Emma Hurst spent seven weeks screening home movies as an intern for Rick Prelinger’s film No More Road Trips. Her *stills project gathers together the most “enchanting, bizarre or beautiful” images that she encountered among “millions of frames.”
The Oilscapes events in Aberdeen have reinvigorated my thinking on film, archives, and the environment. Jacques Perconte’s explorations of real and virtual worlds belong in this conversation as well.
A couple of days ago, my colleague Paul Flaig brought a fascinating trend to my attention. In the wake of Hugo and The Artist, a wave of new media applications have emerged that transform (ho-hum) full color and sound video into hi-def mimics of the silent era. See here, here, and here. The “Silent Film Director” app reached a startling 300,000 uploads in April of this year. As Paul pointed out, the reviews and comments on these applications are perhaps strangest of all (esp. for those who have spent years trying to get students excited about silent cinema). Just one example here. “The effects are really cool. You have black and white…”
Over the last couple of weeks, I have been looking more carefully at the expansive field of recycled cinemas. I am particularly interested in the the places where found and orphan films intersect with the contemporary avant garde, producing works that are torn between past and present tenses, between concepts and material. At the recommendation of a colleague, I have been making my way through the work of Peter Tscherkassky,
an Austrian filmmaker whose work combines cinematic scraps with dense layers of sound:
Dream Work (2001)
Tscherkassky’s work also includes several returns to early cinema. His most recent film, Coming Attractions (2010) explores Tom Gunning’s canonical concept across eleven distinct visual “chapters”. I am still trying to get my hands on it for a screening. In the meantime, bits of Tscherkassky’s other works can be found online. Mubi hosts a small, but very good collection (and charges a small fee per film).
I just came across this compilation of Helen Hill films from NOLA’s 2010 Timecode festival. The reel includes Madame Winger Makes a Film: A Survival Guide for the 21st Century (around 3:50), as well as a handful of other shorts from the Harvard collection of Helen Hill’s work. I have written about Hill elsewhere and am happy to see some of her films circulating online. Madame Winger is one of my favorite Hill shorts; it encapsulates so much of her (playful, instructive, extraordinary) practice.
On April 21, 2011, a twenty-two-year-old Basque film student named Aitor Gametxo uploaded this remix of D.W. Griffith’s one-reel Sunbeam (1912) to Vimeo:
Variation on the Sunbeam (Aitor Gametxo, 2011)
By the end of August 2011, Variation on the Sunbeam had begun to attract the attention of cinéphiles, professional scholars, and film historians. On August 31, Kevin Lee celebrated the work as “remix video at its best.” On September 5, Kristin Thompson posted the film—in a “bid to help it go viral”—on the blog she shares with David Bordwell, Observations on Film Art. On September 6, Roger Ebert tweeted about Gametxo’s Variation with a hat-tip and link to Thompson and Bordwell. On September 8, Luke McKernan shared the “singularly inventive film” on Bioscope, a blog dedicated to silent cinema.
A little late to the moon party…
Lobster Films completed its restoration of a hand-colored Voyage dans la lune (Georges Méliès, 1902) in 2011. The work took twenty years. It is the most expensive restoration in the history of cinema. The print premiered at Cannes with a new soundtrack by Air. It will screen elsewhere this month (and can be found embedded in Scorsese’s 3D homage to Méliès, Hugo). Here, one can see an interview with Serge Bromberg, the Director of Lobster Films, on the acquisition of the print (from Spain). In the interview, Bromberg interestingly claims that the aim of the project was “to promote…and to revive the experience of ‘Trip to the Moon’.” It would be interesting to put some pressure on the ellipses, to hear more about the promotional ends of this particular restoration and the experience promoters hoped to revive. More interesting perhaps, is the way in which the hyper-national restoration, promotion and re-release of the film (from Lobster to Air to Cannes) conceals the transnational circuits that the film travelled before finding its way back to origin stories and national mythologies.
Neil Cummings and Marysia Lewandowska have gathered the remnants of socialist Poland’s amateur film clubs and made this material available under a creative commons license. From their site:
These licenses grant you the right to use, copy, sometimes modify and redistribute any film, text or image that you find of interest here. The most important operational clause within the license is that these rights -to copy, modify and redistribute- must be extended to others. The source material, and all derivative works will become in perpetuity, a legally protected creative resource. Artists and others will be able to use and re-use the material for future creative exchange, enriching rather than depleting the public domain.
It is rare for a virtual archive to be so open, accessible, and self-reflexive (an extension, perhaps, of the counter-forces that made these amateur films possible amid “the breathless flow” of State-sponsored media). The site is available in Polish, English, Spanish, and Basque. Films are streamable, downloadable, remixable. The archive includes extensive notes on the history of the project and Poland’s film clubs. Interviews with the amateur filmmakers and film club members available here, along with a handful of essays on the cultural, political, and art/film-historical questions that these images pose.