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‘The Flicker’: The legendary (and potentially) mind blowing underground film where nothing happens
06.02.2014
11:40 am

Topics:
Art
Movies

Tags:
The Flicker
Tony Conrad


 
Since he was both a Harvard math major and a member (along with John Cale and Angus Maclise from the Velvet Underground) of LaMonte Young’s drone ensemble the Theatre of Eternal Music (aka “The Dream Syndicate”) it makes sense that artist/musician Tony Conrad would produce a hypnotic film that combined his studies in mathematics and structure with his interest in the psychoactive effects of repetitive or prolonged intervals of pure sound.

The result is “The Flicker,” a film legendary from being mentioned in dozens upon dozens of books on underground film, “expanded cinema” and the Velvet Underground. Few have seen it since the 1960s.

It begins with a message:

WARNING. The producer, distributor, and exhibitors waive all liability for physical or mental injury possibly caused by the motion picture “The Flicker.” Since this film may induce epileptic seizures or produce mild symptoms of shock treatment in certain persons, you are cautioned to remain in the theatre only at your own risk. A physician should be in attendance.

A frame then reads “Tony Conrad Presents” followed by a stylized quasi-Fluxus looking title card. The screen goes white. The screen goes black. When it starts to speed up, the stroboscopic effects are not just similar to—but in my opinion far superior to—the internal visions created by Brion Gysin’s psychoactive kinetic sculpture, Dreamachine.
 

 
Conrad told Hyperreal:

When I made the film “The Flicker” in 1965-66 my principal motivation was to explore the possibilities for harmonic expression using a sensory mode other than sound. The experience of “flicker” - its peculiar entrapment of the central nervous system, by ocular driving - occurs over a frequency range of about 4 to 40 flashes per second (fps). I used film (at 24 fps) as a sort of “tonic,” and devised patterns of frames which would represent combinations of frequencies - heterodyned, or rather multiplexed together. I was interested to see whether there might be combination-frequency effects that would occur with flicker, analogous to the combination-tone effects that are responsible for consonance in musical sound.

I don’t think he was whistling “Dixie” when it came to that warning, btw. If a strobe light can set off an epileptic seizure, surely “The Flicker” could. If I haven’t already scared you off, sit with it long enough and you can get a high that’s similar to bed spins without the nausea (I mean that in a good way!)

Here’s an excerpt from “The Flicker” on YouTube. Although it’s a little ratty-looking, you can still more or less “get” the effect. There is a clean version that you can find floating around on torrent trackers and various blogs. I recommend looking for it, it’s really neat.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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William Shatner speaks Esperanto in oddball cult horror film ‘Incubus’
06.02.2014
09:22 am

Topics:
Movies
Occult

Tags:
William Shatner
Leslie Stevens


 
Just before he signed-up to play Captain James T. Kirk on Star Trek, William Shatner made a bizarre, little seen, art-house horror movie called Incubus.

It was little seen because the film’s original negative and nearly all of its prints were thought lost or destroyed not long after its initial screenings at film festivals.

Bizarre, well for two reasons, firstly because the whole movie, though shot in California, was performed in Esperanto, an artificial hotchpotch of a language created in the late 19th century by L. L. Zamenof to encourage peace and understanding between the peoples of different nations.
 

 
Incubus was written and directed by Leslie Stevens, creator of The Outer Limits. It came about after The Outer Limits had been canceled. Stevens was looking for a way to kickstart his career and curiously decided that an artsy low budget horror film in a language very few people understood could be the answer. William Shatner who starred as Marc in the film later recalled that Stevens’ script…

“...had a starkness and a simplicity to it - of good and evil, it was kind of Greek in its simplicity and the way that events marched, in the script, to their inevitable conclusion. So I read it and called him back quickly and said, ‘that’s wonderful, I’d love to do it.’”

At this point in his career, Shatner had appeared in numerous episodic television roles (including The Outer Limits episode “Cold Hands, Warm Heart”) and in supporting roles in a few notable features, such as Judgment at Nuremberg and The Outrage. His only leads in a feature at this point were for The Explosive Generation and more provocatively in Roger Corman’s The Intruder, which received very scant distribution.

