Husets Biograf and CSFF celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the invention of 16mm celluloid film with a screening of both obscure and well known short film gems from the American underground milieu. This entertaining sampling of personal filmmaking includes the works of luminaries of 60s “New American Cinema” such as George Kuchar, Tom Palazzolo and Bob Cowan, as well as spotlighting the movies of more recent filmmakers such as Martha Colburn and Danny Plotnick. Fittingly we kick off the show with one of the greatest hits of the silent period from Robert Florey and Slavko Vorkapich.
Jack Stevenson has curated the program and will present it at the screening.
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF 9413 – A HOLLYWOOD EXTRA
Robert Florey and Slavko Vorkapich / 10 min. / 1928 / USA
This famous surrealist short by Robert Florey and Slavko Vorkapich is the first of the American films to show the influence of German Expressionism and the French avant-garde films of the Twenties. It’s a satiric fantasy about a man who wants to become a Hollywood movie star. He gets a number – 9413 – stamped on his forehead and begins his career. In spite of visions of grandeur he is a failure. He dies of starvation and ascends to heaven where an angel wipes the number from his forehead and he again becomes human. Slavko Vorkapich, later renowned for his montage work with major studios, designed the sets in the style of Caligari. Robert Florey who wrote the screenplay for Frankenstein and directed Coconuts and Beast With Five Fingers co-directs with Vorkapich from their own screenplay. “This avant-garde experimental short was shot largely in Vorkapich’s kitchen using cut-out miniatures; it is a masterpiece of low budget art.
BEHIND EVERY GOOD MAN
Nikolai Ursin / 8 min. / 1966, 8 min. / USA
This home movie style docu-drama about a day in the life of a black transvestite is at once heartfelt and naive. Shot in mid-60’s Los Angeles, it exudes a low budget “on the street” authenticity and figures as a poetic ode to love affairs that start in donut shops and end in heartbreak. Primitive in the best sense with a soundtrack composed of confessional narration and pop songs that seem to have been recorded off a transistor radio.
HOLD ME WHILE I’M NAKED
George Kuchar / 15 min. / 1966 / USA
One of the best loved films of the 60s underground, a playful satire of motion picture making that leads to existential contemplations on the meaning of life. Here the fantasy of Hollywood glamour collides with the reality of loneliness in the Bronx and wicked turns of fate, like when your leading lady quits the movie in the middle of shooting. This really happened so George just wrote it into the script. This was the first of his so-called “diarist dramas” where he himself is the main focal point, and together with Sins of the Fleshapoids help popularize Mike and George with a wider audience.
Tom Palazzolo / 9 min. / 1974, 9 min. / USA
Hilarious action portrait of Jerry Meyers, the last angry man of the American lunch counter who became renown in Chicago for grabbing, pushing, shoving and yelling at customers. “For 29 years Jerry Meyers has screamed and yelled at the customers who came into his deli – the film attempts to explain why people keep coming back for more.”
Bob Cowan / 9 min. / 1968 / USA
This 9 minute film is constructed largely of footage Bob shot at The Electric Circus (in NYC) in connection with the opening of a boutique there at which the Chambers Brothers rock band played. Mod fashions are on display as folks pack the dance floor. But what appears to be a straightforward if experimental fashion/dance/rock document changes mid-point into a psychedelic nightmare as the mood turns ominous via an escalation of eerie music. The images grow more hallucinatory and the editing quicker. Donna now reappears in a solitary setting in close-up, swinging giant earrings and staring at the camera as if she’s casting a spell. The effect is sinister and trance-like as special effects bombard the screen.
EVIL OF DRACULA
Martha Colburn / 2 min. / 1997 / USA
Ghoulishly grinning talking-heads sprout fangs and leer with a fiendish intensity as they wait for a chance to suck your neck and wallet in this tribute to the evil of Dracula that lurks behind the smiling facade of everyday life. As Ms. Colburn muses, “The film was made with home-spun special effects of funnel-vision and hand-colored film and features a blood draining soundtrack by the legendary Lyrical Monster Song Master Jad Fair and musical madman Jason Willett.”
Martha Colburn / 3 min. / 1999 / USA
Martha Colburn reveals: “I was inspired to make this film by a radio talk show suggesting that outer space exploration is little more than man’s desire to fertilize. Through super impositions and animation outer space is seen to be inhabited by luscious female astronauts. Pulsating and floating through the darkness, occasionally encountering phallus-like rockets. Set to a wonderfully spacey electronics song by Jad Fair and J.Willett.”
SPIDERS IN LOVE
Martha Colburn / 2 min. / 2000 / USA
A gloriously chaotic take on sex, spiders and various other mutant hallucinations in Martha’s traditionally hyperkinetic animated style. As she elaborates, “This is a very complex animated film of the world of the she-spiders. They dance and dash about with ghoulish and gorgeous expressions of lust and consuming hunger. Parts of this film could appear as if Busby Berkley made a nature film as there are so many fabulous legs and complex dance routines. Indications of death and life abound. Musical soundtrack by Red Balune and Jad Fair and J. Willett.”
THE KETCHUP & MUSTARD MAN
Cory McAbee / 33 min / 1994 / USA
This is a series of musical fables about whimsical creatures that dwell on the fringes of a demented imagination, cute but in a very disturbed way. Entertaining, bizarre and oddly infectious. Songs performed Include “Maple Bar,” “Fickey,” and “Chicken Story.” (Note: Cory was the lead singer in a band known as The Billy Nayer Show which also stood behind a number of underground films including the cult classic listed below, The American Astronaut.