Traumatografo: Magnificent and Mysterious 1975 Film by Paolo Gioli

I did not know this filmmaker, Paolo Gioli, existed until yesterday. And that really bothers me because I feel a very strong kinship with this filmmaker just on the basis of having seen two of his pieces. What can a filmmaker do with his own backyard? That is the question that comes to my mind as I watch his films. Can a filmmaker take his camera out back and make something astounding? Of course. In fact, that skill is central to being a creative filmmaker. It is the feeling I get from Gioli. He makes films that have a guiding concern but he is not afraid to slip a little off of the main track and let you see him experimenting. One can observe his enthusiasm for a new mechanical technique and he allows his film to wander into the territory of the new machine or splicing method for a while. And then he comes back to the main thing. He never lets this get out of control and it is a miracle to watch. One can learn how to experiment by watching a brilliant experimentalist. It’s that simple.

There are many filmmakers I wish I could meet and perhaps work with. Gioli is one of them. In fact, this brings to mind again my thought that things like YouTube are the greatest cinematic development of the past half century. The reason has nothing to do with screen format or size or image quality. It has to do with intimacy. The feeling of connection one can get by watching a filmmaker’s work on the computer is far more intimate than could be achieved in a theater. It is this quality that is the most important contribution of online film to world cinema. Intimate connection to the artist. It has a powerful effect on artists and communicates ideas and inspiration from generation to generation far more effectively than any prior cinematic display technology.

Here is a nice long article by Bart Testa about this wonderful Italian filmmaker.

Here is an article by David Bordwell on how Gioli’s hand-made cameras influence his ‘vertical cinema’ technique.

Histoire(s) du cinema: According to Jean-Luc Godard

Between 1988 and 1998 filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard made a film called ‘Histoire(s) du cinéma.’ Though it purports to be a sort of cinema history, reflecting on how cinema intersects with the 20th century, I think it is more likely a vision of how cinema works in the mind of one filmmaker. The images drift in and out, overlapping and complimenting one another just as they would in the mind. Don’t look for accuracy or understanding. Just watch the film. It’s very difficult to find pieces of this lengthy work online. But these are three good chunks and they certainly stand up as a taste.

More about the film at Mubi.

Film: Objets Oubliés

Italian filmmaker, Fabio Scacchioli, works with zero budget and creates masterpieces of Italian cinema.  I think the great movement of cinema in the 21st century is underway and it looks to me like Italy is riding the top of the wave.  We are finally reaching the point where an artwork is created with a ‘zero budget,’ just like a painting is.  Picasso painted for just the cost of his canvas, his paints, and his own time.  Filmmakers can now work the same way, enjoying the privacy of their studios and making things with their hands and their computers and their cameras.  Filmmaking has finally become a visual art.  Online cinema is the most powerful movement in all of art today.  It is alive and aware of its potential.  Artists like Scacchioli are going to take it very far indeed and they are going to become the Picassos of the future.  It is time to start paying attention to this cinema, not as a silly form of entrance into the moribund feature film studio career, but as a major art form in and of itself.

This film, Objets Oubliés, is built upon four pieces of film found on the street.  The filmmaker attempts to connect the unknown images into some sort of coherent whole.  The narrating voice exists only in relationship to this attempt to create life and continuity from unknown materials discovered by pure chance.  There is something like a form of grace and true love of film or cinema in this act.  It seems to me to represent the very life of film.  It also seems like an effort that would quite obviously and most certainly originate in Italy.  It is mindful romance.  It is the literal taking of the baton from an unknown hand and carrying it forward to make something unexpected and marvelous.  One person makes something without knowing it is part of an artwork that has not come into existence yet.  But it will and it does.  The artist comes along and picks it up and shows us that the artwork existed even before he arrived.

Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is a Beacon For a New Decade

Read the following remarks at your own risk.  The post begins one way and finishes in another.

The online film journal Senses of Cinema has an excellent essay by Pedro Blas Gonzalez called Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: An Existential Odyssey.  He examines 2001: A Space Odyssey from an existential viewpoint.  He focuses primarily on astronaut Dave Bowman’s journey in the film toward not only a far-flung physical destination, but also his journey as a human being on a path toward knowledge, an unknown future and ultimate change or evolution.  I’ve always viewed the Bowman character as being exceedingly emotional and noble in spite of the fact that he barely moves a facial muscle or changes his vocal tone.  He seems on the surface to be little more than another machine on board the giant Jupiter-bound space ship.  But he is in fact full of tiny, barely perceptible emotions and concerns that make him perhaps the greatest representative character for the human species in film history.  The Bowman character completes his mission of discovery by surmounting incredible obstacles, included the most powerful example of artificial intelligence ever devised by humankind.  But he does this without ever losing his capacity for anger, despair, love, fear, or wonder.

