Fall 2005

All films shown in 16mm unless otherwise noted.

PARALLAX by Alex MacKenzie

October 7, 2005 - 8PM
Fifth Avenue Cinemas, 511 SW Hall


Co-presented with PSU Film Committee
Sponsored in part by PSU Film Studies Dept

PARALLAX is Vancouver BC-based media artist Alex Mackenzie’s most recent expanded cinema piece, a suite of conjoined short works performed with two antique 16mm analytic projectors. Using “found” footage selected from a personal collection of several thousand industrial and educational films, Mackenzie explores the interception of psyche and culture - the space where mind meets matter and the conflict that ensues.

Working from source materials including medical training, human resource management, geography and prison systems, PARALLAX invokes an anamorphic rupture of the screenwidth: individual light beams cross territories, negative and positive blend and crosshybridize to create a beauty in the inherent violence of existence. Taking third-wave avant-gardists such as Landow, Sharits, Rimmer and Jacobs as point of departure, MacKenzie uses speed variations, lens manipulation, masking and film chemistry to create images which shudder and shimmer across the screen. Through intentional reappropriation and re-purposing of these ahistoric moving picture relics, PARALLAX occupies space within both narrative and abstract territory: a hands-on manipulation and complex of ideas that stretch from the conceptual to the potential gestures contained within the projection device itself.

Further, Mackenzie’s audio formulations source original field recordings, the internet, appropriated recordings and the actual film soundtracks to invoke a dramatic subterfugue where order and chaos unbind. These pictures hail from a mass of reels that gather dust in the basement, the selection process often based on the uncertain potential of a title writ small and blurry on an oily cannister, withdrawn from some edu-collection lacking current currency. More than just empty nostalgia and retro novelties, these reels carry with them a genuine magnitude of purpose, a kind of potency and ambition informed by their narrative arguments and the sophistication of their composition. After selecting, altering, manipulating and reintroducing these images through projection, the work speaks to the beauty in the image; the potential to be found in a handful of old film frames, re-exposed and studied under a magnifying glass, exercising and exorcising desire, fear, and the human condition.

(Alex MacKenzie)

“An ephemeral highwire track through the cinematic unconscious and an elegy to 16mm’s passing future. Amid the increasingly commodified, rhythmically challenged, digital age of projected images, MacKenzie exhibits genuine commitment to film’s outmoded apparatus, material fragility and musical cadence. Parallax is cinema to be played (with); it requires a different kind of engagement, in which the viewer becomes actively aware of celluloid’s fragile, fleeting magic.”

(Brett Kashmere, Synoptique)

“MacKenzie orchestrates a sumptuous, stunning collage of moving images and sound which walks a tightrope between control and chance, order and chaos, permanency and change—reminding us of the fragile, ephemeral nature of film and ultimately, of course, of life itself."

(Larissa Fan, Take One Magazine)

ALEX MACKENZIE has been working with various expanded cinema models for over a decade, combining found and original footage, hand-processing, rephotography and a variety of image manipulation techniques in both the 8mm and 16mm gauges. Past screenings of his work have included shows at Pacific Cinematheque in Vancouver BC, Scratch Projections (Paris), The Lux (London), Other Cinema (San Francisco), Collective Unconscious (New York) and many others. He was the founder and director of The Blinding Light!! Cinema and the Vancouver Underground Film Festival, and currently works as an independent curator, graphic designer and writer.

(2004, dual 16mm projector performance, color, black & white, sound, 65 mins)


November 19, 2005 - 8PM
40 Frames, 425 SE 3rd #400

Across the Rappahannock

Robert Beck is Alive and Well and Living in NYC by Brian Frye & Lee Ellickson
(2002, black & white/sound, 3 mins)
Robert Beck was an American soldier from Chicago, who served in the First World War. Struck deaf and dumb by shellshock, Beck was sent to an English sanitarium to convalesce. At some point, the patients attended a movie. Beck began to laugh, and was suddenly cured of his affliction. He became the patron saint of New York’s Robert Beck Memorial Cinema, dedicated to films which touch the marvelous. On September 26, 2000, Stuart Sherman, the great performance artist and filmmaker, presented several of his films, interspersed with “perfilmances,” in which he re-enacted the passion of Robert Beck. This film is a record of that “spectacle,” shot by Lee Ellickson, and accompanied by Maria Callas. Stuart Sherman died on September 14, 2001 in San Francisco. This may have been his last New York performance.

