Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Movies Are My Life

Richard I remembered a time when we would often see half a dozen films in the course of a week. I had lots more disposable income and time back in the day. I think too that there were more films to see and that I was less fussy. I found myself for the first time at the Echo Park Film Center which reminded me of the little revival joints and weird films, some boring and some life changing, of days bygone. I attended an event, a tongue and cheek tribute to the occult and in honor of the 150th anniversary of the spiritualist Fox sisters’ first paranormal experience. It had been a long time since I’d seen a program of experimental films. For a number of films on the program, I felt grateful that experimental filmmakers are largely under funded and relegated therefore to making short films. Historically, avant-garde films have left me scratching my head, unsure whether I am completely dense or if the filmmaker is a silly pretentious twit. This night was no exception except a very rare film from the early 1920s that I had never seen or heard of was shown. The film was Soul of Cypress and was filmed as a triptych. The natural assumption would be that the filmmaker was inspired by Abel Gance’s three screen Napoleon but that film was shown in the U.S. in a single screen version only until it was restored in the 1970. Unless the filmmaker visited abroad, this lovely triptych story of a man and the fairy/demons that hover over him throughout the stages of his life, was most likely inspired by religious art.

I admit bias here because not only does the filmmaker make the best coffee in the universe, he also works for Budget. My very favorite part of the night was duel projector extravaganza created by John Cannizzaro. John used two projectors (and bah humbug to ye that wax to me about state of the art video projection and HD and crap. Feh! I say. Feh!) Everyone knows there is nothing more exquisite than film projected through a xenon lens onto a screen in a dark room. Except John, who actually projected two different films from two different projectors onto the same screen which is certainly avant-garde and experimental but in this case, also, poignant and provocative and enormously satisfying. There was a juxtaposition of Haitian voodoo dancers with 1970s self help psychobabble that waxed particularly eloquent and I even patted him on the back before I screamed at him to get the fucking coffee brewing.

I had another revelatory film experience when I watched a videotape of the stunning documentary, Crazy Love, for which Budget provided a lot of footage. Crazy Love is the story of Burt and Linda Pugach and is set among upwardly mobile, morally corrupt Jews in New York. Many of the characters reminded me of my family and people I met while growing up, except for the part where jealous Burt has acid flung at his girlfriend Linda’s face and blinds her. But, after his stint in prison, they marry. Even knowing the story before watching, the film was not at all what I expected and the voices felt strangely familiar. The film was a wonderful and less cynical than you’d think, a meditation on grandiosity and humility and retribution and forgiveness. And crazy love.

I dragged the Kaz out of the valley to a screening at the AFI of a film trilogy entitled Bloodtime, Moontime, Dreamtime for which I provided stock footage. I have an affectionate relationship with the filmmaker, a wonderful and deeply strange visionary who created this epic and the screening left me very impressed with her editing skills and her eye. The film was very beautiful. It was a poetic documentary, primarily about a group of women who disavow patriarchal culture and create their own art and rituals from a more feminist perspective and focused on woman’s blood, which is worshipped as a life force. I get this. Some of what is fucked up about me has to do with being a woman in a society with a lot of stupid rules and conventions and expectations largely generated by people with dicks.

The film addressed the subject of menstruation a lot. There was a shot of a woman’s feet in a shower with blood dripping between them and another of hands scrubbing bloody panties in a tin pail that were repeated a number of times. I guess it is a bummer to be ashamed of our own menstrual blood. The film showed dancing girls in floral wreaths and flowing dresses celebrating a first menstruation and fathers talking about how they marked this landmark in their young daughters’ lives. Maybe I’m more fucked up than I think I am and maybe the whole core of what is wrong with me and what I really should be crying to Leslie about, is my visceral shame at my own blood but I don’t think so and I found the panty scrubbing and the daddys waxing poetic about their daughter’s menarche icky and embarrassing.

These are earnest women. I understand what it is to be broken and battered and to seek comfort. I am weary of living in shame and truly I begrudge no one her path towards light. I am an asshole to judge that these women with their rituals and their art and their tie dyed capes and big ugly bracelets are silly but the Kaz and I snorted a few times, like when the fulsome naked lady covered her body with tempera and threw herself on the floor. There were doll making and self created prayer rituals and croning ceremonies and writing workshops, all of which were designed to bolster the participants’ sense of wholeness and oneness with the feminine spirit. The Kaz, at least being open minded about the healing value of these practices, groused, “Who the fuck has time for that?”

The one ritual, which oddly seemed sort of out of place thematically with the rest of the film, was conceived by a woman my age, who refused a croning ceremony and instead threw herself a wedding, with all the trimmings, to a big cardboard cutout groom from a novelty shop. This co-opting of a ritual from patriarchal culture to suit her own purpose was ironic and sweet and of all the ceremonies and rituals and creations featured in the film, seemed the most real.

The Kaz and I aren’t going to get nekkid in wet paint or dance on the beach in red capes but if we thought it would be a balm for the terror that grows greater, as the time we have to undo the pain of the past and to live in grace, becomes inevitably shorter, we would howl at the friggin’ moon.

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