Skip Navigation

Frame by Frame

Archive for the ‘Art work’ Category

Short Film: The Algerian War! (2014) by Jean-Marie Straub

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Here’s a brief, but resolutely uncompromising film from one of my favorite directors.

As noted in Grasshopperfilm.com, where this short, two minute film is embedded, “as a young man, Straub fled to West Germany after refusing to fight for France in the Algerian War. Later in his life, he returned to this bitter historical experience with this terse noir about ‘the instinct to heal’ and to murder. Selected by Pedro Costa as one of his ten favorite films from the last ten years, it stands among Straub’s most acclaimed short works.” It’s also absolutely typical of Straub, paring down the issues at hand – both moral and thematic – to their barest essence. “I have come to kill you” says one actor, delivering the line in a stark, matter of fact tone. “Can’t we talk a little before?” responds his intended victim, and thereby hangs a tale that Straub delivers with quiet, remorseless intensity. It’s just two minutes long – you can spare the time, surely.

You can see it by clicking here, or on the image above.

New Video: Risk

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Here’s a new video I made a few days ago – Risk.

I’ve shown this brief video to some friends and colleagues, and it’s been described as a moving Warhol disaster painting, or an homage to Edweard Muybridge’s multi-frame experimental still photography, or possibly a reference to the photographic work of Jacques Henri Lartigue – and it’s probably all of these things. All of us are constantly balanced on the knife-edge of risk, but these daredevils, seen here in manipulated archival footage from the 1930s, were more desperate than that – this was simply a way to make living, while risking one’s life and limb. It’s a reminder of a time when the economy collapsed, and everyone was simply trying to hang on – to a plane, to a building, to anything at all.

So see what you think – in a world full of risk.

Wheeler Winston Dixon – New Videos

Monday, September 11th, 2017

With 390 films in my Vimeo account, it seemed time to select a few I’m particularly fond of.

So here’s a portfolio of some of my favorite recent videos; none of my pre-2004 work is curated here. My films and videos have been screened at The Maryland Institute College of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, Anthology Film Archives, The Microscope Gallery, The British Film Institute, The Jewish Museum, The Millennium Film Workshop, The San Francisco Cinématheque, The New Arts Lab, The Collective for Living Cinema, The Kitchen Center for Experimental Art, The Filmmakers Cinématheque, Film Forum, The Amos Eno Gallery, Sla 307 Art Space, The Gallery of Modern Art, The Oberhausen Film Festival and at numerous universities and film societies throughout the world. In 2003, Dixon was honored with a retrospective of his films at The Museum of Modern Art, and his films were acquired for the permanent collection of the Museum, in both print and original format. This is a collection of my most recent work.

Take some time, and check out a few if the mood strikes you.

The Night of Counting the Years (1969)

Friday, September 8th, 2017

One of the greatest Egyptian films of all time is not available on DVD – but you can see it here.

As an anonymous critic at the website Public Domain Movies notes, “Egyptian critics consistently list The Night of Counting the Years (also known as The Mummy) as one of the most important Egyptian films, and perhaps the most important one, but it remains largely unknown, both within Egypt and elsewhere, despite winning a number of awards at European film festivals. Directed by Shadi Abdel Salam in 1969, it was his first feature film, after a long career directing experimental short films, and was selected as the Egyptian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 43rd Academy Awards.

Set in 1881, on the eve of British colonial rule, it is based on a true story: an Upper Egyptian clan had been robbing a cache of mummies near the village of Qurna, and selling the artifacts on the black market. After a conflict within the clan, one of its members went to the police, helping the Antiquities Service find the cache of stolen goods. While this is the nominal plot of the film, it is much more interested in establishing a sense of the past, and embracing cultural history, than in the advancement of a narrative structure.

The film casts this story in terms of the search for an authentic, lost Egyptian national identity (represented by the neglected and misunderstood artifacts of ancient Egyptian civilization), but the conflict between city and countryside suggests questions that are not resolved in the film, making it an ambiguous, unsettling reflection on the price of identity. Unusual camera angles, striking colors and slow editing give the film a dreamlike quality, reinforced by Mario Nascimbene‘s trance like music. For those who know Arabic, the dialogue is entirely in classical Arabic, which adds to the film’s sense of timelessness.”

As Wikipedia notes of the director’s career, “Shadi Abdel Salam was an Egyptian film director, screenwriter and costume and set designer. Born in Alexandria on 15 March 1930, Shadi graduated from Victoria College, Alexandria, 1948, and then moved to England to study theater arts from 1949 to 1950. He then joined faculty of fine arts in Cairo where he graduated as an architect in 1955. He worked as assistant to the artistic architect, Ramsis W. Wassef, 1957, and designed the decorations and costumes of some of the most famous historical Egyptian films, [and] taught at the Cinema Higher Institute of Egypt in the Departments of Decorations, Costumes and Film Direction from 1963–1969. He died on 8 October 1986.” This film remains his only feature length work.

