Here’s a 4th of July weekend compilation of go-go mania from China and Hong Kong for all you dancing fools out there.
The People’s Republic Of Go-Go features vintage clips from films starring Asian superstars Josephine Siao, Connie Chan and Chan Hung-lit doing tunes like “Love Potion #9,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Shakin’ All Over,” “Eight Days A Week,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” an agonizing version of “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” and more. Crazier than a bag full of spiders.
Siao, Chan and Hung-lit went from being teen pop icons in the sixties to highly regarded actors who’s film work ranged from melodrama and opera to martial arts epics. Their flirtation with rock and roll was puppy love, brief but oh so dreamy.
Proof that rock and roll is a universal language and the freak who put this together, Jonathan Sprig, speaks that language.
On Sunday as part of the grand experiment in entertainment excess that is the five-day long Everything Is Festival! held at Cinefamily here in Los Angeles, there will be a Firesign Theatre mini-film festival starting at 4:30p.m. (just after Neil Hamburger’s Dora Hall tribute, which starts at 2:30).
The event will feature two Firesign Theatre shorts that have not been shown theatrically in many, many years (probably not since the mid-70s, in fact) and that are not currently available on home video (yet), plus other previously unseen goodies and rarities.
First up will be the only cinematic documentation of their legendary free-form radio shows, Martian Space Party. The “Martian Space Party” show was the final program in the “Let’s Eat” radio series of 1972 and was staged for cameras and a small audience.
Everything You Know is Wrong, which is a lip-sync’d visual interpretation of their 1975 album of the same name, will be premiering in a new 5.1 surround sound presentation, prepared from a digital dupe of the film supervised by famed cinematographer Allen Daviau (E.T. Bugsy, The Color Purple).
Plus some other SUPER SECRET Firesign Theatre films and videos and a live Q&A with Peter Bergman and Phil Proctor of the Firesign Theatre, EYKIW director Allen Daviau and Firesign Theatre archivist Taylor Jessen, author of the new book and DVD-ROM Duke of Madness Motors. Yours truly will be asking the questions.
“It’s a terrifying sensation that will rip apart your soul.”
I’m not so sure about that, but Things, a pathetically inept, blood-splashed straight-to-video “shocker” will probably do something for you…
Is there anything better than a no-budget gore flick that makes you laugh out loud? Think Bloodsucking Freaks. Extreme gore and humor (especially when it’s unintentional) are two great tastes that taste great together—at least if you are in the right frame of mind, I suppose—but when you add in a hefty dollop of ineptitude, it gets even tastier. The newest “outsider cinema” release from The Intervision Picture Corp. and Severin FIlms, Things looks like it’s a stand-out of the “wow this sucks, but it’s GREAT” genre. They’re the experts!
In 1989, it became the first Canadian shot-on-Super 8 gore shocker commercially released on VHS. Today, it remains perhaps the most bizarre, depraved and mind-boggling chunk of Canuxploitaion ever unleashed upon humanity. Adult film superstar Amber Lynn and co-writer/producer Barry J. Gillis star in this surreal saga about two friends who visit a remote cabin, only to discover a womb of monstrous horror that demands graphic dismemberment. It’s an inexplicable orgy of eye ripping, beer guzzling, boob baring, skull drilling, sandwich making, chain sawing, bad acting and post-sync dubbing from co-writer/producer/director Andrew Jordan that has spawned its own disturbing cult of fans. Some will be repulsed. Others may be transformed forever. But you have never seen anything like THINGS.
Now there’s a factual statement if ever there was one… Order a copy of Things if you dare…
Tonight is the opening night of the incredible five-day long Everything Is Festival! here in Los Angeles at the Cinefamily theater on Fairfax.
Getting the first night off to a great start will be the “Conan O’Brien” writers retrospective panel, featuring a live gathering of Conan writers past and present, followed by a live appearance from IFC’s Thu Tran, host of the delightfully surreal Food Party show.
