1950's Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Mid-week Painleve: Les Oursins (1954)

The films of Jean Painlevé I'll be writing about for this series are part of Science is Fiction from The Criterion Collection.

Oursins (1954)One of the biggest signs 2015 was a rough year for movies came last week when we did our annual pieces for the Oscars.  Some movies and movie-related experience I write about as a sort of self-imposed cultural obligation.  It's the same reason I force myself to watch Marvel films, and I've been wondering how "worth it" the experience is moving forward.

Because in the dozen or so hours I spent watching each of the Best Picture nominees, I didn't feel nearly the same joy I did with Jean Painlevé's Les Oursins.  Painlevé's film radiates happiness, the kind that comes from showing something you love to someone you love.  As a human, it's enticing.  As a critic, it's wonderful.


Mid-week Anger: Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954)

The Kenneth Anger films discussed as part of this project are available for purchase in a collection from Fantoma.

IotPDMy default state during and immediately after Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome was stunned.  I stumbled at my initial attempts to process just what it is which made Kenneth Anger's multisexual devil-infused orgy of visuals and jewelry vex my mind so.  Then I stopped and looked at my notes, particularly the very sentence I just wrote, and it all "made sense".

Or at least as much as something like IotPD can.  Anger's films have, so far, been far more of a sensual and tactile experience than either Maya Deren or Stan Brakhage's.  This isn't to say those artists weren't capable of their own moments where the film stock felt alive and present.  More how Anger's films seem like deliberate attempts to build the moment where sensations conjure suddenly in our minds in response to art.  I loathe the word but if Anger had failed it would be àpropos to refer to his efforts as pretentious, as it stands IotPD succeeds so well it defies basic description and I am tempted to fall back onto "You just had to be there."


Mid-week Anger: Eaux d’Artifice (1953)

The Kenneth Anger films discussed as part of this project are available for purchase in a collection from Fantoma.

All that glitters is this fanI wasn't expecting Kenneth Anger's Eaux d'Artifice to be better than the experience I had last week with Rabbit's Moon.  The lowered expectations were necessary in part because Rabbit's Moon is not only my favorite Anger film so far, my repeated viewings vaulted it into one of my favorite movies period.  It took me almost two weeks to figure out just how I was going to write about it, where my experience with Eaux d'Artifice required only an hour or so.

This isn't to say Eaux d'Artifice is without its pleasures and while it isn't the revelation Fireworks was it is still a joyful expression of cinema.  The important part is to focus on cinema, as Anger's vision couldn't be fully expressed on a single canvas or piece of music.  Anger's joy with the camera is literally gushing forth from Eaux d'Artifice from the surprising opening where what appears to be an ornate fountain is actually a woman standing in front of a fountain far plainer than the extravagantly dressed woman now walking toward us.  This joy continues on in his examination of water and light with the woman walking alongside the water which flows from each fountain onto steps and through stone faces.


Mid-week Anger: Rabbit’s Moon (1950)

The Kenneth Anger films discussed as part of this project are available for purchase in a collection from Fantoma.

Project what I want pleaseI would first like to apologize for not putting this up a bit sooner.  Unfortunately my health issues put me in a bad spot and the events of last week didn't help the mood any further.

Know this - it took a tragedy of that magnitude combined with my ongoing health struggle to derail the total joy I felt watching Kenneth Anger's Rabbit's Moon.  None of the experimental films I've previously written about come close to the immense satisfaction which came from this bizarre piece of art.  Stan Brakhage might have given me more to ponder about the form of film and Maya Deren the importance of editing but Anger delights in making Rabbit's Moon with the same gusto Orson Welles took to directing when he said, "This is the biggest electric train set any boy ever had!"


Mid-week Maya: The Very Eye of Night (1958)

The films of Maya Deren are widely available online and I will post links when possible.  Here is a link for The Very Eye of Night.

The Very Eye of Night (1958)I like when creators do companion pieces, rather than sequels, to their work.  It's part of the reason Ridley Scott's Prometheus worked so beautifully as Scott was able to comment on the place in science fiction his work occupies while still providing new questions in a familiar yet different atmosphere.  This is, perhaps, the best approach to take with Maya Deren's The Very Eye of Night.  On the surface, it just seems to be a restaging of the same dreamy dance which made Ensemble for Somnambulists so intoxicating.

But there are several details, some minor and some crucial, which make The Very Eye of Night similarly attractive.  Instead of Ensemble for Somnambulists approach to taking place within the scope of an entire dream, The Very Eye of Night is at that hour in the dead of night when your dreams reach their apex and whatever rules you adhere to in the waking world fade by the wayside.  It helps illuminate why the general aesthetic of The Very Eye of Night is similar to Ensemble for Somnambulists, but the effect is so very different.