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February 14: The Love Tapes and Casablanca

Thursday February 14, 2008, 8:00 pm

At the Silent Movie Theatre
611 N. Fairfax Ave. just south of Melrose
Park across the street at Fairfax High School

Los Angeles Filmforum and CineFamily present
The Love Tapes by Wendy Clarke, along with Casablanca

**NOTE THE CHANGE IN DAY, LOCATION AND TIME**

A Cinefamily Valentine’s: Wendy Clarke’s The Love Tapes & Casablanca

2-14-08-lovetapes.jpgThe Love Tapes by Wendy Clarke (1979-present, video)
What better way to appreciate Valentine’s Day than with The Love Tapes, conceived and collected by acclaimed video artist Wendy Clarke (daughter of filmmaker Shirley Clarke). For almost 30 years, Clarke has accumulated over eight hundred short videotapes, in which people share their personal experiences with, beliefs about, and definitions of, love. Each Love Tape is roughly three minutes long, and recorded by the participant in a small kiosk, with background music of their own choosing, saying whatever they want on the subject. On Valentine’s Day, we’ll share some of the cherished, revealing results, viewing not only a selection of Wendy’s own favorites tapes from years past, but new ones we’re making here at the Silent Movie Theatre. That’s right, this night is participatory. We will be hosting a kiosk in the weeks leading up to the screening to record new tapes, so members of our very own Cinefamily can be included. Filled with humor, tears, and humanity, the tapes create a moving, and, dare-we-say, lovely program.

And then…if that’s not romantic enough…we’ll show the most romantic movie of all time…

2-14-08-casablanca.jpgCasablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942, 35mm, 102 min)
After some rigorous research, our in-house think-tank has determined that there really is nothing original left to say about Casablanca. Still, we wouldn’t mind seeing it a few thousand more times, and we feel lucky as hell to be screening, on Valentine’s Day, the greatest romance ever committed to film. Whether you’re viewing it for the first time or you have its infinitely-quotable dialogue burned into your grey matter, the experience of Casablanca is potently satisfying on so many levels (comedic, philosophical, romantic, visual, verbal, political, musical, etc etc) that its presence is guaranteed on every film-related top-10 list conceived since its 1942 release. So, like all great love songs, we play it again.

Tickets – $10

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February 5, 7, 9 and 10: Four nights of films!

This week in February, Filmforum is proud to present four different films, three of them in conjunction with our newest programming partner, CineFamily at the Silent Movie Theatre.  Please note that the February 5, 7, and 9 shows will be screened at the Silent Movie Theater, on Fairfax just south of Melrose.  We will return to the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood next Sunday, February 10 at our normal time:

February 5: The Floating World of Pat O’Neill, Part II
February 7: Shirley Clarke’s Ornette: Made in America 
February 9: Shirley Clarke’s Portrait of Jason 
February 10: Ron Mann’s Imagine the Sound  

February 10: Ron Mann’s Imagine the Sound

Sunday February 10, 2008, 7:00 pm

At the Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian

Los Angeles Filmforum presents
Imagine the Sound by Ron Mann
Featuring Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, Paul Bley, and Bill Dixon

2-10-08-imaginethesound_sm02.jpgImagine the Sound (1981, color, 16mm/35mm screening from DVCam, 71 min)
Filmforum commences an intermittent series of documentaries focusing on avant-garde and free jazz, in part connected with the series of jazz films being presented at the Silent Movie Theatre.  Filmforum is co-presenting Ornette: Made in America by Shirley Clarke on Thursday February 7.  But tonight we are delighted to present the Los Angeles appearance of the new revival of Ron Mann’s vital film about free jazz from 1981.  A marvelous film for jazz fans and documentary fans, it digs deep into the side of improvised music not yet touched by Ken Burns and Wynton Marsalis.

The first feature documentary by Ron Mann (Grass, Comic Book Confidential) is an eloquent tribute to a group of highly celebrated artists that helped forge the avant-garde jazz of the 1960s.

