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Inflation (1928)
Effective Blend of Images
9 June 2021
Hans Richter, following his previous effort "Filmstudie", made this even shorter film in which he did not utilize any sort of geometric abstraction, which was prominent in his earlier work. Initially, film for him had been all about expanding on the work of his cubist/expressionist paintings, including shapes like squares, circles, etc.; but the more he experimented, the more he became a true filmmaker in his own right, and "Inflation" could be considered his first real exploration into photography. The film's images, blended skillfully with some very good special effects, intend to convey a sense of overwhelming desperation while still remaining abstract enough to call experimental, and that they do.

"Inflation" bases itself off of the economic period of Germany in the 1920's, where hyperinflation was prominent and one was literally faced with the "wheelbarrow of money for a loaf of bread" stereotype, which led to Hitler's rise to power. Through images of currency, numbers, etc., Richter paints an effective picture of the crisis his country was experiencing through the mounting tension as the numbers grow higher and higher. Considering his other work, the film is hardly anything overly exciting, but for the three minutes it runs it successfully fulfills its goal in a rather striking fashion. Solid evidence of Richter's technical skills, and a good if not perfect way of introducing the work of this filmmaker.
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Filmstudie (1926)
Photographic and Geometric Abstraction
5 June 2021
In "Filmstudie", Hans Richter takes the concept of abstraction to a far greater level than in his previous work in the films of the "Rhythmus" series. All three films, which were likely just one film split into shorter sections when new material was consistently being added on, were focused mostly on simple abstraction in the form of cubism, an art movement that Richter was now transposing from painting to film. With a number of lines, rectangles and squares, Richter set out to create simple animation, lacking photographic value but purposefully doing so for the sake of simplicity. The results seem far too basic for most viewers, but this is what he was after by using standard shapes to show how less can be more.

However, in doing so the artist was also beginning to see himself as a filmmaker, and this short, "Filmstudie" (which I suppose means it's a study in film) shows a transition between Richter the cubist/expressionist and Richter the filmmaker. Both elements of photography and geometry are utilized in the four-minute film, starting off with images of floating heads and eyeballs, progressing into shapes and form, then ending again with the heads and eyes. With the combination of photography (the beginning and end) and the animation of the Rhythmus series (the middle) one can see Richter was starting to understand how he could create photographic abstraction as well as geometric abstraction using film. The final result is an interesting and well-crafted blend between the two, and it really does go to show how the German artist was becoming more of an independent filmmaker and less of a painter.
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Happy Days: Be My Valentine (1978)
Season 5, Episode 20
3/10
The Worst Happy Days Episode I've Ever Seen
18 May 2021
I like "Happy Days", but tonight's episode (this one) was just plain bad. Instead of taking the premise of Valentine's Day and using it to explore an actual plot or any sort of humorous story, the writers decided to take a day off with the worst song and dance show I've seen (although most of them are about equal). No matter which way you look at it, there's absolutely no real quality in any of the half-hour show, even if you do like the type of cheesy bullcrap they put on display; a disappointing excuse for a holiday episode which really lacks any backbone or originality.

"Be My Valentine" (unoriginal title too) starts off promising, with Richie, Potsie and Ralph giving their girlfriends cards. Joanie doesn't get one though, because her date (Binky) was getting a job. It was all looking to be an interesting premise, but then Joanie starts imagining every single couple she knows (including her own parents) doing a song and dance routine together on a stage setup with red lights. I was hoping there would be more to it than this, but it just kept going. The worst one was having Chachie (who is still a kid) dancing with a bunch of grown women in leotards - and that was where I realized just how bad this was getting. I was even hoping after the commercial break in the middle the story would come into play, but that ended up not being the case, with just more of the same, albeit a few funny bits. The two exceptions which were okay were Fonzie and his girls, and Marion and Howard who actually had a clever song. The rest were poor to truly horrid, and the fact that this is all the episode consisted of is just sad. I know the writers could have come up with something more resembling a narrative, but they were simply lazy. Oh well, at least this is the exception episode, as the other "Happy Days" episodes I've seen were pretty good.
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Very Skillfully, Intricately Crafted
18 April 2021
The above is something that one could say about pretty much every stop-motion film from the Brothers Quay, but it comes to life here even moreso than other works by them. "Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies" has a unique atmosphere which is interestingly unique compared to the other Quay films: "The Comb" was quite dark, as was "Street of Crocodiles" and their "Stille Nacht" series. Here, the feel is entirely its own, which is built thanks to the Brothers' excellent attention to detail and their ability to craft an atmosphere because of this effort of intricacy. Some marvelous techniques are on display that come to life anew, and although containing no traces of narrative (some Quay films actually do have elements of a story within them) these things are enough to sustain the fourteen-minute film.

"Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies" has a number of things occurring within it, including a grotesque puppet stroking over and over a wart on its forehead, a flickering ball bouncing up and down a set of stairs, and a puppet laying in a bed in a room while another puppet watches over it. While these things are of little substance on their own, two main techniques really serve to bring it to life in a unique and fresh way: the usage of manual focus in the camera lens, and the movement of the camera itself. When zooming in on particular details, the camera often uses the focus of the lens as an opportunity to reveal the different layers of the shot, so that indistinguisable objects that the viewer was hardly aware of before are given attention without changing the camera angle. Likewise, to keep the scene of the puppets in the room interesting, the camera creates a theme of panning up and down and side to side to reveal different aspects of the scene, which are partially blocked by objects in the foreground that obscure what is going on in the room. Both techniques give the viewer somewhat of an idea of the composition of the whole place, but leaves a lot up to the imagination, which is what makes it so interesting and unique. It is also very difficult to describe in writing, which is why to really understand what I'm saying, it is best to go watch the film itself before things really click into place.
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Word Play
12 April 2021
Terry Ellis was a little known filmmaker from London, apparently deceased, who created a number of independent/experimental works throughout his life, mainly during the 21st century. Although little has been written about him online, one can still find his channel on YouTube, where he posted a number of these films; it is also apparent that he was a member of the Filmmaker's Cooperative, as some of his films have also been listed there. It is mostly I who has thought to add some of his work to IMDb's database - not that anyone will see it, but he seems to be existent enough to be considered worth adding.

"Le Citron (after Manet)" reminded me of Hollis Frampton's 1969 short "Lemon" when I saw it, although conceptually the two are quite different. Frampton's film was focused on lighting as a tool and how effective it can be, by featuring a lemon coming out of shadow, before being enveloped back up by the dark. "Le Citron (after Manet)" (Citron being lemon in French, meaning he titled it with this so as not to copy the other title) is on the other hand more of a play on words, as it references the type of painting featuring inanimate objects known as a 'still life' (which the painter Manet painted). The subject of the film is a lemon, the sort of thing one might see painted in a still life, but the gag is how the camera angle keeps shifting constantly throughout the three-minute short, while different filters appear over the shots. Thus, it is not a still life anymore, since the subject is stationary and the camera is not. A clever idea which works well enough for a film this short, one just needs to not expect it will be anything like the Frampton film. Both use the same subject to serve different functions, which makes a comparison of them quite limited.
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Rhythmus 23 (1923)
More Moving Cubism
7 April 2021
In the second of the Rhythm series, "Rhythmus 23", (the first being No. 21 and the last being No. 25) Hans Richter utilizes the same concept that was the focus of the first one: Cubism as motion pictures. Richter, a painter from the 20th century, was also a member of the Dada movement (aka nonsense art), and most of his pictures preceding this were painted in modern conceptual styles such as Supremism. Richter would later go on to use live action in his films; it is these earlier works (primarily this series) that he described as being intended paintings. For him, film was no different than canvas whatsoever; the same functions could apply to both, but with film, he could go a step further and move his images.

