Monday, May 18, 2009

The Great Ecstasy of the 16mm Film Series

The Great Ecstasy of the Sculptor Steiner
Gravity Is My Enemy
Wednesday, May 20, 7 p.m.
The Hexagon, 1825 N. Charles St.,

Once again I applaud the film enthusiasts at The Hexagon for unearthing gems from the Enoch Pratt Central Library's 16mm film collection. This week's "FREE Wednesday 16mm Film Series" program looks at two unusual artists - one an athletic sculptor who as a skier defied gravity, the other a quadriplegic painter bound by it. Both push the limits of human spirit and expression.

The Great Ecstasy of the Sculptor Steiner
(Werner Herzog, 1975, 45 minutes, in German with English subtitles.)

"Great Ecstacy" opening clip

This is German director (and ski enthusiast) Werner Herzog's documentary about Walter Steiner, a Swiss woodcarver who is considered the world's greatest ski jumper (here called "ski flyers"), who effortlessly broke all the sport's records. It was the first film Herzog tackled after the rigors of directing Klaus Kinksi in Aguirre: The Wrath of God. Following the skier's preparation for an event in Yugoslavia, Herzog uses ultra-slow-motion photography to capture the "ski flyer's ecstasy" as he is compelled to take his creative impulse to the absolute limit. The poetic images of beauty and danger are complimented by a dreamy guitar score by Krautrock band Popol Vuh.

Gravity Is My Enemy
(John C. Joseph, 1977, 26 minutes)
1978 Academy Award winner - Best Documentary Short Subject

"Gravity Is My Enemy" clip

This Academy Award-winning short profiles the life of Mark Hicks, who was paralyzed from the neck down at the age of 12 yet painted and drew by holding a brush, pencil, or ink pen between his teeth. It paints a palette similar to that of local artist Dan Keplinger, a Parkville High and Towson University grad with cerebal palsy who was the subject of Susan Hannah Hadary and William Whiteford's 1999 Oscar-winning documentary King Gimp.

I haven't gone to any Hexagon screenings yet but I sure plan to. I've only met one of their programmers, a young lady by the name of Lisa; the other programmer is local filmmaker Miguel Sabogal, who recently screened his Cube shorts trilogy (Dream's Structure, Escape, and Behind the Red Door) at the 2009 Maryland Film Festival.

They've brought renewed interest to 16mm film and I thank them for it.

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