Les Blank & Skip Gerson – A Well Spent Life (1972)

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Many people consider Texas bluesman Mance Lipscomb to be the greatest blues guitarist and songster of all time. This glowing portrait of the legendary musician (also life-long husband and sharecropper) is among Blank’s special masterworks. Instead of growing bitter, tough times made Lipscomb sweet.

The favorite film of Kurt Vonnegutt, Jr. Continue reading

Todd Solondz – Babysitter (1984)

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A student film with no synced sound, Babysitter is a humorous nine-minute short made as Todd Solondz’ graduate film for NYU film school in 1984. Eric Schwartzman narrates and plays the lead role of a young boy who tells his history with babysitters, and how his life was particularly touched by his last one, a teenager (Patti Seitz). Continue reading

Noah Baumbach & Jake Paltrow – De Palma (2015)

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Storyline
In the annals of Hollywood film since the artistic glories of the New Hollywood era, few have a better reputation and body of work in the field of the suspense film exploring the contemporary darkness in American life than Brian De Palma. Here, the great film writer and director takes us through his professional life in his own words of a career that would redefine film horror and suspense. All the while, he also confesses the challenges of working in Hollywood and the price paid even the great artists pay for being a part of it. Continue reading

Jonas Mekas – Lost, Lost, Lost (1976)

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These six reels of my film diaries come from the years 1949-1963. They begin with my arrival in New York in November 1949. The first and second reels deal with my life as a Young Poet and a Displaced Person in Brooklyn. It shows the Lithuanian immigrant community, their attempts to adapt themselves to a new land and their tragic efforts to regain independance for their native country. It shows my own frustrations and anxieties and the decision to leave Brooklyn and move to Manhattan. Reel three and reel four deal with my life in Manhattan on Orchard Street and East 13th St. First contacts with New York poetry and filmmaking communities. Robert Frank shooting The Sin of Jesus. LeRoy Jones, Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara reading at The Living Theatre. Documentation of the political protests of the late fifties and early sixties. First World Strike for Peace. Vigil in Times Square. Women for Peace. Air Raid protests. Reel five includes Rabbit Shit Haikus, a series of Haikus filmed in Vermont; scenes at the Film-Maker’s Cooperative; filming Hallelujah the Hills; scenes of New York City. Reel six contains a trip to Flaherty Seminar, a visit to the seashore in Stony Brook; a portrait of Tiny Tim; opening of Twice a Man; excursions to the countryside seen from two different views; that of my own and that of Ken Jacobs whose footage is incorporated into this reel. Continue reading

Jonas Mekas – Walden – Diaries Notes and Sketches (1969)

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Jonas Mekas, the godfather of American “underground” cinema, shot literally miles of impromptu film on a tiny, touch-and-go Bolex camera before assembling his first “diary film” and screening it before an audience of friends and fellow indie artists in 1969. At that point the home-movie ethos was somewhat less than groundbreaking, but a glance at what Mekas’s contemporaries were working on or releasing at the time—Kenneth Anger was ensconced in off-and-on production for Lucifer Rising, Stan Brakhage was toiling on the 8mm Songs cycle, and Paul Morrissey had just morphed the Warhol aesthetic into the zeitgeist-preaching Flesh—suggests just how perpendicular his project stood in relation to the remainder of the bicoastal art-house scene. Mekas, as a distributor and critic in the ‘60s, had praised and promoted films both archetypically absurd (Anger’s Scorpio Rising) and angularly as well as legally shocking (Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures); perhaps this is why the program notes prepared for the first showing of Diaries, Notes and Sketches, also known as Walden contained an uncharacteristically humble and ambivalent letter from the director of the evening’s presentation. “You are going to see maybe two, maybe three, maybe four reels, from the total of six,” it read. “It will depend on your patience, on your interest.” Continue reading

Sean Martin – New Waves in Cinema (2013)

The term New Wave conjures up images of Paris in the early 1960s from the films of French filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. The impact of the French New Wave continues to be felt, and its ethos of shooting in real places with nonprofessional actors and small crews would influence filmmakers as diverse as John Cassavetes, Martin Scorsese, and Lars von Trier’s Dogme 95 movement, all of whom sought to challenge the dominance of traditional Hollywood methods of both filmmaking and storytelling. But the French were not the only new wave, and they were not even the first. Sean Martin explores the history of the many New Waves that have appeared throughout film history, including their great forebears the German Expressionists, the Soviet Formalists, and the Italian Neorealists. In addition, Martin looks at the movements traditionally seen as the French New Wave’s contemporaries and heirs, such as the Czech New Wave, the British New Wave, the New German Cinema, the Hollywood Movie Brats, and Brazilian Cinema Novo. The book also covers other new waves, such as those of Greece, Hungary, documentary (Cinema Verité and Direct Cinema), animation, avant-garde, and the so-called No Wave filmmakers. Extensive bibliography, and filmography are included. Continue reading