"Rhythmus 23" illustrates this, as having seen supremist and cubist paintings, I can see how this bears a resemblence to these art movements which Richter was influenced by. Like the first one in the series, it consists of a lot of squares, rectangles and lines shrinking, growing and moving. There is a lot more going on than that previous film however, which seemed to first be testing how to create such animations on film, while this one takes such animations to their highest potential. As such, a more engaging film for me, with some interesting effects and ideas being put to good use; a step up for one who would later become an even greater artist.
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Rhythmus 21 (1921)
Cubism Put to Film
6 April 2021
Hans Richter was not just a filmmaker; although thanks to works like these he is better remembered as such, he was also a painter who explored modern styles of painting (like those of the Dadaists). One of these styles was Cubism, which basically reduced paintings to no more than geometric shapes and colors; a very simple style, but one which was growing increasingly popular in the 20th century. "Rhythmus 21" (which is now 100 years old just about) is essentially a transfer then of that concept to film: there are no actors or anything onscreen in this three-minute film, which is the first in a series of "Rhythmus" shorts by the filmmaker (the other two were "Rhythmus 23" and "Rhythmus 25"). Instead, it is like watching one of Richter's paintings moving; the man himself has been quoted to say he saw his films as continuations of his paintings.

That said, this is an extremely simple film which can mainly be enjoyed in the context of less being more. All the film consists of are squares and lines shrinking and moving before the audience for around three minutes, with the rest of the space occupied by either a black or white background. Compared to the work of Stan Brakhage, it's hardly exceptional, but then again, it's cubism, all geometry, just transferred to film to allow these shapes movement and independence from the canvas. I could see it being enjoyed better as a painting than as a film, as that largely appears to be what Richter was going for; but regardless, an interesting beginning to one who would later take his definition of abstract to a whole new level.
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The Flicker (1965)
The Definition of a "Flicker Film"
6 April 2021
In the 1960's, a trend among the structuralist filmmakers that were taking up the avant-garde cinema was the flicker films. This subgenre of structuralism was mostly explored by Paul Sharits, who began work with flickering in his contributions to the Fluxus Film series, with films such as "Sears Catalogue 1-3", "Wrist Trick", "Unrolling Event", and more. He later moved into such filmmaking at a much lengthier level: the aforementioned lasted only less than a minute, while his films "N:O:T:H:I:N:G" and most notably "T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G" were much longer and most intense. He even referenced, in a way, how audiences might react with epileptic fits when seeing these films with "Epileptic Seizure Comparison" which combined flickering with archive footage of people having seizures, to create a self-reflective concept. But it is "The Flicker" which really takes the cake, as with a title like that one could say it practically named the genre (although I do not know if this is actually true). The first and most known short of filmmaker Tony Conrad's small filmography, the half-hour work reduces the definition of "film" down to the skimpiest it can be, with three of it's only five frames being title cards introducing the short, while the other two are a black frame and a white one. Someone had to try this eventually, and considering the date (1965-1966) it certainly didn't take long.

The film does have a sort of intro and conclusion, starting and ending with the white frame, then flickering first only a little, then constantly until it becomes almost too intense to bear. Unlike others, I had no problems with hallucinations or headaches, but even as one might start wondering how much longer the film with move on like this, it can never be boring with consistent action, not to mention an incredible soundtrack that is almost better than the flickering concept itself. Although this soundtrack was electronically produced, probably with a synthesizer, it really is about the perfect thing to go with such an intense effect, making the experience even more overwhelming. At the end, the flickers subside, until there is just the white frame again; a fitting way to conclude, though I could also see an argument for quickly speeding back up again, and ending it suddenly with a black frame.

