Here's a semi-logo:
Documentation of the 6th Orphan Film Symposium will be online at the end of 2008. The Orphans 7 banners will start to unfurl in early 2009.
A reminder that the 2010 symposium will be:
• April 7th through April 10th
• Wednesday night through Saturday night
• at the Library of Congress NAVCC
• in Culpeper [single p, sounds like pepper], Virginia
• organized by New York University
• Tisch School of the Arts
• Department of Cinema Studies
• Moving Image Archiving & Preservation program
• will focus its wide-angle lens on transnational and global issues and how these relate to all manner of neglected moving images.
Proposals for presentations are now being accepted.
The orphanista ways will be maintained:
• a full and constant lineup of screenings, talks, and performances;
• a convivial atmosphere sustained with food, drink, music, and refectory-style learning;
• cool T-shirts and other swag;
• camaraderie spun from the admixture of scholars, archivists, filmmakers and media artists, technologists, curators, preservationists, conservators, educators, students, entrepreneurs, vanguardist digitizers, collectors and cataloguers, librarians, museologists, filmographers, researchers, producers, distributors, documentarians, programmers, critics, fans, writers, visionaries and luddites, autodidacts, savants, professionals and amateurs, and media archaeologists -- all of whom share a passion for saving, screening, and studying orphan films.
Dec 6, 2008
Here's a semi-logo:
at 5:17 PM
Nov 25, 2008
BlogHer Pamela Cohn (Still In Motion) reports on the Flaherty-Leo-Hammer-Filmakers-Samu-Helen Hill event at the Thalia Theater in New York.
After the ceremony, Barbara Hammer introduced me to filmmaker-media-artist-curator-professor Caroline Koebel. Caroline said she had first met Helen Hill during the early 1990s, when Helen first came to New Orleans -- and that she was the best person she ever met.
at 10:30 PM
Nov 23, 2008
The force-for-good now simply called "The Flaherty" (the nonprofit organization that puts on the annual Robert Flaherty Film Seminar), bestows two honors each year, the Leo Award and the Samu Award. The former, named for Leo Dratfield (the influential nontheatrical film distributor who ran Contemporary Films), is given for long-time achievement in independent film and video. The latter is given to an animator whose work conveys “a universal message illuminating our sense of world community.” It’s hard to think of an artist more deserving of this award than Helen Hill.
Charles Samu helped bring attention to independent animators in many places, especially via the World Festival of Animated Film in Zagreb. Although Helen’s filmmaking thrived in many ways, no international spotlight shone on her or her work until her passing. Leo Dratfield and Charles Samu are also obscure figures in the public sphere because they both put their energies into the invisible sector of filmdom – distribution. No work gets to an audience but by distribution. And so it remains quite wondrous and inspiring that the work of Helen Hill has now come to us despite the fact that she never distributed her films, at least not in any conventional sense. She did show at festivals, but more often took prints and projectors to alternative sites of exhibition, including her own home.
Moreover, Helen’s films embody the Samu Award’s aspiration to an art of universality and to work that generates a sense of community. Her films are animated by love of all kinds – romantic, spiritual, filial, maternal, familial. She lived the life of a utopian anarchist, a citizen of the world, residing in the creolized port of New Orleans, the bohemian town of Halifax, the worldly world of Los Angeles, the creative community of Boston, while remaining a creature of Carolina. All of these inflect her enchanted cinematic world, a House of Sweet Magic, but one that also knows about the darknesses of life, and death.
On Monday, November 24, at 7:30 pm, the Flaherty will celebrate its awardees at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater (at Peter Norton Symphony Space in New York). Helen Hill’s masterpiece, Mouseholes (1998),
Miššje luknje (Slovenija festival)
will screen as part of the Samu Award presentation. Two Leo Awards follow. Fellow orphanista Barbara Hammer is being recognized for excellence in filmmaking throughout her career; Filmakers Library gets the second Leo for its forty years of work in the “invisible sector” of indy film and video distribution.
at 10:58 AM
Nov 22, 2008
The force-for-good called simply "The Flaherty" (the nonprofit organization that puts on the annual Robert Flaherty Film Seminar), gives two
For Excellence in Exhibition, Distribution or Programming: Filmakers Library.
For Excellence in Filmmaking: Barbara Hammer.
We will also be presenting the Samu Award to the late animator Helen Hill, whose films convey a universal message illuminating our growing sense of world community.
The 2008 LEO AWARDS will be presented on Monday, November 24, 7:30 pm at the Peter Norton Symphony Space in New York City. The celebration will include presentation of the awards, as well as, clips from the Filmakers Library collection, a short film by Helen Hill, and Barbara Hammers' films, Sanctos and Vital Signs.
at 2:14 PM
Oct 19, 2008
Well, the day after the big holiday is called Boxing Day, eh.
At yesterday's Anthology Film Archives screening of home movies, one Super 8 film made an emotional impact that even surpassed the story of boxer Jose Torres' wedding film turning up in 2006. This year, a married couple and their adult daughter brought a single reel of Super 8, which they told us the daughter found in her grandmother's house in Spain. They had been unable to view the footage, so they brought it for us to watch with them.
They told us that the box holding the film indicated that it might be something from grandfather's poultry business back in Spain. Instead, what it turned out to be was a film that none of them had seen -- or even knew existed. Which shock, joy, and tears they realized that what we were watching was film of their own wedding.
The bride and groom had come to the U.S. to study. One day before he entered Duke University law school, the groom was joined by the bride and their immediate family members, who traveled from Spain for the wedding. Seventeen people gathered in a Catholic church in Durham, North Carolina in 1967. After the watching the whole film the family concluded it must have been the brother-in-law who shot it. No one knew what had happened to it all these years.
As often happens at these home movie affairs, moments of serendipity followed. We learned that the couple had celebrated their 41st wedding anniversity that very week. And that she had become a United States citizen 24 hours before HMD. A good week.