Sunday Morning
(2001, black & white/silent, 2 mins)
Merce and Orla at home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

(2003, black & white/silent, 2 mins)
Bard College threw a party for Stan Brakhage when it awarded him an honorary degree. I shot a roll of film. Several years later, a few days after he died, I dug it out and watched it again. I had meant to make Brakhage a gift of the roll, but instead it became a farewell.

(2001, color/silent, 3 mins)
Brakhage called her the muse, perhaps because she appears only to those who hold a filmstrip in their own hands. But here she visits - if only momentarily - all those who care to see her. "Let us speak plainly: The marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful; indeed, nothing but the marvelous is beautiful."

(Andre Breton)

Oona’s Veil
(2000, black & white/sound, 8 mins)
I know of only one film-record of Oona Chaplin (nee O’Neill), this screen-test made for a film in which she was cast and never appeared, having met and married Charlie Chaplin before shooting commenced. Hers was quite possibly the briefest ever film career, but brevity is no obstacle to greatness. Some say that Chaplin himself directed her screentest; history says otherwise. To hell with history. I rephotographed the original screentest, doing 20 frame (I think) lap dissolves from one from to the next. The idea was lifted wholesale from David Rimmer, though I’ve never seen the film(s?) in which he did it. I was interested in the brief transition from still to motion in Chris Marker’s La Jetee, and wanted to extend it somehow. Anyway, I didn’t like the result, as the image shifted a lot. So I made a duplicate negative and did damage to it, to obscure the hiccups. It was exposed to chemicals, buried, and left on the fire escape for a year. What was left over I untangled, spliced together into something approaching a continuous strip of film, and had printed. The result became the master positive. The sound consists of a 78 of Whispering Hope, played at 33 rpm.

The Anatomy of Melancholy
(1999, black & white/sound, 11 mins)
In 1999, I bought the outtakes from a short film called A Portrait in Fear from the cinematographer. The movie was directed by a chiropractor from Kansas City, Missouri, and shot on an Auricon. The poetry came naturally.

Observations at Gettysburg
(2003, black & white/silent, 10 mins)
The annual Civil War re-enactment at Gettysburg is one of the largest and best attended in the country. Why Gettysburg? Partly because - rightly or not – we take it as the moment at which the outcome of the struggle for America was most in doubt. But truly because the words Lincoln spoke there made of it that moment, framing the struggle in its starkest terms. And so these people who believe in America come to perform its redemption. It is a passion-play, really, a dramatic evocation of the cataclysm in which a young nation expiated its sins in blood, and was reborn.

The Letter
(2001, black & white/sound, 11 mins)
An essay toward documenting the ineffable. I’m told that all philosophy springs from one question: why is there something, rather than nothing? These, perhaps, are fragments of one man’s answer to that question. He spoke to someone; I encountered his ghost and replied with this film. One might consider it a dialogue between a man of Faith and one who has merely tasted of the absurd, yet struggles to ingest it.

Across the Rappahannock
(2002, color/silent, 11 mins)
On December 12, 1863, General Ambrose Burnside’s Army of the Potomac engaged General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in the town of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Before Burnside’s army could enter the town, Union engineers were forced to lay pontoon bridges across the Rappahannock River under withering fire. Close combat through the streets of Fredericksburg and multiple assaults on the Confederate army entrenched in the heights behind the town resulted in heavy Federal casualties, which forced an eventual withdrawal. In November, 2001, I attended a small and relatively informal reenactment of the battle of Fredericksburg. About a hundred men and women did their best to illustrate the actions of the thousands of young men who offered their lives a century earlier. An air of absurd theater suffused the entire event, which provided the ground for its peculiar truth. Everyone played their part exceedingly honestly and well, and left something on the film I was myself surprised to find there.

(2000, color/silent, 3 mins)
At dusk, fireflies rise from the Marble Cemetery in the Lower East Side.

Yayoi Kusuma in Central Park by Mike Olshan
(Circa 1969, black & white/silent, 3 mins)
“I think her name was Yayoi Kusama. She vowed to disrobe in Central Park as an avant-hip artwork event, the cops vowed to stop her, her followers crowded to protect her as she did her flash bit.”

(Mike Olshan)

Terra Incognita by Ben Russell
(2002, color/sound, 10 mins)
“A lenseless film, whose cloudy images produce a memory of history. Ancient and modern explorer’s texts on Easter Island are garbled together by a computer narrator, resulting in a forever repeating narrative of discovery, colonialism, loss and departure.”

