New York Journal 3.
Acquarello is to filmblogging what (ahem) Iggy Pop is to punk rock: ancestor and trailblazer. I remember sending a gushy fan e-mail to Strictly Film School in the late nineties. We started corresponding, and Acquarello urged me to start writing about film for Senses Of Cinema. I had never written about the arts at all, and was terrified, but the encouragement nudged me into doing it.
And so it was delightful when we finally met in person on Saturday at the Whitney Biennial. We wandered through the show and then watched an avant-garde film program which included Michael Snow’s WVLNT (Wavelength for Those Who Don’t Have the Time. Originally 45 Minutes, Now 15!). In 2004, Snow took the 45-minute film that he made in 1967, divided it into thirds and superimposed them on to each other. In addition to the Snow film, the program also included: Jeanne Liotta’s Eclipse, Louise Bourque’s L’Eclat Du Mal, Christina Battle’s Buffalo Lifts, and Martha Colburn’s Cosmetic Emergency.
The next avant-garde program of the afternoon featured just two filmmakers. I found David Gatten’s The Great Art Of Knowing utterly fortress-like and impenetrable but Lewis Klahr’s Two Minutes To Zero trilogy was a charmer. In it, he takes comic-books and photographs them in extreme close-up—every Benday dot looms large—and uses lightning pans to move from objects to characters to landscape, constructing a story all his own from this found material. The icing on the cake is the collection of obscure but killer 60’s pop tunes he plays in their entirety to accompany his narrative. A feast for eye and ear.
After the Klahr films ended, I went down to the Whitney lobby to rendezvous with experimental filmmaker/curator Jennifer MacMillan of Invisible Cinema, whom I'd never met before. Fumbling around in my pockets, I realized I had forgotten to bring her cell phone number. There must’ve been a hundred people milling around for the Biennial in the lobby, and though I had a (small) picture of her, she didn’t have one of me (not one that would help anyway). I called my friend Gordon in Buffalo, had him log into my email account, retrieve her number and read it to me so I could call her, a few feet away (ah, la vie moderne…). We took the train to Union Square for a lovely dinner. I promised to make her a hip-hop mix CD with Missy Elliott on it.
Sunday was my last day in New York. I met up with Acquarello at Lincoln Center and we went across the street for a dynamite sushi meal (memo to myself: scour Toronto for good sushi restaurants) and caught a double bill at Rendezvous With French Cinema. Serge Le Peron’s political-historical docudrama I Saw Ben Barka Get Killed was informative, well-intentioned and workmanlike. There were flashes of a greater promise when Jean-Pierre Leaud appeared on the screen, alas too infrequently. He played the director Georges Franju—who made Eyes Without A Face—as kin to the touchingly cuckoo filmmaker Vidal of Irma Vep. I could've seen an entire film devoted to Leaud/Franju; he had an odd but captivating appeal.
The other film was Brigitte Roüan’s Housewarming. It's about a lawyer played by Carole Bouquet—she was the cooler of the two actresses playing the same character in Buñuel’s That Obscure Object Of Desire—having her apartment renovated by a group of butter-fingered Colombian illegal immigrants. It’s a light comedy complete with musical interludes and anarchic pratfalls but played at a breakneck speed and edited with an elliptical knife. The jokes are many and quick, but the film never waits for a response to them—it simply moves on briskly to the next moment. There's something modest and endearingly self-effacing about that. Though the less “lofty” of the two films in terms of subject, it was the more interesting example of cinema.