The New York Home Movie Day began this year with a film shot in Nigeria. A man, originally from Gary, Indiana, brought a reel of 16mm film his father took when visiting Nigeria in the 1960s. The moviemaker was a Baptist minister whose church had a mission relationship with a Nigerian church. While we listened to the son narrate what parts of the film he could, he took out his cell phone and called his 86-year-old mother while the film was still running. We had the privilege of hearing their sweet dialog about the trip 40+ years ago and what daddy (who passed away 32 years ago) had done in Nigeria. The footage ended with a kind of portrait of the new church he built in Gary.
I also like very much a 50+ year-old black-and-white birthday party film. Shot in 16mm, it showed "Pinky's 3rd Birthday," which took place in a large family home in Buenos Aires. Young Pinky and her party guests were being entertained by trained dogs and a ventriloquist, as well as the hired cinematographer.
Save that one.
at 6:20 PM
Oct 18, 2008
Now that Home Movie Day (Internationale) occurs near the date UNESCO recently established as the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage (October 27), the HMD movement is appropriately global in scope. Many of us are attending Home Movie Day events today, October 18, including we New Yorkers heading out to Anthology Film Archives' Maya Deren Theater (just a few dozen blocks down the East Side from the United Nations building).
At HomeMovieDay.com one reads that HMD is now established in sites such as Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Berlin, London, Columbia [SC], Mexico City, Slovenia [!], Toronto, Milan, eleven locations in Japan, and Gerringong, Australia. The local events always have at least a few revelations, and sometimes major ones -- such as the discovery of Wallace Kelly's films (ca. 1929-50) and his masterpiece OUR DAY (1938). Shot in the town of Lebanon, Kentucky, the entertaining short 16mm film leapt onto the National Film Registry a few months after its appearance at Anthology. (With preservation and 35mm blow-up done by Colorlab.)
By the way, you can see the whole 16 minutes of OUR DAY online now, thanks to Martha Kelly and KET in Louisville. There's also a podcast of a TV segment about Wallace Kelly.
Here's to more amateur film discoveries and rediscoveries around the world this week. Thanks to the Center for Home Movies, with which the Orphan Film Symposium proudly associates.
By the way, did you know that Italy has a national preservation and archiving project that goes by the name Associazione Home Movies? (HomeMovies.it)
Or, did you know that in 1927, one could buy 16mm recordings of the Gene Tunney - Jack Dempsey heavyweight title fight, only 18 hours after the bout ended? It's true.
at 10:58 AM
Oct 16, 2008
NYU MIAP & LOC MBRS present
7th Orphan Film Symposium
April 7-10, 2010
National Audio-Visual Conservation Center Library of Congress, Culpeper, Virginia
The Orphan Film Symposium travels to the Library of Congress for its seventh biennial gathering of archivists, scholars, preservationists, curators, collectors, technology experts, and media artists from around the world in saving, studying, and screening neglected moving images. New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts / Department of Cinema Studies is pleased to accept the Library’s invitation to convene in the NAVCC’s jewel-box Mount Pony Theater on the new Packard Campus, giving the symposium optimal presentation of images and sounds in all film, video, and digital formats.
Call for Presentations
Following on the internationalism evident in 2008 at Orphans 6: The State (where 18 nations were represented), Orphans 7 will focus on global and transnational issues. How have moving images circulated across national and other boundaries? How are neglected archival materials accessed and used across and within borders?
We seek proposals for presentations on topics including: film repatriation projects, moving image works about international and regional subject matter; regional and transnational cinemas (e.g., the Global South, the West, Bollywood, Nollywood, Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian, etc.); issues of migration, mobility, and global/local dynamics; international co-productions; intellectual property and copyright debates; films altered for foreign markets and multiplelanguage releases; stylistic cross-fertilization; heritage, cultural property, and developing nations; diasporic cinemas; border cultures; World-Wide Web as production-distribution site and de facto ‘archive’; DVD regions; world film festivals and archives; the World Cinema Foundation; the work of international associations in preservation and access; and other neglected historical and archival material that sheds light on globalization and the transnational aspects of film history and archiving. New productions by media artists using archival material are also sought, including nominations for the Helen Hill Award (given to innovative, independent filmmakers).
NYU Cinema Studies
721 Broadway, 6th fl.
New York, NY 10003
(212) 992-8225 office
(917) 754-1401 cell
Aug 1, 2008
In re: Genius
Anthology Film archivist Andrew Lampert reports that the musician John Zorn is game to play accompaniment for three obscure silent shorts by the Belgian cineaste Charles Dekeukeleire: Combat de boxe (1927), Impatience (1928), and Histoire de détective (1929).
Until such a time as that collaboration happens, we can satisfy ourselves momentarily with this clip from South Carolina's favorite and native son.
Stephen Colbert on John Zorn's MacArthur "Genius Grant" (2006)
at 12:34 PM
Jul 30, 2008
Postscript to the OFS blog's May 31 posting about the film Boxing Form (1924) and the 1923 Dempsey-Firpo fight pictures.
Walking Off the Big Apple (friend of the show) reported (off-line) that one of the cinematographers filming the Dempsey-Firpo fight at the Polo Grounds in New York was acclaimed photographer Paul Strand. (Source: the Aperture monograph Paul Strand: Sixty Years of Photographs, 1976.)
In 1923, when the fight took place, Strand had already made his innovative experimental film Manhatta (1921, with Charles Sheeler). For more than a decade, Strand the still photographer /artist helped pay his bills by shooting newsfilm for several of the major newsreel services. (Manhatta, once the most rented film in the Museum of Modern Art's circulating collection, will presently be restored by MoMANY. Maybe then we'll have a better idea of its running time; I've read scholarly essays and reference books listing its duration variously as 6, 7, 8, 10, and 11 minutes. Don't believe everything you read in the newspaper.)
I've not been able to determine which company promoter Tex Rickard hired to film the Dempsey-Firpo fight. The movie that was released (mostly in violation of federal law) extended the 4-minute bout into nearly 10 minutes by showing preliminary training scenes and slow-motion replays. It also included a brief shot of the movie camera stand.
