|A scene from Paul Clipson's BRIGHT MIRROR, playing at the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 24 - May 8, 2014|
WHO: Paul Clipson made this.
WHAT: Though I mentioned it as one of my favorite undistributed new films seen in 2013, I never wrote anything about Bright Mirror last year during my post-a-day chronicling of the Frisco Bay film screening scene. I actually saw it on a DVD I borrowed during the Canyon Cinema pop-up last December, so I'm excited to finally see it projected in a cinema thanks to the San Francisco International Film Festival.
I usually get a lot of pleasure from watching local filmmaker & film projectionist Clipson's work in a public setting. His unique eye for capturing beautiful light & color patterns and arranging them, often through in-camera editing and/or multiple-exposures has provided him with a robust body of work that frequently gets showcased in cinemas, galleries and live music spaces across Frisco Bay and beyond. But Bright Mirror feels like a step into new territory for him; though it contains visual trademarks that are unmistakably his, it feels like it hearkens back to a tradition of metaphor and body movement reconnecting him to the psychodramas of Maya Deren, Sidney Peterson and early Stan Brakhage, that dominated the mid-century explosion of avant-garde filmmaking in California. If these sorts of images make a resurgence among up-and-coming experimenters in the coming years, I wonder if we'll be able to trace it back to Bright Mirror and Paul.
WHERE/WHEN: Screens on a SFIFF program playing today at the Pacific Film Archive at 5:45, and at the Kabuki on April 30th at 9:30.
WHY: While announcing the SFIFF line-up at a press conference earlier this month, Director of Programming Rachel Rosen noted that "16mm is going to outlast 35mm in the festival setting", and for new films this appears to have already been proven true. Barring some kind of unexpected last-minute change, there will be no recently-made films screened on the once-dominant theatrical exhibition format at the 57th edition of the longest-running film festival in North America. (This would make last year's second screening of Kerry Laitala's Conjuor's Box the final new 35mm film to play during the SFIFF'a fifty-six years in the 35mm era). There are several a few 16mm shorts screening in the Shirts 5 program, including Lawrence Jordan's Entr'Acte and Charlotte Pryce's A Study In Natural Magic, as well as Bright Mirror, which screens on its native Super-8 film format, but the rest are either revived titles (Bruce Baillie's Little Girl from 1966; Jim Jennings's Lost And Found from 1988) or digital projections. Just like the rest of the SFIFF program this year. And apart from this shorts program, even the revivals are mostly being presented digitally; All That Jazz, Queen Margot and Manila in the Claws of Neon are all newly-made DCPs for example. The counter-examples come mostly in the live music programs at the Castro Theatre; Eastman House has provided 35mm prints of both Charlie Chaplin's brilliant short The Pawnshop for its Tuesday April 29th screening (along with other works) accompanied by live music from Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, and of Tod Browning's depraved 1927 masterpiece The Unknown, which Stephin Merritt (of Magnetic Fields) will accompany May 6th. The only other 35mm screening we can expect at SFIFF is of Barbet Schoeder's Reversal of Fortune, for which Jeremy Irons received the 1990 Best Actor Academy Award, and which therefore seems to be the obvious choice for his Wednesday, April 30 evening in-person tribute at the Kabuki.
Note that experimental film legend Bruce Baillie is expected to be among the guests at today's PFA screening of Little Girl, but that he won't be at the Kabuki screening of the film. Clipson will be doing double-duty as filmmaker and by helping out on the 16mm and Super-8 projection of the films at the Kabuki, in order to help make the San Francisco screening as technically smooth as it's likely to be at the PFA.
HOW: As noted above, Bright Mirror will screen in Super-8, on a program with 16mm and digital video work.
OTHER SFIFF OPTIONS: Today's your last day to see the wonderfully strange and funny Serge Bozon film Tip Top at the festival. Definitely a polarizing film that despite nominal distribution seems highly unlikely to appear on a Frisco Bay screen again in the near future. It's also the day of "New Queer Cinema" icon Isaac Julien's on-stage conversation with B. Ruby Rich with a single-channel screening of his installation piece Ten Thousand Waves.
NON-SFIFF OPTION: The Castro Theatre is counter-programming SFIFF (on the days when it's not being rented by them) with a healthy dose of older films shown on 35mm prints, and tonight's double-bill of Robert Aldrich's Emperor of the North and Richard Fleischer's The Narrow Margin is one of the most cinephile-enticing on their schedule in the coming weeks.