Thursday, October 27, 2016
7:30 pm at Beautiful Briny Sea (in the Grant Park neighborhood, near Ria's Bluebird)
408 Woodward Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30312
This event features films made by James Krell in the 1970s and by Gary Goldberg (along with Taylor Mead and Bill Rice) in the 1990s. More on these films below.
But first, a curator’s confession: as of the time of writing, I haven't been able to view these films. So, why show them? And why these particular films? What they have in common is that descriptions of them – scant but tantalizing, a passage in a book, a conversational aside – have captivated my imagination for years. And I know these films have been the subject of curiosity for others as well. Something about them commands attention. Yet they have never been widely screened, they don't exist online, on video, or in any of the other usual ways we access movies. Basically, it’s impossible to view these films without renting the 16mm prints. So that’s what I’ve done – sight unseen. The idea is that we will discover these films together. This means that the circumstances of our viewing are a part of the event, along with the films. The curatorial process is open and public. The event is a film screening, but also a salon, a gathering, a lab for cinephilia.
In his book The Expanded Eye, Wheeler Winston Dixon wrote that James Krell's 1970s films "form a body of work that is so subterranean that only the most dedicated observers of the New American Cinema are aware of its existence, but this does not detract from the distinct and utterly original beauty of the films in question...In all cases, the films are engaging to the viewer’s mind and eye because of the undeniable intelligence and intuitive sensibility apparent in every aspect of their construction…Working within the highly idiosyncratic world of experimental film, Krell has made films that are entirely his own, works which are utterly without formal or thematic precedent in the cinema." Dixon describes some of Krell's strategies: filming with a 16mm camera as he threw lighted flares through a tunnel, superimposing images, creating soundtracks on homemade synthesizers – a virtual catalog of imaginative experimental techniques.
Dixon's comments, while impressive, are the only description of Krell's films which I have ever found. The artist’s own comments in the Film-Makers’ Cooperative rental catalog are minimal. Titles such as Wolverine Kills T.V. and 30 Days: Speed or Gravity are intriguing but provide little clue as to content. So, I have chosen a handful of these short films based upon intuition, second-guessing, running time, and availability (some of Krell’s films have been pulled from circulation).
In the early 1990s, the East Village artist Gary Goldberg made a series of comic short films featuring performances by two beloved stalwarts of the NYC underground - the painter Bill Rice and the legendary underground actor Taylor Mead. The chemistry between Rice and Mead in these films was impressive enough for Jim Jarmusch to reconstitute the duo a decade later for the concluding segment of his 2003 film Coffee and Cigarettes. (Goldberg, Rice and Mead have now all died.) Jarmusch's film gave Rice and Mead a late-life cult audience, but their original films with Goldberg remain largely unseen, despite their reputation. Like James Krell's films, these are not online in any form, and only brief descriptions (perhaps accurate, perhaps not) exist. They are available as 16mm prints in the collection of Canyon Cinema in San Francisco. I believe these films are comedies, black and white, with minimal dialogue, and imagine they are like no other comedies I’ve seen. But I could be wrong. I do know that Taylor Mead, a charismatic and subversively queer performer, is always worth watching; and Bill Rice is a very interesting character as well.
So we will watch these films together, discovering what it is about them that might attract us. Through projection’s alchemy, we will convert anticipation, imagination and verbal description into the ephemeral reality of a flickering image on a screen.
Beautiful Briny Sea
408 Woodward Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30312
Cinephilia is a Film Love event. The Film Love series provides access to great but rarely seen films, especially important works unavailable on consumer video. Programs are curated and introduced by Andy Ditzler, and feature lively discussion. Through public screenings and events, Film Love preserves the communal viewing experience, provides space for the discussion of film as art, and explores alternative forms of moving image projection and viewing.