One of the YouTube versions of the 1923 fight, posted by elgrandecaudillo, contains this shot (as well as newly added Korean subtitles). Tough to spot Paul Strand among the 6 or 7 cameramen seen in this low-low resolution rendition of what was once a 35mm nitrate film. (That's assuming of course that this cutaway shot is from that event and not a stock footage insert -- as they so often are in these things.) There were also other cameras and operators placed closer to the ring during the bout.
I also recently learned that the animator Quirino Cristiani, who made the world's first feature-length animated films, in Argentina, also made an animated version of the famous fight in 1923, simply titled Firpo-Dempsey. Presumably lost, the movie would have been in the mode of an animated newsfilm, a hybrid form rarely discussed. A prior example of this was the lost Der Große Boxkampf Dempsey – Carpentier (Germany, 1921) done by animator Leopold Blonder and released commercially by Arnold Fanck’s Berg- und Sportfilm GmbH.
Come to think of it, the maker of the actual documentary -- The World's Heavyweight Championship Contest Between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier (1921) -- was Fred Quimby. And he went on to a long career as executive producer of MGM cartoons.
(The Academy gave 8 Oscars to a guy whose best work was the "Tom & Jerry" series??)
Jul 28, 2008
Frame from an Arthur J. Higgins 16mm film, courtesy of the courteous Albert Steg.
At the just-wrapped 2008 Northeast Historic Film Summer Symposium, "City and Country," film archivist/collector/archivst Albert Steg <firstname.lastname@example.org> screened some of the great 16mm film material he is gathering, productions by itinerant filmmaker Arthur J. Higgins, ca. 1930s-40s.
Which reminded me of news received earlier this month.
On July 6, 2008, NYU cinema studies scholar Martin L. Johnson wrote, in response to George Willeman's announced discovery of a Melton Barker film, about his similar research on 'local films.' Here's some of what he had to say.
This is great news about George Willeman finding a Melton Barker "Local Gang" film shot in Tennessee. We'll find out soon enough the edge code so we'll be able to date it more exactly. NewspaperArchive.com lists a production of Kidnappers Foil in Kingsport, Tennessee in 1938 and again in 1949, although I'm sure Barker made movies elsewhere in the state.
Speaking of ‘local films,’ I met this past week with a few people in Rutherfordton, NC, to discuss This Is Progressive Rutherford County, made by Don Parisher in 1948. The film is now owned by Dorothy Zizes [of Zizes Wedding (1949) as seen on the DVD Living Room Cinema: Films from Home Movie Day, Volume 1 ]. I’m working with Katie Trainor [of the Center for Home Movies; email@example.com
Has anyone else come across Don Parisher? He made a few other civic films in North Carolina, including Negro Durham Marches On, also in the mid- to late-40s and a My Home Town of Monroe, as well as some promotional films in Florida, which are cataloged online. He traveled with a crew of four or five other people. The films look to be more interesting than the "Our Town," films, and I thought he might be a link between local/itinerant filmmakers and industrial filmmakers.
. . . .
Dorothy Zizes was ready to donate the Progressive Rutherford film to UNC’s Southern Folklife Collection. But, after talking with the president of the Rutherford County Historic Society -- a very energetic 40-year-old who just published a nice book on the history of Rutherfordton, and is working on a book on nearby Spindale – she is having second thoughts.
[Isothermal Community College in Spindale, NC, operates one of the best radio stations in the U.S. -- Ed.]
I had a great conversation with Dorothy and a few other locals about the history of moviegoing in the area. Their discussion of segregation was particularly interesting. Although the Sylvan Theater, which was built in 1933 and was the first purpose-built theater in town, had a balcony, African-Americans weren't permitted to go to the theater until after World War II. Instead, they had a projector set up in a church in the black section of town, and shuttled the reels back and forth so they could show films simultaneously at the theater and in the church. [Biracial bicycling.]
-- Martin L. Johnson, firstname.lastname@example.org
The University of Florida's Digital Collections put this Parisher movie online:
Where Florida Prepares for the Future (1951) b/w, sd, 22 mins.
Prod/Dir: Don Parisher
Writer: Mabel Lawrence
Narrator: Red Barber [!]
Tom Whiteside (Duke University) referred to Don Parisher in his talk about H. Lee Waters at the first Orphan Film Symposium. [The misspelling 'Perisher' is mine, from nine years ago. No access to that site at the moment. -- Ed.] Note that Tom begins his talk by mentioning his residency at Isothermal Community College, which is, for my money, one of the best school names ever! (The founding trustees noted that Rutherford and Polk counties, where the campuses are located, were frequently the site of isotherms on weather maps.) ICC lies between Charlotte and Asheville, NC, due north of Boiling Springs, South Carolina, dontchaknow.
at 11:33 AM
Jul 13, 2008
Harry Osteen (below) introducing a March 2004 screening of Anderson 'Our Gang', a 1926 film shot for his father's South Carolina movie theater. Harry and his brother were among those who acted in this two-reel comedy, done in the style of the Hal Roach "Our Gang" comedies.
These frames are from a special film shot by Julia Nicoll of Colorlab and Bill Brand at the 4th Orphan Film Symposium. The silent, black-and-white film can be viewed online. Harry O. appears in the opening segment.
The Anderson Independent-Mail reports the sad news of the passing of Harry Osteen Sr.
Here's part of the obituary.
Harry Osteen Sr. died on July 10, 2008, at the age of 93. He is being remembered as an important part of the Anderson community.
The Osteen family name was synonymous with the movie theater business in Anderson for the better part of the 20th century, and Harry Osteen was part of that tradition.
He and his wife of 69 years, Verna, also were involved in the Meals on Wheels program in Anderson for decades and were active in Anderson Senior Follies, Outreach Entertainers and ballroom dancing instruction.
The family business into which Osteen entered started when his father P.C. Osteen in 1918 bought one of the downtown theaters that cropped up in the late 1800s. P.C. Osteen bought, sold, and built a series of theaters around Anderson showing movies, putting on vaudeville shows, and helping to introduce a new form of entertainment to a small town.