Numerous people have argued that to fully experience Conrad's effect, one needs to be sitting in a dark movie theater, with the film projected onto a screen by a projector playing the physical filmstrip. I could see why this would work better: the flashing would be brought out more by a darker environment, the sound would be louder, less distraction and more intensity overall. I thought the copy I saw online was adequate enough in the end, with already enough intensity to get the idea across, and it would certainly be difficult to be able to find this work being screened anywhere these days. "The Flicker" is overall worthy of the recognition it has: an incredible effect, with a masterful soundtrack just as outstanding or even more so than the film. A must-see landmark in structuralism from the 60's.
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A Structuralist Commercial
4 April 2021
Bruce Conner's "Ten Second Film" is a rather odd film when taken out of the context of why it was made. According to the filmmaker himself, the extremely short film (longer than ten seconds on YouTube, but certainly no longer than fifteen minus the title card) was made when he was commissioned to design a poster for the 1965 Film Festival in New York, as a sort of advertisement to be shown proceeding the film showing. The humorous part is that the Festival ultimately rejected Conner's efforts, saying it was "too fast", an inaccurate evaluation as to the frame rate, which he helpfully pointed out was the standard sound rate of 24 fps, no more or less. An interesting story, which provides a bit of interest to this little-known structuralist work.

Conner's film is appropriate to start of a festival to be sure: all it consists of are frames from countdown leaders flickered quickly and mixed with other images, including individual frames with letters that spell out N. Y. Film Festival (which I know only by looking at a scan of all the individual frames of the film). The primary concept of it, outside of being a commercial of sorts, is to be reflective soley on the material of film, which the viewer is made aware of by the use of the film leader. As in the films of Owen Land or Michael Snow, this is a recurring theme of the structuralist movement; "Ten Second Film" is not the most interesting example of this idea, but for what it is a playful and innovative use of it, with a neat anecdote to go with it as well.
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6-18-67 (1967)
Desert Documentary
3 April 2021
"6-18-67" is another one of the least known George Lucas student films, and also among the last he made. Shot whilst the twenty-four year old filmmaker was touring with the filming crew shooting "MacKenna's Gold" in Arizona, the film, often misconstrued as being a behind-the-scenes documentary of the making of this western (which I, by the way, have never seen) is much more minimalistic, being more about exercising cinematography and capturing the beauty of the desert location. Lucas certainly had talent in both regards, and it is rather a shame he never stuck with independent filmmaking - although he has hinted at taking the practice back up now that he relieved himself of the Star Wars franchise (to Disney, which quickly realized what a money-making opportunity it was).

It would honestly be a good idea to replace the plot outline on IMDb with another more accurate description, as "6-18-67" (which probably refers to the date it was filmed) really is not focused on the film crew or the action on the set. The majority of the five minutes instead consists of landscape shots, views of the sunset, a river, animals, etc., while only a small portion in the middle features voice-overs of the director starting a take and an out-of-focus long shot of the crew. The entire film is quite blurry, which is honestly rather a shame, considering how a sharper print would no doubt add much more beauty to the different shots. An interesting meditative piece, well-made as are all of Lucas's student films, although a nicer copy being uploaded would be highly appreciated.
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Sentiment Film
2 April 2021
Of all the George Lucas films made in his early career as a USC student filmmaker, "Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town" often receives the most flaque for reasons I do not understand. I was expecting much worse from this six-minute short, which other reviewers have criticized as being "going nowhere" in its premise and feeling pointless overall. From these remarks, I thought the film would have a story lacking plot development - the type of plot development that most expect from modern cinema - which it really didn't. As a whole, the feel of this brief film is much more about sentiment and artistry, having a focus that is more on a mix of good craft combined with a surrealistic narrative that is left to interpretation. Not something most audiences would appreciate I suppose, but it has a pleasant feel throughout with varying elements that I found quite interesting.

