Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles, 1945-1980

Co-ordinated by Los Angeles Filmforum

 

Geographically and artistically, experimental filmmakers in Los Angeles have always operated in and around the center of the commercial filmmaking industry, against which their particular visions are inextricably measured and immeasurably absorbed. This stratified cultural geography has birthed many disparate experimental film movements over time — and one of the most interesting of all occurred during the post-WWII period. To aid in creating a more complete picture of this previously fragmented history, the goal of this series is to expand understanding of how experimental filmmaking evolved in L.A., and to contextualize its place in post-war art history.

 

Film series curated by Adam Hyman and Mark Toscano, with additional contributions by David James, Christine Panushka, Jerri Allyn, Abraham Ferrer, Terry Cannon, Ben Caldwell, Stephanie Sapienza, Amy Halpern and more. For more info, visit the Alternative Projections website!

 

NOTE: Filmforum members also get free admission to all Alternative Projections shows. Students/seniors – $6 admission. To receive your free or discounted rate for online pre-sales, you must purchase your ticket(s) online ahead of time, and you will receive your discount back in cash at the box office before the show.

 

“Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles, 1945-1980″ is part of “Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945-1980″, an unprecedented collaboration, initiated by the Getty, that brings together more than sixty cultural institutions from across Southern California for six months (beginning October 2011) to tell the story of the birth of the L.A. art scene. Pacific Standard Time is an initiative of the Getty. The presenting sponsor is Bank of America.  

 

Primary funding for Alternative Projections provided by the Getty Foundation, with additional support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. This screening series is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Special support provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

 

 

Numbers, Patterns, and Shapes: Later Abstractions of the 1960s and 1970s

Pioneering abstracted animation & optical printing!
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5/3/2012 - 7:30PM
Co-presented by Los Angeles Filmforum

Alternative Projections’ previous Spielberg Theater show of Early Abstractions (from the 1940s and 1950s) presented an evolution of filmic imagery, spanning from the heady terrain of long-ago abstracted sculptural shapes to the early images created by animation and optical printer. In this sequel show, at Cinefamily we continue the survey with a peek into the classic ‘60s/’70s era. As in the earlier show, John and James Whitney continue as key figures, but working separately. John Whitney’s 1967 Experiments in Motion Graphics introduces the possibilities of computer animations, the classic films 7362 by Pat O’Neill and Kitsch in Synch by Adam Beckett reveal some of the unbelievable possibilities of optical printer work, Jules Engel’s Train Landscape uses traditional animation, and Michael Scroggins works with pioneering video manipulation!

Lineup of films (subject to change):
- Experiments in Motion Graphics: In this film, Whitney explains the elaborate processes involved in programming and animating his abstract computer-animated designs, particularly those used in the production of his film Permutations. (John Whitney, 1967, 16mm, color, sound, 12 min. Restored print from the Academy Film Archive)
- Matrix III One of John Whitney’s late masterworks, this restrained, powerful computer animation piece is set to Terry Riley’s ‘Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band’, from his album “A Rainbow in Curved Air”. (John Whitney, 1972, 16mm, color, 10 min.)
- 7362: The most highly acclaimed psychedelic abstract film since LAPIS. A combination of innumerable optical techniques, this film hints at the schizophrenic conditions of our 20th Century mechanical-conformist society, using, in part, Rorschach tests in motion and schizoid distortions of the nude female form. (Pat O’Neill, 1967, 16mm, color, sound, 11 min.)
- Kitsch in Synch: This is an abstract animation that seems to get laughs. The soundtrack is why, mainly; it sounds like a large group of demented ducks enthusiastically and persistently seeking oneness with the all, via energetic chanting. BUBUBABU!!! The imagery is elaborate, brightly colored, and every single damned beat in the soundtrack has its own little bump.” — Canyon Cinema. (Adam Beckett, 1975, 16mm, color, sound, 5 min. Restored print from the iotaCenter/Academy Film Archive.)
- Light Traps: A dance metered between the tempo of 60 cycles per second of electrified gas and camera shutter, further wrought by manual, etched harmonics. Las Vegas in a closet.” — Film-Makers’ Cooperative (Louis Hock, 1975, 16mm, color, silent, 8 min.)
- 3/78 (Objects and Transformations): “Sixteen ‘objects’, each consisting of one hundred points of light, perform a series of precisely choreographed rhythmic transformations. Accompanied by the sound of a Shakuhachi (the Japanese bamboo flute), the film is an exercise in the visual perception of motion and mathematical structure.” – Larry Cuba (Larry Cuba, 1978, 16mm, 6 min.)
- Two Space (Larry Cuba, 1979, 16mm, B&W, sound, 8 min.)
- Train Landscape: “A passing landscape as seen through the window of a moving train — after the first minute or so, we forget the narrative as we become wholeheartedly involved with the energy of the optical statement being scrolled out before us.” – Lorettann Devlin Gascard (Jules Engel, 1974, 16mm, B&W, sound, 3 min.)
- Furies (Sara Petty 1977, 16mm & 35mm, color, sound, 3 min
- Recent Li (Michael Scroggins, 1980, NTSC, 5 min.)

