Monday, September 08, 2014

Bob & Teresa's Outstanding Picks for Outdoor Flicks

16mm fans: real film for reel enthusiasts

The few, the proud, the discerning. That describes the folks that continue to check out the rare film shorts housed in Enoch Pratt Free Library's archaic-yet-still-invaluable 16mm film collection. People like my Pratt co-worker Teresa Duggan and her husband Bob Wagner (my fellow St. Paul's School for Boys grad - though Bob is a much younger vintage STP alumnus!).

Every summer, this hip couple perodically check out films from Pratt Central to project during outdoor parties in the back yard of their Hampden home. Their taste is impeccable. Though I've worked in the library's A/V Department for a baker's dozen years and thought myself well-acquainted with Pratt's 16mm film collection, Bob and Teresa continually manage to find rare and obscure films that I never knew existed. They truly know how to dig through the archives and navigate the intricacies of the Pratt catalogue!

Norman McLaren's psychedelic Stars and Stripes

As an example, for this year's July 4th's Independence Day celebration, Bob and Teresa checked out Norman McLaren's dazzling (and tres appropriate) animated short Stars and Stripes (Etoiles et Bandes, 1940, 3 minutes),which is set to the chest-pounding music of John Phillip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" (it doesn't get more patriotic than that!). Who knew? (Well, I should know, as I own the now out-of-print 7-disc, 58-film DVD box set Norman McLaren: The Master Edition - which will take me my lifetime to get through!)

Norman McLaren 1940 "Stars and stripes" by moklaomax

Following are their most recent Outdoor Film Festival checkouts (great picks all!), listed here just in case you didn't get invited to their backyard soiree:

GUMBASIA (1955, 3 minutes, color, 16mm)
Directed by Art Clokey

This student film, consisting of animated clay objects contorting and reshaping themselves to a snappy jazz score, so intrigued Samuel G. Engel, the president of the Motion Pictures Producers Association, that he financed the pilot films for what became Art Clokey's The Gumby Show (1957). (Art Clokey, USA, 1955, 3 minutes, color, 16mm)

Watch Gumbasia (YouTube)

MOODS OF SURFING (1968, 15 minutes, color, 16mm)
Directed by Greg McGillivray and Jim Freeman

What better way to  hold on to an Endless Summer than trading the urban chic of land-locked Hampden for the hang-ten feats of surfboards riding waves in Hawaii?
The film poster used the LeRoy Grannis;s classic photograph of the infamous Makaha shore break in Hawaii.

The Moods of Surfing was a Pyramid Films short made for theaters and released in 1968 by United Artists. Photographed and edited by Greg MacGillivray, the film received many awards including the Best Film Award from the Photographic Society of America and the Gold Award from the New York International Film Festival.

Pyramid Media description: "In this spellbinding interpretation of surfing's many moods, wild wipeouts are contrasted with the grace and agility of a skilled surfer on a long ride; the excitement of large waves and crowded beaches with the quiet of pre-sunset surfing."

Watch ""Moods of Surfing" (YouTube):


THE NOSE (LE  NEZ) (1963, 11 minutes, b&w)
Directed by Alexander Alexeieff and Claire Parker

Nez Who?: Alexander Alexeieff knows all about "Nose"

A wordless adaptation of Nikolai Gogol's story about a nose that disappears from its owner's face and turns up in a barber's loaf of bread. In this case, the medium is the message, as artist Alexander Alexeieff uses a reflected-light pinpoint "direct animation" technique (in which images are created during the process of filming, not before it) to make this film. The effect is like watching an animated engraving. In collaboration with animator Claire Parker, Alexeieff invented the "pinscreen,"  a sturdy frame holding a white board into which thousands of very thin black pins are inserted; by adjusting the pins so that the distance to the camera varies, the animator creates various shadings from black to white. (Another oustanding pinscreen-animated film in Pratt's collection is Jacques Droin's impressionistic Mindscape.) Arguably the best adaptation of a story by the Russian literary giant.

Alexeieff and Parker are perhaps best known for using their pinscreen technique in the prologue to Orson Welles' 1962 film adaptation of Kafka's The Trial (which is also in Pratt's 16mm film collection).