I’ve seen the film projected in 35mm format on a number of occasions, and it’s one of my very favorite films – absolutely dreamlike in its construction, slow and meditational, but with an enormous presence in every single frame. Now, although the film is still unavailable in a full-quality HD DVD, there is at least a YouTube video version of the film with English and Spanish subtitles, which you can view by clicking here, or on the image above. The best way to watch the film would be to stream it to your television, and get carried away by the intensity of the imagery.

The Night of Counting The Years is a brilliant film, which absolutely should be on DVD.

Gwendolyn Audrey Foster Screening at Studio 44 – Stockholm

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

Gwendolyn Audrey Foster’s video is being screened at Studio 44’s Short Film Festival in Stockholm, Sweden.

Gwendolyn Audrey Foster‘s video, Sleeping with The Fishes, is being screened by invitation at as part of the Studio 44 Short Film Festival, hosted by the Stockholm Culture Festival, August 15 – 20, 2017. Studio 44, Stockholm, Sweden, curated by Helena Norell and Mats Landström.

Studio 44 is an artist run collective in Stockholm; the Studio 44 Short Film festival is a wide-ranging event including animation, narrative, documentary, experimental video and film, feminist, queer, and anti-racist films, featuring work by 40 film and video artists from 15 different countries.

You can view Foster’s films on Vimeo by clicking here.

You can view Foster’s Vimeo Channel by clicking here.

As Foster says of her work, “chance is my favorite collaborator. I often allow ideas to emerge by manipulating images and sound with little or no intentional ‘plan.’ I create abstracts, slow films, unusual sound designs, music, and video installations that are described as hypnotic, surreal, and enigmatic.

I like to explore liminal spaces between film & video, real & virtual, abstract & representational, aesthetic & philosophical; disrupting binaries whenever possible. Some of my films are punk feminist, political and eco-critical; confrontational and abrasive, but other times I fashion slow cinema, inviting contemplation and active meditation.”

As Foster notes of Sleeping with The Fishes, the work is “a surrealist collage in honor of Luis Buñuel and André Breton. ‘Give me two hours a day of activity, and I’ll take the other 22 in dreams.’―Luis Buñuel. ‘Words have finished flirting. Now they are making love. The same is true of images.’―André Breton.”

Foster’s films have been screened at The Nederlands Filmmuseum, The Rice Museum, The Collective for Living Cinema, Swedish Cinemateket, National Museum of Women in the Arts, DC, Bibliotheque Cantonale, Lausanne, Switzerland, International Film Festival of Kerala, India, Films de Femmes, Créteil, Outfest, The Museum of Modern Art, Women’s Film Festival of Madrid, Kyobo Center, Korea, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Université Laval, Quebec, Forum Yokohama, Anthology Film Archives, Amos Eno Gallery, NY, SLA 307 Art Space, NY, Maryland Institute College of Art, NETV, and festivals and venues around the world. This is yet another honor in her career as a video artist.

This is a remarkable accomplishment; congratulations to Gwendolyn on this event.

Reset! More Than 990 Posts On This Blog! Back To The Top!

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

There are more than 990 entries on this blog. Click on the button above to go back to the top.

Frame by Frame began in 2011 with a post on Nicholas Ray – now, with more than 990 posts & much more to come, we’re listed on Amazon, in the New York Times blogroll, and elsewhere on the net, as well as being referenced in Wikipedia and numerous other online journals and reference websites. And this is just the beginning.

With thousands of hits every day, we hope to keep posting new material on films and people in films that matter, as well as on related issues, commercial free, with truly open access, for the entire film community. So look back and see what we’ve been up to, and page through the past to the present.

USE THE SEARCH BOX IN THE UPPER RIGHT HAND CORNER TO CHECK FOR YOUR FAVORITE TOPICS.

There are also more than 70 videos on film history, theory and criticism to check out on the Frame by Frame video blog, arranged in carousel fashion to automatically play one after the other, on everything from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to film aspect ratios, to discussions of pan and scan, Criterion video discs, deep focus, and a whole lot more.

So go back and see what you’ve been missing – you can always use the search box in the upper right hand corner to see if your favorite film or director is listed, but if not, drop me a line and we’ll see if we can’t do something about it. We’ve just updated our storage space on the blog, so there will be plenty more to come, so check it out – see you at the movies!

Click on the image above & see what else you can find!

New Videos by Wheeler Winston Dixon

Friday, August 4th, 2017

Here are some new videos I’ve made: click here to see the group of roughly 100 new works.

I’ve been going through quite a tear lately making new videos. Sketchbook is one of my favorites, especially the section roughly halfway through at a rave. As Chris Riddell notes, “The computer is a tool, just like pencil or charcoal, allowing illustrators to manipulate images from their sketchbooks.” And so that’s how I approach this, using the raw materials from life to create an impressionistic vision of existence.