Watch an excerpt from John Whitney’s “Matrix III”!
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Rock & Roll Experiments (Toni Basil in person!)

The echoes of a compact cultural Big Bang!
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2/15/2012 - 8PM

NOTE: Filmforum members also get free admission to all Alternative Projections shows. Students/seniors – $6 admission. To receive your free or discounted rate for online pre-sales, you must purchase your ticket(s) online ahead of time, and you will receive your discount back in cash at the box office before the show.

Rock ‘n roll and experimental film were on parallel groundbreaking paths from the late ‘60s to the early ‘70s, fueled by all of the ecstasy and anger of a vibrant and explosive California counterculture never to be replicated. The instances at which these aural and visual courses intersected is the departure point for tonight’s program, which we hope proves once and for all that in that era, cinema’s influence on music (and vice-versa) was on par with the holy pairing of sex and drugs. This show’s line-up — a reverent glimpse at the early stages of the symbiotic melding of two mediums — places loopy Zappa fare alongside Christina Hornisher’s structuralist speculations, and George Lucas’ prescient early work beside Chris Langdon’s pared-down homage to ‘60s singer-songwriter Lou Christie. Come witness the synesthetically powerful results of a compact cultural Big Bang. Toni Basil will be here in person to introduce the show!

FILMS:
- — ——- (Thom Andersen and Malcolm Brodwick, 1967, 16mm, color, sound, 12 min.)
- Coming Down: featuring the music of the legendary band The United States of America. (Pat O’Neill, 1968, 16mm, color, sound, 4 min. New print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive)
- A Dance Film Inspired by the Music of Jim Morrison: perhaps the first film to combine classical dance with dancing of “the street.” (Toni Basil, 1968, color, sound, 2 min.)
- Kinky: a rock ‘n roll crowd gathering at Canter’s Deli! (Jim Joannides and Maurice Bar David, 1966, 16mm, color, sound, 3 min.)
- 4×8=16 (Christina Hornisher, 1966, 16mm, color, sound, 3 min.)
- The Emperor: “Emperor” Bob Hudson was the most eccentric disc jockey in 1960s rock radio, and George Lucas’s film portrait tries to find a form that matches his eccentricity while documenting the culture that supported him. (George Lucas, 1967, 16mm, b/w, sound, 24 min. Print courtesy of USC.)
- The Gypsy Cried (Chris Langdon, 1973, 16mm, b/w, sound, 3 min. Preservation print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive)
- Two Faces Have I (Chris Langdon, 1973, 16mm, b/w, sound, 3 min. Preservation print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive)
- Burnt Weeny Sandwich: originally Broadcast 4/30/1969. Antics of the Mothers of Invention are further accelerated by heavily processed film footage. Zappa is seen performing music from the “Uncle Meat” LP. This work was completed about 10 years before MTV went on the air. (Frank Zappa, 1969, color, sound, DigiBeta, 17 min. Tape courtesy of Pacific Film Archive)

Visions, Memory & A Machine: Optical Manipulations (Pat O'Neill & Beth Block in person!)