Watch "The Nose" (YouTube):


SHOTGUN JOE (1970, 25 minutes, color, 16mm)
Produced by the Department of Justice, Bureau of Prisons

Joe Scanlon
 This is a cinema verite-style documentary film about convicted felon Joe Scanlan, nicknamed "Shotgun Joe," who was serving time for armed robbery in the Conneticut State Reformatory. The film follows Scanlan in prison and his interaction with prisoners, staff, and family. Interviews with guards, teachers, fellow inmates, Joe's mother, his sister, and Joe himself reveal him as a likable, flamboyant, pathetic, young man moving toward his own destruction. A classic study of juvenile delinquincy, by an unknown director for the Department of Justice's Bureau of Prisons.

"Shotgun Joe" became "Joey Onions" Scanlon and was later shot and killed in a 1982 mob hit. The guy who killed him confessed on his deathbed and Scanlon's remains were found in 2009.

Watch "Shotgun Joe" (YouTube):

CALDER'S CIRCUS (LE CIRQUE DE CALDER) (1961, 19 minutes, color, 16mm)
Directed by Carlos Vilardebo

Cirque de Calder

Sculptor Alexander Calder (1898-1976) is best known for his "mobiles" (a word invented by Marcel Duchamp in 1931 to describe Calder's moving scuptures). He also created miniature spring-loaded circus figures made of wire. In Calder's Circus, Calder demonstrates his creations and viewers get to see them spin, hop, roll and leap. I remember seeing this years ago at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. It's quite fun!

Watch "Calder's Circus" (YouTube):

BETTY IN BLUNDERLAND (1934, 7 minutes, b&w, 16mm)
Directed by Dave Fleischer

Betty in Blunderland

If you went to St. Paul's during Michal Makarovich's tenure as film instructor, you couldn't avoid being exposed to the mind-blowing animation of the Fleischer brothers - animator Max and director Dave - especially their wild, Jazz Age shorts featuring Betty Boop. No doubt that's why Bob Wagner picked this gem, a surreal adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. (By the way, Pratt also owns Makarovich's 1976 homage to Greta Garbo, The Face of the Century, on 16mm.) The Fleischers were considered Walt Disney's main rivals in the 1930s and their violent, sex, jazzy and imaginative animation made them polar opposites of the Disney aesthetic. In this short, Betty Boop dozes off while working on a jigsaw puzzle and awakens to enter an enchanted world inhabited by characters out of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland. Betty sings "How Do You Do" to them and everyone comes to her rescue when the Jabberwock steals her away.

Watch "Betty in Blunderland" (YouTube)

I would be remiss not to mention that Teresa's not just a discerning cineaste, but a talented photographer. Along with fellow Pratt shutterbugs Lynne Parks (a 2013 Mary Sawyers Baker Artist Awards Winner) and Patrick Joust (whose "Still of the Night" photo essay was recently featured in Baltimore magazine), she will be showing her work as part of the "Pratt 5x3" exhibit in the Fine Arts & Music Reading Room on the second floor of the Enoch Pratt Central Library. The photographs of these talented Pratt staffers are on display from September 8 through November 2, 2014, with an opening reception Wednesday, September 17 from 5:30-7 p.m.

Pratt 5x3 exhibit

And I would be equally remiss not to mention that Bob Wagner is a well-respected musician (and cyclist, for that matter!) about town, a percussionist described by the High Zero Festival guide as "a pure natural, an enigma, a question mark." They go on to characterize his drumming as "deeply perplexing" and call him "The Han Bennik of Hampden" because of his extreme use of dry humor in his music. Bob can be heard on numerous records with his groups Companion Trio, The Can Openers, and The Recordings. He also performs with The Pleasant Livers, whose set I was lucky to catch at Baltimore's 2012 SoWeBo Festival.

Watch The Pleasant Livers play "Big Headed Baby" (YouTube)

Related Links:
Pratt's 16mm Film Rarities (Accelerated Decrepitude)
A New Generation Keeps It Reel on 16mm (Accelerated Decrepitude)
Top 10 Pratt 16mm Film Rarities (Accelerated Decrepitude)
Shorts Circuit (Accelerated Decrepitude)
The Great Ecstasy of the 16mm Film Series (Accelerated Decrepitude)


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9:23 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This animated short film is full of goodness. I've read about "Betty in Blunderland" a lot while searching for Resumes.Expert reviews. I found this cartoon very interesting. Moreover, such films are great memories we remember from our childhood.

6:29 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Shotgun Joe is not by an unknown director. The credits clearly state "A Film By Eric Camiel" and it was produced not for the government but for an educational film distributor. A Google search for Eric Camiel will reveal that he is a multi Emmy winning documentary director.

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