But I’ve also compiled a group of my favorite recent videos – about 100 in all – which you can see by clicking here – the total run time is about 6 hours. As Paulo Cohelo wrote, “I have seen many storms in my life. Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather, to exercise the art of patience and to respect the fury of nature.” These are some of the images, then, that I have wrested from the storm.

You can see the collection of new videos by clicking here – enjoy.

Denis Côté’s New Film: “A Skin So Soft” at Locarno

Friday, August 4th, 2017

A Skin So Soft: “there’s nothing but them and the struggle with themselves.”

Denis Côté continues to consolidate his reputation as one of the most important filmmakers working today with his new film A Skin So Soft. The film recently premiered at The Locarno Film Festival, and won rave reviews from every quarter, which if you ask me is about time – he’s an absolute original. My sincere thanks to Gwendolyn Audrey Foster – one of the most perceptive viewers of Côté‘s work –  for bringing this to my attention.

With such films as Drifting States (Golden Leopard in the Locarno Video Competition in 2005), All That She Wants (Best Director Award at Locarno in 2008) and Curling (another Best Director Award plus a Leopard for Best Actor in 2010), Côté is clearly a major talent, and yet his films are often misunderstood by mainstream critics. They also, of course, need to get much more distribution, but that’s true of so many thoughtful films in 2017.

Here’s an interview with Côté by Muriel Del Don from the journal Cineuropa, in which he talks about the genesis of the film, what it is and what it is not, and how he approached the material in way that’s absolutely different from films that dealt with body building in the past.

Cineuropa: Why did you decide to film the world of bodybuilding?

Denis Côté: For a long time, I had wanted to make a documentary about one of the protagonists, Benoit, but he didn’t really want to lift the lid on everything in his private life. So then the project just stayed inside my head. I have a number of health problems, and observing these men in their pursuit of perfection seemed to be a way of striking up a conversation with my own ailing body, in a very real way. I became interested in them again, looking at all the awe-inspiring photos they posted on their Facebook profiles. I interviewed several of them, then I finalized the cast.

Cineuropa: Your film is very powerful but extremely human at the same time, going far beyond the clichés linked to bodybuilding. How did you manage to “protect” your characters, without falling into the trap of voyeurism?

Denis Côté: First of all, I watched the classic Pumping Iron, with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I told myself that we had seen all there was to see about bodybuilding. Then there are those countless TV reports and other highly conventional documentaries revolving around diets, drugs and all those hours of training. I thought the ‘subject’ had been filmed quite enough using a head-on approach. I decided to skirt around the edges, even if it meant occasionally drifting towards the extreme fringes. Besides the fitness centers, we see ordinary guys with families, some less glamorous moments, and private and intimate scenes that the other films on the ‘subject’ do not concern themselves with.

The idea of impressionism has caught on, and it was the fragility of these giants that really guided my perspective. But the lads still didn’t understand what I was looking for. They wanted to glisten and explode onto the screen to a thundering soundtrack, but all I was asking them to do was the washing-up. In the end, they were happy to show us another face. They thought it was ‘different’. I filmed people with passions, not their feats and achievements. You can really feel the tender and human angle, because it’s a film about human beings with passions, rather than a movie about bodybuilding.

Cineuropa: In A Skin So Soft, the dialogue is scarce, and there is a complete lack of music and voice-overs. In contrast, “human” sounds are very prominent, almost magnified. What was the thinking behind this?

Denis Côté: That comes down to the need to film what we see less of in the other films centering on this world. If I steer clear of interviews, informative content and statistics, what’s left? Bodies – bodies suffering, bodies that are satisfied, at rest or in a state of quasi-euphoria. I hunted down the slightest physical expression but also the slightest hint of anxiety. They are always on show, always performing, and they are very much aware of their image. Sometimes it’s the camera bothering them, at others it’s the sheer emotion of achieving their goals. I had no screenplay to work with, so I sought out these tell-tale signs of vulnerability.

Cineuropa: The bodies that you depict are supremely perfect, statuesque but simultaneously very sensual. Were you aiming to upend the established roles surrounding relationships of seduction by shattering the stereotypes linked to the insensitive, chauvinistic muscle man?

Denis Côté: Right from my first few visits to the fitness centres, or whenever I saw a competition, I noticed that there was absolutely no sex appeal, nor any so-called ‘normal’ games of seduction. It’s a world that is sexualized very little, even though everyone is constantly half-naked. It’s all about pure performance. The men and women never look at one another in a lustful way. They check each other out, but only from a performance point of view, with perhaps a smattering of jealousy.

