by the work of Michael Snow, Joyce Wieland, George Landow, and Hollis Frampton. But Rainer has been increasingly at odds with the purism of the American avant garde, with its emphasis on the materiality of film at the expense of psychology, emotion, and politics. While sharing an antipathy to narrative born of a distrust of Hollywood’s grip on the audience’s hearts and minds, Rainer’s interest in human (and specifically power) relationships requires a degree of characterization, and this has prevented her from simply abandoning or rejecting narrative form. At the same time, her political roots in sixties collectivism and seventies feminism have fed an anarchic impulse to deconstruct classical Hollywood cinema in order to defuse its authority.

— Pam Cook

The Man Who Envied Women
(1985, color/B&W/sound, 125 min.)


March 18 + 19

"One of the foremost avant-garde filmmakers working today, San Francisco-based experimental filmmaker Nathaniel Dorsky creates films that are silent, non-narrative and forged by seamless editing of astonishing precision. Dorsky’s exquisite cinema of silence unveils the rich rewards of losing oneself in delicate framing, minute gradations of light and shadow, or the examination of the actual grain of the film stock, to arrive at the discovery of beauty in the most quotidian images."

— Jytta Jensen, MoMA

(1992-1998, color/silent, 24 min)
What tender chaos, what current of luminous rhymes might cinema reveal unbridled from the daytime word? During the Bronze Age a variety of sanctuaries were built for curative purposes. One of the principal activities was transformative sleep. This montage speaks to that tradition.

Arbor Vitae
(1999/2000, color/silent, 28 min.)
ARBOR VITAE is a gesture towards a cinema of pure being. Its atmosphere is haunted by the period in which it was shot, the year of 1999. Although the cuts are open and numerous in their intent, the underlying motivation is the delicate reveal of the transparency of presence, our tender mystery midst the elaborate unfolding of the tree of life.

Love’s Refrain
(2000/2001, color/silent, 22.5 min.)
Perhaps the most delicately tactile in this series, LOVE’S REFRAIN rests moment to moment on its own surface. It is a coda in twilight, a soft-spoken conclusion to a set of... cinematic songs. The devotional doesn’t require the embodiment of religious form....Devotional art subverts temporal compulsion. It’s there to inspire the verticality of one’s psyche. It breaks the absorption in the relative allowing the mind of devotion to selflessly rest on phenomena. From a Buddhist’s point of view the idea of trying to resolve yourself within the relative world is considered futile...This is not a new idea. When we view Egyptian pieces they disrupt verticality. Art at its wildest best is so vertical that it suggests that death is as present as life. Metaphorically this could be like seeing a film in a dark room, or seeing the world out of our own darkness.

(The above comments and film descriptions were written by the filmmaker.)


April 3 + 4

Bill Brown in attendance

BILL BROWN has racked up over 10,000 miles riding on Greyhound buses.
Between rides, he’s made a number of short films. He recently received a grant to make a movie about ghosts in West Virginia.

April 3

(2001, B&W/sound, 23 min.)
"With the end of the Cold War, North Dakota’s last reliable cash crop—its stockpile of Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles—went bust. As the former missile silos get blown up, peace activists, retired wheat farmers, air force officers, and demolition derby drivers all stake claim to this state’s widescreen landscape and the story that it tells."

— Bill Brown

(1994, B&W/color/sound, 20 min.)
"ROSWELL ... takes a fanciful, humorous look at the supposed crash of a flying saucer near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, an ’event’ UFO-types cite to this day as evidence of a massive government cover-up.... The fish-eye lens used for some landscape shots curves the horizon line, making the sky seem enclosed - navigable, traversable. In the film’s strongest image Brown stands facing the camera with a sheaf of papers in his hand, as an animated drawing of a spaceship scoots across the paper, suggesting a connection between UFO fantasies and the magical possibilities of cinema."

— Fred Camper

April 4

(1999, color/sound, 32 min.)
"Canada as the subject of the bemused anthropological observations of an American. Brown follows the same general path that Joyce Wieland took to make her experimental classic Reason Over Passion, beginning at Canada’s easternmost tip and travelling across the country to the west coast (though with some pretty big gaps in the middle!). Brown’s razor-sharp framing, precise comic timing and inquisitive mind show us Canada from the perspective of an interested outsider: shocked that such a seemingly polite and peaceful nation was ever the site of FLQ bombings; puzzling over what exactly holds the country together."