Harry Osteen along with his brothers Percy, Bill, and Albert carried on the family tradition in the Electric City by opening a series of movie houses between 1946 and 1974.
In 1995, he was awarded the state’s Order of the Palmetto.
In 1996, he received the Service to Mankind Award presented by the Anderson Sertoma Club.
In 2004, he was honored by the Orphan Film Symposium conducted at the University of South Carolina.
Harry was the most important source for an essay I published in the journal Film History. He was a delight at the symposium and charmed Dennis James to such a degree that Dennis spontaneously decided to play piano accompaniment for the silent film Harry starred in.
Harry also awed the audience by departing before the evening was over, saying that he had to drive back to Anderson (about 100 miles) so that he could deliver for Meals on Wheels the following morning. This from an 89-year-old citizen.
at 1:22 AM
Jul 12, 2008
Dateline: Bay Area, Calif.
Nancy Goldman gave Mike Mashon and me a friendly tour of Pacific Film Archives in Berkeley. (More photos forthcoming.)
Meanwhile, off to the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Day 2. Last night's opening was magnificent, with Pat Doyen's restoration of Broncho Billy's Adventure (1911) and Leonard Maltin and Suzanne Lloyd introducing Harold Lloyd's masterpiece The Kid Brother (1927). My first time seeing these. Lloyd's stock up just went up again. Amazing, crowd-pleasing comedy. All at the fabulous Castro Theatre. With a packed mezzanine of post-picture partiers and a kazoo band.
This morning: "Amazing Tales from the [George Eastman House] Archives," underwritten by the good folk of Haghefilm (friend of the show).
at 12:15 PM
Jul 9, 2008
A UCLA Extension course titled "Orphan Films" will be held at the Directors Guild Theater, 7950 Sunset Blvd., on eight consecutive Wednesdays. Members of the L.A. Film Critics Assn. will host the class. The "orphan films," dropped by studios and distributors for various reasons, will be discussed.*Wow! This sounds great. A whole course, at UCLA no less, on orphan films. Surely these are the salad days for motion picture orphans.
Except . . . (here's the punchline): the above announcement is from 1979!
Reading closer, the details are a little less resonant with the 21st-century conception of what an orphan film is. The term has long been an industry epithet for commercial movies that get made but not distributed. In fact, the item in the L.A. Times went on to say that orphans were "films which never found their audience." A much less dramatic conception of orphanhood than "never before seen" or "abandoned by its owner."
Reading closer still, the works that UCLA and the L.A. Film Critics actually screened are 1970s auteur films that did (eventually) get distributed and now border on the classic or cult.
The 8 narrative feature films in the 8-week extension course were:
Loving (1970, Columbia Pictures), USC film school grad Irvin Kershner's comic drama starring George Segal and Eva Marie Saint. One of cinematographer Gordon Willis's first films. Robert Ebert, in October 1970, wrote that Loving "was released last March in New York, received a reasonably warm critical reception and then disappeared all summer into some kind of distributorial limbo, turning up finally this week in neighborhood theaters. Somehow it deserved more attention than that."
Payday (1973) directed by Daryl Duke, a veteran TV director, and starring the great Rip Torn as a cynical country singer. Shot in Selma, Alabama. Distributed by Cinerama Releasing Corp.; put out by Warner Home Video in 1999; DVD, 2008.
The Silent Partner (1979, Carolco), also directed by Daryl Duke; screenplay by Curtis Hanson. Elliot Gould and Christopher Plummer star in this suspense/heist picture. Lions Gate DVD, 2007.
Night Moves (1975, Warner Bros.) Arthur Penn directed Gene Hackman in this detective thriller. Early in their TV show run Siskel & Ebert championed it as a neglected gem.
Citizens Band (1977, Paramount) aka Handle with Care, Jonathan Demme's cult satire starring Paul LeMat.
The White Dawn (1974, Paramount) Philip Kaufman directed Timothy Bottoms, Louis Gossett Jr., and Warren Oates in this drama about shipwrecked whalers rescued by Inuits.
Smile (1975, United Artists) a Michael Ritchie comedy.
Thieves Like Us (1974, United Artists) Vintage Robert Altman. MGM Home Entertainment DVD, 2007
* "'Orphan Films' Course to Screen Eight Neglected Works at Guild," Los Angeles Times, Nov. 23, 1979; "Belson, Tewkesbury, Bick, Duke to Discuss Their 'Orphan Films,'" Los Angeles Times, Jan. 16, 1980.
at 7:11 PM
Jul 7, 2008
our orphan hero, Ed,
in The Soul of Youth (1920)
aka The Boy.
Thanks to the good people (Stacey Wisnia) at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival there will be a Fight Pictures book-signing on Saturday, July 12th, at the Castro Theatre. The SFSFF is hosting several authors with books on silent cinema, including Leonard Maltin, Guy Maddin, and Suzanne Lloyd (granddaughter of Harold). Fight Pictures is paired with Richard J. Meyer’s book about China's biggest silent screen star, Ruan Ling-Yu: The Goddess of Shanghai.
This event is, I’m told, the first interaction between the Silent Film Festival and the notable Press across the Bay. With its great list of silent film books, UCP would be an apt annual fit for the SFSFF. This 13th festival runs July 11-13 at the Castro Theatre, with a well programmed lineup of features and shorts – and live musical accompaniment.
The truism “silent films were never silent” is of course correct – except for the peculiar genre of fight pictures. These virtually never had musical accompaniment. Instead of music, fight pictures had screen-side announcers telling spectators what to watch for – the knockout “solar-plexus punch” in Veriscope’s Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight (1897), the questionable performance of the old master Joe Gans (“was he taking a dive, ladies and gentlemen?”) as filmed by Selig Polyscope in the McGovern-Gans Fight Pictures (1900), or the Australian constabulary stopping the Gaumont cameras as Jack Johnson’s finished off Tommy Burns in 1908.
San Francisco plays a large role in Fight Pictures. The city was home to William A. Brady, the film and theater impresario who also managed two heavyweight title holders, Gentleman Jim Corbett (of S.F.) and Jim Jeffries. When New York booted out prizefighting in 1900, boxing flourished in the Bay Area for a decade.
