Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fin de Siècle (2011)

Image from artist website.
WHO: Kathleen Quillian made this short animation.

WHAT: The cut-out animation tradition includes some illustrious names: Harry Smith, Stan Vanderbeek, Lawrence Jordan, Norman McLaren, Walerian Borowczyk, Terry Gilliam. More recently even Jan Svankmajer (who turns eighty today) has turned his hand to it. But in the last several years, it feels like women have been creating the most focused and fiery entries into this often disrespected corner of moving image art. Theoretically these kind of films seem comparatively easier to create than some other forms of animation: they don't necessarily require drawing skill or powerful software systems. But what they do require is an intense amount of planning, perseverance, and a knack for conceptualizing interesting movement in the face of limited parameters. Animators like Stacey Steers, Martha Colburn, and Janie Geiser have done wonderful work in the past decade or so, each creating pieces with distinctive thematic and stylistic attributes. Though Kathleen Quillian has not yet amassed a prolific output as these women have, she's working toward that, and her most recently-completed film Fin de Siècle, investigating the pessimistic and superstitious outlooks of many denizens of the late  nineteenth century, deserves to be compared to the works of Colburn, Geiser, etc. as David Finkelstein did in a Film Threat review I shall republish a brief sample of:
Quillian has a sharp eye for creating arresting, off balance visual compositions, and for using simple visual elements to create the sense of wonder and strangeness which permeate turn of the century writings on the occult and the longing to make contact with the supernatural. 
WHERE/WHEN: Screens on a program starting 8PM tonight at Artists' Television Access.

WHY: This month marks the 30th anniversary of Artists's Television Access, or as it usually nicknamed, A.T.A. The venue is celebrating by hosting a panoply of special events this month (and beyond), starting with tonight's "Open Screening" program of work made by current or former A.T.A. staffers including Dale Hoyt, Claire Bain, Mike Missiaen, Karla Milosevich and more, put together by filmmaker Linda Scobie. She writes, "this show is a wonderfully varied mix of the diverse community involved with A.T.A. over the years and a unique experience to see all their films showcased together."

There are too many events at the space for one person to see. Or are there?  A gauntlet has been thrown down to endurance-testing cinephiles with a 30-hour marathon screening of films selected by members of the A.T.A. community (also including Quillian and sound artist Gilbert Guerrero, her collaborative partner on Fin de Siècle and on running the Shapeshifters Cinema in Oakland). It starts 1PM tomorrow, and it's possible to see everything for as little as $1 per hour of viewing. I must admit I'm tempted to try. Later in the month A.T.A. hosts new installments of popular series like the music/performance-focuesd Mission Eye & Ear, the kickoff to the Fall calendar for the Other Cinema series curated by the Mission iconoclast Craig Baldwin, an evening devoted to works by Baldwin himself: ¡O No Coronado!, Wild Gunman and Sonic Outlaws (his latest feature Mock Up On Mu is part of the marathon, appropriately scheduled for the witching hour), and a pair of screenings of work by the Mission's twin filmmaker legends, Mike Kuchar and his late brother George.

In an article at Eat Drink Films reminiscences about the unique Mission District venue have been collected by that site's new editor, Johnny Ray Huston. My own experiences with the venue date back to my earliest awarenesses of it as the most "beyond punk rock" of all of San Francisco's screening spaces, and along with Aquarius Records and Leather Tongue video (the latter now long-since closed although its iconic sign hangs in Bender's) symbolized Valencia Street for me as a teenager in the early 1990s as the mecca for media that I'd never heard of before and doubted I'd ever be cool enough or smart enough to understand. A part of my cinephilia may be rooted in a quest to unlock the mystique of a place like A.T.A., but I think I've learned that this is probably impossible. A.T.A. boggles the mind of everybody, even the people who are closely involved in its continued operation. With all the changes that Valencia street has gone through in the past 30, 20, ten, five, or even two years, A.T.A. is perhaps the street's most unlikely survivor, and for me its most welcome one. If you can't attend any of the screenings this week or month, please consider donating to an Indiegogo campaign determined to upgrade the venue's technological capacity so it can last for another thirty years.

HOW: Scobie notes that tonight "we're screening many different formats from super-8 to VHS, Hi-8, and a hybrid of 35mm slides and digital video. You'll see current works in progress being shown to classic films dating back to the early '90s." I expect Fin de Siècle to screen on digital video.

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