Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Beyond Baroque Literary Art Center's Film Festival (curated by Tosh Berman)


Being a poetry/fiction mad obsessed man, I pretty much hung out at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Venice California.  This was in 1991/1992.  Benjamin Weissman was the program director for literary readings, and he brought incredible talent to the center.  I asked him and the Director at the time if I could show films there.  Or maybe Benjamin asked me?  Nevertheless they said 'yes,' but I had to raise funds to purchase a pair of 16mm film projectors. With a little sweat, good luck, and kindness of a few backers, we got the equipment we needed.  All minimal, but nevertheless we could project 16mm films onto to a stand up screen.  Very old school.

With the help of Lun*na Menoh, and a couple of projectionists, but mostly with Relah Eckstein, we did a show.  One of the first ideas I had was to bring Buster Keaton in a more adventuresome  light.  Famous at the time of course, but still I felt people were looking at him as just as a slapstick clown.  In my eyes he was the ultimate 20th Century man.  I decided to put him on a program with Luis Bunuel films.  It was a perfect fit.


Alice Guy-Blaché and Lois Weber were pioneering filmmakers from the teens and Twenties.  Alice Guy was a major producer who ran a film studio in France.  The films she made were charming and funny.  The American Lois Weber's films dealt with the politics of its day.  When you think of it now quite daring for her time. 


Another program focusing on the works of pioneering women filmmakers. Here I focused on Weber and Guy but also Leni Reienstahl, and got a  nasty letter for showing her on this program.  

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Very interesting double-bill of classic kid novels but versions made in the teens.  "The Wizard of Oz " was actually directed by the book's author L. Frank Baum. 


Early Rene Clair films that were at the time very hard to see.  Remember this was the time of VHS, and a lot of these films didn't make it to the cross over.  "Crazy Ray" was a very funny Clair film. It was about a ray that could stop time, therefore everything is frozen.  Lighthearted yet had serious overtones.  Perfect match.


This was the only time where I actually had the filmmaker showing his films.  Harun Farocki is a German filmmaker, theorist, and writer.  The work was fascinating, and I was very lucky to get him to do this.   The Goethe Institute was very helpful with respect to this program.


At the time I was crazy about Peter Greenaway.  He was the only filmmaker at that time that drove people batty.  I never have been in an audience where someone's work really pissed people off.  These short films he made before he became big, were charming, funny, and hypnotic. 


What a wonderful night.  I showed all the classic Joseph Cornell films, but also a woman came by early with a film reel under her arm.  She told me that Cornell made this film for her, and she never saw it.  So the film has never been projected or shown to anyone.  It was a 'wow.'  But a secret 'wow' because no one, including me was expecting someone to bring such a treasure to our little place.


More Cornell!  Also films by Bruce Conner.  A nice combination because both used found footage in their work.  


To me there was something subversive of showing a silent Oscar Wilde related films.  A man known for his words, yet we had silent versions of two of his major works.  "Lady Windermere's Fans" and the legendary "Salome."  Both films by the way were excellent.  A sold-out audience where no one was under 70 years old.  And all men!


Odd enough "Band of Outsiders" was not shown that much in Los Angeles at the time.  Nor was it on VHS.  This and a Godard short "All The Boys Called Patrick" was a magical night.  Dancing in the aisles!


It is amazing but right now I can look at the right side of the desk and see my French, British, and American edition of Louis Feuillade's "Fantomas" on DVD.  In 1991, the film was a total mystery and no one, and I mean no one was aware of this piece work.  The film is six 1 hour episodes in total. What I did was show Chapter 2, each episode was a separate and complete narrative - and it was an amazing film.  Without a doubt one of my all-time favorite films. 


The great and kind of tragic Edgar Ulmer.  Odd enough "Detour" was not available on VHS at the time.  So here was the perfect marriage of a film with no budget shown in an organization that barely had a budget.  Kind of sad, but beautiful at the same time.



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