Shatner said “when [Incubus] was presented to me I was in the throes of some good work and in demand, and this was a small picture, it was something that you might not think of as, in that famous phrase, a ‘career move,’ but it was so intriguing, and I so enjoyed working with Leslie Stevens, that I wanted to be in it.”

Stevens wanted to “put the film in a different place,” so he decided to have the actors speak in Esperanto throughout the movie. Stevens figured Esperanto was strange, exotic and archaic enough to create a mysterious sense of otherness. This was the second feature made in Esperanto, though the language had been used to atmospheric effect as set dressing in Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, as Hitler had denounced Esperanto as a Jewish plot to take over the world.

When Incubus was premiered at the San Francisco Film Festival in October 1966 and a group of 50-100 Esperantists “screamed and laughed and carried on like maniacs” every time the actors mispronounced the language—Shatner’s Esperanto is considered especially bad as he used a nasal French-sounding manner to enunciate the language. (He was raised in Montreal.)
 

 
The movie was further “bizarre” not just for its art house style (kinda Cocteau meets Bergman) but because of the strange incidents associated with a curse supposedly put on the film.

Via IMDB:

In his commentary for the DVD, William Shatner recalled an incident that occurred when the cast and crew first arrived in Big Sur, California. He remembers a “hippie” man approaching the company, and inquiring into their endeavor. Shatner says that the cast and crew reacted with some hostility to his interest, which angered him in turn. The “hippie” then loudly put a curse on their production, which some people believe came in effect.

 
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The curse was blamed for a series of incidents that occurred within a year of the film’s production. After its initial, limited release the film was considered lost after being destroyed in a fire (or accidentally destroyed by a French film lab, it’s unclear); one of the main actors Milos Milos, who played the Incubus, killed his lover Carolyn Mitchell (estranged wife of Mickey Rooney) and then committed suicide; while actress Ann Atmar who played Shatner’s sister Arndis in the film also killed herself. Even the composer, Dominic Frontiere was convicted and spent some time in prison for scalping literally thousands of Super Bowl tickets in the 1980s

Tragic events and criminal activity aside, a print of Incubus was discovered at the Cinémathèque Française in Paris. A new print was created frame-by-frame, with English subtitles superimposed over the French ones.

So what’s it all about? Well, Incubus tells the story of an ancient Deer Well and the succubus who prey on sinful people who use it. If a corrupt person drinks from the well the water will taste salty, only a person pure of heart can benefit the healing properties of the well. Tired of killing the bunch of sinners who drink from the well, succubus Kia (Allyson Ames) schemes to lure a man pure of heart to the well as a sacrifice to the God of Darkness. Cue William Shatner as Marc, a wounded soldier, who Kia falls in love with, causing her sisterly demon Amael (Eloise Hardt) to raise an Incubus (Milos Milos) to bring revenge on Marc and his sister Arndis (Ann Atmar).
 

 
With thanks to Paul D. Brazill

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Chilled Monkey Brains Bowl for your next Indiana Jones-themed dinner party
05.30.2014
01:24 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Food
Movies

Tags:
Home decor


 
I find these monkey brain bowls by FireBox amusing, but with a price tag of $58.59 a pop, maybe not enough to purchase. If they were a tad cheaper I’d probably buy a set of four. If you’ve got the extra dough to spend, these would make an excellent conversation piece for sure but you might get sick of eating red jello or cherry cobbler all the time.


 
Via Boing Boing

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Black female filmmaker gently goes face-to-face with Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis
05.30.2014
12:54 pm

Topics:
Current Events
Movies
Race

Tags:
The Aryans


 
Mo Asumang, who’s the daughter of a black Ghanaian father and a white German mother, talks to the BBC about her new documentary The Aryans in which she peacefully confronts racists about what makes them tick.

There are some real zingers in this short piece, especially when she confronts a Ku Klux Klan member about his garb.

