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February 19, 1980 - Image 7

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-02-19

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8MM FILMFES TIVA L

Winners. show imagination, skill

By DENNIS HARVEY
Last weekend's 10th Annual Ann Ar-
r 8mm Film Festival offered, as
usual, a rude shock to any viewer who
might have thought serious filmmaking
begins and ends with films made for
theatrical distribution. Indeed, most of
the 28 shorts screened on Sunday's win-
ner's-night program had enough adven-
turousness and skill to make the vast
majority of the commerical main-
stream look comatose by comparison.
These movies will probably be seen
& less than one tenth the number of
people that can be routinely counted on
for even the least-attended Hollywood
disaster. It's a sad fate, because even
the least successful winners have an
immediacy and excitement that few
commercial projects capture; there
are liberating senses of achievement
within limited means, and of strong
personal visions coming through. These
filmmakers, at least, .do net have their
creativity filtered through hired
llaborators or the larger, financial
burden of working with 16mm.
PERHAPS THE festival's tour-de-
force was Clinton Young's Fear, a daz-
zling 16-minute pop art collage of
tdtally incongrous elements; gleaming
time-lapsed cityscapes; a Ken Russell-
ish view of Hitler as a cultural super-
star; Daliesque surrealism; recited
beatnik-like poetry/lists; imaginatively
ited movie footage ranging from The
Wride of Frankenstein to Woody Allen's
Sleeper; and slightly more conven-
tional live-action sequences of weirdly,
masked actors casually inhaling ether
in someone's living room.
This stunning, drugged-out vision,
baffling and brilliant, had the same
startling effect as Susan Pitt's com-
mercially successful oddity Asparagus.
Both films sprawl. fascinatingly across
a half-dozen film techniques, and within
itle more than a quarter of an hour
ch achieves a kind of complexity that
few feature-length projects, have
touched.
THE FILM awarded the largest prize
by the festival judges was another
e'xercise in purely visual experimen-
tation, Bruce Hogeland's Interrup-
tions. Hogeland used footage from the
silent Phantom of the Opera and a
variety of other sources, scratched
directly on the film, and did more or
*s anything else conceivable to put
the viewer in a state of complete visual
disorientation. The result was striking
to the eye but perhaps a little too vapid
to the mind; the images dazzled but
there seemed no meaning or purpose
behind them.
.Another intriguing cipher was Kim-
berly Arnold's Dream of the Busboy, a
mini-Eraserhead tracing a seemingly
vacuous young man through a variety
of strange, vaguely sinister situations.
e stark black-and-white images
ereated an eerily schizoid,
claustrophobic mood, aided by a soun-
dtrack that combined the character's
droning monologue with bizarre,
prosey narration. Even more distur-
bing was David Yosh's mesmerizing

Dogs in the Road, a 12-minute
procession of slowed-down, grainy,
nightmarish images reminiscent in its
twisted dreamlike quality of the Ger-
man silent expressionistic films of the
1920's.
Dean Wilson's Butt Funn was an acid-
head .,fever dream that started
amusingly with G.I. Joe dolls battling it
out in Vietnam, then turned into a
series of increasingly violent and
whacked-out situations. Larry Brunk's
Photon-Photoff offered, simply enough,
two white parallel lines on a black
background; the movement of the lin-
es managed a hypnotic effect of con-
stant acceleration. Robert Attanasio's
Lensound won the Keith Clark
Memorial Award, yet its central' idea
was dangerously close to tiresome
gimmickry-for three minutes, the
camera itself is beaten on the lens by a
microphone as it examines an ordinary
street scene. Another offbeat but finally
too limited project was Willard A.
Small's Vaehon Overture, which was
built entirely around the comic contrast
between its admittedly arresting
visuals (the frenzied performing of a
barroom rock band) and music (a
sedate classical piano piece).
THE EVENING'S longest entry was
also, unfortunately, one of its most
tedious. Pascal Foley's Charlotte
Beysser Bartholdi was often striking in
its imagery, but at over 30 minutes it
was practically mumbled off the screen
by the bored audience. An exercise in
pretentious obscurity whose deep
meanings seemed to have sprung from
high-school Sexual Symbolism 101, it
somehow made ad its central theme a
connection between the Statue of Liber-
ty and menstrual blood. The film was
stylistically interesting, but baffling
and finally enervating.
A large number of the festival win-
ners were not at all involved with such
heavy experimentation and complex
technique. Elliot Robert Lincis' Mambo
Mania offered genial home-movie slap-
stick in its casually funny tale of subur-
ban teenage horniness. Michael
Paggie's brief but entertaining John
Robert Drew simply examined a drunk
in a neighborhood bar, while Douglas
Wanberg spoofed Commercials with
mock adve)rtisements for such produc-
ts as radioactive burgers and the
special-TV-offer record set
"Quasimodo Presents Favorite Music
Played by Bells." Marcy Muray's oddly
lyrical Gloria offered the loony sight of
dutiful housewives patiently dusting off
weeds, fussily sweeping dirt off the
sand and mopping up the ocean at the
seaside.

