A brief interview with the legendary film-maker Kenneth Anger, in which he discusses Magick, the O.T.O., Bobby Beausoleil, and Henri Langlois, with interviewer Jean-Emmanuel Deluxe. Recorded at the Galerie du Jour Agnès B., in Paris, November 2012, for Standard magazine.
What is believed to be the world’s oldest color film footage, has been discovered by the National Media Museum, in Bradford, England. The footage was only discovered by chance, in an old film tin, when the Museum relocated its archive.
The film was shot in 1902 by Edwardian photographer and chemist, Edward Turner. Together with his business partner, entrepreneur and race horse owner, Frederick Marshall Lee, Turner patented a 3-color-film process in 1899, and filmed London street scenes, a macaw and his 3 children playing with a goldfish in the family’s back garden. This was the first color film process, long before Technicolor in 1916. Unfortunately, Turner’s method, which involved recording successive frames through red, green and blue filters, then projecting and superimposing them one on top of the other, at 48 frames per second, proved to be unworkable, and left the images blurred.
Turner died in 1903. His invention and films were soon forgotten, until now, when the National Media Museum used digital technology to transfer the imagery and have now made it available for viewing.
K-11 is a new film directed by Jules (mother of Kristen) Stewart, about a prison complex in LA for homosexuals and transgender inmates. It looks brutal, exploitative, and I can’t wait to see it.
The trailer is pretty self-explanatory: a record producer ends up in jail, charged with killing a cop, after he blacks out. The prison is the titular K-11, and there he must navigate a murky world of mixed genders and shifting loyalties in order to survive. (Hmm, maybe I should go into b-movie copy writing?)
Yeah, it sounds corny, but it looks pretty well shot and the cast is decent (though some actual trans actors wouldn’t have gone amiss, and I would love to have seen Kristen Stewart in this, as was originally cast - perhaps she was slated to play Mousey, the prison’s tough bitch queen?) But you know what really surprises me about this? For a subject that looms so large in the American subconscious, it’s surprising that there haven’t been more films about homosexuality in jail.
Even HBO’s mighty Oz was disappointing in that respect (if pretty much perfect in any other.) Sure, two of the main male characters fell in love (or did they?) but the show failed to explore the prison’s gay subculture, in the way it did the Nazis, Nation of Islam, Latinos, etc. Gay characters were only shown flitting away campy in the background, or as facilitators for other characters’ story lines.
K-11 is hardly going to be perfect, but for films about gay life behind bars, it’s a start:
Pardon my ignorance, but are US prisons really segregated by sexual orientation and transgender identity?
In February 1962, a group of young German film-makers issued a statement at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen in North Rhine-Westphalia. Called the Oberhausen Manifesto, the declaration stated, “Der alte Film ist tot. Wir glauben an den neuen” (“The old cinema is dead. We believe in the new cinema”):
The decline of conventional German cinema has taken away the economic incentive that imposed a method that, to us, goes against the ideology of film. A new style of film gets the chance to come alive.
Short movies by young German screenwriters, directors, and producers have achieved a number of international festival awards in the last few years and have earned respect from the international critics.
Their accomplishment and success has shown that the future of German films are in the hands of people who speak a new language of film. In Germany, as already in other countries, short film has become an educational and experimental field for feature films. We’re announcing our aspiration to create this new style of film.
Film needs to be more independent. Free from all usual conventions by the industry. Free from control of commercial partners. Free from the dictation of stakeholders.
We have detailed spiritual, structural, and economic ideas about the production of new German cinema. Together we’re willing to take any risk. Conventional film is dead. We believe in the new film.
It was signed by twenty-six film-makers including Alexander Kluge and Edgar Reitz. But it would take until the end of the decade before a more radical and ambitious group of film directors put into practice the aims of the Oberhausen Manifesto.
Volker Schlöndorff, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, Jean-Marie Straub and Rainer Werner Fassbinder allied themselves to a New Cinema that dealt with the interests and issues of their generation, and sought to achieve an excellence of creativity, rather than films made for purely commercial reasons.