One event that I’m certainly jazzed for is Neil Hamburger’s tribute to the one and only Dora Hall:
America’s Funnyman finally returns to the Cinefamily, for a program celebrating one of his all-time favorite entertainers — and one of Cinefamily’s fave found footage personalities! Long ago, a handful of enigmatic VHS tapes, adorned with watercolor illustrations of an old lady amidst a generic cast of smiling faces — and the Solo disposable cup company logo — fell into our hands. On these tapes were wonderfully cracked ‘70s variety specials starring septuagenarian starlet Dora Hall; who was this woman? A long-forgotten pop star reclaiming past glory? A wrinkled studio creation meant to appeal to the AARP set? Someone in power’s ambitious relative? WHO?!?!
Neil finally explains it all:
“The undisputed queen of vanity entertainment, Dora Hall was married to Leo Hulseman, the founder of the immensely successful Solo Cup Company — a man quite happy to delve into Solo’s apparently bottomless coffers to finance dozens of record releases by Dora, all given away free of charge with packages of plastic cups and plates during the ‘60s! Not content with her “success” in the record biz, Dora branched out in the ensuing two decades with several full-blown Solo-financed TV specials designed to make her a star — despite the fact that she was an elderly grandmother with limited show business experience!”
Sunday afternoon, Neil Hamburger will appear in person to present a psyche-shattering afternoon of vintage Dora TV variety special highlights, along with other special treats! More info and tickets here.
Below, an excerpt from Hall’s Once Upon a Tour TV special. How could you miss this?
Linda McCartney: Life In Photographs has just been published and it is a lovely retrospective. Linda shot over 200,000 photos in her life and the book contains just a fraction of her work. Here’s a selection of photographs of some of her better known subjects.
Negativland’s Mark Hoesler will be delivering the keynote address at the big Everything Is Festival this Friday night at Cinefamily in Los Angeles:
Is Negativland a “band”? Media hoaxers? Activists? Artists? Musicians? Filmmakers? Culture jammers? Comedians? An inspiration for the unwashed many? A nuisance for the corporate few? Decide for yourself in this video & storytelling presentation from founding Negativland member Mark Hosler that uses films and stories to illustrate the many creative projects, hoaxes, pranks and “culture jamming” that Negativland has been doing since 1980. Whether you’re a hardcore Negativland fan, or even unfamiliar with the band (but interested in a highly entertaining and informative jaunt into the evolving landscape of art vs. ownership), Hosler’s EIF! keynote presentation is essential, and we can’t recommend it enough. As well, stick around for a Q&A with Mark Hosler after the presentation!
As an avid and longtime collector of “bootlegs” (LPs, cassettes, CDs, VHS, DVD or now torrent files) I can tell you that the #1 major artist who it used to be difficult for me to find bootlegs of—especially video bootlegs, which is what I mainly look for—is Joni Mitchell. I used to religiously hit collectors fairs, record conventions, and the monthly “record collector” parking lot area at the Pasadena Flea Market (which used to be THE BEST) but I could never find any Joni Mitchell boots. As in nothing. Ever. I can’t help but to think that there was some level of sexism that saw the likes of Dylan, Zappa, Beatles, Dead, Stones, Zeppelin, Tull, etc, etc get bootlegged like crazy, when so little Joni Mitchell was making it into the video trading pipeline? Even on eBay there was next to nothing. What gives?
In any case, this imbalance naturally got redressed on YouTube and now there are many delightful examples of Mitchell singing live for her fans to enjoy. What I find especially noteworthy about clips of Joni Mitchell in her 60s/70s prime is how she could absolutely command an audience with just her voice and an acoustic guitar or piano. For such a seemingly frail young girl, she was an exceptionally powerful performer. Who of the current crop of female entertainers could do that? (Actually one does come to mind: Laura Marling, who killed it at Glastonbury this year, but she had a band, I suppose. Still, she deserves the comparison.).