THE TWO PROGRAMS featured a
number of agreeably silly one-joke
satires. The Nathanson-
McLaughlin-Wheeler The Unsychable
Jolly Sound offered a droll summary of
what one can and cannot do with lips.
The s-m fantasy of Nilo Manfredini's
The Order and the mock-porn of David
Slee's Kitsch Encounters were on-
target parodies with great punchlines.
Another wild entry was'Dan Morgan's
Have You Ever Thought?, a hilarious
clay-animation look at all the wonderful
things that happen to the body during
the process of decomposition, complete
with poetic accompaniment: "Your
eyes sink in/your ears fall out/your
hair turns to sauerkraut."
The most amateurish of the winners
was The Fan, too clearly a backyard
project on the parts of Eric Solomon
and Jim Chamberlin. Its passably
amusing dumb-joke premise (an elec-
tric fan with a mind of its own conspires
to destroy four unsuspecting persons
during a summer heat wave) and good
punchlines were undermined by too
much home-movie-ish clumsiness and
laughable school-play line readings.
"THREE PIXILLATION shorts
showed quirky imagination and humor.
They ranged from the near-brilliant
(Denny Schumm's Hunger, a kind of
sick classic in which a disgusting piece
of slithering liver devours a helpless
radish, only to be bloodily eaten up by
an orange) to the very amusing Satur-
day Night 'Can-Do' by Mark Zink,
which has empty beer cans bopping in
the basement to "Rock Around the
Clock" while the chief drinker of the
house sleeps upstairs) to the only
mildly mausing (dog biscuits frolicking
in a miniature city in John Kaufman's
Sweet Bones).
The only film of the night to feature
conventional animation was James
Middleton's delightful The Self-Made
Man, a highly enjoyable hommage to
old movies and music "based on 'My
Life as a Sponge' by Anita Bryant." It
mixed an inventive variety of
techniques with cartooning reminiscent
of the crude line-drawing early silent
cartoons of Max Fleischer and other ar-
tists, complete with iris-outs and a vin-
tage jazz score.
THE FESTIVAL'S most blatant and
powerful political statement was of-
fered by Francis Lestingi's Return to
Hiroshima, an ambitious ten-minute
orchestration, of photos showing the
horrifying wreckage and disfigurement
that the narrator encountered as one ofd
the first to see the area after the drop-
ping of the bomb. The film seems par-
ticularly disturbing as a time when ins
ternational relations seem once again
so close to the edge.
Among straight documentaries, the
most outstanding was Rachel Rosen-
thal's 20-minute Valentine, a poignant
look at growing old and lonely through
the eyes of a patron of a senior citizen
center. Chip Sercombe's deliberately
fragmented editing caught a feeling of
cinema-verite excitement in a punk-

