The film seems almost out of time. It could have been filmed fifty years ago. The gently swaying palms of Los Angeles fit between buildings easily but seem to have a romantic life in this film. The music, a piece for theremin and string quartet by Herbert A. Deutsch, fits the imagery in Jennifer Sharpe’s film to perfection. This kind of filmmaking, done with a small camera and then edited and colored in a relatively simple digital editor, is very close to the simplicity of the poet working in a notepad or the artist sketching from her window. Sharpe’s films are deeply felt poetic expressions that seem to exist in the only possible form that they could have. She turns her video images into something close to painting, extending time and finding mystery in simple movements. She has a very gentle approach but with strength in her observation and emotional ability, sort of like a butterfly with steel wings.
This film’s writer and director, Maureen O’Connell, is a student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. The school doesn’t make a good first impression with all its diction and dialects. But her film does. I’m a bit of a jerk about British drama training. Derek Jacobi once made an offer of employment that I refused while asked for another beer. That’s my general attitude about the Kenneth Branagh tribe. Nobody’s ever produced duller Shakespeare than Mr. I-Am-a-Hard-Working-Shakespearean-Dammit! O’Connell comes from Ireland… usually an ace up an actor’s sleeve… except in Mr. Branagh’s case. If O’Connell can keep RADA off of her back, she might just have something very fine going on as a director. She’s made a great film here. There are some technical issues with sound that annoy me, but they seem easily solvable by simply converting a stereo track to mono and blending a few audio transitions together. Someone could fix that up in a few minutes for her.
The film is about a comfortably middle-class girl who seems disconnected from her family and friends. She takes a sudden turn toward what I can only call suburban violence. The film builds quietly toward a surprising viciousness that seems very real. O’Connell darts around the action like she’s making a documentary. She works well with actors, somehow getting large groups of them to create scenes that are shockingly realistic and disturbing. There’s not a hint of awkwardness in her camera work. In fact, she seems, along with director of photography Arthur Mulhern, to revel in what I call the messy image. It is my belief that only people who seek out messy images can become great filmmakers. I will not explain that too much. It should be obvious to any filmmaker. The film contains a crystallizing and gorgeous image where O’Connell points the camera into the sun and tracks a running group of teenagers after a fight. It’s a great image that violates the norms of video photography. In fact, I notice quite a bit of light leaking into the lens during the film. O’Connell’s violence is shocking but also mesmerizing. She approaches it in a slightly off-kilter manner that I can’t quite get a handle on. Just when you think it’s time for her to calm down and quiet things, someone gets kicked in the face. She just has a natural sense of drama.
Her lead performer, Marilyn Bane, conveys her role brilliantly. She is a cross between likeable innocence and brute savage that I want to hit with a baseball bat. Really fine work. All the actors are terrific and the group of ass-kicking girls is just horrifying.
So this Maureen O’Connell is probably going to be making something very fine for the BBC soon. Get ready for it. Because it won’t be pretty. But it’ll leave a big bruise for a long while. She’ll most likely have to get over all that RADA stuff. Although, to contradict myself slightly, she does do this nice little Romeo & Juliet thing that I listened to!
UC Berkeley scientists have recorded the first images ever generated by a human brain. Amazing. They exposed subjects to video images while recording visual activity in their brains. When they played the recorded data back they got images corresponding closely to what the subjects had just seen. What I notice about the images in the video is that faces seem to work the best. That is interesting on many levels. Perhaps facial recognition is so hard-wired into humans that we are able to generate those images more clearly than all others. This work opens the door to the ability to reconstruct imagery from dreams and memories. It’s a staggering achievement. Magnificent. I simply cannot wait to try this sometime.
Thank you to Rob Smart on Facebook.
In what I consider the most important recent news event, the Federal First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled that citizens have the legal right to film police while they are performing their public duties.
The case involved attorney Simon Glik in Boston who observed an arrest in the Boston Common that he thought was abusive. So he flipped out his cellphone camera and filmed the cops. They arrested him.
