Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Songs that Went Around the World: the Backstory of PRESENTING PRINCESS SHAW

For the past four years, a young woman in New Orleans, Samantha Montgomery, has uploaded songs to YouTube using her iPhone. The songs are unaccompanied, raw, emotional, and beautiful dispatches from this very talented young woman who works in a nursing home by day and pursues a seemingly hopeless musical career by night.

One of her songs, which she calls "Give It Up", attracted the attention of Kutiman, an Israeli artist whose process involves taking various sections of musical performances found on YouTube - often things like bass lessons or violin recitals - and chopping them, looping them and recombining them into new songs, with accompanying videos. His work is very popular, and he has performed/exhibited at the Solomon Guggenheim Museum in New York among other venues. He was inspired by Montgomery's song and set to work creating an arrangement and video for it.

The accompaniment Kutiman chose for the song was especially inspired and the song, so private and personal, seems to open and flower in this context.

Here is the original song by Montgomery (aka Princess Shaw):

And here is the Kutiman "Through You Too" version:

The film PRESENTING PRINCESS SHAW, which plays at the AFS Cinema on Wednesday 9/28 and Monday 10/3, documents the life and work of both Montgomery and Kutiman as they work on their projects on different continents, and then we see the phenomenon emerge and Montgomery join Kutiman for a tour. Montgomery, who has faced a lot of challenges in life, is funny, sweet and indomitable, and she makes the movie run on her rhythm. It's an emotional and heartfelt film.

New AFS Cinema Design Plan Announced

There's an exciting piece in the Austin Chronicle today about the ongoing redesign of the AFS Cinema. As many of you know, the AFS Cinema will close for several months on October 31 for renovation and improvement. When the theater reopens there will be a second full-time screen, a better bar and concession area, and a spacious lobby (see rendering above). We will still offer the same kinds of acclaimed film programs we do now, only with a full schedule and two screens. This means there will be six times as many screenings in the new AFS Cinema. That's a big deal and we're all excited about it.

We're also excited to have Designtrait and architect Michael Hsu on board to work with us in realizing the look and feel of the cinema. We love Michael's designs for the P. Terry's locations and South Congress Hotel and we have spent a lot of time conveying our own passion for cinema spaces to the design team.

This will be a great, vibrant spot for watching films new and old, on 35mm and DCP, and for community partnerships. We hope to see you all there many times.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Herschell Gordon Lewis, A Great Showman, Has Died

Filmmaker Herschell Gordon Lewis (born 1929), who went from being a Professor of English literature at Mississippi State University to the notorious "Godfather Of Gore" a few years later, has died, according to his friend, Something Weird Video head Lisa Petrucci.

Lewis was a very smart, funny and well read man who was making industrial films for a living when he caught wind of the audience demand for nudist and sexploitation films, he made a few of these in tandem with producer David Friedman - theirs was a dream team of witty, energetic showmen - and when the market for skin was more than satiated, they tried something new: the gore film. 1963's BLOOD FEAST was the first of these, a hysterically overamplified horror film that featured lots and lots of full color blood and entrails. This was truly something new, and the market responded, especially the drive-in audiences who demanded more. Gordon responded with many more of these including the ambitious TWO THOUSAND MANIACS (1964) and his masterpiece, THE WIZARD OF GORE (1970), which I think we can consider a true work of art.

It's probable that without Lewis we would not have had John Waters' forays into bad taste land, and his aesthetic helped to define a peculiarly American strain of weirdness that has permeated music and culture since.

Never one to take himself too seriously, Lewis, in later days, hosted screenings of his work preceded by hilarious anecdotes and played the banjo, leading singalongs of the theme from 2000 MANIACS. Genial and energetic into his eighties he always believed in giving the audience a show.

Here is the trailer for his breakthrough film BLOOD FEAST. Note the authoritative tone and shocking color. This really packed them in.

Watch This: Pioneering Animator Winsor McCay's 1912 Short: HOW A MOSQUITO OPERATES

Winsor McCay (born on this date in 1871) was one of the most popular newspaper cartoonists of his day, and his highly idiosyncratic strips like "Little Nemo In Slumberland" and "Dream Of The Rarebit Fiend" have gained followers ever since with their highly surreal premises and gorgeous art. McCay was also quick to realize the potential of animation as his early films attest.