Signs of Vigorous Life: New German Cinema is a short documentary on the origins of New German Cinema, which features interview footage with Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Volker Schlöndorff, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
As a child, John Cassavetes chipped his front teeth in a fight. As his parents were too poor to buy him caps, Cassavetes didn’t smile for years. The experience made him aware of how others coped with misfortune. Later, when he started making films, his camera fixed on the facial tics and movements of his actors. These were unlike any other movies - improvised character studies, where the camera relentlessly followed, watched, examined, but rarely interrogated. We are always close-up to the characters. When we see them in wide-shots, they are isolated, the scene only highlighting their alienation: Ben Gazzara having breakfast outside after losing $23,000 at a gaming table inThe Killing of a Chinese Bookie; or Ben Carruthers taking a stroll through the gardens in Shadows; or Gena Rowlands at a loss with the world in A Woman Under the Influence.
His characters are suburban, middle-aged, all on the back slice of life. They may have flourishes of rebellion (a trip to London in Husbands), but nothing changes their direction, all stick blindly to some instinctual role.
Cassavetes’ films may not be that innovative, or offer any new or considered insights, or offer redemption, but they succeed because of the ineffable passions, the inexpressible humanity of the central characters that Cassavetes puts on screen. That’s where his genius lies - in his deep and committed humanity.
Cassavetes once told Cahiers du Cinema:
‘I am more interested in the people who work with me than in the film itself or cinema.’
Cassavetes’ films always remind me of what Jack Kerouac once wrote about literature in Satori in Paris:
“…the tale that’s told for no other reason but companionship, which is another (and my favorite) definition of literature, the tale that’s told for companionship and to teach something religious, of religious reverence, about real life, in this real world which literature should (and here does) reflect.”
Made in 1965, Cinéastes de notre temps - John Cassavetes is a profile of the great director and actor as he edits his second feature Faces in Hollywood, before taking it Paris. Cassavetes openly discusses his views on film-making and cinema, and why he takes certain roles to pay for his movie making.
Over at Candlelight Stories, writer and film-maker Alessandro Cima has located Stanley Kubrick’s excellent first short documentary film Day of the Fight. Adapted from Kubrick’s original photo-essay for Look Magazine in 1949, Day Of The Fight follows middleweight Irish boxer named Walter Cartier, as he prepares for his bout with middleweight Bobby James. It’s a gripping and effective documentary film, and reveals some of the skills that would shape Kubrick’s later movies.
Bilingual? No problems if you’re not, the important sections here are Kenneth Anger’s, where the Magus of American Cinema tells his story from Fireworks to Lucifer Rising, via Bobby Beausoleil, Mick Jagger and Aleister Crowley, in this rare interview with French television from 2003.
During the Cannes Film Festival in 1982, Wim Wenders set-up a static camera in a room at the Hotel Martinez. He then invited a selection of directors to answer a series of questions on the future of cinema:
“Is cinema a language about to get lost, an art about to die?”
The directors, in order of appearance were:
Mike De Leon
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Each director was alloted 11 minutes (one 16mm reel of film) to answer the questions, which were then edited together by Wenders and released as Room 666 in 1982. Interestingly each director is positioned in front of a television, which is left on throughout the interview. It’s a simple and effective film, and the most interesting contributors are the usual suspects. Godard goes on about text and is dismissive of TV, then turns tables by asking Wenders questions; Fassbinder is distracted (he died within months) and quickly discusses “sensation oriented cinema” and independent film-making; Herzog is the only one who turns the TV off (he also takes off his shoes and socks) and thinks of cinema as static and TV, he also suggests movies in the future will be supplied on demand; Spielberg is, as expected of a high-grossing Hollywood film-maker, interested in budgets and their effect on smaller films, though he is generally buoyant about the future of cinema; while Monte Hellman isn’t, hates dumb films and tapes too many movies off TV he never watches; all of which is undercut by Turkish director Yilmaz Güney, who talks the damaging affects of capitalism and the reality of making films in a country where his work was suppressed and banned “by some dominant forces”.
Carl Theodor Dreyer preferred to work with non-actors, as he believed they offered a more reactive performance. In truth, it was because non-professionals did as he said without question or interpretation, which gave Dreyer greater control over the film. Jacques Tati and Pier Paolo Pasolini similarly used non-actors. With Tati it often blighted his films (see Traffic), while for Pasolini it brought something sublime (see The Gospel According to Saint Matthew).
For Dreyer, the use of non-actors in Vampyr (1932), added to the disorienting, dream-like quality, drawing the spectator into a strange and compelling, nightmare world.
Following on from his success with Music for Silents, composer and former Banshee, Steven Severin, has written a fantastic new soundtrack for Vampyr, which he will be performing at special screenings of the film across the UK during January and February. Dates include, Edinburgh, Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee, Bradford, York, Hackney, Brixton, Brighton, Stratford Upon Avon, Ambleside, Oswestry, Cardiff, Bristol, Exeter, Hebden Bridge, Nottingham, Birmingham, Lancaster & Salford. Details here.