rock performance by The Boners,
whose lead singer is seen suspended
above a gyrating audience, while
wearing a nun's habit. Curiously, one of
the larger prizes was awarded to
Michael Kelly's The Early Man
Museum, a funny but unexceptional
look at the eccentric owner of a road-
side prehistoric-relic museum.
ONE OF THE most beautiful of the
entries was Larry Behnke's superbly
photographed Waterscapes, which
managed to capture an aura of startling
visual psychedelia through nothing
more than shots of sunlight reflecting
on moving water in various locations.
Abrao Berman's bizarre Brazil suf-
fered, if from nothing else, from the
simple fact that it was entirely in
Spanish, without explanation or sub-
titles, and most of the audience couldn't
understand what the hell the movie was
about.
This year's 8mm Film Festival was
perhaps the best to date-some of the
entries may have been artistic failures,
but none suffered from a lack of
imagination or energy. The winners of-
fered plenty of proof that it's possible,
even with the most limited equipment
and resources, to create film works as
sleek and impressive as any com-
merical projects.

The Michigan Daily-Tuesday, February 19, 1980-Page 7
eolpse [+ ~ '1' N
r r dAna dNew reams
NA PH 0 sCLUO
8Cv1O O DOCHERRY UNIRUMAW
CHARLIE IHADEWED BLACK WEL
Ticket s/$6 in advance :
ON SALE NOW/MICR . UNION DO-
For more information/ 763-2071
'pk11
f.
FV

Feb. 20-24 PowerCenter
U-M Dept. of Theatre .Drama
MEL WINKLER Directs a Play by STEVE CAR
Wed.-Sat. at 8
Sunday at 2
Tickets at PTP
ticket office
Michigan League
IrM-F 10-1 & 2-5
Master Charge &
VISA on phone &
- mail only.
I #: PHONE: (313)
764-0450

with Special Guests:
FIREFALL

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Crisler Arena
Ann Arbor
MARCH 14 8pm
, Tickets are 8.00 and 9.06 and are on sale now at
the Michigan Union Box Office (11:30-5:30), Aura
Sounde, Wherehouse Records, Huckleberry Party Store and
2Hudsons. Sorry, no checks. For more information call 763-
2071.
A Major Events Presentation

CEDAR POINT AMUSEMENT PARK, Sandusky,
' Ohio, will hold on-campus interviews for
summer employment:
Date: Thursday, February 28
Tsme: 9:00,,0.m.-5:00 .M. Over 3,400 positons. ovail able for a
m: a' p wide variety of jobs. Dormitory or
Place: Placement, Student Activities Building aaartmet stylhousinavailable.
{- ~~~ GUCoct Career aning a PacemnT
{ t Office for information and appoint-
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finest resorts in the North.

Authorities investigate scientist's death

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. (AP) -
Medical authorities are trying to
determine what caused the death of a
young scientist cited recently for his
research on potential anti-cancer
drugs.
John Butterick, 34, died in his sleep
Jan. 26. An autopsy showed there was
heavy internal bleeding, but no one is
sure what triggered it.
"THERE ARE some intFiguing cir-
imstances that can lead one's
imagination to run wild if you let it,"
said Dr. Thomas Clark, county medical
examiner.
Last December, Butterick accepted
an award from the National Foundation
for Cancer Research for his work. He
had been able to remove impurities
from a drug that had shown promise in
Believing that straight gin was
dangerous, British naval surgeon Sir.
T.O. Gimlette invented the "healthy
cocktail"-the gimlet-by diluting gin
with lime juice in 1890.

v

tests on cancer patients in Ireland.
Butterick was a postdoctoral fellow
at West Virginia University, working
under Gabor Fodor, a chemistry
professor.
"He was a brilliant young man,"
Fodor said. He added, however, that
Butterick was very stubborn, and
refused to see a doctor when he first
became ill.

WHEN POLICE entered Butterick's
apartment, they found the scientist in
bed, and the apartment full of jars of
chenicals.
Fodor said he doesn't believe But-
terick committed suicide.
"He had no reason to," Fodor said.
"He'd just made a lot of progress. He
told the family these two years he spent
here were the happiest of his life."

r

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