The short is based, somewhat, off of E. E. Cummings's poem of the same title, which after I read it, made less sense than Lucas's film. Both tend to have an emphasis on imagery - I particularly enjoyed the wonderful cinematography at the beginning and end, with the emphasis on man-made cities vs. Nature. As for the story, little happens in it apart from a photographer taking pictures of different people, then tearing them up whilst appearing and disappearing in different locations (as do his subjects). There is a couple consisting of a man and woman as well, who are frolicking in the woods and enjoying eachothers' company, before getting interrupted by the photographer. While not entirely fitting to the poem (which had no photographer at all) the sentiments of it are similar: man and woman, seasons, nature, etc, which are enhanced with a lovely musical track. A sentiment film few would understand, but I consider it quite artistic and pleasing, as well as being an interesting portrayal of a mostly non-narrative poem.
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For a Student Film Very Advanced
22 March 2021
Although very little happens in terms of action in George Lucas's best-remembered student film "Electronic Labyringth THX 1138 4EB", there is already plenty to be admired in the visual look alone, considering the assumed small budget they had to work with at the USC. As in all of Lucas's early shorts, the film is very well-made with lots of good craft on display: the locations and costumes, while not overly elaborate, give enough of an atmosphere to suggest an otherworldly environment. The editing is skillful as well, being an almost abstract mishmash of shots and snippets of audio which add to the intensity of the action a little, although it certainly doesn't possess the type of intensity Hollywood would make use of. That aside, the plot itself is rather skimpy and carries plenty of repetition in the images and soundtrack; to expect a greater narrative would be admittedly absurd for fifteen minutes, yet the fact that Lucas took even that long to convey what plot he had shifts the focus to the atmosphere and setting built into it, rather than specifically the plot.

The context of the story is rather unclear, although it is made more interesting simply because we are left to decipher what is happening. The film seems to be occurring in a Dystopian setting as the likes of George Orwell would come up with - a time when the higher powers have taken over, enslaving and ruling over those below them with an iron fist. In this version, the setting is an Electronic Labyrinth in a presumed future when technology has taken over to control the lives of others. The film follows a man, given the designated number 1138, as he attempts to do the unspeakable - escape the slavery of technology, running through shiny white hallways to make it out before he is destroyed by his oppressors. With consistent intercoms blaring instructions on how to stop him mixed with security cam footage and scenes of men in headsets pulling switches, the film's atmosphere is a unique one, repetitive yet oddly surreal, with enough creativity to the settings and costumes to make give it a futuristic feel. The unanswered questions are many, yet they add to the experience - so much so that I doubt I would benefit much if at all from seeing Lucas's 1971 feature film "THX 1138" which elaborates on things. Little plot definitely, yet enough to play with the viewer's mind while simultaneously giving clues through a well-built environment. Certainly remarkable for a student's work, technically and analytically speaking.
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Enjoyable if Unoriginal Early Cartoon
6 March 2021
In my sizeable (thus far) collection of 16mm films I found this short cartoon from 1936 entitled "Novelty Shop", running about six minutes with the print being black and white (I am aware other viewers have seen the official color version as well). This film had been unknowingly given to me in a lot of around forty films of various types for a Christmas present, and despite having been labeled as consisting of mostly educational films, the lot had just about everything in it - from random peoples' home movie footage to Castle and Official Film releases. I was pleasantly surprised with the discovery of this one, as it is not every day I get one of these added to my collection.

"The Novelty Shop" is an entertaining and humorous old cartoon, despite the fact it lacks any real originality. The premise is one that had plenty of variations done on it, a story in which the owner of a toy shop leaves for the night and the toys inside come to life and start dancing, singing and playing until the owner returns. That's about all the plot to this one, although there is certainly enough humor and creativity (not to mention skill) in the animation to make it enjoyable. The most notable thing would be its cartoon portrayal of popular comedy acts such as the Three Stooges; others noted the Marx Brothers and Laurel & Hardy were included, although I am not familiar with these. Overall, a fun watch which I am glad to own a print of, if clearly just another run-of-the-mill use of the 'living toys' concept.
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5/10
Griffith Continues in the Struggle to Find New Success
25 February 2021
Despite what most people would naturally assume, actor Andy Griffith did not at all leave the beloved "The Andy Griffith Show", which was aired eight successful years and seasons, due to how the final three seasons dropped in quality once Don Knotts's Barney Fife left at the end of Season 5. While Barney was a huge part of what made the show successful in his uptight, oversensitive character of the incompetent deputy, ratings remained high after he left, and the popularity the series was as strong as ever (even though the color episodes of those three seasons have a negative connotation when mentioned today). In short, there was no reason for it to end, at least to the average viewer. Except for one thing: Andy Griffith did not desire to be seen as only Sheriff Andy Taylor; he was an actor, and to keep at the show even longer would make it hard to find a new role to fit in future shows. And here was where Griffith made his big mistake: he left the series as it was still going strong, hoping that he could show himself worthy of other, more diverse roles.