Steven will also be releasing a CD of the soundtrack, which you can order directly form his website.
The Love of Zero is a rather remarkable, short experimental film, made for $200 by director Robert Florey, in 1927. Owing much to German Expressionist cinema, the film tells the story of a young man, Zero (Joseph Marievsky), and his love for a young woman called, Beatrix (Tamara Shavrova). It was Florey’s second film, and reveals the talent he would employ in his long and successful career as a Hollywood director of such films as Murders in the Rue Morgue, Ex-Lady, The Marx Brothers’ Cocoanuts and The Beast With Five Fingers, plus a whole range of TV series including episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits.
Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City is a beautiful portrait of a day-in-the-life of the German capital. Made in 1927, the film is perhaps too beautiful, its carefully composed images present a story of the city’s aesthetics, rather a biography of its inhabitants.
Based on an idea by Carl Meyer, who withdrew from the production after disagreements with Ruttmann’s “superficial” stylized approach to depicting life in the city. Ruttmann saw the project as a “symphonic film [made] out of the millions of energies that comprise the life of a big city”.
It took over a year to film, with cinematographers Relmar Kuntze, Robert Baberske and Laszlo Shaffer, hiding their cameras in suitcases and vans to achieve an incredibly naturalistic effect. The camera is passive, like Isherwood’s Herr Issyvoo, observing with little comment, creating any sense of drama through use of editing and montage, a style inspired by Soviet film-maker Dziga Vertov.
Eighty-four years on from its release, Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City is still a beautiful and compelling film, which captured Berlin in its last days before the horrors of Nazism.
Unfortunately, the original score to accompany the film has been lost, so choose your own soundtrack to create your own mini-cinematic experience.
It’s nearly 36 years since Pier Paolo Pasolini was murdered in horrific circumstances, on a beach near Rome, in November 2 1975. The story went Pasolini had been killed while trolling. The 17-year-old hustler, who originally admitted his killing, retracted his confession in May 2005, claiming 3 people, with “southern accents” had killed Pasolini, calling him a “dirty communist”.
Later, an investigation into new evidence, which suggested Pasolini had been murdered over a blackmail plot involving stolen reels of his film Salo - 120 days of Sodom, proved inconclusive, and his grim and brutal murder remains unsolved.
Pasolini was a “Marxist, mystic, Catholic and atheist”, a poet and novelist who wrote over 25 novels and half-a-dozen volumes of poetry.
Pasolini was also one of the most important, radical and influential film-makers of the twentieth century, whose life and works as author, poet and film-maker are ripe for rediscovery.
In this short documentary, we see Pasolini the film-maker, the man of singular vision behind the films Accatone, Mamma Roma, The Gospel According to Matthew, Oedipus Rex, The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales and Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom.
Pasolini was an auteur, as he explains:
My films are the work of an author with a very singular individual characteristics. I’ve never wanted to make a conclusive statement, I’ve always posed various problems and left them open to consideration…The cinema is an explosion of my love for reality. I have never conceived of making film that would be the work of a group, I have always thought of film as the work of an author, not only the script and the direction, but the choice of sets and locations, the characters, even the clothes - I choose everything.
Pier Paolo Pasolini - A Film Maker’s Life (1971) is a fine introductory film to Pasolini, the man and his work, though it ignores his sexuality and its importance to his life. With contributions from Alberto Moravia, Franco Citti, and Pasolini, himself, who discusses his background, his politics, film-making, and revolution.
The playwright Shelagh Delaney returned to her home town for this early film by Ken Russell, made in 1960 for the BBC’s Monitor strand. Delaney is now best known for her play A Taste of Honey of Honey (1958) (made into the film by Tony Richardson, starring Rita Tushingham and Murray Melvin), and of course, as the major influence on the lyrics of one, Steven Patrick Morrissey.
Russell’s film mainly focuses on an interview with Delaney, and has some well considered images of people, places, and Delaney wandering through Salford’s streets and market. After A Taste of Honey, Delaney wrote screenplays for The White Bus (1967) directed by Lindsay Anderson, Chalie Bubbles (1967) directed by and starring Albert Finney, and Dance With a Stranger, about the killer Ruth Ellis for director Mike Newell in 1985.