Beth Block and Pat O’Neill in person!
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1/28/2012 - 4PM

NOTE: Filmforum members also get free admission to all Alternative Projections shows. Students/seniors – $6 admission. To receive your free or discounted rate for online pre-sales, you must purchase your ticket(s) online ahead of time, and you will receive your discount back in cash at the box office before the show.

The optical printer — consisting of film projectors mechanically linked to a film camera for re-photography — played a crucial role not only in the Hollywood special effects industry, but also in certain strains of experimental cinema. Perhaps because of its co-habitation with America’s commercial film center, L.A. artists (more than those of any other experimental film community) produced a substantial body of work that engaged with this versatile and powerful device. 
Although artists such as Pat O’Neill, Beth Block, and Adam Beckett became famous for their facility with the optical printer starting in the late ‘60s, the Whitney brothers had constructed their own printer almost thirty years before. Pat O’Neill is L.A.’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. Playing with memory, landscape, animation, humor and more, these films will delight you with their remarkable visions and stories, all made possible by a technology now almost 100% replaced by computers. Filmmakers Beth Block and Pat O’Neill will both be at the Cinefamily in person to introduce the show!

FILMS:
- Foregrounds: An entry on J. Hoberman’s Top 10 List for 1978. (Pat O’Neill, 1978, 16mm, color, 14 min.)
- Saugus Series (Pat O’Neill, 1974, 18 min.)
- Saturn Cycle (David Wilson, 1974, 16mm, color, 16 min.)
- Throbs (Fred Worden, 1972, 16mm, color, 7 min. Restored print from the Academy Film Archive)
- Film Achers: An optical printer poem about film angst, set to the Peter Pan song “I Won’t Grow Up”. (Beth Block, 1976, 16mm, color, sound, 8 min.)
- Heavy-Light (Adam Beckett, 1973, 16mm, color, 7 min. Restored print from the iotaCenter/Academy Film Archive)
- Project One (David Lourie, 1970, 16mm, color, sound, 14 min.)
- Babobilicons (Daina Krumins, 1982, 35mm, color, sound, 16 min.)

Watch an excerpt from Pat O’Neill’s “Foregrounds”!

Watch an excerpt from Adam Beckett’s “Heavy-Light”!

Los Angeles Observed

Alternate visions of Los Angeles!
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1/21/2012 - 5PM

NOTE: Filmforum members also get free admission to all Alternative Projections shows. Students/seniors – $6 admission. To receive your free or discounted rate for online pre-sales, you must purchase your ticket(s) online ahead of time, and you will receive your discount back in cash at the box office before the show.

If Thom Anderson’s 2003 celluloid essay Los Angeles Plays Itself explored the way Hollywood trained thousands of lenses upon its fragmented topography over the course of a century, tonight’s program uncovers how alternate visions of L.A. were executed by several generations of experimental filmmakers. Apt that Anderson’s own contribution to the oeuvre, 1966’s Olivia’s Place, will be screened alongside a saturated roster of unconventional documentaries, avant-garde ethnographies and rare films that capture landscapes turned on their fractured heads. Beautifully restored prints showcase William Hale, Baylis Glascock and other artists whose takes on their surroundings were carried out with a palpable awareness of truth’s often lovely precariousness in non-fiction.

FILMS:
- Muscle Beach (Joseph Strick & Irving Lerner, 1948, 35mm, B&W, 9 min. Restored print from the Academy Film Archive)
- Grand Central Market (William Hale, 1963, 16mm, B&W, 10 min. Print courtesy of the National Archives)
- City City (Duane Kubo & Donna Deitch, 1974, 16mm, color, 11 min. Restored print from the Academy Film Archive)
- Shoppers Market : A marvelous study of a market in Santa Monica, circa early ’60s. Rediscovered at the Alternative Projections symposium in November 2010, courtesy of Ken Eisenstein. (John Vicario, 1963, 16mm, color, 22 min. Restored print from the Academy Film Archive)
- Olivia’s Place (Thom Andersen, 1966/74, 16mm, color, 6 min. Restored print from the Academy Film Archive)
- Bunker Hill: The classic study of old Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles, before it was leveled to build the Music Center. (Kent MacKenzie, 1956, 35mm or 16mm, B&W, 18 min. Print courtesy of USC)
- Film Exercise No. 2 (Baylis Glascock, 5 min.)
- Venice Pier (Gary Beydler, 1976, 16mm, color, 16 min. Restored print from the Academy Film Archive)

Psychedelic Visions & Expanded Consciousness (Pat O'Neill, Peter Mays & Beth Block in person!)