Filmmaker Mo Asumang embarks on a journey into the abyss of political evil and finds out that the Aryans originally come from an area which now belongs to Iran. ‘The Aryans’ is a personal journey into the madness of racism: Mo Asumang meets German neo-Nazis, America’s most notorious racist Tom Metzger and members of the Ku Klux Klan in the Midwest. When she encounters the true Aryans in Iran, she realizes that they are friendly and cosmopolitan people who lay no claims to being members of a superior race.

What I like about Mo’s interview style is her gentle approach. She’s not confrontational. It’s almost like the KKK members are ashamed or feel shameful of what they’re doing when they speak to her.  That’s a unique talent!
 

 
Via reddit

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Behind the scenes of David Lynch’s ‘Dune’
05.29.2014
01:49 pm

Topics:
Movies

Tags:
David Lynch
Dune
Frank Herbert

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When it was released thirty years ago, David Lynch’s film version of Frank Herbert’s science-fiction novel Dune was almost unanimously reviled by critics. It was considered incomprehensible, boring, disjointed, cold, and the special effects were cheap and nasty. When I saw it the following year, I couldn’t understand the enmity. I liked David Lynch as a filmmaker, and thought Dune was an intelligent, well-made and thoroughly engaging film. Lynch’s vision (via author Herbert) was not the clean, pristine, plastic, over-lit world of Star Wars, it was a gritty, darker and a far more believable construct than what Lucas had created with Skywalker and co.

I also think Lynch was was being overly harsh on himself when he said:

“I started selling out on Dune. Looking back, it’s no one’s fault but my own. I probably shouldn’t have done that picture, but I saw tons and tons of possibilities for things I loved, and this was the structure to do them in. There was so much room to create a world. But I got strong indications from [producers] Raffaella and Dino De Laurentiis of what kind of film they expected, and I knew I didn’t have final cut.”

All employment involves some selling out, and the creative industries involve this more than most. However, Dune‘s Frank Herbert was more diplomatic:

“I enjoyed the film even as a cut and I told it as I saw it: What reached the screen is a visual feast that begins as Dune begins and you hear my dialogue all through it.”

Unlike some behind the scenes photos where actors pose on set and directors smile for camera, these pictures from the making of Dune give a good idea of the intense work cast and crew go through in the making of a movie.
 
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More images and videos after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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What if heterosexuals were a bullied minority?
05.29.2014
01:21 pm

Topics:
Movies
Queer

Tags:
bullying
LGBT

breederpic
 

Why the hell were there no After School Specials like Love is All You Need? The short film by Kim Rocco Shields depicts an alternate reality where heterosexuality is a societal taboo. “Breeders” are denigrated, even the proud ones with pink and blue bumper stickers on their cars, harassed on a daily basis, constantly told they are going to hell and have disgusting, perverted, sinful lifestyles, and subjected to violence. The main character, Ashley, is a young girl who is horrified to realize that she is attracted to boys.

In her review of the film blogger Jennifer Coté said:

The world of this film is one in which the perfect nuclear family consists either of two moms or two dads, and any kid who dares to dream of a future that looks different from this runs the risk of merciless bullying. As you can probably guess from my description thus far, this short film carries some weighty messages about sexually-motivated bullying and suicides, but the fact that the story is set in an alternate universe somehow enables the flick to come off as neither preachy nor heavy handed…  This is to say: the way that writer Kim Rocco Shields thinks to put every heterosexual viewer into the shoes of a bullied kid is absolutely brilliant, and it left me itching to get this movie shown in schools everywhere.

Shields made the film a few years ago at the beginning of Dan Savage’s It Gets Better campaign to illustrate to flummoxed adults why so many LGBT preteens and teen-agers were committing suicide after being mercilessly bullied.

The Daily Californian’s Matthew Kirschenbaum took issue with the predominantly white suburban setting of the film:

First of all, it is important to recognize that the video portrays problematic (mis)appropriations of queer identity and unrepresentative portrayals of only white, middle-class folk. Still, it is beneficial because it puts sexuality-based oppression into a different lens — one for the oppressor to relate to. I don’t believe the target audience of the video is the queer crowd fighting for queer agenda and equality, but rather non-queers who are dubious of change.