One hallmark of any live Joni Mitchell live performance was the tuning up between songs. There was a reason for it. Again, I’m sorry to report that rock snobs and guitar aficionados of my gender—some not all—have never fully appreciated what a brilliant, world-beating guitarist Joni Mitchell really is. The reason she was always tuning up for so long between songs is that she was often completely re-tuning the guitar to an alternate tuning. She is known to have created at least 50 harmonically innovative open tuning patterns. Apparently, she required them to be able to physically play the music she heard in her head. Due to a bout of childhood polio, her hand became slightly palsied and she basically had to come up with her own way of playing guitar. Her style is completely original, keep all of this in mind as you watch some of these clips. (In 2003 Rolling Stone ranked Mitchell as the 72nd on their list “greatest guitarist of all time.” She was the was the highest-ranking female and she wuz robbed!). You can read more about her innovative tuning patterns here and here.
Below, a selection of some of the finest Joni Mitchell performances that YouTube has on offer…
A very young and VERY lovely Joni Mitchell sings “Urge for Going,” late 1966. The men seem absolutely stunned here. What man wouldn’t be?
“Big Yellow Taxi” at the Isle of Wight Festival, 1970
A heartbreaking “Little Green” (about the pain of giving her infant daughter up for adoption):
If you live in Los Angeles and you love weird, insane, hilarious underground shit—like, say, the kind of fare you might find on the popular Everything Is Terrible! blog—then the second annual Everything Is Festival! is going to be better than your Christmas, Halloween and birthday combined. It’s the film, video and music festival that feels like a holiday. But a really fucked up holiday in a really fucked up country. Or a fucked up planet. (I was there last year, trust me on this one).
Let’s take, for instance, the “Super Cuts and Trash Compactors” show. According to Cinefamily programmer Hadrian Belove, a “trash compactor” is “when you take a film and distill it to its essence”:
Cinefamily’s grabbing the zeitgeist by the nutsack and squeezing the video juice out of the YouTube for all of our viewing pleasure! Tonight we celebrate two of our favorite memes in the viral video world: “supercuts” and “trash compactors.” You know, like when TV Carnage cut together every “Gimmie your badge…and your gun” moment from every shitty cop movie ever made, or when FourFour did a mashup of every time someone said “I’m not here to make friends” on a reality TV show — that’s a “Supercut.”
And when that anonymous editor compressed 120 minutes of Wicker Man Nic Cage insanity into a high-powered two-minute H-bomb of hilarity — that’s a “Trash Compactor.”
This show features our favorite pre-existing classics in these two categories, and a group show bursting full of brand-new premieres by Everything Is Terrible, FourFour, Cinefamily’s own Mondo Squad, and more. I tube, you tube, we all tube for YouTube! Tonight’s show features a live appearance by online video mashup maven FourFour!
Watch the now-classic Trash Compactor featuring every dumb pun delivered by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Mr. Freeze” in Batman & Robin:
More on the Everything Is Festival all this week on DM, but you can go here for more information and ticket purchase. Here’s a two-minute version of horror film, Incubus, in which John Cassavetes seems obsessed with sperm.
I find it difficult to watch Adam Curtis‘s various acclaimed documentaries without thinking: how much has he taken from Bruce Conner?
Indeed without Conner, would Curtis have developed his magpie, collagist-style of documentary making?
I doubt it, but you (and Curtis) may disagree.
The late Bruce Conner is the real talent here - an artist and film-maker whose work devised new ways of working and presciently anticipated techniques which are now ubiquitously found on the web, television and film-making.
Conner was “a heroic oppositional artist, whose career went against the staid and artificially created stasis of the art world”. Which is academic poohbah for saying Conner kept to his own vision: a Beat life, which channeled his energies into art - with a hint of Dada, Surrealism and Duchamp.
Conner was cantankerous and one-of-a-kind. He would wear an American flag pin. When asked why, he said, “I’m not going to let those bastards take it away from me.”
He kicked against fame and celebrity, seeing art as something separate from individual who created it.
“I’ve always been uneasy about being identified with the art I’ve made. Art takes on a power all its own and it’s frightening to have things floating around the world with my name on them that people are free to interpret and use however they choose.”
