Sunday, January 23, 2011

Brecht Andersch's Two Eyes

Since my own two eyes were not nearly enough to see and evaluate all the repertory/revival film screenings here on Frisco Bay, I'm honored to present local filmgoers' lists of the year's favorites. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from filmmaker/projectionist Brecht Andersch, who writes for the SFMOMA Open Space Blog and who co-founded the Film On Film Foundation:

Ahh..... 2010 is the year I met my cinemaniac Waterloo. After decades of dashing round that hamster's wheel of immediate gratification, I found myself transferred by my Masters to a new, smaller wheel which one could only hope to "traverse" by means of application of fingers to a qwerty-pad. My fingertips have become calloused to match the scars in my heart, and yet the fingers march on and on...

Sadly, I have only a few moments of cine-glory to share with you, but share I've promised, and share I shall.

1) The year began with the heaven-and-hell clash of perhaps the most strangely apt/un-apt double bill I've yet encountered, the PFA's January 23rd pairing of Playtime and Salo. I meant to write a piece on this utopian/dystopian death match, with the resonating, and irresolvable question: which, in fact, was which? But time escaped me, and I was forced to narrow, or at least alter my considered theme. No doubt this was for the best, for such concerns, dragged into the public sphere, can only lead to the dubious but justified rewards of the shamed exhibitionist.

2) My friend Ross Lipman flew into town, in part, for a Sunday, February 28th afternoon screening of his restored versions of the great amateur filmmaker Sid Laverents. I worked up an Open Space post covering this show, as well as Ross's other many exciting activities, and showed up on that glorious sun-graced Sunday to find myself part of an audience of eleven, of which Lucy Laird was another. This was the moment I discovered the power of the press. Who loves the sun? Not I, since it broke my heart... It was a great show anyway, and since then, I sleep days.

3) Again we go with the PFA. On March 6th, I treated my wife to a double feature of Joseph Losey's M and The Big Night for her birthday. Included was the short Youth Gets a Break, which, unlike the features, I'd never before seen. Gents, I gotta tell you -- when you splurge on the little woman's big day in this manner, you won't have to wait 'til heaven to receive your rewards.

4) Later that month, I wrote about the PFA's screenings of Eve and Accident, then savored the narcissistic delusion, as the lights dimmed, that I was in some fashion the ringmaster. Of course, as the light hit the screen in each case I was immediately brought up short -- for in Losey, only the Goddess calls the shots.

5) Not April 1st, but the 2nd and 3rd proved my Fool's Days, or rather nights. On each there was a Cinematheque programmed Jim McBride/Stanton Kaye double bill at Yerba Buena: Fri, the 2nd's was McBride's David Holzman's Diary with Kaye's Georg, and the next night it was Kaye's Brandy in the Wilderness and McBride's My Girlfriend's Wedding. Of these, I'd only seen David Holzman, but that's a film I've watched obsessively since my first screening in '86, appropriately by means of a 16mm print in my own tiny filmmaker's abode. McBride and Kaye were scheduled to be there, and indeed they showed up both nights and did due diligence to all fifteen-or-so people in the audience. The Cinematheque's director, Jonathon Marlow, does things in style, and parties were thrown and catched (or is the term crashed?) by those daring enough to stick their noses amongst their betters. I remember scotch-fueled discussions with Jim and Tracy McBride, as well as one Mr. Brian Darr, and lo-and-behold! Who did I find amongst the crowd other than my hero, Holzman himself -- L.M. Kit Carson! I swiftly made my approach to commence that long-promised "talk about Vincente Minnelli". Yes, for those who're curious, he's indeed a fan... One of my favorite moments of this weekend was standing next to my friend Mindy Bagdon as he reunited with Stanton Kaye after forty-plus years. Mindy had worked for a bit in some kinda cinematographic capacity on Brandy all those years ago, but had never seen it. Imagine his joy and surprise to discover it a semi-masterpiece...

6) A couple of weeks later found me again at Yerba, finally catching up with a film always a block or two ahead of me these past couple decades -- Marguerite Duras's Le Camion. For those who've heard about but haven't seen, it does indeed consist of long conversations between Duras and Gerard Depardieu at a table discussing a proposed screenplay, intercut with images of a camion driving thru the French countryside. I gotta tell you, tho -- that camion's some truck! If Duras were with us today, I'd exhort her to "Keep on Camionin'!"