(Mark Webber)

BRIAN L. FRYE is a filmmaker, film programmer, freelance journalist, and lawyer, living in Olympia, Washington. He was born in 1974 in San Francisco, spent his childhood in Santa Rosa (immortalized in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt as the creepiest town in California). By the by, he received a BA from UC Berkeley in 1994, an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1997, and a JD from New York University Law School in 2005. He founded New York’s Robert Beck Memorial Cinema with Bradley Eros in 1998. He was included in the Whitney Biennial 2002, the New York Film Festival 2002, the San Francisco International Film Festival 2004, &c. He has published feature articles and reviews in magazines including: the New Republic, Film Comment, Civilization, Cineaste, University Business, the Independent Film and Video Monthly and Millennium Film Journal, among others. He was the founding executive editor of the New York University Journal of Law & Liberty.


November 20, 2005 - 7PM
40 Frames, 425 SE 3rd #400

guest curated by Brian L. Frye

THE FETISHIST by Jim Trainor
(1997, black & white/sound, 38 mins)
In 1946, the Chicago police caught William Heirens, a psychotic with a fetish for panties and poop, who murdered two women and a young girl. The Fetishist imagines Heirens’s inner life through 20,000+ black Sharpie drawings. Trainor’s subtle metaphors capture the terrible, hermetic mystery a killer’s mind, and the nervous, pulsating lines of his animated drawings bring it to life.

(Brian L. Frye)

THE END by Christopher MacLaine
(1953, color/sound, 35 mins)

San Francsico beat poet-cum-filmmaker Christopher MacLaine’s The End captures another form of psychosis: his own. Nominally five stories of five doomed people on their last day, The End is MacLaine’s indictment of a society sliding into psychosis. Its paranoid logic and fractured, associational editing established a unique and influential approach to filmmaking.

(Brian L. Frye)

"An experimental film unique in its liberal inter-cutting of color and black-and-white sequences and in the employment by its poet-maker of sections containing sound only, to deliver what he feels to be an important message. In form the film consists of five episodes dealing with five different people, each seen on the last day of his existence. These episodes are linked by the sound-only sections, and the whole is capped by a lyric code."

(Film-Maker’s Cinematheque)

"San Francisco beat poet Christopher MacLaine made only four films, but the longer two are among the greatest and most original I’ve ever seen. Rarely screened, perhaps because of their crude, homemade look, they have an emotional and spiritual authenticity few mainstream films can match. THE END, running 35 minutes, tells the stories of seven people on the last day of their lives (most of them are preparing to kill themselves, but the world is also about to be annihilated by the Bomb) with a mix of black humor and bizarre twists."

(Fred Camper, Chicago Reader)


December 13/14 - 8pm
40 Frames, 425 SE 3rd #400

"This highly original ’cutting attack on American greed from the ’50s through the ’80s and beyond’ (Michael Wilmington, Los Angeles Times) is a chilling pseudo-documentary about the culture of waste-brokering from ’arguably the most cynical media artist on the West (or any) Coast today’ (Bay Area filmmaker Craig Baldwin). Forevermore is a meditative narrative about the legacy of toxic-waste dumping in the American landscape and psyche. The film takes a freeform, diaristic approach, combining dreams, memories, scientific documentation and visions in a revealing method of truth-telling that, in 1989, presaged the current vogue of post-objective documentaries and narrative reenactments. The film also predicts, and laments, the failure of US Federal EPA initiatives like SUPERFUND and RCRA, exposing them as yet more euphemisms destroyed by corporate politics."

(Konrad Steiner)

"A highly distinctive pseudodocumentary by Eric Saks, an environmentalist based in Los Angeles. At once novelistic and poetic, this achronological collage of diary entries between the 1940s and 1990s by a fictional toxic-waste dumper named Isaac Hudak--the different stages of his life are played by three actors, including Saks--creates a haunting portrait of an alienated drifter’s existence that comprises the underside of our national heritage. Behind the dry recitation of ecological facts in the narration, there is a powerful overall sense of the poetics of waste (a register that recalls Thomas Pynchon), with writers as diverse as E.M. Cioran and Peter Handke used to flesh out some of the diary entries. Highly original in its form, its subject, its funereal tone, and its ghostly sensibility, this is a remarkable and memorable first feature, full of haunting ideas and eerie aftereffects."

(Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader)

Forevermore: Biography of a Leach Lord
(1989, color/sound, 83 mins)

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