The Court has responded to this – one of the increasing number of cases nationwide in which cops try to take cameras from or arrest citizens who try to record them during arrests – by affirming a lower court ruling in Glik’s favor. In this case, as in most similar cases, the police attempted to charge someone with ‘wiretapping’ because the video cameras are ‘secretly’ recording audio. Of course any court recognizes that only a simpleton would associate using a video camera with wiretapping.
The Court stated:
The filming of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers performing their responsibilities, fits comfortably within these principles [of protected First Amendment activity]. Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting the free discussion of governmental affairs.
Episodes of police misconduct, brutality and murder are increasing nationwide. Police powers are growing, government agencies are eavesdropping on Americans without warrants, personal data is being pulled into government databases, and security paranoia is reaching nearly hysterical levels. The fact is that the police are committing crimes – including murder – at an alarming rate. Cops are using violence against innocent demonstrators. They are killing helpless people in the subways of Oakland. They are beating homeless people to death in Fullerton, California. They are raiding political activist groups before and during public events on the chance that these groups might be planning something illegal. Filming these cops is absolutely the least that citizens should be doing.
The Court has made it abundantly clear that citizens have always had the legal right to use video cameras on the police and that arrests of citizens in these circumstances is illegal. That is why all cases nationwide that police forces have brought against people with video cameras have been thrown out of court.
It should now be clear that police departments arresting people for filming are liable in civil courts.
The Court went further than its decision on filming police activities. It also stated that citizens recording police or government officials have the same legal protections afforded to the press. In other words: citizens are journalists.
The Court said:
Moreover, changes in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw. The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.
There is no legal definition of or requirement for being a journalist. In fact, much of CNN’s video coverage comes from ‘iReporters’ who are citizen journalists filming events around the world and sending in their footage via the CNN web site. Those people are fully protected by all the same laws that protect journalists and their sources.
I think this is a long-overdue and definitive ruling that clarifies legally what has been obvious all along. People always have the right to film their police officers doing the public duties that public monies pay for.
Finally, and most important: People Are the Press.
At the start, I’ll say that this is one of the most magnificent films I have seen in years. David Vaipan has made this relentless and fully-committed scream of artistic intent, desire, confusion, effort and love. This is a film about being an artist. It is a film about fear and confidence. About effort, will and failure. Vaipan simply takes the entire history of art and all that it has given him and dumps it out on his desk and turns it all into his own material. All of art, music, film, literature and poetry become Vaipan’s crayons and he uses them to tell his own personal story.
The film bombards with imagery. Just gaze in wonder at the crayon animated memoir that’s presented like a little puppet theater show. It moves from birth to boarding schools to Wall Street and beyond with effortless skill. The drawings are amazing and funny. Just when you think you’ve seen plenty Vaipan moves into a stick figure run through the history of art and it just keeps coming at you. He cuts and chops and mixes and slides and just keeps streaming the grandeur of art at us like a force of nature. He’s completely lost inside the world of inspiration. He sees the fear of getting lost in the pile – the fear of being ignored – and he literally revels in the fear itself. He makes the fear seem like something to seek. This is a grand and important statement from someone who I think is a young artist. The tools of his trade are digital and he uses them freely with a wild eagerness to explore that is extremely difficult to maintain. The unabashed use of video effects and computer equipment as if they are the oil paints and charcoals inside a painter’s box is one of the hallmarks of the emerging American video art movement. I can see the influence of Ryan Trecartin’s work in this. There’s a familiarity with digital layers that is of primary significance in this recent art. There’s a hard-edged willingness to allow the digital processes to show through. It’s sort of a freedom with the computer and video that means one doesn’t have to make anything necessarily look the right way or look like something it isn’t.
You have to really watch this film very closely and try to catch the pieces of the roaring mass of art thrown at you. Even the ending credits are a complete statement in themselves with the director drunkenly singing the Rolling Stones’ ‘Sympathy For the Devil’ in the background.
So many people are part of this film. Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, Jean Luc Godard, Maya Deren, Luis Bunuel, Stanley Kubrick, David Foster Wallace, Michael Snow, Agnes Varda, to name but a few.