The following is his second film, made using thousands of rice paper cells, and painstakingly drawn and redrawn by McCay himself. He made 9 other films, which he would tour from city to city with. He was not technically the first animator, but he may have been the first true animation visionary.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Happy Birthday Anna Karina!

Last week the AFS Programming team was in Toronto all week where we saw many outstanding films, many of which you will see on our screens throughout the year. This week we are furiously catching up on our work.

So, is a birthday photo gallery of the marvelous Danish-French actress Anna Karina, born on this date in 1940, the epitome of editorial low-hanging fruit? Yes it is. In other news, Anna Karina is awesome. Happy birthday!

With JLG in CLEO FROM 5 TO 7

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Primer on Experimental Film Legend Ken Jacobs, Appearing in Austin This Week

Ken Jacobs, a pioneer of experimental and avant-garde cinema will be joining us at the AFS Cinema on Wednesday September 21 for a program of his short films cosponsored by Experimental Response Cinema. The following night Jacobs lectures at the University Of Texas. On September 24, Jacobs will provide live projections for a musical performance at AMODA's First Street Studio. These events are part of the Optic Antics Festival. Schedule and tickets are available here.

Who Is Ken Jacobs? (written and researched by Erik Olson)

“Part of what I do is explode film,” Ken Jacobs says in an interview. Jacobs has been making experimental films since the late 1950s. His style has certainly evolved over the decades, finding new ways to explode and explore the boundaries of cinema. Along the way he has received the AFI’s Maya Deren Award, the Stan Brakhage Vision Award, a Guggenheim fellowship and countless other marks of distinction.

One of his earliest films, LITTLE STABS AT HAPPINESS (1959-1963), is part of a section of experimental films that were “anecdotal, almost home-movie, narratives cultivated by filmmakers influenced by the Beat and hipster milieus”. The fifteen minute vignette film feels like someone looking back at the past, especially from minutes three to six, where Jacobs, years later, recorded a voice over narration talking about the people in the film and how they are no longer in his life.

TOM, TOM, THE PIPER'S SON (1969) is one of Jacobs’ more well known works, having been admitted to the National Film Registry in 2007. It takes a short film from 1905 of the same name and is then “rephotographed” by slowing down the film, freezing frames, zooming in on images. Really anything you can do, he does it. Jacobs then repeats the short as seen before, allowing us to be more active in the images we are seeing. It’s a “film about watching movies.” The whole almost two hour film cannot be viewed online, but an eight minute excerpt can be watched below.

In 2004, Jacobs made STAR SPANGLED TO DEATH (2004), a nearly seven-hour film reflecting on the dangers of capitalism in America. The film is combined with found-films and footage shot by Jacobs featuring Jack Smith (from LITTLE STABS AT HAPPINESS above). The film looks at a sold-out culture, racial and religious insanity, addiction to war, and other subjects harmed by capitalism. Stylistically, the film looks like a combination of the “home-movie” aesthetic of LITTLE STABS AT HAPPINESS and the found-footage experimentation of TOM, TOM, THE PIPER'S SON. Below is a three-minute clip of the film.

Click here for a clip of STAR SPANGLED TO DEATH.

Finally, here is Jacobs' hour-long interview for the Conversations with History series.

Art House Theater Day is Saturday, Celebrate with Two Special AFS Screenings

A special message from Gabriel Chicoine, AFS Marketing Associate and founder of the national Art House Theater Day:
Record stores, comic book shops and bookstores all get their own special day when their patrons come together to celebrate their obsession of choice. So why not independent movie theaters? That was the thought behind Art House Theater Day, sponsored by an international consortium of “mission-driven, independent cinemas” called Art House Convergence, which has been an important forum for art house exhibitors since its formation in 2006.

“Art House Theater Day celebrates the art house theater and the cultural role it plays in a community. It is a day to recognize the year-round contributions of film and filmmakers, patrons, projectionists, and staff, and the brick and mortar theaters that are passionately dedicated to providing access to the best cinematic experience.” In short, it’s a day to acknowledge just how vibrant, scrappy, diverse and dedicated the art house film community is, from indie filmmakers and distributors to programmers and audience members.

Over 195 theaters will celebrate the inaugural Art House Theater Day by showing special films, holding giveaways, and generally partying hard. For AFS, Art House Theater Day has special significance, because as you know, this year is the first one that we have our own theater to call home. This fall we’ll be settling in even more and making some changes to create a space we’re super proud of (more on that very soon).

