Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Brecht Andersch Has Two Eyes

The Frisco Bay repertory/revival scene cannot be taken in by a single pair of eyes. Thankfully, a number of local filmgoers have agreed to share their favorites from 2009. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from Brecht Andersch, who blogs about cinema for SFMOMA and the Film on Film Foundation, where a lengthier version of this piece is cross-posted:

Ah... I would be recruited to this task the very year - due to other unavoidable obligations - I'd eased up on my decades-long mad-cap cinephiliac pursuits... Going over my 2009 calendar has prompted more pain than pleasure - all those once-in-a-lifetime this print runs through these projectors experiences which can never be repeated in exactly the same way, now lost, lost forever, on a river of no return, non-experienced moments disappearing like tears in rain... No, it is too late! We must move on!.... Despite the pain occasioned, I've managed to come up with a list:

1) The SFMOMA Projectionist/Open Space Blogger Experience:

Perhaps the greatest thrill over the past year has been to write about a film screening for the SFMOMA blog, then project the show. To engage for days and weeks of communion/mind-meld with a given film artist, write a piece on a specific work, and then devote several nerve-wracking hours towards getting it on the screen perfectly is quite a blast, so I hope to be forgiven for beginning this list with a vanity shout-out to Jeanne Dielman (2/26, 2/28), Stalker (4/9, 4/11), Portrait of Jason, (7/9, 7/11), Subversive Documentaries (9/1), Interiors (10/29), and Kenneth Anger (12/17). The last show was particularly anxiety-inducing as Anger was in the audience and has been known to put hexes on both writers and projectionists who've displeased him, so I was anticipating a potential double-whammy... Fortunately, as far as I can currently tell, everything went fine, but if my life takes a sudden nose-dive in the near future, you'll know the cause. On the other hand, I didn't have to project the Subversive Documentaries, and writing about Franju's Hôtel des Invalides and Resnais' Le Chant du Styrène, then coming in to see them in 35 for the first time (impeccable prints, immaculately projected) in the theater in which I work was an ecstatic experience, indeed!

2) The Film on Film Foundation Experience:

Since I'm still in vanity mode, I'll get this out of the way: being involved in programming and presenting rare films is always a thrill, especially ones I've a strong hankering to see. This was especially the case for Accident (4/5 PFA), our double-feature of Fear and Desire & The Delinquents (5/10 Roxie), and Patty Hearst (6/28 PFA). Aside from the Schrader, I'd only seen these on video (the bootleg of the Kubrick was like watching a documentary on snow shot in Pixel-vision), so seeing them in 35, for the most part in gorgeous prints, was a delight. Patty Hearst, a ludicrously underrated work (Schrader's best?), was given an extra boost by my Film on Film collaborationist Carl Martin pointing out in his intro that its opening shot had been lensed only a few hundred feet-or-so away from the PFA screen...

3) The Un- or Under-Seen Josef von Sternberg Experience:

At this point in my cinephiliac career, I'm less in heroic Deer Hunter-mode, than that of the yeoman farmer: I've planted my crops, and idly recline on the porch, savoring puffs from my corn-cob, and perusing the almanac (usually the PFA calendar) re. when to expect the harvest. This year, there was a bumper-crop of von Sternbergs, some of which I'd only seen in 16mm, or on video, while others I'd waited for for decades... The former category included Underworld (1/15) and The Last Command (1/18 - visionary masochism at Everest-heights of aesthetic accomplishment brought even further to precise fever-pitch by the astonishing improvisatory piano-accompaniment of the brilliant Judith Rosenberg), and the latter Thunderbolt (1/31), with George Bancroft's unanticipated (by me) sensitive performance as a Tough Con Cruel Bastard who ultimately reveals a heart partially made of gold. Thunderbolt added new layers to my understanding of Sternberg's masochism, and the film was this year, perhaps, for me the summit of that type of experience I seek in projected celluloid - that is, a personal vision expressed in profoundly passionate artistry, yoked to a deep knowledge and exploitation of the aesthetic effect film technology at its purest has on the reptilian brain - for me, this combo induces religious ecstasy.

To see Brecht's full list of ten "experiences" of 2009, please see the cross-posting at the Film On Film Foundation Blog.

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