2-10-08-smbox1.jpgCritic and film historian Jonathan Rosenbaum has said Imagine the Sound “may be the best documentary on free jazz that we have.”

The film features articulate interviews and dramatic performances by pianists Cecil Taylor and Paul Bley, tenor saxophone Archie Shepp, and trumpet player Bill Dixon.

Not since Scorsese’s The Last Waltz has a music documentary been so thorough and compatible with its subject. Alongside the dynamic performances, the film captures the diverse history and politicized roots of this unique musical genre.

2-10-08-imaginethesound_sm01.jpgRon Mann’s fine, elegant documentary, his first feature-length work, showcases four specific players – pianist Paul Bley, trumpeter Bill Dixon, saxophonist Archie Shepp and pianist Cecil Taylor. But its true subject is the innovative, free jazz work done in the Sixties, and by extension the determination of these artists to break down the musical barriers that characterized that decade. One could point to any number of reasons why the film works so well, from Robert Fresco’s exquisite cinematography (prior to Imagine the Sound, music documentaries were shot entirely on the fly, and looked like it), to the charm of its subject. The film’s real genius, though, probably resides above all in its structure and editing. Mann and his collaborators have given us a near perfect précis on how and why free jazz developed, and the context from which it emerged, but they’ve also been wise enough to foreground the music without either relying on it too heavily or, worse, cutting it short. (A trap even its most illustrious predecessors usually fell into.) Imagine the Sound was also a seminal work in this city’s film history, serving as inspiration for the Toronto New Wave, which emerged in the late Eighties. The film’s hip sensibility broke ground as well, proving that it was possible to make films here that were neither shoddy American knock-offs (this was the tax shelter period after all) nor pedantic. “May be the best documentary on free jazz that we have” (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader).- Steve Gravestock Continue reading

February 9: Shirley Clarke’s Portrait of Jason

Saturday February 9, 2008, 7:30 pm

At the Silent Movie Theatre
611 N. Fairfax Ave. just south of Melrose
Park across the street at Fairfax High School

Los Angeles Filmforum and CineFamily present
Portrait of Jason by Shirley Clarke
As part of CineFamily’s series The Black Impostor

**NOTE THE CHANGE IN DAY, LOCATION AND TIME**

This month, we present five fascinating character studies which illuminate an unusual and rarely seen figure in American cinema — that of the Black Impostor.  Whether a hustler, a con man, an amnesiac or a woman who chooses to pass for white, the subjects of these films are people who, through chance, will, or sheer force of personality, find a leg up over the walls of white privilege. They are charismatic, charming and demonstrate exceptional social intelligence, but must also compromise some piece of their identity in their shape-shifting quest for fulfillment in a racist society. These are thrilling performances which offer a window into the performative nature of racial identity. The Black Impostor is a subversion of that tired Hollywood cliché—the “Magical Negro,” (a black character with no life or dreams of his own, but with the mystical power to sacrifice himself for the good of the white protagonists).  There’s no such “black magic” in these films, because if race is a social construction or a mass hallucination, then the Black Impostor is an illusionist who manipulates perceptions in pursuit of his own American Dream.

2-9-08-jasonhead.jpgPortrait of Jason (1967, 35mm, 105 min)
A whimsical missive from a weathered soul, Portrait is simply that: a continuous unfolding monologue from dapper, effete ‘60s hustler Jason Holiday (real name: Aaron Payne,) who, with a kind face and supple voice, regales us with the compelling saga of his broken life, from houseboy to heretic, from militant youth to sassy gigolo. Whereas Warhol would’ve been content framing the more exploitative elements of Jason’s tales in urban decay and poncy despair, here director Shirley Clarke has the good sense to sit him down in a sparse apartment and give this self-described “stone whore” the greatest backdrop possible: his own fevered imagination.  Rarely does his narrative veer into dryness: Jason first draws us in with his radiant smile, then later ratchets the intensity as he consumes enough booze to kill a small horse.  A landmark in both queer and confessional cinema.