Celebrate Art House Theater this Saturday by joining AFS for the theatrical premiere of a new 2K Janus restoration of Terry Gilliam’s TIME BANDITS, and the one-day-only theatrical release of two all-new A TOWN CALLED PANIC animated specials: BACK TO SCHOOL PANIC & A CHRISTMAS PANIC. The first 100 audience members at TIME BANDITS will receive a limited edition print of the Gilliam-illustrated Time Map from Janus Films. The first 20 who attend A TOWN CALLED PANIC: THE SPECIALS will receive a special ATCP pencil case and buttons from GKids. We’ll see you on Art House Theater Day!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Pair of Interviews with French Cinema Legend Babette Mangolte

If she had only shot Chantal Akerman's JEANNE DIELMAN, 23, QUAI DU COMMERCE, 1080 BRUXELLES (1975) and NEWS FROM HOME (1977) Babette Mangolte's place in cinema history would be assured. But there's so much more, as she also lensed Akerman's LA CHAMBRE and HOTEL MONTEREY (both 1972), as well as Yvonne Rainer's LIVES OF PERFORMERS (1972) and KRISTINA TALKING PICTURES (1976), Jean-Pierre Gorin's MY CRASY LIFE (1992) and more.

In addition to her work as a cinematographer she has directed many fine works of cinema. She will present her film THE CAMERA: JE OR LA CAMERA : I (1977) at the AFS Cinema on Saturday 9/17. The previous night, she presents a screening of Chantal Akerman's NEWS FROM HOME. These screenings, and the entire Chantal Akerman series, are made possible by Austin's own Experimental Response Cinema.

Here is a very interesting interview with the Village Voice, in which she talks about the early years of filmmaking in New York and her and Akerman's philosophy of feminism and filmmaking.
"Emotion was definitely something that was coming from the historical context of feminism. We were saying, "We're not going to make films like a father, or like a brother or lover. We're going to make films differently, because we are going to tap into things that they don't see because they don't have the experience of living as a woman." That was the whole point of feminism in the 1970s. We wanted to invent."
And here is another very good, longer piece from Interview Magazine from earlier this year. In that interview she discusses why the New Wave did not appeal to her as a member of the younger generation.
"I'm really interested in experimental works, so the people that I admired the most was Dziga Vertov, Eisenstein, people from the '20s. Also, I loved John Ford and his westerns. The New Wave was not tender to women. I lived on the Left Bank, so I was more interested in the people considered "Left Bank," which were Alain Resnais, Chris Marker, Agnès Varda, and so on. I met Alain Resnais, actually, when I was an assistant editor, I was in an editing room next to Resnais, who was editing The War is Over [1966]. I thought he was so elegant. Obviously I really admired Hiroshima Mon Amour [1959], and Muriel[1963] I thought was a masterpiece. I like Vivre sa vie [1962], I like The 400 Blows[1959]. It makes no sense to bad mouth people, but I think Godard is astonishing as a survivalist, somebody who can do a film that is as extraordinary as Goodbye to Language [2014]. In the '60s when I started to see everything I could see, you could see pretty much everything which was still available from the '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, and therefore I had an education which was really large and vast in different cinema. That's probably the reason I did not fall for the New Wave. It's really the love of the movies that made me want to become a cameraperson, definitely. I was really a film buff."

Thursday, September 1, 2016

From 1982: Godard, Herzog, Fassbinder, Spielberg Talk to Wim Wenders' Camera About the State of the Art

In 1982, during the Cannes Film Festival, Wim Wenders rented room 666 at the Hotel Martinez and asked a number of directors to speak on camera about the future of the cinema, using a sheet of questions written by Wenders. Each was given one 16mm reel of film in which to complete his or her remarks. The resulting feature, ROOM 666, is now hard to locate in full, but a number of the interviews are available either in English or subtitled in English, on YouTube. You can watch these below. For completeness' sake, here is the list of all interviewees in the film.

Jean-Luc Godard
Paul Morrissey
Mike De Leon
Monte Hellman
Romain Goupil
Susan Seidelman
Noël Simsolo
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Werner Herzog
Robert Kramer
Ana Carolina
Maroun Bagdadi
Steven Spielberg
Michelangelo Antonioni
Wim Wenders
Yilmaz Güney