We’ve lived through what I consider to be the single worst decade in the history of the United States, including the time of the Civil War.  In 2000, the country willfully elected to the presidency the most uneducated, unintelligent, disgusting, drunken, irresponsible, uncaring, warlike, criminal and religious fanatic in its history.  The damage done to our own self-image, to our sense of wonder in the face of the magnificent unknown, to our drive forward technically, scientifically, artistically, and morally, to our own self-respect and our dignity in a world teeming with slavery and murder and starvation – well this damage is going to be exceedingly difficult to repair.  We’ve seen the drive for knowledge turned into something that is suspect, something that religion should argue with and fight at every turn.  This is the legacy of the first decade of the twenty-first century.  The tragic crime committed by half of the population of the United States to elect – twice-over – the closest thing to an authoritarian leader we’ve ever had will not be wiped clean by voting for new candidates.  These awful people are among us.  They work with us in offices, in grocery stores, on farms, selling insurance, selling  cars, investing on Wall Street.  They are all around us and they are waiting to destroy again.  They want us to be dumb and mute.  They want us worshiping in their churches.  They want women to answer to them for how they use their bodies.  They want us to ignore the greatest scientific thoughts ever had and to replace them with tall-tales from an ancient book of children’s stories called The Bible.  It has been my mission over the past year to fight these people and to rid this web site of them (thousands and thousands of them, by the way), and to break their web links by using aggressive and insulting language at every possible turn.  I freely mix children’s stories and games with brutal assaults on this ignorant and dangerous population within our nation.  After 15 years of experience with children’s web sites, I have decided that they are rubbish.  They serve little purpose and make a pretense at wholesomeness and clean language which only does a disservice to our children who must grow up with the strength and knowledge to eradicate the foolishness that has prevailed over the past decade.  I have no concern for who I may insult, including my own authors who may or may not want their content removed because of my strong views.  My candle is a blowtorch and I turn it on barbarians with joy.  The only effective way to fight them is to get excited about discovery and knowledge again –  to do what Star Trek says we should do:

…to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no one has gone before

Yes. We won’t get there by watching imbeciles like James Cameron film tales about white guys invading blue guys.  50-some-year-old adolescents pretending to be great directors don’t give us anything worth knowing.  Artists like Kubrick do.  Films like 2001: A Space Odyssey do.  We need to take this next decade and use it to elevate ourselves beyond and out of reach of the poor lost savages we see around us driving their pick-ups, their SUVs, thumbing through their Bibles and Korans, and going to movies like Avatar.  Let’s try thinking again.  Go rent 2001.  Watch it.  Wonder.  Think.

Stan Brakhage Film: Water For Maya

Stan Brakhage was one the most important experimental filmmakers of the 20th century. He used many techniques to make his films, one of them being direct painting on the film itself. This is one of his pieces from 2000. It is very beautiful and goes through several distinct movements during its short length.  I am going to post some more examples of his films because I think they capture an essential quality of an artist’s happiness that must be very rare. Offers International Cinema Online

laventuraThe Auteurs ( is a site for art film lovers.  Their mission is to offer a huge selection of international art films by the world’s best directors for simple online viewing.  Last night I watched an Italian film from 1960 called L’Avventura, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni.  The image quality was excellent and the sound was also very clear.  It was one of the best experiences with watching a film online that I’ve ever had.  The image in this post is a reduced screenshot taken while I watched.  The film itself is one of the great examples of Italian cinema and is one you will never forget.  Apparently, The Auteurs has partnered with The Criterion Collection to bring many of the best films online.  Each month The Criterion Collection selects three or four films to run on the site for free viewing in a sort of revolving festival of great cinema.  This is an important connection for The Auteurs because Criterion is probably the very best thing that ever happened to DVDs.  Their efforts at finding the very best sources for their films set them far apart from any other DVD producer.  If you are serious about international cinema on DVD, you always look for what Criterion has to offer.

The site, which is still in beta, has about 120 films available at this point.  Most of these cost $5 for a 7-day viewing period.  There are also articles, film reviews, and member forums for discussing films and writing your own reviews.  The monthly curated festivals look like a really good idea and seem to be offering a few free films each month.

But the key to success with a film site like this is volume.  They must secure the rights to show many more films very quickly.  Nothing makes people lose interest in a film site faster than a limited selection.  For now, there are many films listed on the site which are not actually available which is somewhat disappointing.  The site is trying to give visitors an idea of the kind of films they will offer, but it is a distraction that is unnecessary.  Hopefully, the site will use its relationship with Criterion to drastically increase its library which shows great promise.  The idea for a site that culls the best of international cinema is an excellent and overdue one.  Now it remains to be seen if can keep the attention of film lovers.