The video implicitly advocates issues such as marriage equality and calls hatred into question. Personally, it took me a few minutes to realize what was really happening in the video, and it strikingly resembled something familiar to me, being one of those kids coming to realization. Although unfortunately extreme and dramatic, the common themes of bullying and realizing difference play out to highlight the opposers of queer agenda and their unjustified, harmful acts and sayings.

In an interview with Sonoma SunTV’s Rick Love Shields said:

Actually my first draft of the script, I wrote it for a little boy that was bullied, and I realized that our society is so used to seeing violence against men in general. Our society is very used to seeing violence, so I thought, well, what better way to open people’s eyes is to get a female protagonist who looks like the girl next door, who’s relatable in every way and show her being bullied as a boy would. So in one scene she is hit across the face by an older guy, and that happens to boys all the time. It brings awareness when you’re seeing it happen to a young girl.

 

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
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Harry Dean Stanton shares his Zen wisdom
05.27.2014
06:06 am

Topics:
Belief
Movies

Tags:
Harry Dean Stanton
Zen

naedyrrah.jpg
 
Who knew Harry Dean Stanton was such a mystical Zen master? Apparently Marlon Brando did and the two actors spent many an hour sharing their wisdom about acting, life and the meaning of existence. One day, Brando asked Stanton what he thought of him? Stanton replied:

“I think you’re nothing.”

Brando laughed.

“He knew what I was talking about. The old eastern concept, one guy phrased it, ‘To realise you’re nothing is wisdom. To realise you’re everything is love. Or pure intelligence or pure awareness.

“Ultimately that can’t be defined in words, it’s beyond words, beyond consciousness. And that’s a hard sell, but it’s true.”

If that doesn’t twist your melon, then you may be surprised to hear that Mr. Stanton thinks everything is predestined. That might scare the shit out of some people, but dear old Harry still thinks life is predestined. When asked to explain what he means and how predestination affects the reasons he chose one role over another, Stanton responds:

“Again there’s no answer to that. Don’t you follow what I’m trying to say? Everyone wants an answer to why I did this, why all this happened, ultimately there is no answer to it.

“Everything happens the way it’s going to happen, no one’s in charge, it’s all going to go down, you know, Iraq, war, Napoleon, serial killers, wars, all of it. You never know what’s going to happen next. We think we’re in charge and ten seconds from now none of us in this room know what we’re going to be thinking or saying. So who the fuck’s in charge?”

You are Harry, and for the next twenty minutes you’re going to tell us all about it.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Anatomical illustrations of Godzilla and other Japanese monsters
05.23.2014
06:27 am

Topics:
Art
Movies

Tags:
Godzilla
Mothra
Anguirus

Mothra
Mothra
 
These remarkable images of the anatomy of Godzilla, Mothra, and Anguirus are a little bit puzzling. They clearly come from a book (the Anguirus picture has the number 69 prominently displayed in the upper-left-hand corner), but I don’t know what the book is or who the artist is or what any of the Japanese text says. And two of them are cut off on the side—I’d particularly like to see what the artist did with the spiked tail club of Anguirus, but it’s not visible.

Anguirus is kind of the star of the show here, because his anatomy is so very compelling. In Godzilla Raids Again, the scientists mention how tough Anguirus is to defeat because he has “a brain for each limb.” You can see in the pic that there is some text about Anguirus’ left knee, presumably it is an explanation of Anguirus’ unique central nervous system. According to the Worlds of Imagination website, Anguirus “has also shown the ability to curl himself into a ball and propel himself at tremendous speed in Godzilla: Final Wars.”

A couple of years ago Brad McGinty did a few similar illustrations of the Xenomorph from Alien, Mogwai from Gremlins, and a few others, but these don’t look to be from him as far as I can tell.
 