Also central to the story of Fight Pictures are the Miles brothers, whose film distribution firm was large enough to challenge the largest motion picture companies of the early 1900s. That was until the 1906 earthquake and fires devastated their vaults, theater, and headquarters. Nevertheless, between 1901 (when Edison cameras filmed Jeffreys [sic] and Ruhlin Sparring Contest at San Francisco, Cal.) and 1908 (when Selig recorded the third title bout between Battling Nelson and Joe Gans, in Youknowwhere, Cal.) the Miles brothers were the only camera crew to shoot any prizefight in the United States. The genre was their own -- until the United States outlawed the interstate trafficking in fight films in 1912.
after the 11:40 am screening of
The Soul of Youth (1920, William Desmond Taylor) A humanistic portrait of society's unloved orphans and unlawful urchins, combined with the story of a power struggle between a reformer and a corrupt politician. (80 mins.) Preceded by an animated comedy, The Old Family Toothbrush (1925), which, unlikely as it may seem, is a boxing film!
SOME SHORT FIGHT PICTURES VIEWABLE ONLINE:
The first fight picture: a staged sparring match.
Leonard-Cushing Fight (Edison, June 1894)
The biggest event of Edison’s kinetoscope era. Heavyweight champion and matinee idol Jim Corbett is paid to spar before the camera.
Corbett and Courtney before the Kinetograph
(Edison, Sept. 1894)
A Miles Bros. film, showing a spectacular first-round knockout.
International Contest for the Heavyweight Championship--Squires vs. Burns, Ocean View, Cal., July 4th, 1907
The dramatic conclusion of
World Championship, Jack Johnson vs. Stanley Ketchell [i.e., Ketchel] (1909)
Filmed by the Kalem Co. for promoter Jim Coffroth
Correspondence welcome: Dan.Streible@NYU.edu
More about Fight Pictures at
the Orphan Film Symposium blog
Luke McKernan’s blog The Bioscope
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy, summer book recommendations
at 10:55 PM
Jul 6, 2008
George Willeman (r) explains it to Rob Silberman at Orphans 5 (USC, 2006).
George Willeman loves being the Nitrate Vault Leader (great job title, eh) at the Library of Congress, Division of Motion Pictures, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound (Moving Image Section), National Audio-Visual Conservation Center, Packard Campus, Culpeper, Virginia, USA. He has been called "the antithesis of a stereotypical government worker" and proves it by co-hosting a radio show, Filmically Perfect, with the Coen brothers' storyboard artist.
But in his job at the LOC MBRS NAVCC, GW does the people's business: saving films, often in the nick of time. In 2006, the NYU Tamiment Library found the missing reel of the legendary Passaic Textile Strike (1926) in its newly-acquired archive of the Communist Party USA. It was George who was entrusted to salvage the gooey nitrate. He showed some still highlights at Orphans 6.
This week Mr. Willeman reports finding one of Melton Barker's "Kidnappers Foil" movies from the 1930s. If you haven't seen one of these babies, they are recommended Orphans viewing. Itinerant filmmaker travels America for twenty years shooting short scripted movies "starring" local, amateur casts -- mostly kids. Hundreds of filmed variations of the same script. The definitive source for background on all this is, of course, MeltonBarker.com. If that's not enough detail for you, contact the Barker fan/scholar/obsessive Caroline Frick at the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI). Or archivist Dwight Swanson of the Center for Home Movies.
The lone Kidnappers Foil print was part of a recent LOC acquistion. As George report (on Orphans' Facebook)
We acquired a very large collection of nitrate from a collector in Tennessee and this was in a can marked "nitrate clip!" This has been one of the most amazing collections of recent years--many pre WWI reels and many unique films--lotsa Orphans, too!There may be a million orphans in the naked city, and apparently a million more in Tennesse (ask the founders of the Tennesse Archive of Moving Image and Sound, aka TAMIS).
Next time: TAMI vs. TAMIS -- heavyweight title fight, live, from the Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Arkansas!
at 2:08 PM
Jul 4, 2008
"Perhaps the most famous and influential of all silent films, Metropolis had for 75 years been seen only in shortened or truncated versions. Now , restored in Germany with state-of-the-art digital technology, under the supervision of the Murnau Foundation, and with the original 1927 orchestral score by Gottfried Huppertz added, Metropolis can be appreciated in its full glory."
-- Kino Video synopsis, DVD of the restored authorized edition
frame grab from the rediscovered footage
© Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung; Bildbearbeitung: Dennis Neuschäfer-Rube
Film-finder PAULA at Orphans 5 in Columbia, SC, with Kara Van Malssen (l) and Bill Brand (r). -->
Time to re-write history again.
Or at least to re-restore one of cinema's milestone productions.
Paula Félix-Didier, director of the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires (and a MIAP graduate, PhD candidate, and presenter at the previous two Orphan Film Symposiums), has found the most complete cut to date of Fritz Lang's 1927 film Metropolis [!!!].
The news story, first reported in the Hamburg weekly Die Zeit, is all over the Web now. [I heard about it simultaneously from MIAP alumus Jeff Martin (Hirschhorn Museum) and U of SC Film Studies alumni James Smith (The Nickelodeon Theatre) and Woody Jones (USC); all Orphans vets, needless to say.]
The 25-page spread in Die Zeit's magazine is only partly available online, as "Die Neuentdeckung von 'Metropolis.' " Here's the short, English version: "Key scenes rediscovered," © ZEITmagazin 2.7.2008
147 min (2001 restored version)
210 min (premiere cut)
80 min (Giorgio Moroder version)
93 min (re-release version) | USA
114 min (25 fps) (1927 cut version) | USA
123 min (2002 Murnau Foundation 75th aniversary restored version)
118 min (DVD edition) | USA:117 min
So surprising was this re-discovery, some professional moving image archivists thought the news headline might have been a hoax. But this report from Martin Koerber, who did the "definitive" Metropolis restoration, attests to its veracity and to the significance of the print found in Buenos Aires.
from the Association of Moving Image Archivists listserv
Date: Thu, 3 Jul 2008
From: Martin Koerber <makoerber@WEB.DE>
Subject: Re: Is this news about METROPOLIS real or a hoax?