7) Ryland Walker Knight has already waxed well on our ventures with Brian Darr to southern climes to take in McCarey masterpieces (Make Way for Tomorrow and Ruggles of Red Gap), both of which I'd only seen before on 16mm or video. I'll come down on the side of Make Way for diversity's sake, and because I love to have my heart broken. (But yes, we all need more of Ruggles's joy.)

8) In May and June, in my role as projectionist at SFMOMA, I enjoyed the hell out of warlocking the spindles o' magick for screenings of Model Shop and Play Misty for Me, with all their sun-drenched Californian autocentricity... If Eastwood had kept up the level of Play he'd begun at with Misty (no doubt with help from mentor Don Seigel), he could justifiably be discussed with directors on the level of Jacques Demy on a regular basis. (Sadly, this is not the case.) Demy's film, on the other hand, is fully emblematic of a directorial vision which seems to broaden and deepen with every screening of almost any one of his films...

9) Nine?! Already? Time for to make the mad dash thru all the pictures I really shoulda talked about -- the three days in a row in August I managed to make it out to revisit semi-favorite Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence at the VIZ, Death in Venice (for me one of the great Transcendent Masterpieces of Cinema) at the Roxie, and The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (again at PFA). It's true I gotta penchant for all that homoerotic farrin' stuff, but what my id's really hankerin' for is just one -- just one measily hour to rampage in the proper heterosexist, fanny grabbin', Tommy-gun tottin' Legs Diamond manner 'til goin' down in my very own glorious blaze of bullets, only to wake and thank my luck stars, that no, indeed, I'm not that wayward mick run amok... Thank God, and thanks very much, Mr. Budd Boetticher. Then there was my 2nd 35mm viewing of House of Bamboo (9/10 PFA), some much later viewings of Dreyer films (Nov. and Dec. at PFA), such as uber-favorites Ordet, and Gertrud (the latter for the first time in 35), and my first-ever encounter with Two People, which, if they had been directed by anyone other than Carl Th., would be considered at least the inhabitants of a minor masterpiece, but instead have to suffer the ignominious status of having been disowned by the severe Dane. There was also that sacred work of degradation, Accattone (12/10), which I hadn't seen for some time, and finally I must make mention of my first-ever viewing of Rolling Thunder (9/2 Roxie, part of Not Necessarily Noir, programmed by Elliot Lavine) amidst my on-going Jacob/Devil wrastlin' match (I'll leave it to you to figure out who was who) with my extended series on the 70's work of Paul Schrader, which came just in time to deliver a key line (both for his oeuvre and my piece): "You learn to love the rope… That’s how you beat people who torture you — you learn to love them."

10) At last we are at our final number which invokes for me a work by that recently departed figure who ranks amongst the Greatest (and most profoundly underrated) of Major American Film Directors. But this isn't the time for your eulogy, Blake (that time will come), but rather to truly wrap up the wrap-up by conducting those readers not yet appropriately alienated by this Big Parade of Vanity thru the most glorious of my gloriest involvements in the local cinematic scene, i.e. those I've been directly involved with in some fashion: there was the FOFF screening of Endless Love (8/22 PFA), with its screenwriter, Judith Rascoe, in attendance; Bay Area Ecstatic, the first show I've been allowed to program and present at SFMOMA (and let me just say in passing I'm very gratified to see mentions of these programs by my fellow wrap-uppers), and last, and by far the most exciting was the 9/29 screening of 1953's The End (at the PFA, as part of the fantastically extensive series conjoined to the book Radical Light). This was a key moment in the project I've been involved with for most of the last year with Brian Darr to investigate, document, and analyze all things having to do with Christopher Maclaine's Very Great Masterpiece. After making contact with Wilder Bentley II, who plays Paul, one of the film's rotating protagonists, we now found ourselves seated next to "Paul" himself for this latest unspooling of The End upon the PFA screen. As the Paul episode came up, I couldn't help surreptitiously glancing back and forth between "Paul"s. This was truly a glorious moment.

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