Monday, June 16, 2008

A Trip Through Facets


A Trip Through Facets

So I finally got around to looking at some publications from Facets Video that have been in the "to be read" pile since 1998. This company has videos for sale or rent, more thousands of them than Julia Roberts has teeth. Looking through several issues of the Facets newsletter was a real trip.

Here's what I learned:


1. A still from a foreign film made long ago prompted a realization: my interest in non-mainstream cinema dates back to when I was a precocious grade-school kid with adult reading privileges. In the shelves of the local library I found books about two films,
Last Year at Marienbad and Hiroshima Mon Amour, both with stills from the films along with, I suppose, words from the scripts. It's kind of interesting to trace back a passion to its origin.

2. A movie has been made of
The Neon Bible, the first novel by John Kennedy Toole, who is more widely known for writing A Confederacy of Dunces and then committing suicide when he couldn't get it published. (It later won him a Pulitzer.)

3. In the April/May issue of
Facets Features, one of the "Critics Choice" picks was Waco: the Rules of Engagement. This movie holds my interest for many reasons, not the least significant of which is that I once interviewed Mike McNulty, who lives around here. Waco: the Rules of Engagement was nominated for an Academy Award, but didn't win. As Cintra Wilson so succinctly noted, "Why recognize a new, present villain like the ATF...when you can trot those photogenic Nazis out, year after year? You'd think impending murders would have some clout over ones committed fifty years ago, but nooooooooooo..."

4. A practical how-to film called
Grow Marijuana found its way into the "Travel, Nature, Sports" heading, appropriate to all three.

5. I never again want to hear anyone complain that there are no good movies. How about this one, created by Joe Ambrose and Frank Tynne.
Destroy All Rational Thought: "A documentary of the Here to Go event in Ireland, a one-time celebration of the lives of literary outlaw William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin." The Master Musicians of Jajouka are in it. What more could anyone want from a viewing/listening experience?

6. There's CD-ROM where you can "create your own episodes of
The Simpsons with 17 characters and voices from the show, more than 35 backgrounds, 250 moving and stationary props, 20 special effects, colorful fades, textures and patterns, and music." Damn! My attention has been on other things, and I had no idea this kind of fun was out there waiting to be had.

7. There's a CD-ROM about Van Gogh and the extremely well-known painting "Starry Night": "Research done at UCLA's Griffith Observatory determined that the painting was most probably a representation of the pre-dawn sky over Saint Remy on June 19, 1889." From those splashy blobs of paint, they can pin it down to the exact day? It reminds me of something I read once, that the earliest historical event capable of being accurately dated occurred on May 28, 585 B.C. An eclipse of the sun interrupted a battle between the Lydians and the Medes. The opposing generals, recognizing the anger of the gods, signed a peace treaty and everybody went home, never again to make war on each other.


8. There's a filmmaker who somehow managed to escape my awareness until now - and boy, do I regret it. If I won the lottery tomorrow, first thing I'd do is order a complete set of her works. And then I'd rent the Aggie, the old downtown theatre that's been turned into a music club but still has a projector, and I'd have a Claire Burch film festival and let everybody in for free.

The subjects covered by this incredible woman include the history of funeral directing in America and the biography of a rebel named Jim Moore called How I Got Out of Jail and Ran for Governor of Indiana. Her main obsession seems to be San Francisco's Peoples Park, its history and denizens. Some of Burch's films are tributes to culture heroes: Bill Graham, Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, James Baldwin. Some are tributes to unknown homeless people, street musicians, artists, poets, the severely disabled, murdered children, and nudists. She documents Wavy Gravy's birthday party, the Oracle, a benefit for Jan Kerouac's medical bills, the National Institute for Art and Disability, the CIA/Contra/Crack connection, the problems of blacks in Oakland. And this was just up until 1998. I've lived my life all wrong. I want to have been Claire Burch.

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