However, the damage had already been done, if you want to call it that. Audiences could not imagine seeing him playing someone else; following "The Andy Griffith Show" was a new series starring Griffith entitled "The Headmaster", which ran for only fourteen episodes and featured him in the role of a school headmaster named Andy Thompson. The thing flopped as it was only two years after the other show, and even Griffith admitted it was an embarrassment. Thus, having failed to transfer his persona into a different setting, he tried again with "The New Andy Griffith Show", which ran even shorter.

"The New Andy Griffith Show" attempted to reprise the setup of a small town, this time called Greenwood, where Andy this time portrayed Mayor Andy Sawyer, who is installed just as the series opens. It's obvious the show tries very hard to be similar enough to the original while still remaining original, and perhaps that was the problem: it was close, but not the same. Audiences didn't want a new show, they wanted the old show, and it certainly didn't do to give Andy new family including a wife, a sister-in-law (who sort of replaces Aunt Bee) and two kids Lori and TJ. Initially, it did have a very strong start when the characters of Emmett and Goober from TAGS made an appearance in the first episode (with even Don Knotts playing a character who is practically Barney), but with Andy having a different name than everyone else, it had the feel of an alternative universe. Furthermore, the new character of Buff McKnight didn't cut the cake one bit, and is obviously trying too hard to take the place of better characters from the first show (like Gomer Pyle).

However, the show might have managed to be okay had it been given more of a chance. For starters, the two kids, Lori and TJ, are certainly not bad picks, although they certainly do better separated than when together (and then they just fight). Nora, the sister-in-law, is played for humor, and I could see her getting better overtime, although for the ten episodes we got she's nowhere near perfect. The character of the wife (Lee Sawyer, played by Lee Meriweather) is rather plain, but could have been made more interesting overtime. What it really needed to work was a presence like Barney in there to make things interesting; if Don Knotts hadn't made just that one appearance, the initial excitement wouldn't have fizzled out. Even the first several episodes of the original show were slightly odd compared to the later ones; every show gains momentum as the characters are more developed, and this one never got the chance to. Within months it was cancelled, the second of Griffith's failures, and it would take him another fifteen years or so before he finally managed to pick up a role that stuck when "Matlock" first premiered. It was too early on in 1971 to give him a new character, and while the two episodes I've viewed of this show aren't bad, they lack the charm and quirks that made the first one successful. Mainly worth a look for historical purposes than for seeing anything remotely close to the original.
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La Garoupe (1937)
A Visit to Spain
24 February 2021
While Man Ray is mostly remembered for his significant contribution to Dada art (in several well-known Dada films), the majority of his work listed on IMDb in fact consists of a series of short home movies he made of various things, none seemingly made with the intent of ever being released. It seems that after the artist's years as a filmmaker, the home movies he made 1923-1938 somehow resurfaced and were compiled in a nearly feature-length collection aptly titled "Home Movies". While nothing in particular is unique about them, they do provide interest to fans of old film - especially those interested in the artist himself.

