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TSPDT 2013: shorts

Posted by martinteller on April 3, 2013

Arnulf Rainer – I thought I’d tackle all my unseen shorts from the TSPDT list at once, starting with this one by Peter Kubelka.  Named for an Austrian abstart artist, it consists of two elements: a screen that flickers between black and white, and a static noise cutting in and out.  For a time the concurrence of white+noise seems to be consistent, but gradually seems to get slightly off, with a white screen and no noise or a black screen with noise.  It’s like decoding an alien binary language, and despite its extreme simplicity (one of the simplest uses of film you can imagine) it does manage to create sensations of anticipation and curiosity.  While I wouldn’t want to watch an hour of it, seven minutes of it is somewhat intriguing.  It’s not the most brilliant idea, but it’s something.  Rating: Fair (68)


Unsere Afrikareise – Another by Kubelka, a document of white Europeans on a hunting trip (there are snatches of what sounds like German, but no subtitles) in Africa.  Like his previous short, image and sound work against each other in playful ways, but with a darker, satiric edge in this context.  Gunshots or laughter when natives are on screen, jaunty music as a zebra is being skinned.  The use of these kind of ironic juxtapositions to make biting social commentary (in this case, about colonialism) reminded me a lot of Vigo’s A propos de Nice.  Rating: Good (73)


A Movie – Fucking hilarious.  Bruce Conner combines stock footage, repeated titles and absurdly epic music in this send-up of the movies, spoofing their sensationalist focus on action and sex.  The film crescendos — as the music swells — with scenes of actual horror (piles of bodies, the Hindenburg crash) and images of human failure, positioning the tragic drama of our existence against the phony baloney drama of the movies.  The opening minute or two of buildup — with its excessive leader footage and “End of Part Four” out of nowhere — is a hoot.  Really witty and energetic.  Rating: Very Good (84)


The Seasons (Vremena goda) – Artavazd Pelechian’s wordless (except for a few brief intertitles) documentary of Armenian shepherds and farmers working against and in harmony with nature has a lovely poetry to it.  It feels like a mix of Flaherty’s Man of Aran in its depiction of human struggle against the elements and Werner Herzog in its presentation of powerful, evocative images.  Images like men carrying sheep across a raging river, or hauling giant bales behind them as they go sliding down a steep mountain.  The rhythms of the film are often slowed to accentuate the effort and the implicit drama of survival, with accompaniment by Vivaldi.  Some beautiful stuff here.  Rating: Very Good (83)


Outer Space – A blazingly intense experience.  Peter Tscherkassky takes a scene of Barbara Hershey entering a dark house from The Entity and obliterates it.  I don’t know how to describe this technique… it jitters and skips and is obscured and mirrored and cut up.  Noise dominates the soundtrack.  As the frenzy reaches its climax, we see only sprocket holes from the filmstrip dancing across the screen and then Hershey tries to break through the madness.  Difficult to watch, and difficult to look away from.  Impressive experiment in film manipulation.  Rating: Very Good (83)


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