This week Filmforum inaugurates its new venue partnership with CineFamily at the Silent Movie Theatre.  CineFamily has revitalized the Silent Movie Theatre with wide-ranging,  and smart programming.  From a continued interest in silent movies to experimental films, cult works to bizarre pop hits, foreign and domestic, CineFamily displays the cinephilic sensibility that we are delighted to share.  Continue reading

February 7: Shirley Clarke’s Ornette: Made in America

Thursday February 7, 2008, 8:00 pm

At the Silent Movie Theatre
611 N. Fairfax Ave. just south of Melrose
Park across the street at Fairfax High School

Los Angeles Filmforum and CineFamily present
Ornette: Made in America by Shirley Clarke
As part of CineFamily’s Jazz on Film: Capturing Creation series.

**NOTE THE CHANGE IN DAY, LOCATION AND TIME**

 “When you hear music, after it’s over, it’s gone, in the air, you can never capture it again.”—Eric Dolphy

2-7-08-ornette9.jpgJazz and motion pictures are two of our youngest art forms. Both developed at the beginning of the 20th century, and have seen rapid innovation and evolution in their technological, stylistic and expressive potential. While jazz remains America’s most celebrated cultural product, film is our most popular medium. As long as people have been making music, filmmakers have sought to record the live experience—to prevent the music from vanishing into the ether, as Dolphy describes. The best jazz films, while not quite containing the music’s ephemeral power, can sharpen our senses, engaging our eyes and our ears. In a sense, all of these movies are documentaries, capturing sound at the moment of its birth. Our series takes a broad cross-section of the genre, from the 40s big band swing of Stormy Weather to the free jazz of Ornette Coleman. Come see and hear some of the best American artists of our recent past, bigger than life, and high on the act of creation.

2-7-08-ornette15.jpgOrnette: Made in America (1985, 80 min., color, 35mm), Directed by Shirley Clarke, produced by Kathelin Hoffman, Camera: Ed Lachman, music: Ornette Coleman.  Shirley Clarke was one of the key figures of the American independent film movement, whose films The Connection (1961) and The Cool World (1963) cemented her reputation.  Both had strong jazz elements, and for her final film, Clarke returned to the jazz scene, making this brilliant music documentary featuring the legendary Ornette Coleman, a toweringly innovative yet humble figure.  The film serves almost as much as a portrait of Ft. Worth, Texas, Coleman’s birthplace, to which he returns to perform his Skies of America symphony to the most well-healed society members, and with his electric Prime Time group at the Caravan of Dreams, replete with early zany video game effects added by Clarke.  Throw in Coleman philosophizing on his art and life, and a boy (a figurative Coleman) wandering the streets of Ft. Worth.

This week Filmforum inaugurates its new venue partnership with CineFamily at the Silent Movie Theatre.  CineFamily has revitalized the Silent Movie Theatre with wide-ranging,  and smart programming.  From a continued interest in silent movies to experimental films, cult works to bizarre pop hits, foreign and domestic, CineFamily displays the cinephilic sensibility that we are delighted to share.  Continue reading

February 5: The Floating World of Pat O’Neill, Part II

Tuesday February 5, 2008, 8:00 pm

At the Silent Movie Theatre
611 N. Fairfax Ave. just south of Melrose
Park across the street at Fairfax High School

Los Angeles Filmforum and CineFamily present
The Floating World of Pat O’Neill
The second of two nights of films

** PLEASE NOTE THE CHANGE IN DAY, LOCATION AND TIME**

Pat O’Neill is Los Angeles’s true avant-garde master, creating beautiful, moody films with floating mattes, variable film speeds, ghostly layering, wry wit, and masterful soundtracks, all working together to form a fractured almost-narrative, a reflection on the lost spaces and times of our city.