Born in McPherson, Kansas, Conner attended Witchita University, before receiving his degree in Fine Art from Nebraska University. At university he met and married Jean Sandstedt in 1957. He won a scholarship to art school in Brooklyn, but quickly moved to University of Colorado, where he spent one semester studying art. The couple then moved to San Francisco and became part of the Beat scene. Here Conner began to produce sculptures and ready-mades that critiqued the consumerist society of late 1950’s. His work anticipated Pop Art, but Conner never focussed solely on one discipline, refusing to be pigeon-holed, and quickly moved on to to film-making.
Having been advised to make films by Stan Brakhage, Conner made A MOVIE in 1958, by editing together found footage from newsreels- B-movies, porn reels and short films. This single film changed the whole language of cinema and underground film-making with its collagist technique and editing.
The Conners moved to Mexico (“it was cheap”), where he discovered magic mushrooms and formed a life-long friendship with a still to be turned-on, Timothy Leary. When the money ran out, they returned to San Francisco and the life of film-maker and artist.
In 1961, Conner made COSMIC RAY, a 4-minute film of 2,000 images (A-bombs, Mickey Mouse, nudes, fireworks) to Ray Charles’ song “What I Say”. With a grant from the Ford Foundation, Conner produced a series of films that were “precursors, for better or worse, of the pop video and MTV,” as his obituary reported:
EASTER MORNING RAGA (1966) was designed to be run forward or backward at any speed, or even in a loop to a background of sitar music. Breakaway (1966) showed a dancer, Antonia Christina Basilotta, in rapid rhythmic montage. REPORT (1967) dwells on the assassination of John F Kennedy. The found footage exists of repetitions, jump cuts and broken images of the motorcade, and disintegrates at the crucial moment while we hear a frenzied television commentator saying that “something has happened”. The fatal gun shots are intercut with other shots: TV commercials, clips from James Whale’s Frankenstein and Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front. The film has both a kinetic and emotional effect.
REPORT “perfectly captures Conner’s anger over the commercialization of Kennedy’s death” while also examining the media’s mythic construction of JFK and Jackie — a hunger for images that “guaranteed that they would be transformed into idols, myths, Gods.”
Conner’s work is almost a visual counterpart to J G Ballard’s writing, using the same cultural references that inspired Ballard’s books - Kennedy, Monroe, the atom bomb. His film CROSSROADS presented the 1952 atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll in extreme slow motion from twenty-seven different angles.
His editing techniques influenced Dennis Hopper in making Easy Rider, and said:
“much of the editing of Easy Rider came directly from watching Bruce’s films”
The pair became friends and Hopper famously photographed Conner alongside Toni Basil, Teri Garr and Ann Mitchell.
Always moving, always progressing, having “no half way house in which to rest”, Conner became part of the San Francisco Punk scene, after Toni Basil told Conner to go check out the band Devo in 1977. He became so inspired when he saw the band at the Mabuhay Gardens that he started going there four night a week, taking photographs of Punk bands, which eventually led to his job as staff photographer with Search ‘n’ Destroy magazine. It was a career change that came at some personal cost.
“I lost a lot of brain cells at the Mabuhay. What are you gonna do listening to hours of incomprehensible rock’n’roll but drink? I became an alcoholic, and it took me a few years to deal with that.”
Conner continued with his art work and films, even making short films for Devo, David Byrne and Brian Eno. In his later years, Conner returned to the many themes of his early life and work, but still kept himself once removed from greater success and fame. He died in 2008.
Towards the end of his life he withdrew his films from circulation, as he was “disgusted” when he saw badly pixelated films bootlegged and uploaded on YouTube. Conner was prescriptive in how his work should be displayed and screened. All of which is frustrating for those who want to see Conner’s films outside of the gallery, museum or film festival, and especially now, when so much of his originality and vision as a film-maker and artist has been copied by others.
‘Mea Culpa’ - David Byrne and Brian Eno. Directed by Bruce Conner