Paula Félix-Didier of the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires indeed came to Berlin last week to show us what she found, and it is the real thing, no hoax this time. The material is terribly banged up, being a 16 mm dupe negative made from a no longer extant nitrate print, which was duplicated some decades ago after many years of heavy use.
Nevertheless one can now see the director's cut of Metropolis, 80 years after we all believed the original version was destroyed. Contrary to our thinking, obviously at least one print of the original cut made it into distribution, albeit in Argentina.
Only one of the missing scenes (the monk in the cathedral) remains missing, because it happened to be at a reel end that got badly torn.
The rest is there.
The images you will find at http://www.zeit.de/online/2008
Flip through it before you buy it, the articles about Metropolis are in the somewhat glossy "Zeit Magazin Leben" which comes with the paper. It will surely become a collector's item.
Kudos to Paula Félix-Didier and her initiative to unearth the material and share the information. A lot of thinking is now necessary to find ways to incorporate this material into the existing restoration, released on DVD by Transit Film and Kino International, among others. It has titles and black leader where the missing parts once were so in principle one could just insert whatever is new at those inserts. The good news is that Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau
When run in synch with the material found in Buenos Aires, it is amazing to see how everything falls into place now. The critical edition can be found here: http://www.filminstitut.udk
Leiter der Abteilung Film - Curator Film Deutsche Kinemathek -
Museum fFCr Film und Fernsehen www.deutsche-kinemathek
Incidentally, Metropolis was only one of several unique prints found in the collection that came into the Museo del Cine. Paula writes that she also found and identified a presumed-lost W. S. Hart movie, a presumed-lost Pearl White serial episode, and three missing Argentine movies -- among other things.
My great hope is that the film word, FIAF members, national heritage bodies, and others will not take this extraordinary find for granted. The Museo de Cine Pablo Ducrós Hicken (its full and proper name) in Buenos Aires is the de facto national film archive, and deserves to have its funding and resources elevated. As the finds of this week demonstrate, it's not just one national cinema or patrimony that benefits from the support of institutions such as el Museo.
at 10:41 PM
Jun 30, 2008
* Steve Franco at VideoPost Dallas supervised a new HD transfer from the original 35mm dupe neg (Mary Lampson recently told me it was the best element to use.)
* DuArt is remastering the sound.
* Arthouse will release Painters Painting on DVD in the fall.
* All of de's films are transfered from the best source available to High Def masters.
* The current DVD releases are standard def., but when Blu-ray costs come down, de's films will be released on Blu-ray.
* In the King of Prussia is next in line to be transfered to HD.
* Re: Painters out-takes. On the CD-ROM, I published transcripts of complete interviews and they are indeed incredible. Love to do a deluxe edition with out-takes. If you know any patrons of the arts - send 'em my way!
at 9:43 PM
I met a lot of nice colors.
-- Robert Rauschenberg,
on studying with Josef Albers
Color fading is one of the most heartbreaking signs of the impermanence of the motion picture medium. Few things are sadder than a once-glorious color film turned monochromatic pink or red.
-- Stephen Prince, Film Quarterly (Spring 1999), book review of James M. Reilly's Storage Guide for Color Photographic Materials
Yesterday, at the Harvard Film Archive, I saw a screening of the documentary Painters Painting (1972), part of HFA's Emile de Antonio's America series. The 16mm print came from the Museum of Modern Art’s circulating collection. Apparently MoMA’s 35mm print is not circulating, because of its faded colors. If the 16mm copy is any indication, the 35 must be quite faded indeed. And color fading is a wee bit important for a film showing off hundreds of painted canvases. The interviews, roughly half of Painters Painting, were shot and released in black-and-white. While color fading might not seem like a problem for b&w, in fact this monochromatic footage was a faded-rose-and-white. (HFA dutifully advised moviegoers of the problem. But they all chose to stay and they all stayed to the end.)
Of course restoration of this film is not MoMA’s responsibility. It only purchased copies for the museum’s collection. The originals/masters are elsewhere. No doubt at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, where “de” left his things – lots of things. The collection description says they have “Negatives, outs and trims” for Painters and other films. Perhaps there are also prints at the George Eastman House, where de left copies of his films (in case of nuclear attack on Madison, Wisconsin – no lie). Or perhaps the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where the film was shot, had the foresight to buy a print and to keep it in cold storage. Or maybe New Yorker Films has material from its role as the original distributor of 16/35 prints in the 1970s. There might even be a print of Painters Painting at the National Archives, since the U.S. Information Agency circulated the film overseas for several years. (A delicious contradiction: a U.S. government agency distributing the Marxist filmmaker’s work worldwide as a celebration of American exceptionalism, while the executive branch was surveilling and harassing him because of his political activities.)
A Painters Painting DVD is due out in September 2008. Its producers no doubt know where all the prints and elements are and which are in best condition. If ever a film cried out for high-quality color reproduction, this is it. It was only ten years ago that Mystic Fire Video issued a VHS version, sold as Painters Painting: The New York Art Scene, 1940-1970. And in 1996, de Antonio protégé Ron Mann released his Voyager CD-ROM version of Painters Painting. Sadly -- but not surprisingly – the once-beautiful disk won’t play on my computer anymore. It was designed at the time of Mac OS 7 (first introduced in 1991). Ditto for those marvelous Our Secret Century CD-ROMs that Rick Prelinger produced with Voyager in the 1990s.
Ron Mann is also responsible for the 4-DVD boxed set Emile De Antonio: Films of the Radical Saint (HomeVision-Image Entertainment; street date, July 8, 2008). The saint subtitle is unsuitably hagiographic for the devilish de, but it's good to see In the Year of the Pig (1968), Millhouse: A White Comedy (1971), Underground (1976), and Mr. Hoover & I (1989) being released. The VHS versions that MPI Home Video released in the 1990s were underwhelming. MPI retitled the works, and, in some, intercut late ‘80s video footage of de Antonio talking about the film you are watching.
