"Cinema has always been suffused with magic," writes Brecht Andersch, outlining some of the thoughts behind Bay Area Ecstatic, an evening of "mystically inclined experimental filmmaking that seeks to induce ecstasy in viewers," as SFMOMA phrases it. Andersch has been working on an oral history, An Ecstatic Cinema, that "will embrace many disparate modes of filmmaking — from whatever can be gleaned in the collective memory regarding the largely lost rhythmic abstract animations of hipster/trickster Hy Hirsch, to the outrageous, visionary camp absurdism of George Kuchar and Curt McDowell. [Tonight's] show focuses on several of the major figures of the Great 60s generation" — Kenneth Anger, for example, whose Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969, image above) is on the program — "and on a few of their key successors who came of age in the 90s."
"Artists Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder use multiple film projectors and their projections of light and color to create live performances out of the mechanics of movie-going," writes Shaun Brady in the Philadelphia City Paper. "In Wave Currents, the pair collaborates with composer Olivia Block, a sonic installation artist who melds found sound, written scores and electronic improvisation. The pieces promise to immerse viewers in a 'sensuous space' sculpted from the absorptive interplay of light and sound." Tomorrow night at International House.
"In 1979, Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus acquired a mid-level distribution company called Cannon Films and turned it into one of the two premiere independent production companies specializing in action-revenge-fantasy films," wrote Ben Maraniss in the first issue of N1FR back in August. "The legacy of Simpson/Bruckheimer, Golan/Globus, and Kassar/Vajna functions as the sarcophagus of a received wisdom which has ceased to live but still animates the zombified Right in modern political debate. The 1980s sloganeering that suggested that 'the government that governs best is the government that governs least,' the assumption that a few trained American soldiers are capable of subduing an entire nation of 'bad guys,' and the insistence that virtuous intentions justify insane action, formed the intellectual substance of the Right then and has lingered long enough to form the emotional core of its rhetoric today. Regressive tax policies, the invasion of Iraq, and the entire sad phenomenon of the George W Bush Administration (to say nothing of the Sarah Palin show that is its direct extension) have all been wrapped in the same cultural assumptions that these producers used to sell their product to the world thirty years ago."
Christoph Huber's interviewed Golan for the current issue Cinema Scope: "How to do justice to a man whose office is adorned with both a certificate from the International Arm Wrestling Council, commending the auteur of Over the Top (1987) that reads 'In appreciation of your valued support for the sport of arm-wrestling,' and the famous napkin on which Golan and Jean-Luc Godard signed a million-dollar-contract for King Lear (1987) during their 1985 lunch meeting in a Cannes restaurant? Personally, I'd rather make a bid for the arm-wrestling certificate, but in a 1997 interview Golan claimed he turned down a $10,000 offer from MoMA for the napkin.... From 1979 to 1989 [Cannon] produced more than 120 films, ruthlessly and enthusiastically pursuing their American Dream of turning a renegade independent outfit into the seventh Hollywood major with an aggressive pre-sales policy and an insanely prolific schedule for cheap mass production, centring on trashy exploitation fare, with which Cannon Films was — and likely, if not altogether fairly, still is — inevitably associated."
Starting tomorrow, the Film Society at Lincoln Center will screen The Cannon Films Canon — 13 films through November 24. "It would take willful perversity to posit outsider madmen like Golan and Globus as the Medicis of drear Reagan-era entertainment," writes Nick Pinkerton in the Voice. "But if Cannon usually fell off the wrong side of the ridiculous-sublime tightrope, they also gave us Morgan Freeman's pimp in Street Smart (1987), first seen drinking from a Yoo-hoo bottle with his pinkie regally raised; John Glover's unctuous blackmailer in the fine John Frankenheimer rehab piece 52 Pick-Up (1986); and John Cassavetes's last and most beautiful film, Love Streams (1984)."
That film stars Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands "and the controlled yet agonized performances raise the self-pitying asides to Beckett-like poetry for the shipwrecked survivors of the Tuxedo Age," writes the New Yorker's Richard Brody. Simon Abrams has more on the series in the L.
Richard Brody has another recommendation for tomorrow evening, too. A Brighter Summer Day screens at BAM: "In the nearly four-hour span of this vast Proustian memory piece, from 1991, Edward Yang meticulously delineates the anguish of young people in Taipei in 1959 and the gang violence that pervades their lives."
"There was a time in the mid-1980s when filmmaker Alex Cox would have been considered on par with such contemporaries as Jim Jarmusch, Gus Van Sant and David Lynch at the forefront of the ascendant notion of 'independent film,'" writes Mark Olsen in the Los Angeles Times. "A new version of Straight to Hell, dubbed Straight to Hell Returns — which screens Friday at the UCLA Film and Television Archive, where Cox is scheduled to appear in person — might help the movie finally get the reappraisal it has long deserved."
"[A]s far as director's cuts that nobody asked for go, it's completely worthwhile," agrees Karina Longworth in the LA Weekly. "Starring Joe Strummer, Elvis Costello, Sy Richardson, Dick Rude and a pre-grunge Courtney Love as hard-living bank robbers hiding out in a town run by violent coffee addicts, Straight to Hell was decimated by critics in 1987... Straight to Hell was guaranteed lasting novelty value by its cast alone, but the restoration reveals it to be more than a curiosity with impeccable record-nerd cred. It is, against all odds, a real movie, even a pretty good one. What A Hard Day's Night is to Quickie Pop Heartthrob Flicks, Straight to Hell is to a different sub-sub-subgenre: Films Full of Rock Stars in Which None of Them Play Music." A bit of somewhat related news: Paul Viragh, who wrote the Ian Dury biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, is working on another, this one based on the life of Joe Strummer.
Karina also notes that Cinefamily will be celebrating the release of Destroy All Movies!!!: The Complete Guide to Punks on Film, a "massive, indispensable new coffee-table/reference book" edited by Zach Carlson and Bryan Connolly, who were interviewed in last week's Austin Chronicle by Marc Savlov. Highlights of this weekend's punks-on-film festival "include a double feature of [Dave] Markey's Super-8 portraits on the 80s LA underground, The Slog Movie and Desperate Teenage Lovedolls, and a midnight show of [Lech] Kowalski's rarely screened D.O.A., from a print reportedly dug out of storage at Sage Stallone's house." Related: For the Quietus, Jamie Thompson talks with Jon Savage about his compilation, Black Hole: Californian Punk 1977-1980.
For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow The Daily Notebook on Twitter and/or the RSS feed.