THIS WEEK! Scott MacDonald program 2, Ozu + Judith Rosenberg & S.F. Cinematheque’s Weekend of Live Cinema

February 18, 2010  |  By
Filed under: 151 3rd, Field Notes

Yasijiro Ozo's _That Night's Wife_

Just a quick note to appraise all and sundry of at least a portion of the cream of this week’s Bay Area rep film offerings:  This Thurs (that is, Tonight) graces us with the second program of Scott MacDonald’s 3-part contribution to 75 Years in the Dark:  A Partial History of Film at SFMOMA: Some American Experiments. This rather underwhelming title masks an over-stuffed sausage of a program composed of excitingly disparate parts, including early animation classics like Winsor McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur (1914), and the Ub Iwerks/Disney Steamboat Willie (1928), as well as major Avant-Garde classics such as Man Ray’s Le retour à la raison and Maya Daren’s Ritual in Tranfigured Time. Great as these all are, I’m especially anxious to see Frank Stauffacher (mastermind of the museum’s legendary Art in Cinema series)’s incredibly rare Zig-Zag, and The Bells of Atlantis by Ian Hugo (one-time husband of Anïs Nin, who was incarnated by Richard E. Grant [He of the Bulging Eyes] in Philip Kaufman’s Henry and June).  All-in-all, this show promises 80-or-so minutes of alternating or intertwined sublimity and surprise—like a canister of snakes, only 100% pleasurable.

I became aware of Judith Rosenberg rather slowly.  During my somewhat frequent attendance of silent film at the Pacific Film Archive, I began noticing a strange sensation—a growing excitement at the anticipation of films she was scheduled to accompany (to give some background—I’ve been known to beat a hasty retreat when confronted by music I found to have a deleterious effect on the event as cinema.).  My vocabulary of musical terms is limited, but I believe her improvisatory work incorporates elements of French Impressionism, Wagnerian thunderbolts, and the occasional bit of Modernist dissonance to produce the most intoxicating musical melange I’ve ever encountered in conjunction with silent celluloid.  I haven’t encomiums enough to describe the rapture she imparts—go experience it for yourself, and feel free to write back angrily if you disagree.  The film she plays to Friday night at the PFA, Ozu’s That Night’s Wife, should work perfectly with her twinkling magic:  it’s a little-known fact that the American-influenced early works of Ozu give his stateside maestros a run for their money in the entertainment dept, while fully displaying the seeds of the transcendent genius of Transcendental Cinema Ozu was to become…

Finally, the San Francisco Cinematheque presents Apparent Motion, a full weekend of live cinema/projector performance at the Mission’s Victoria Theatre (San Francisco’s oldest live/cinema theater?)  This art/performance/experimental film genre is increasingly gaining traction as a major territory of contemporary art practice, and these

Untitled Super-8 film by Paul Clipson

four star-studded programs will no doubt grace aficionados with multiple-psyche-gasms, and provide neophytes with a crash-course opportunity to get up to speed.  Saturday evening’s show includes a performance by SFMOMA projectionist/filmmaker Paul Clipson, of whom I’ve written elsewhere of modifying the “Dionysian-Romantic vision and cinematic practice of Stan Brakhage and Bruce Baillie by a remote, Apollonian, graphically-powerful precision” (I tempered these praises by unmasking the Wattis Theatre technical chief as a “harsh taskmaster”—it causes me just a little grief that my co-worker is one of the major filmmakers working today…  Not to be outdone, Sunday night’s show features, among others, alchemist/wizard Kerry Laitala, on whom I’ve also waxed: “this mercurial creator of shape-shifting enchantments has built up a significant body of work exploring an at-first murky-seeming realm of shadow-play, quicksilver experiment in the wee hours, the attempt to unite sol with luna, the charming of phantasms, and sudden, but constant climaxes of pyrotechnic frenzy… In full disclosure, she is a friend and comrade — she is also without doubt amongst the highest adepts of Bolex/optical-printer necromancy practicing today…”  So there we go—yes, I’ve plugged some associates, but I’ve never done so for those whose work couldn’t back me up.  Attend the shows,  judge for yourselves…

legendary local maverick Laitala. This mercurial creator of shape-shifting enchantments has built up a significant body of work exploring an at-first murky-seeming realm of shadow-play, quicksilver experiment in the wee hours, the attempt to unite sol with luna, the charming of phantasms, and sudden, but constant climaxes of pyrotechnic frenzy. In her work, the spirits dance, and grand guignol theatric spectaculars are improvised. We are guided through this preternatural terrain by an able psychopomp who transmutes celluloid lead into cinematic bullion. This extensive, but hardly exhaustive Program culminates with the performance of Little Bassy Velvet, one of Laitala’s Expanded Cinema-projector performance pieces, which offer total immersion into the flickering dominion… This last has to be experienced to be believed – kinecstasy is achieved through the sum-total of cinematic apparati, and Kerry is quite the show-woman. In full disclosure, she is a friend and comrade — she is also without doubt amongst the highest adepts of Bolex/optical-printer necromancy practicing today…legendary local maverick Laitala. This mercurial creator of shape-shifting enchantments has built up a significant body of work exploring an at-first murky-seeming realm of shadow-play, quicksilver experiment in the wee hours, the attempt to unite sol with luna, the charming of phantasms, and sudden, but constant climaxes of pyrotechnic frenzy. In her work, the spirits dance, and grand guignol theatric spectaculars are improvised. We are guided through this preternatural terrain by an able psychopomp who transmutes celluloid lead into cinematic bullion. This extensive, but hardly exhaustive Program culminates with the performance of Little Bassy Velvet, one of Laitala’s Expanded Cinema-projector performance pieces, which offer total immersion into the flickering dominion… This last has to be experienced to be believed – kinecstasy is achieved through the sum-total of cinematic apparati, and Kerry is quite the show-woman. In full disclosure, she is a friend and comrade — she is also without doubt amongst the highest adepts of Bolex/optical-printer necromancy practicing today…

2 Comments

  1. judith Rosenberg Says:

    Dear Brecht,

    I wanted to thank you so much for your kind words. I was browsing around and just now discovered your blog.
    You have no idea how much I appreciated your comments about my work. If you come to PFA again, would you please
    come up and say hello?

    Best,
    Judith Rosenberg

  2. Brecht Andersch Says:

    I will indeed, Judith. And I’m very happy you liked these all-too-brief, but well-deserved remarks: in my many years of silent film-going, you are the only composer/accompanist whose involvement in a program has lured me across the bay, sometimes even for films for which I’ve had low expectations. Nothing compares to experiencing you interact with a masterpiece, but your work is never less than transcendent. I look forward to meeting you.

    Cheers! -Brecht

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