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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

So, that Magik Markers LP -- confusion is still sex, I gather. No lack of groovy-hate-fuck anti-libidinal nrg, and I'm liking the drummer, but...it's called a vocal mic. It's right there, just move your head. Would still try it on live.

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Getty, last night. Tony Conrad: 10 minute film of b&w bars/checks, flickering, producing apparent motion and color effects. 15 minute film replicating the familiar mise-en-abyme tunnel of video feedback by a laborious process involving developing the footage right after its exposed and projecting it on the very screen the camera points to. "Film" loop only viewable by one spectator at a time, by physically wrapping it around your head; "soundtrack" consisting of violin-bowing edge of the film, amplified for the rest of the audience's benifit. 3 second film of woman placing a needle on a record. 10 minutes of super-8 from a much longer project, involving David Antin, Mike Kelley and other artists around San Diego at the time playing soldier; a less-disciplined Les Carabiniers, from what I could make out. Michael Snow: 15 minute condensation of Wavelength consisting of each third of the film (and soundtrack) running simultaneously, superimposed; partly a response to his unwillingness to make the full version available on video. 17 minute expansion of a 30-second incident, using technology designed for sports slo-mo. 20 minute section of Corpus Callosum, a somewhat formless but sometimes disquieting catalog of squeezling-and-stretching effects; farily current techniques now common in commercial film pressed to non-narrative ends. Q&A with P. Adams Sitney, whose Visionary Film I can see on the shelf from here but of which I haven't gotten past ch. 2: Conrad came off as much less mysterioso than my previous impression of him (behind-the-curtain concert, all those anti-Pythagorean Table of the Elements liner notes). Snow seemed unwilling to tip his hand, talked much more about the 'how' than 'why.' B/c of time constraints, I ended up asking the only audience question -- just wanted to know about the provenance of a couple of the soundtracks. Turned out Conrad's Straight and Narrow (which I dorked out and called Back and Forth, one of Snow's not shown tonight), the first film described above, is backed by a chunk of John Cale/Terry Riley's Church of Anthrax, which happened to be what Cale brought by when Conrad had just gotten the film back from the lab. The endless gliss of Wavelength seems more or less to have been the work of someone at Bell Labs (I'm sure this is all documented somewhere). Checking out round two -- solo concerts by both -- tonight, but I'm not tempted away from next weekend's noirs by a screening of Snow's 285 min. Rameau's Nephew.

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Wicked As They Come (1956). Rise and fall (from 10th St. to trophy wife to unjustly accused murderess) of a sexual manipulator/’manhater’, pivoting almost entirely on Arlene Dahl’s performance, half Stanwyck in Baby Face, half Kim Novak blankness. The ‘right man’ (Philip Carey) shows up at intervals; he seemed to me no less sleazy than any other man in the movie. Other than Dahl’s eyes and one of Herbert Marshall’s last performances (best scene is a job interview as mutual seduction), pretty hokey; we find out in the last read that the protagoness was “attacked by hoodlums” at 14, which of course explains everything. I suppose this was meant to be a sympathetic treatment of a femme fatale type, but the implicit suggestion is that it’s only the fact rape or abuse (to her father, “You’re no better than the rest of them”) that would drive a woman to cynicism about the advances of beauty contest judges as married execs. I can’t stand the ending of Marnie, either.

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The Whip Hand (1951). Insane/inane Cold War conspiracy flick, set in Michigan but filmed in U.K. studios. Magazine writer on takes wrong road, is turned back at a gated compound (“Private Property,” ironic in light of what’s to come), ends up in what amounts to a ghost town, tourism having dried up after mass death of lake trout. Townspeople at first seem to be shooing him out, but once he starts poking around, won’t let him leave. Cutting to the chase: All but a few oldsters in the town are recent arrivals who moved in after the fish died. They’re “Communists” from who knows where, ultimately in the service of the guy up at the compound, an biological weapons expert for the Reich, now at work for the Rooskies on some other fun new additions to the U.S. water supply (not to mention a few human guinea pigs). The plot is foiled, not before the mad Herr Doktor Buchholz gets off a speech, or most of one; he’s shot half-a-beat-after “Communists will rule the world!” If you didn’t know what communism was before the movie, you’d just assume at the end that it was another name for Nazism – all you know is that “they’ll stop at nothing.” Churchillian. Only familiar face in the cast was Raymond Burr, as a falsely jolly inn owner (2nd-cousin to John Candy’s “Fishin’ Musician”), though Bree informs me that protagonist Elliot Reed was Jane Russell’s love interest in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes -- in that company, no wonder I can’t remember him. For being directed by William Cameron Menzies (more famous as an art director/production designer), there wasn’t a lot to look at, other than stagy “rocky foothills.” (His ’32 Chandu the Magician is fine, though.)

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Still 2 noirs behind, but Dmytryk’s Obsession and Curtis Bernhart's Joan Crawford vehicle Possessed were both much better films than either of the above, and hence, harder to capture. We’ll see.

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