— Images Fest 1999

(1997, color/sound, 15 min.)
An examination of both the real and the imagined Lubbock, Texas... Between Buddy Holly, windswept prairie, and truck-stop diner road signs, the voiceover narration claims that each traveler has within him- or herself the dream of the ultimate goal, the ultimate destination; in other words, the end of the road. Now this goal could vary, of course between travelers but also for one traveler at different times. But if true, what it means is that there is no real traveling. One is never ’in the now’ if one is dreaming of the future, one is never ’on the path’ if one is dreaming of the goal, one is never really experiencing Oz if one is always dreaming of home."

— Peggy Nelson

(1991, color/sound, 15 min.)
"Hobo thrasher rips it up as he looks for the perfect skate spot in California, and looks for California, too."

— Bill Brown

CULTURAL FRAGMENTS: Films by Marlon Fuentes & Leslie Thornton

April 22 + 23

BONTOC EULOGY by Marlon Fuentes
(1995, B&W/sound, 56 min.)
A personal story about the Filipino experience at the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904, BONTOC EULOGY unfolds from the perspective of two characters, the Narrator, a Filipino immigrant in America, and Markod, an Igorot warrior held captive at the Fair. It chronicles Markod’s experience as one of the eleven hundred natives brought to America to be part of the Philippine Reservation. The St. Louis Fair was the site of the largest ethnological display rack the world had ever known, a place where thousands of primitive men and women from all over the globe were displayed side by side with the artifacts and monuments of Western scientific progress and civilization.

The ambiance of the World’s Fair and the conditions that the native Filipinos endured as specimens of colonial anthropology are evoked through the use of rare archival footage and photographs, interspersed with present-day live-action scenes. Fusing history, memory, and imagination, the narrator/filmmaker explores the complex psychological territory of a unique and celebrated world event where Race, Science, and Politics intertwined on a scale and manner never seen again.

As a documentary that locates itself deeply in the fractures between historical truths and possibilities, the film sets stakes into seldom-explored territories of imagination. Simultaneously autobiography, detective-story, and a highly layered meditation on cultural abduction and social voyeurism, it is a unique simulacra of historical cinema. As a reflexive examination of traditions and surfaces of cinema as witness, the film functions as an intricate dissection of the very process of narrative and representation.

On one level, the film dramatically exposes the seminal contours of ethnic identity and experience in America, in the context of post-colonial culture and politics. By challenging the boundaries of cinematic form and convention, BONTOC forces us to examine our Gaze and question the very surface that reflects this image of the Other.

— YYZ Artists’ Outlet, Toronto

This film is an account of Fuentes’s search for the meanings of the place he once called homeÑa search that is lensed through an account of a fictive maternal grandfather, an Igorot warrior who traveled to and performed at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase exposition in St. Louis. Part Self Portrait, part documentary and part cultural critique, this is an experimental work produced through a combination of filmmaking acumen, narrative creativity, and thorough and rigorous archival research. Eulogy not only frames a particular kind of historical encounter between Americans and some of their newly acquired subjects of empire (which today finds resonance with contemporary Filipino immigrant experience) but it also draws viewers’ attention to the constructed and inherently unstable kinds of "truth" in documentary and ethnographic films.

— John P. Homiak in American Anthropologist, December 2001

[As] an auto ethnographic film about a tale of cultural loss and archaeological reconstruction, then BONTOC EULOGY is a documentary...and within this larger frame, we find this fictive one way mirror, this narrative device that allows us to peer into the other side without being seen. To listen to the story that needs to be told.

— Marlon Fuentes

ADYNATA by Leslie Thornton
(1983, color/sound, 30 min.)
A Formal 1861 portrait of a Chinese Mandarin and his wife is the starting point for this allegorical investigation of the fantasies spawned in the West about the East, particularly that which associates femininity with the mysterious Orient. ADYNATA presents a series of oppositions-male and female images, past and present sounds-which in and of themselves construct a minimal and fragmentary narrative, an open text of our imaginations, fears and fantasies.

— Women Make Movies

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