I know that the intertitles and other things flash by too quickly to grasp and maybe that intimates something about the info-age and attention spans, it’s why your lord Hiesos Kristos, magician of the beautiful, invented the pause button and that’s also why the real Creator (one D. Vaipan) put this on the internet rather than wherever, because you have control.
See? That’s one of the little treasure waiting for you in the end credits of this gigantic and raving epileptic fit of a film that should ultimately bring you close to tears and make you want to explode in all directions and actually truly and finally… make something!
Here is the artist’s web site.
A group of at least six Fullerton, California police officers brutally beat an ill homeless man to death on July 5th, according to witnesses and news reports. The story is exploding across the national news media because of some video that shows witnesses at the scene of the beating talking about what they saw moments before. They describe a group of officers stomping and beating a helpless Kelly Thomas to death as he screamed for help. Here is an extremely graphic close up picture of what these police did to the head of their victim. This was an extremely brutal and extended crime in which a human being was beaten into a pulp by sociopathic murderers.
When a small police force in a small Southern California city can put six murderous cops on scene at one time you know you have a real statistical problem. In other words, you can bet your life that you have a police department that is a very clear and present threat to the lives of the citizens.
The FBI has now joined the investigation and will probably extend its inquiries deep inside the Fullerton department. What they will find there one can already guess at.
The story has reached the national news. I saw Brian Williams do a story on it tonight. In that story, the mayor of Fullerton says he thinks people should calm down because things are reaching almost ‘lynch mob’ proportions. Oh yuh think? Really? And how does the mayor of Fullerton think people should react to a group of brutal thug cops murdering a helpless man? Does he think they should allow a Fullerton court to handle the situation? Cops murder people and nothing happens. It’s common. Courts have serious problems handling cops who murder. They simply can’t deal with the problem.
In Syria, government forces – cops and soldiers – are shooting and beating people to death every day. We have no problem when the Syrian people pick up guns and shoot those cops. Why should we object to the citizens of Fullerton fighting back against an armed force of violent murderers? There’s absolutely no reason to trust a cop in Fullerton. The city is just a few miles south of downtown Los Angeles, right off an exit on the Five freeway. You certainly don’t want to get pulled over by these guys. I’d approach a Fullerton cop with extreme caution and preferably with a gun in my hand (I obviously mean that as a general attitude and not as an actual course of action!).
Shooting cops who are murdering someone is legal, by the way. Another cop can do it. A citizen can do it. It may be a very risky proposition and I would certainly not recommend it, but it is just as legal as shooting a regular citizen if one sees that a murder is imminent. Quite simply, it is always legal to prevent a murder through any means necessary. It would have been perfectly legal for someone to have walked up and done something to those Fullerton cops while they were committing murder. Remember that. It’s actually a prediction.
For now, we have citizens using the power of the cell phone camera to shoot cops who are committing crimes and atrocities. Those cameras in the hands of people everywhere need to roll every time someone sees a cop beating or killing someone. But beyond that, there is a serious argument to be made for armed confrontation against a police force that is fielding dangerous killers. After all, you cannot deny the numbers. If multiple squad cars in Fullerton pull up to a scene and the accumulated force of cops on hand decide to beat a man to death, then you can safely assume that those cops represent the fundamental picture of that police force. At that point, the Fullerton police force becomes an armed group occupying a city. They can and should be resisted by every means available, legal and physical. People will start killing killer cops. It’s inevitable in a world where a cop can shoot a bullet through the back of an unarmed man on a subway platform in Oakland and get off in court with a relatively minor conviction. Cops carry guns. They are dangerous people. Their training is suspect. Their histories are often suspect. They become cops for reasons other than wanting to protect people. They should not be viewed with the respect generally afforded to them. They should be viewed with suspicion. They should be treated as potential threats.
Cops who kill are actually pretty easy to identify and find. They are also easy to destroy financially. The cops on scene at the killing on July 5th should spend the rest of their lives in jail and should lose their homes, their finances and everything else they may hold dear. Pro bono legal services to such ends should be provided to the family of the dead man by major law firms. One way or another, killer cops must be destroyed.
So, pigs of Fullerton, squeal for the camera!