They examine one another from head to toe, all the while silently giving marks out of ten. It’s a far cry from sexualizing the relationships, and that took me by surprise. To the casual observer, it therefore becomes quite astonishing to see all of this homoerotic electricity go utterly unnoticed among the bodybuilding enthusiasts. The most awe-inspiring bodybuilders are not extremely macho. They don’t talk about sex; they don’t hit on people. That may seem strange, but in the end, it’s logical. There’s nothing but them and the struggle with themselves.

See the trailer here – I’ll have more to say on this remarkable film in the future.

The Anatomy of Films by John Atkinson

Friday, July 28th, 2017

Here’s a hilarious and all too true overview of filmic clichés from cartoonist John Atkinson.

Wikipedia has a similar list of all-too-frequent movie situations, including “a car fails to start in a time-sensitive situation . . . a character attempts to use a cell phone but finds that there is no reception . . . a character runs from a threat and falls to the ground, without any force present that would impede their balance . . . a character repositions a bathroom mirror, revealing a threat behind them in the reflection . . . a character falls from a dangerously tall height, but survives by landing in a body of water . . . a protagonist who wants to commit one last job in a heist film before he retires from a life of crime” – this last one has been used a lot, especially of late – but John’s cartoon, reprinted here with his kind permission, lays the whole thing out with one sweep, and is more accurate than many would care to admit – especially in the matter of film running times by genre [see extreme right hand column].

Thanks, John – much appreciated!

Storm de Hirsch’s “Goodbye in the Mirror” (1964)

Sunday, July 9th, 2017

Storm de Hirsch’s Goodbye in the Mirror is an early masterpiece of feminist cinema.

Storm de Hirsch is finally getting something of a reappraisal of her long career; right now, archivist Stephen Broomer is trying to track down some of her more obscure books of poetry, but her major work was in film, and Goodbye in The Mirror, shot in 16mm with post-synced sound in Rome in 1964 is one of her most affecting films. I knew de Hirsch, and she was kind, generous, and very much her own person; like Shirley Clarke, who is better remembered, she was very much a founding member of the New York avantgarde.

Goodbye in the Mirror was shot for less than $20,000, and later blown up to 35mm – I ran the 35mm version in my class on experimental cinema sometime ago, to excellent audience reaction – and was, in de Hirsch’s words, “a dramatic feature shot on location in Rome. Centered around the adventures and illusions of three girls living abroad, the film explores their restlessness and personal involvements in assuming the role of woman as hunter”, prompting critic / filmmaker Jonas Mekas to proclaim that “I, myself, belonging to the Spies for Beauty, Inc., and the humble monk of the Order of Fools, was allowed to peek at this film, and I couldn’t believe what beauty struck my eyes, what sensuousness.”

As filmmaker Gregory Markopoulos noted of the film, “from the beginning to the end of the film, the spectator’s pleasure and understanding are enhanced on the same social filmic scale of that grand experimentalist Rossellini. Though the images in most films are easily forgotten, such is not the case with those of Goodbye in the Mirror. Best retained and rooted are the images and episodes of the turning streetcar; the central characters Maria and Marco; the sweeper; the scurrying nuns; the steps of the water supply tank ([a] homage, perhaps, to Maya Deren‘s Meshes of the Afternoon); the visual melodies as conceived in the walk episodes which alternate between one character and another; Marco’s performance; the grapes being washed and the paper bag crumpled by the same two lovers. One is reminded that there is a sense of existence as in the famous Sous les toits de Paris by René Clair.”

In a conversation with de Hirsch, Shirley Clarke called Goodbye in the Mirror the first “real woman’s film” and added that “so far in film, we have yet to have treated on the most basic level, very personal reactions of women. Because so far, we’ve had mostly men directors who, whether they’ve been very sensitive or not, have not really been able to deal with women this way. Just like when they write about women, they’re writing from a certain separateness. Goodbye in the Mirror is dealing with women. And women’s reactions to a series of events.”

The film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in Spring 1964. It was screened at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland that summer, and at the Vancouver International Film Festival in 1966, and yet it’s mostly forgotten today. A DVD of this film would be a very welcome addition to the filmic canon; and bear in mind that this is just one of de Hirsch’s many works, all of which can be rented from the Filmmakers’ Cooperative in New York in 16mm format.

Storm de Hirsch – yet another important artist who deserves more attention.

About the Author

Headshot of Wheeler Winston Dixon Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of thirty books and more than 100 articles on film, and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. All comments by Dixon on this blog are his own opinions.

In The National News

Wheeler Winston Dixon has been quoted by Fast Company, The New Yorker, The New York Times, the BBC, CNN, The Christian Science Monitor, US News and World Report, The Boston Globe, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, NPR, The PBS Newshour, USA Today and other national media outlets on digital cinema, film and related topics - see the UNL newsroom at http://news.unl.edu/news-releases/1/ for more details.

RSS Recent Frame by Frame Videos