Tonight Filmforum inaugurates its new venue partnership with CineFamily at the Silent Movie Theatre.  CineFamily has revitalized the Silent Movie Theatre with wide-ranging,  and smart programming.  From a continued interest in silent movies to experimental films, cult works to bizarre pop hits, foreign and domestic, CineFamily displays the cinephilic sensibility that we are delighted to share.

Tonight we’ll be screening Decay of Fiction (2002, 35mm, 74 min), preceded by Squirt Gun Step Print”(1998, 35mm, 6 min)

2-5-08-decay-of-fiction-2.jpgDecay of Fiction:
Rarely seen in Los Angeles since its premiere several years ago is Pat O’Neill’s brilliant, haunting film noir set in the decaying remains of the now-demolished Ambassador Hotel.

“While depicting the relentless passage of time with a power that few other films have captured, The Decay of Fiction sustains a mood of almost gothic sadness….The Decay of Fiction is so infatuated with vintage film lore that it leaves you with a disturbing sense of the power that the Dream Factory exerts on the historical imagination.” – Stephen Holden, NY Times

2-5-08-decay-of-fiction-3.jpgThe Decay of Fiction is an intersection of fact and hallucination in an abandoned luxury hotel. The hotel is in Hollywood. The walls of the Ambassador are cracked and peeling, the lawns are brown, and mushrooms grow in the damp carpets of the Cocoanut Grove. The pool is empty, and the ballroom where Bobby Kennedy died is shuttered and locked. A tall, elegant blonde stands transparently on the terrace of her bungalow, smoking and watching the sunrise. Voices and tinkles waft across the lawn. A contingent of vaguely sinister men arrive and ask for Jack. Jack is expecting trouble, but not this kind of trouble. Louise, a guest, replays a nightmare in which she drowns Pauline so that she can marry Dean. The sun sets and rises again. Two detectives seem to turn up everywhere, searching for Communist literature and telling one another pointless stories of underworld intrigue. In the kitchens and behind the scenes the daily routine continues, individuality melts, and workers fuse with their jobs. Winter passes, and then another summer, and finally it is Halloween, and there is a costume ball which claims the life of Rhonda the evasive soprano. And then the building comes down in a clatter of Spanish tiles and concrete, and fact has finally become fiction, once again. I scribbled the words The Decay of Fiction on the back of a notebook almost forty years ago, tore it off and framed it fifteen years later, and have wanted ever since to make a film to fit its ready-made description. To me it refers to the common condition of stories partly remembered, films partly seen, texts at the margins of memory, disappearing like a book left outside on the ground to decompose back into the earth. The film takes place in a building about to be destroyed, those walls contain (by dint of association) a huge burden of memory: cultural and personal, conscious and unconscious. To make the film was to trap a few of its characters and some of their dialog, casting them together within the confines of the site. The structure and its stories are decaying together, and each seems to be a metaphor for the other.

For an interesting perspective, here’s an excerpt of an interview before the completion of the film and before the demolition of the Ambassador Hotel.  From an interview between David E. James and Pat O’Neill, printed in Millennium Film Journal, No. 30/31 (Fall 1997) Continue reading

February 3: The Floating World of Pat O’Neill, Part I

Sunday February 3, 2008, 7:00 pm

At the Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian

Los Angeles Filmforum presents
The Floating World of Pat O’Neill
The first of two nights of films

Pat O’Neill is Los Angeles’s true avant-garde master, creating beautiful, moody films with floating mattes, variable film speeds, ghostly layering, wry wit, and masterful soundtracks, all working together to form a fractured almost-narrative, a reflection on the lost spaces and times of our city.  Among the films that we will see tonight is his latest, Horizontal Boundaries, which O’Neill has stated might be his last film.

“’In O’Neill’s films, boundaries fade; narratives collapse, and layers of images draw the viewer simultaneously towards and away from linear meaning.’ Since the early 1960s, eminent Los Angeles based artist and filmmaker Pat O’Neill has combined a mastery of optical effects with found footage, experimental montage and compositing techniques to create seamless streams of moving images.”