And what of Rush to Judgment, the Warren Report rebuttal that de Antonio made with attorney/author Mark Lane in 1966? Last year I saw (fifth hand) an e-mail from Mark Lane asking where he could get a “master print” of Rush and its outtakes [er, rushes] so as to digitize and put it (sell it?) on the web. He authored the RTJ best-selling book (actually ghost-written by Ben Sonnenberg Jr.), but one wonders what rights Lane holds on the film, which is copyrighted in the name of Judgment Films Corp. In any case, no plans for a DVD release. Ditto for In the King of Prussia (1982), the no-nukes activist video made with the Berrigan brothers and the rest of the Plowshares 8, plus Martin Sheen.
Now that de Antonio’s Point of Order (1963) and In the Year of the Pig have been restored by Ross Lipman and the UCLA Film & Television Archive, perhaps Painters Painting can be next in line. If these other prints and negs have fading problems too, maybe Wisconsin can work with the Warhol Foundation, UCLA, and others to restore the film.
Or will films be consigned to high-definition video versions by then? Come to think of it, these new DVD releases are not HD.
Watching aged and well-worn 16mm prints can have its pleasures, once one accepts the fact that it’s not gonna look/sound like what it might have been. For the Painters Painting print, the wear worked well visually, in an almost perverse way. Those vertical scratch lines that run down the images of so many 16mm prints were in abundance. However, since the first reel was devoted to painter Barnett Newman talking about his striped canvases (“it’s not a stripe, it’s a zip”; “it’s not a stripe, it’s a streak of light”), it was almost like someone had given Barney the print and asked him to do his thing to it. Kinda like Robert Rauschenberg erased a de Kooning drawing. Also, near the heads and tails of reels, some conspicuous spotting was visible. Blue polka dots. Kinda like Larry Poons (who’s also in the film) was given the print after Newman and asked to do his thing to it too. I once saw this “effect” on a classroom print of Night and Fog (1955), and it added something positive to the aesthetic of the film, which opens with decaying prison camps, failing memories, fog.
Ironically, the least faded shot in Painters Painting was in the end-credit sequence, in which we see cinematographer Ed Emshwiller filming the crowds at the Met’s New York Painting and Sculpture, 1940-1970 exhibition.
Dreaming of a glorious restoration.
And let’s see the outtakes while we’re at it. I can’t imagine that there is not an audience eager to see unedited sequences of Andy Warhol talking in his contrarian fashion about his work (“Brigid does all my paintings”). Or the excellent interview with Louise Nevelson that was completely cut from the film. Or the sight and sound of curator Henry Geldzahler talking in that cavernous echo-chamber that is the Met.
Ron Mann at Sphinx Productions in Toronto handles licensing rights to most of the Emile de Antonio films. Video copies can be purchased there too.
Emile de Antonio and Mitch Tuchman's book Painters Painting: A Candid History of the Modern Art Scene, 1940-1970 (New York: Abbeville Press, 1984) can be found, used, at prices ranging from $8 to $75.
Henry Geldzahler's exhibition catalog, New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940-1970 (E. P. Dutton, 1969) is available second-hand, priced between $4 and $85.
at 6:11 PM
Jun 19, 2008
The 54th Robert Flaherty Film Seminar begins this weekend. I'll be there for the whole week, watching dozens of films whose titles are completely unknown to attendees. The dawn-to-midnight pace of the Flaherty and the refectory-style learning have influenced the shape and tone of the Orphan Film Symposium since its inception. And there's now lots of cross-over attendance. Filmmaker Bill Brand (BB Optics and Hampshire College), Elaine Charnov (the Mead Festival/AMNH), and Ariella Ben-Dov (MADCAT Women's Int'l Film Festival), for example, all attended Orphans 6 and now we are driving up to Colgate U. together for the seminar.
Chi-hui Yang (SF Int'l Asian American Film Festival) is curating "The Age of Migration."
Last year I saw only a single film at the Flaherty that I had previously seen. It's great to be exposed to so much new (to me) work all at once. From what I infer from recent chatter, the Flaherty might also be hosting some of the guest artists who brightened Orphans 6.
There are some other nice serendipitous connections between the venerated Flaherty Seminar and the upstart Orphans. Yvonne Ng, new graduate of the NYU Moving Image Archiving and Preservation program, did her thesis on the large collection of audio recordings of 50+ years of the seminar. You'll be able to read it soon, online at the NYU MIAP website. I recommend it.
Two staffers who help International Film Seminars executive director Mary Kerr organize the Flaherty are orphanistas. Tori Wunsch is at IFS full time since getting an M.A. in Cinema Studies at NYU. Laura Major, who also worked on the 2007 Flaherty, was a very helpful co-producer of the 2006 Orphan Film Symposium in South Carolina. Now she's working an MLIS degree at USC and returning to help run the Flaherty this year.
So it's a good interrelationship, this Flaherty-Orphans thing. Both are intensive experiences that have their devotees and regulars. "Content is king" at both, meaning people come for the viewing.
at 2:48 PM
Jun 17, 2008
"Orphan Film Symposium" is now a Facebook group. It's an experiment.
Ned Thanhouser suggested such a social network was in order. The goal is to keep the conversations and serendipities going between symposiums. Most of the work that manifests the films preserved and then shown at Orphans biennales goes on year-round of course. Perhaps this is another tool to keep partnerships going.
Also, this non-Facebook blogspot blog is open to any readers who want to guest-write a posting. I'm happy to add your text, images, video.
-- dan streible
p.s. A late Bloomsday quotation for you, from James Joyce's Ulysses:
What supererogatory marks of special hospitality did the host show his guest?