Godzilla
Godzilla
 
Anguirus
Anguirus
 
Here’s a rousing confrontation between Anguirus and Godzilla from Godzilla Raids Again, complete with tumbling Japanese edifices. Awesome as always.
 

 
via FFFFOUND!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Andy Kaufman’s bizarre ‘My Dinner with Andre’ parody


 
In 1981, the Louis Malle-directed My Dinner with Andre was released to instant and lasting acclaim. The daring film had almost no conventional narrative, and revolved entirely around a lengthy and intense dinner conversation between old friends played by theater director Andre Gregory and the absolutely wonderful actor/playwright Wallace Shawn. (If for nothing else, you surely know him as “Vizzini” in The Princess Bride. If you haven’t read his work, maybe consider giving his Essays collection a whirl, for starters. He is quite brilliant.) Thanks to the charm of the two performers and the compelling content of the conversation, this risky and limited conceit worked.

Given its massive critical success and utterly distinctive character, the film has been parodied and used as a punchline countless times across all media. A favorite of mine was a throwaway sight gag in a 1993 Simpsons episode which showed the effete Martin Prince character playing a My Dinner with Andre arcade game.
 

 
But perhaps the very first parody/homage/whatever to emerge was the Andy Kaufman gem My Breakfast With Blassie. Where Andre featured a perceptive meaning-of-life debate between two patrician theater mavens in an elegant Manhattan restaurant, My Breakfast with Blassie presented two wrestlers—Kaufman, who was immersed in his bizarre late-career wrestling phase at the time (thus the neck brace), and actual legendary wrestling world figure “Classy” Freddie Blassie—spending an hourlong and oft-interrupted chat burnishing their own egos and griping about germs and the banality of small-talk over greasy food in a noisy, homely diner. You also get to see Blassie totally beat Dr. Atkins to the low-carb punch. The film was released direct to videocassette in late 1983, only months before Kaufman’s death from cancer. It’s been reissued on DVD twice, once in 2000, bundled with the I’m From Hollywood documentary about Kaufman’s wrestling exploits, and on its own in 2009. It turned up on YouTube last week, so you can see it right here if you like, but you might want to watch it soon, in case it gets yanked.
 

 
After the jump, Kaufman and Blassie talking about the project on Late Night with David Letterman...

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Surrealist masters, dada directors & avant-garde all stars in ‘Dreams Money Can Buy’


 
Dreams Money Can Buy is a 1947 anthology film made by artist/author Hans Richter and collaborators like Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Leger, Man Ray, Alexander Calder, Max Ernst and others. There is music from John Cage, Paul Bowles and a number by scandalous bisexual torch singer Libby Holman and popular African-American singer Josh White (who was later caught up in the “Red Scare” and black-listed) on the original soundtrack titled “The Girl with the Pre-Fabricated Heart” that plays during Leger’s segment.

Richter’s goal was to bring the avant-garde out of the museum and into the movie house and the results, predictably, are rather unique. Certainly Dreams Money Can Buy must have been a stunner at the time and it still is. With no spoken dialogue, the plot, such that there is one, revolves around a man who rents a room where he can peer into the mirror and see people’s dreams. He sets up shop and we meet his clients and see their interior lives in the dream sequences. As you can imagine with the above list of collaborators, the film is a dizzying treat of audio-visual creation.
 

 
Marcel Duchamp’s contribution “Discs” is especially interesting. Here we see Duchamp’s famous Rotoreliefs in action, with a “prepared piano” soundtrack performed by John Cage. [I was once offered a box of glass and wood reproductions in miniature of Duchamp’s kinetic sculptures—at a good price, too—and like a fucking idiot I passed on it].
 

 
Below, Dreams Money Can Buy in its entirety on YouTube. If you want to watch with the original soundtrack, it’s here. The “modern” soundtrack in the version embedded below was recorded by The Real Tuesday Weld and is pretty faithful to the original music. This is one of those films that demands to be screened outside at night under the stars. You can buy the DVD (which has both the original and modern soundtrack) here.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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