Tonight we’ll be screening:

2-3-08-trouble-stills.jpgTrouble in the Image (1996, 35mm, color, 38 min)
Trouble in the Image is a collection of visual and auditory ideas, many of which seem to radiate a sense of internal conflict, irony and rage. The film has no continuing characters, but is made up of dozens of performances dislodged from other contexts. These are often relocated into contemporary industrial landscapes, or interrupted by the chopping, shredding, or flattening of special-effects technology turned against itself. All is not lost, however. The reward is to be found in immersion within a space of complex and intricate formal relationships, where subject matter is almost irrelevant. The film was accumulated over a seventeen-year period by a filmmaker who continues to insist that film can be an art form independent of storytelling.

“For many years Pat O’Neill has comfortably straddled the uncomfortable line between fine art film and commercial movie production. He’s one of those rare individuals, perhaps the only individual, working within the film industry who has retained and nurtured his deep roots in experimental cinema. In recent years he has used professional-quality camera and optical printing equipment and his skills in special effects production to extrapolate metaphysical meaning from the ordinariness of industrialized culture. His previous film “Water and Power” was an odd special effects showpiece that stumbled admirably in its attempts to blend the worlds of art and commerce. In “Trouble in the Image,” O’Neill brings it all together: sharp, glossy, perfectly rendered imagery with incongruous and imaginative juxtapositions of picture and sound, in playful, witty, sometimes provocative and always compelling ways.” – Scott Stark, http://www.hi-beam.net/hi-beam/tenbest.html

2-3-08-horizontal-tiny-people.jpgHorizontal Boundaries (2005, 35mm, 23 min)
Unscreened in Southern California since its presentation at the Getty Institute in October 2006. A series of experiments with 35mm film frames that contemplates natural and manmade landscapes, with a new digital score by Carl Stone.  New print.

Coreopsis (1998, 35mm, 9 min) Abstract animation that utilizes scratching on film and other techniques to suggest representational imagery.

PLEASE NOTE:

The next night with Pat O’Neill will be Tuesday February 5 at the Silent Movie Theatre, at which will be screened Decay of Fiction (2002, 35mm, 74 min.), preceded by Squirt Gun Step Print (1998, 35mm, 6 min.) along with new video work!

About Pat O’Neill
Pat O’Neill [born 1939, Los Angeles] received a Master of Arts degree in graphic design and photography from UCLA. He produced his first short film in 1963 in collaboration with computer-graphics pioneer Robert Abel. During the ’60s and ’70s he taught photography at UCLA, while experimenting with and refining the limited means for combining images that were available at the time [the optical printer, first in 16mm and then in 35mm]. In the early 1970s he was founding Assistant Dean for Film and Video at the California Institute of the Arts, and since 1975 has operated his highly regarded special-effects and optical printing company, Lookout Mountain Films. Recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, he received the prestigious Maya Deren Award from the American Film Institute in 1993. Aesthetic concerns he shares with a generation of California artists led him from sculpture to experiments with continuous-projection film installations which were exhibited in galleries and incorporated into rock-concert light shows. A respected member of the experimental film scene, he pioneered the sort of free-flowing, manipulated live-action imagery in which we are now all immersed.

O’Neill’s first feature, Water and Power, was a Sundance Grand Jury winner in 1990 and was hailed as a touchstone for filmmaking in the future. The film became an instant classic, and was shown at the New York Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, Telluride, London, Los Angeles and many others. Trouble in the Image followed in 1995 and has also been widely screened throughout the world. Several of the fourteen avant-garde 16mm short films he produced between 1963 and 1982 are also considered classics and all are in international distribution and in the collections of major museums, from the Center Georges Pompidou in Paris to the Austrian Film Archive in Vienna. His most recent film The Decay of Fiction premiered at the New York Film Festival in Fall 2002.