Relinquishing his symposiarchal right to the moustache cup of imitation Crown Derby presented to him by his only daughter, Millicent (Milly), he substituted a cup identical with that of his guest and served extraordinarily to his guest and, in reduced measure, to himself the viscous cream ordinarily reserved for the breakfast of his wife Marion (Molly).
at 11:34 PM
Jun 15, 2008
By coincidence, Kentucky Educational Television had recently contacted Kentucky-born Brooklynite Martha Kelly, who owns the film Our Day (1938). The title, made by her father Wallace Kelly as an amateur endeavor, was added to the National Film Registry in 2007. KET producer Jayne McClew contacted me when she heard from Martha that I was in Louisville. She is putting together a segment for the weekly public television program called Louisville Life. The idea is to introduce Our Day and other films shot by Wallace Kelly, and to profile the artist/moviemaker's career.
Jayne, her videographer Matt, and I met at the Baxter Avenue Filmworks, an 8-screen cinema that shows first-run Hollywood features alongside indie and international films. (How many other commerical theaters in the U.S. have murals of Georges Méliès and Sergei Eisenstein hand-painted on either side of their main screen? How many dare to combine Beverly Hills Chihuahua with a gay and lesbian festival and a retrospective that includes Paths of Glory and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly?) For an hour we talked about the discovery of Our Day at the 2007 Home Movie Day in New York, Wallace Kelly's other painterly home movies, and a history yet to be written about film production by Kentuckians. Not just D. W. Griffith or Appalshop. Why, for example, have 3 Kentuckians become the biggest male box office stars of the moment? (George Clooney, Tom Cruise, and Johnny Depp).
Broadcast of the Our Day segment is planned for October 2008 -- close to Home Movie Day (Oct. 18). And the video will be podcast by KET.
Turns out that owners of the locally owned and operated theater where we did the interview include people who ran the repertory movie house I frequented as a teenager. The Vogue Theatre (1939-1998) is now a clothing store with a movie marquee, but for a couple of decades it ran all kinds of movies. There I saw Days of Heaven (seven times) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (thirty). Fellini's Satyricon and Casanova, Harold and Maude, Gizmo and The Atomic Cafe, several editions of the annual International Tournée of Animation compilations, O Lucky Man!, The Last Waltz, Rust Never Sleeps, Day for Night, Dersu Uzala, King of Hearts, The Marriage of Maria Braun, Citizen Kane and Casablanca, Able Gance's Napoleon, What's Up, Tiger Lily?, The Personals, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Cries and Whispers, The Passenger, My Dinner with Andre, Missing. On Christmas Day 1979 there was a full house, 800 moviegoers, for Ingmar Bergman's The Magic Flute.
Come to think of it, the first time I was at the Vogue Theatre was earlier than the above would indicate. Probably about 1970. My father took my sister and me to see a kiddy matinee of Flipper (1963), Ivan Tors' theatrical film version of his dolphin kiddy adventure TV series.
Happy Father's Day.
at 4:36 PM
Jun 10, 2008
As reported on the Roosevelt Island 360 blog, our sister site WotBA has unfurled a week-long photologue tour of New York's Roosevelt Island, which I just learned is home to Orphans International (which is not a film institution). Nonetheless, the picture makes a nice welcome-to-the-world and reminds us what’s important. Or, as a friend said to me when our conversation alluded to movie stars, “The world is so f***ed up right now, I don’t care if I never see another celebrity.”
More relevant to the Orphan Film Movement (if I may) is news involving folks who were at this spring's symposium. The Tribeca Film Institute has launched an ambitious Web project called Reframe, led by Brian Newman. Newman (after stints at the South Carolina Arts Commission in Columbia and IMAGE Film & Video Center in Atlanta) became executive director of the New York-based National Video Resources in 2004. NVR changed its name to Renew Media, though it retained its non-for-profit mission to support independent media makers (e.g., a 2004 fellowship to Helen Hill for work on her film The Florestine Collection). Then, in February 2008, Renew Media merged with the Tribeca Film Institute, best known for its annual post-9/11 film festival – making Brian Newman CEO of the institute.
Reframe is a major undertaking. Several partners are invested: the MacArthur Foundation, Warhol Foundation, Amazon.com, NEA, New York State Council on the Arts, and the moving image “content owners” who will go to Reframe for digitization and distribution. Reframe’s announcement certainly attracted press coverage (e.g., “Tribeca, Amazon to Digitize Rare Films,” Hollywood Reporter).
Here's how the institute describes the project:
The goal of Reframe is to help individual filmmakers, distributors, archives, libraries and other media owners to digitize and sell their work using the internet, and to become a one-stop location for anyone seeking these films.
Most significant perhaps is the visionary, petabyte-minded Internet Archive, which added its Moving Image wing in February 2001. Archive.org launched with a thousand orphan films from the Prelinger Archives, free for download and re-use. Many more works and collections continue to be added (now 120,859 items, they say). Will the strength of the Amazon and Tribeca brands allow Reframe to achieve a new economy of scale, one that surpasses these other ventures?
The Tribeca Film Institute has more than one iron in the fire, to be sure. During the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival, it commissioned a weekly blog by Teri Tynes (friend of the show), which she entitled Shoe Leather. Not limited to TFF stuff, Shoe Leather writes about all kinds of independent (if not orphan) film interests. The June 9th edition features a guide to essential experimental film viewing, as guided by avant garde media maven Michael Zryd (friend of the show). Hollis Frampton is Topic A. Think a canonized member of the American film avant garde has not been orphaned? Zryd has been circumnavigating the globe looking in archives that hold bits and pieces of Frampton’s uncompleted Magellan series. Even some of the Frampton films safely stored by the Museum of Modern Art remain unpreserved.
The good news is that, thanks to a very generous grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation, the final six films in Hollis Frampton’s Hapax Legomena* series got preserved this year. Bill Brand at BB Optics did the work in concert with the final-semester M.A. students in NYU’s MIAP program. Before this, MoMA had preserved only the first and best-known work in the series, (nostalgia) (1971) --with NFPF funding.
Look for some of the Hapax 6-pack at Orphans 7. But more on that another time . . . .
* hapax legomenon: a word that occurs only once in a body of work or language.
Here's how to pronounce it.
at 7:41 PM
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