Jammin’ the Blues: 1944 Warner Bros. Jazz Short


Here’s a 1944 Warner Bros. short film featuring famous jazz musicians doing a jam session with dancers. It was directed by Gjon Mili. The players are Lester Young, Red Callender, Harry Edison, Marlowe Morris, Sid Catlett, Barney Kessel, Jo Jones, John Simmons, Illinois Jacquet, Marie Bryant, Archie Savage and Garland Finney.

Ghost Algebra: Gorgeously Unsettling Animated Film by Janie Geiser


This is a brilliant animation from Janie Geiser who is a renowned theater and film artist specializing in the use of inanimate objects and toys to create unsettling and evocative films and performances. Her work has been screened worldwide, including at the Whitney, Guggenheim, Museum of Modern Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The film investigates the origins of the word ‘algebra,’ which turn out to be somewhat interesting. Frankly, I had never once even considered the word before watching this film.


It’s a subtle film. A beautiful but difficult film. Let’s think about this experimental film, shall we? What do we see in this film? Holes. Lots of them. Holes for looking through. There’s a little plastic doll who looks very 1940s, some birds, numerals, trees, and lots of grass. Blades of grass. When I see a little plastic girl doll looking into holes I see a filmmaker looking into a camera to investigate the world, or rather the mind, or perhaps the unconscious. This doll approaches an odd stone bunker on a hill and she peers into a small opening into darkness. It looks a bit like an old Nazi gun bunker. Carl Jung would approve! All experimental films should dig into the unconscious mind, I think. People throw ‘dreamlike’ around quite often these days when talking about films. There are very few dreamlike films. What most people mean by dreamlike is simply blurry. Anyway, our plastic doll sees things in storybook fashion that suggest nature and Nazis. There’s warfare going on. The precision of battle maps. The doll’s vision puts conflicting images of tamed nature description together with extreme violence. Nothing is attached properly to anything. Ideas do not lead to logical conclusions. Instead, they lead to odd constructions, more like what is required by the creative mind.

Geiser’s ‘algebra’ theme seems to peek through at times in images of severed limbs or broken bones, teeth, spilled blood, and of course the various number machines that pop up. The word algebra apparently used to have a meaning related to restoration or reunion, sometimes applying to the setting of broken bones which was often done in medieval times by a dentist who also performed bloodlettings. Interesting. But this film is not really about mathematics. At least not the usual kind. It’s about piecing together a vision of the world. Immersion.


John Cassavetes Did a Short Film as a Favor in 1982 – The Haircut: by Tamar Simon Hoffs


Today while Googling for John Cassavetes – something I do quite regularly just as a reminder that filmmaking is art – I found this 1982 short film by American filmmaker Tamar Simon Hoffs. At the time, she was a student at UCLA and needed an actor for her lead role. Cassavetes decided to do a favor for her because Ben Gazzara’s daughter was producing the film. So he gave the filmmaker 24 hours of his time and they made this charming and excellent short film about a recording industry guy getting a really good haircut. It’s a great film because it doesn’t try hard. It just watches a man get happy because of where he is and who he is talking to.

What a magnificent thing for an artist to do – to share his time helping a student make a film. I think that’s great.

Silent Shadow of the Bat-Man: A Film by Andre Perkowski


From the corrupt and nefarious cinematic mind of filmmaker Andre Perkowski comes this series of fantastic silent Batman adventures. Episodes 1 and 2 detail the caped crusader’s origin story. You know the one, but you’ve probably never seen it told this way before.

Perkowski has been featured here before for his ongoing epic adaptation of William S. Burroughs’ novel, ‘Nova Express.’



Here’s an update from the filmmaker himself! All five parts of the Bat-Man serial with a live symphony playing along!



The Seashell and the Clergyman: 1928 Surrealist Film by Germaine Dulac


A clergyman goes insane with lust for the wife of a general in this ravishingly beautiful silent film by one of the greatest surrealist filmmakers of all time, Germaine Dulac. She captures states of mind on film like no one I’ve ever seen. If you are looking for magic in cinema, you are going to find it here. This is a film about magic, desire, obsession, male/female power, love, faith, mysticism, and reality. Her story is hypnotic and her special effects are superb.

Here’s another of her films that I wrote about on this site.