Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Conjuror's Box (2011)

WHO: Kerry Laitala made this short film. She and I have been dating for a couple of years now; she was already a well-established experimental film and video artist before we met at a film festival in 2011. If you find my use of this blog as a promotional platform for my girlfriend's work objectionable or compromised in anyway. you can pretend I wrote instead about Abel Ferrara's Dangerous Game, which is screening at the Castro today. (I haven't seen it, and its double-bill-mate The Canyons is one of the worst new films I've seen all year.) Otherwise, read on!

WHAT: Conjuror's Box is a 35mm work of hand-made cinema, the latest in Laitala's series of films entitled the "Muse of Cinema" films, inspired by the silent era and pre-cinematic projection technologies and artifacts. In the artist's own words, it's "in effect a memento mori to the celluloid medium" as 35mm film becomes increasingly expensive for artists to work with and rare for most venues to project. Still, Conjuror's Box has screened in 35mm at several festivals and venues around the world, including at the San Francisco International Film Festival this past April and May. It was on the occasion of its screening there that the Film On Film Foundation's Carl Martin saw and briefly reviewed the film. He wrote that Conjuror's Box
uses an amalgam of techniques in its evocation of the shadowy beginnings of cinema. Sinuous abstractions (and a few recognizable objects) are photogrammed directly onto a filmstrip, then step-printed to introduce variations in tempo and bring emphasis to certain chance formations, as Stan Brakhage did with some of his hand-painted films. The striking colors of these photograms led me briefly to wonder what they would look like through the chroma-depth glasses used to view Laitala's video works, but there was already so much apparent depth to the image that it wouldn't be worth hazarding its filmic texture. Conjuror's Box is soon augmented with fanciful images suggestive of magic lantern slides (that is perhaps what they are) inserted into the masked-off center of the frame, while in the periphery the film roils on as before. 
WHERE/WHEN: Screens tonight only at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, on a program starting at 7:00.

WHY: Last week I wrote about the PFA's weekly Wednesday Alternative Visions programming, and mentioned some of the animators who are expected to be at tonight's screening showing their new work, but I'll re-iterate: Lawrence Jordan with his Solar Sight II, James Sansing with his haunting Verses, and Stacey Steers with her Night Hunter will be on hand for audience interaction, as well as Laitala.

Since last week's post, I've learned about more experimental film screenings that might be of interest to anyone thinking of attending the PFA tonight. Tomorrow night Artists' Television Access hosts formerly local filmmaker Brian Frye for a screening of a number of his shorts; the next day he'll be at the Roxie to introduce a screening of the found-footage documentary he produced Our Nixon. The SF Cinematheque Fall calendar has also been revealed, and will include appearances by filmmakers like James T. Hong, Laida Lertxundi, Standish Lawder and Nicolas Rey among others, at venues like A.T.A, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Exploratorium and others.

HOW: Conjuror's Box and Verses screen in 35mm, while Solar Sight II and Jodie Mack's Point de Gaze screen in 16mm, and the other works in the program screen digitally.

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