Sunday, November 20, 2011

another movie in NY recommendation: Standard Gauge

Wish I could say "see you there" but still stuck up here uptown, barely going out...
but if someone of you could go see this movie for me I'd be really happy. I saw it once about 5 years ago and loved it and I don't think it shows often at all. I rarely blog anymore, or recommend movies, so take this as a strong recommendation.

Light Industry at PARTICIPANT INC:
Morgan Fisher's Standard Gauge + HC Potter's Hellzapoppin’
Monday, November 22, 2010 at 7pm

253 East Houston Street
New York, New York

Standard Gauge
Morgan Fisher, 16mm, 1984, 35 mins

A frame of frames, a piece of pieces, a length of lengths. Standard gauge on substandard; narrower, yes, but longer. An ECU that's an ELS. Disjecta membra; Hollywood anthologised. A kind of autobiography of its maker, a kind of history of the institution from whose shards it is composed, the commercial motion picture industry. A mutual interrogation between 35mm and 16mm, the gauge of Hollywood, and the gauge of the amateur and independent. — MF

HC Potter, 16mm, 1941, 84 mins
Print courtesy of Ken Jacobs.

Rarely shown in the U.S. these days, this 1941 film of the wildly deconstructive stage farce with Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson is still regarded as a classic in Europe, and it lives up to its reputation. The credit sequence establishes the wartime mood with its vision of hell as a munitions factory (where demons preside over the packaging of Canned Guy and Canned Gal), which is shortly revealed as a movie soundstage, the first of many metafictional gags. Very belatedly the movie gets around to telling a spare musical-comedy story (with swell numbers by Martha Raye and the jazz duo of Slim Gaillard and “Slam” Stewart, and some very acrobatic jitterbugging), but the main bill of fare is manic nonsense that almost makes the Marx Brothers look sober. — Jonathan Rosenbaum


My films tend to be about the making of films. I didn't programmatically set out to do this, it's just something that I can't seem to resist. The more deeply I delve into it the more inexhaustibly rich the subject becomes. The process by which motion pictures are produced is distressingly complex, and every aspect of it is to me fraught with suggestion, though of a seemingly bathetic sort. So my films incline to the literal and the matter-of-fact. In a sense they are educational in that they explain procedures or apparatus underlying film production that an audience might not be familiar with. My feeling is that it is important for an audience to understand how it is that a film comes into being, where it comes from, so to speak, and what it must have undergone (in the material sense) before it appears before their eyes as shadows on the screen. People should know that these phantasms are the upshot of a ponderous and refractory art. If they are not aware of it they are denied the chance to understand film as such.

Actually, it has always puzzled me that my films weren't done long ago. Once one starts to reflect on film they are for the most part obvious ideas, though none the less elegant. From the beginning there has been a reflexive strain in cinema, but it has always struck me as half-hearted, Vertov and Hellzapoppin' notwithstanding. Film should have taken the plunge at the outset and begun by looking at itself, a pursuit as worthy as the treatment of “subjects.” Hence my films represent an effort to catch up, to redress an oversight committed by history. — Morgan Fisher, 1976

1 comment:

  1. Here is one of the last films I made using 16mm and my old bolex camera (which I still have).