"La Garoupe" is probably the most interesting one in the entire collection historically, as it features what I suppose are some fairly rare glimpses of famed artist Pablo Picasso, as well as numerous other friends of Man Ray. While definitely having the feel of a home movie it is also filmed somewhat in the style of a travelogue, with plenty of scenes of people yet also including scenery of the place (Spain, where the filmmaker was apparently vacationing at). A lot of the film consists of interactions between everyone as they are apparently at a beach, having fun - there's even an interesting scene where a woman is having her palms read. Once more, like all of these home movies, it's an interesting glimpse into the life of Man Ray with the natural benefit of having a jovial and engaging feel to the action.
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More Bullfighting
19 February 2021
While Man Ray is mostly remembered for his significant contribution to Dada art (in several well-known Dada films), the majority of his work listed on IMDb in fact consists of a series of short home movies he made of various things, none seemingly made with the intent of ever being released. It seems that after the artist's years as a filmmaker, the home movies he made 1923-1938 somehow resurfaced and were compiled in a nearly feature-length collection aptly titled "Home Movies". While nothing in particular is unique about them, they do provide interest to fans of old film - especially those interested in the artist himself.

"Course landaise" is the second of two in the collection which features the subject of bullfighting - the other being "Corrida" of 1929. In general, this one is certainly superior to that earlier effort, which was more repetitive in its action and featured a farther away camera view from the top seats in the house. Here, Man Ray was right at the edge of the arena so that he could get a perfect view, as well as other shots of architecture. The subject is still morbid to animal lovers, but it's captured well and includes color towards the end (again a curiosity - color is not supposed to have existed around 1937). There are a variety of things going on, and as a whole it captures things much better and at a closer vantage point. Overall, fairly interesting to see if not one of the best home movies Man Ray made - his most curious ones involve people he was once friends with, and the only friend featured in "Course landaise" is Ady Fidelin, in a shot near the beginning.
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Man Ray's Studio in Color
18 February 2021
While Man Ray is mostly remembered for his significant contribution to Dada art (in several well-known Dada films), the majority of his work listed on IMDb in fact consists of a series of short home movies he made of various things, none seemingly made with the intent of ever being released. It seems that after the artist's years as a filmmaker, the home movies he made 1923-1938 somehow resurfaced and were compiled in a nearly feature-length collection aptly titled "Home Movies". While nothing in particular is unique about them, they do provide interest to fans of old film - especially those interested in the artist himself.

"L'atelier du Val de Grâce" is said to have been made in 1935, but this date seems to be utterly impossible - the thing is fully in color and "The Wizard of Oz", the first commercially distributed movie in color, was made in 1939. Obviously there is no way a filmmaker like Man Ray would have had access to color film yet - perhaps this was made in 1945 instead. In any case, an insignificant one in the collection, one which mostly just features shots of Man Ray's apartment studio, including various paintings and drawings of his up for display. Some are quite interesting, and with the benefit of color they are rather nice to see, but it doesn't have the added bonus of seeing Man Ray and his friends interacting which made some of the other home movies more worthwhile. Just a lot of neat artwork, and that's about all, an interesting one mainly for just Man Ray completists.
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Poison (1933)
Atmosphere
17 February 2021
While Man Ray is mostly remembered for his significant contribution to Dada art (in several well-known Dada films), the majority of his work listed on IMDb in fact consists of a series of short home movies he made of various things, none seemingly made with the intent of ever being released. It seems that after the artist's years as a filmmaker, the home movies he made 1923-1938 somehow resurfaced and were compiled in a nearly feature-length collection aptly titled "Home Movies". While nothing in particular is unique about them, they do provide interest to fans of old film - especially those interested in the artist himself.

"Poison" is one of the strangest in the collection - it feels as though it could have been an actual film, because the atmosphere built using these few shots and characters is actually quite interesting. Featuring Man Ray and another one of his friends, Meret Oppenheim, the title is perhaps what makes it so bewildering, as without the title, there is little context to it: all the four-minute film seems to be otherwise is shots of a man and a woman smoking and drinking, when the man pretends to play dead. Yet with the label "Poison", a whole bunch of questions are raised, making it feel almost like a whodunit in some sense - even though all it was in reality was Man Ray and his friend messing around and filming each other. As with other scenes from different home movies, I feel it could have easily made its way into one of his Dada/Surrealist shorts, or maybe even been publicly released with additional scenes. An odd little film which remains an interesting if accidental demonstration of atmosphere in filmmaking - perhaps one of his most curious home movies.
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A Variety of Subjects
16 February 2021
While Man Ray is mostly remembered for his significant contribution to Dada art (in several well-known Dada films), the majority of his work listed on IMDb in fact consists of a series of short home movies he made of various things, none seemingly made with the intent of ever being released. It seems that after the artist's years as a filmmaker, the home movies he made 1923-1938 somehow resurfaced and were compiled in a nearly feature-length collection aptly titled "Home Movies". While nothing in particular is unique about them, they do provide interest to fans of old film - especially those interested in the artist himself.