Pat O'Neill, Peter Mays & Beth Block in person!
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1/18/2012 - 8PM

NOTE: Filmforum members also get free admission to all Alternative Projections shows. Students/seniors – $6 admission. To receive your free or discounted rate for online pre-sales, you must purchase your ticket(s) online ahead of time, and you will receive your discount back in cash at the box office before the show.

Hyperkinetic experimental film and animation in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s both echoed and informed the volcanic psychedelia that defined those years — and the filmmakers featured in tonight’s show created challenging, gorgeous work during that era through obsessive mastery of groundbreaking techniques. Chick Strand’s solarized synchronicities, Pat O’Neill’s optically-printed densely haptic experiments and Adam Beckett’s infinite ecstatic morphs all manage to alter minds, both addled and unaided. The care that went into the films of tonight’s sizeable collection of visionaries cannot be overstated, and their influence is a testament to the potent revolutions that originated in obscurity, but still resound in our collective consciousness. Schedules permitting, filmmakers Pat O’Neill, Peter Mays & Beth Block will all be in person at the Cinefamily to introduce the show!

FILMS:
- Les AngeS Dorment (Felix venable, 1965, 16mm, color, sound, 9 min. Print courtesy of Peter Mays)
- Pulse (Peter Spoecker, 1969, 16mm, B&W, sound, 9 min. Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive)
- The Star Curtain Tantra (Peter Mays, 1969, 16mm, color, sound, 14 min.)
- Easyout (Pat O’Neill, 1972, 16mm, color, sound, 9 min. Print from the Academy Film Archive)
- Binary Bit Patterns (Michael Whitney, 1969, 16mm, color, 3 min. Print from the Academy Film Archive)
- Lapis (James Whitney, 1966, 16mm, color, sound, 9 min. Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive)
- Coming Down (Pat O’Neill, 1968, 16mm, color, sound, 4 min. Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive)
- Twelve (The First Three Parts…) (Beth Block, 1977, 16mm, color, sound, 9 min.)
- Waterfall (Chick Strand, 1967, 16mm, color, sound, 3 min. Restored print from the Academy Film Archive. This film was restored by the Pacific Film Archive and the Academy Film Archive with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation.)
- Aether: Original score by Rhys Chatham! (Daina Krumins, 1972, 16mm, color, sound, 4 min. Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive)
- Evolution of the Red Star (Adam Beckett, 1973, 16mm, color, sound, 7 min. Restored print from The iotaCenter collection at the Academy Film Archive)

Watch an excerpt from James Whitney’s “Lapis”!

Industry Town: The Avant-Garde & Hollywood

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1/14/2012 - 5PM

NOTE: Filmforum members also get free admission to all Alternative Projections shows. Students/seniors – $6 admission. To receive your free or discounted rate for online pre-sales, you must purchase your ticket(s) online ahead of time, and you will receive your discount back in cash at the box office before the show.

Tonight’s eruptive experiments come courtesy of filmmakers whose works play explicitly with the commercial film industry (Hollywood and beyond), parodying and often willfully mutating its staid structures, inverting the intended messages of classic and not-so-classic films by using familiar signifiers as raw material. The program kicks off with a brazenly cynical 1928 silent shot by Citizen Kane cinematographer Gregg Toland, then jumps into the ‘60s/‘70s counter-culture with Peter Mays’ hallucinatory dream screens, George Lucas’ auspicious abstract docu-poem 6-18-67, conceptual collage legend John Baldessari’s rare and cryptic Title, and more!

FILMS:
- The Life and Death of 9413: A Hollywood Extra (Robert Florey, Slavko Vorkapich, & Gregg Toland, 1928, 16mm or 35mm, B&W, silent, 11 min.)
- Death of the Gorilla (Peter Mays, 1966, 16mm, color, 16 min. Restored print from the Academy Film Archive)
- 6-18-67 (George Lucas, 1967, 5 min)
- Title (John Baldessari, 1971, 16mm, b/w & color, sound, 20 min.)
- Cue Rolls (Morgan FIsher, 1974, 16mm, colour, sound, 5:30)
- Zebra Skin Clutch (Cynthia Maughan, 1977-78, B&W, 2:03, )
- Based on Romance (Bruce & Norman Yonemoto, 1979, 24:15)

Watch an excerpt from “The Life and Death of 9413: A Hollywood Extra”!

Wallace Berman's Underground (Toni Basil, Tosh Berman, Russ Tamblyn & George Herms in person!)

Landmark experiments from the Hollywood underground!
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1/7/2012 - 5PM

NOTE: Filmforum members also get free admission to all Alternative Projections shows. Students/seniors – $6 admission. To receive your free or discounted rate for online pre-sales, you must purchase your ticket(s) online ahead of time, and you will receive your discount back in cash at the box office before the show.

In the mid-1960s, underground wunderkind and collage art luminary Wallace Berman became the true nerve center of a brilliant kind of social assemblage, inspiring and communing with a close-knit circle of actors and artists who screened their underground films domestically among a group of Topanga Canyon bohemians. These films (made by folks with their ears to the ground of the L.A. scene like Bruce Conner, Dean Stockwell and Russ Tamblyn) were influenced by Berman’s spiritualist and radically amateur concepts of art, in which sculpting out of woodscraps later gave way to pioneering photocopy works and the now-legendary mail art publication Semina. Tonight’s program features the world premiere of Bruce Conner’s edit of Dean Stockwell’s film Pas De Trois, and visits with Berman’s friends and collaborators to explore the fascinating intersection among art, Hollywood, and the institutions of the semi-commercial underground! Show curated by Rani Singh and David E. James. Schedules permitting, Toni Basil, Tosh Berman, Russ Tamblyn and George Herms will all be at the Cinefamily in person to help celebrate Wallace Berman’s legacy and influence!

FILMS (program subject to change):
- Aleph: “This film took a decade to make and is the only true envisionment of the sixties I know.” – Stan Brakhage. (Wallace Berman, 1956-66, 16mm, color, silent, 6 min.)
- A Dance Film inspired by Jim Morrison: Perhaps the first film to combine classical dance with dancing of “the street.” (Toni Basil, 1968, 16mm, color, sound, 2 min.)
- Breakaway: A dance film viewed twice (once forward, once backward) in five minutes, featuring Toni Basil. (Bruce Conner, 1966, 16mm, color, sound, 5 min.)
- Pas de Trois: World Premiere of Bruce Conner’s edit (courtesy of the Conner Family Trust, Dean Stockwell, and Toni Basil.) The only film showing Bruce Conner at work, making Breakaway. This never-before-screened utterly unique document is perhaps the only film of Dean Stockwell’s to survive. (Dean Stockwell, 1964, 16mm B&W transferred to video, 8 min.)
- First Film: A fast–paced view of the times and activities of Russ Tamblyn, largely edited in camera. (Russ Tamblyn, c. 1966, ~8 min. Restored print from the Academy Film Archive)
- Rio Reel: Similar in style to First Film; Tamblyn films a journey to Rio. (Russ Tamblyn, 1968, 6 min. Restored print from the Academy Film Archive)
- Selections from Topanga Rose: This selection of ethereal home movies, shot in and around Topanga Canyon paints a rich portrait of Los Angeles as it once was. Feat. footage of the Birds of Chaos sculpture, Neil Young’s wedding, and a protest at the construction of a trailer park. (George Herms, 1960s, film transferred to video, color, 22 min.)

Watch an excerpt of Wallace Berman’s “Aleph”!

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