Unlike others, the title of this one - "Autoportrait ou Ce qui manque à nous tous" -appears to be a label that the artist himself gave the footage (not a working title as in "Dance" or "Juliet"). Although this French text translates to "Self-Portrait or What We All Lack", the film doesn't appear to be much related to this in particular - the subject, as in many amateur films where the cameraman would take samples of everything on one reel to save space, varies from oddly artistic images of bubbles being filled with smoke before bursting to scenes of Man Ray dancing around in a nightgown (perhaps he was drunk?) There are also shots of his friend Lee Miller unveiling some statue and acting very pleased, though the context of much of this is unclear. The bubble shots are the most engaging and interesting to watch, mostly due to how seemingly random yet artistic they come across, but the footage as a whole is overall a cool glimpse into the the life of the filmmaker. An interesting home movie with some clips that could have been put to further use.
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Corrida (1929)
Bullfighting Documentary
15 February 2021
While Man Ray is mostly remembered for his significant contribution to Dada art (in several well-known Dada films), the majority of his work listed on IMDb in fact consists of a series of short home movies he made of various things, none seemingly made with the intent of ever being released. It seems that after the artist's years as a filmmaker, the home movies he made 1923-1938 somehow resurfaced and were compiled in a nearly feature-length collection aptly titled "Home Movies". While nothing in particular is unique about them, they do provide interest to fans of old film - especially those interested in the artist himself.

"Corrida" is one of two Man Ray home movies shot featuring the subject of bullfighting (the other was in color and entitled "Course Landaise"). It is hard for one to understand why Man Ray would film this of all things, when other home movies were far more interesting in their documentation of people - this is more like a simple documentary, where the only available view is from Ray's non-stationary camera as he attempts filming various scenes from a bullfight within an arena. With just similar views as the picadors keep taunting the bull, It is rather repetitive as a result and there is no experimenting to be done here either, unlike other home movies which had some interesting things going on. Not one of the greatest in the collection - more interesting for historical purposes than for a glimpse at the artist's life.
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The Emperor (1967)
Student Documentary
13 February 2021
For a nearly half-hour long student documentary film, "The Emperor" is fairly decent, if not the greatest as a documentary. Knowing George Lucas's masterful craft in previous works of his such as "1:42.08" and "Herbie", I honestly expected more from this twenty-four minute work than I got: the quality of the film itself is a bit on the lower end, with camerawork that seems much more amateur considering the great cinematography from those previously mentioned films. Maybe I expected a little too much from the short, which is something I never normally do, but the technical side isn't all that great, except for a nice blend of voiceovers and music. It feels as though the thing could have been more visually well-composed, and this surprises me when you take into account how well-made his other work is.

Lucas's student film focuses on the disc jockey legend Bob Hudson, who was apparently quite popular back in the day. While the views of the interior of the studio work quite well, a lot of the film itself seems to be far too reliant on the audio side, something that should never happen in any mainstream film (and "The Emperor", while being an independent student project, definitely leans into that genre). Most of the interviews are audio recordings, so that while we get a somewhat accurate portrait of the titular person, the visuals often don't have much to do with what is being spoken of. There is an entire sequence of voiceover with shots of cars going by on the road accompanying it, which feels irrelevant; visuals of studio equipment or records would have felt better. It seems as though Lucas had a lot of great audio stuff to add to the project, but struggled to come up with images to match, and this is definitely something to work on. Additionally, chaotic camerawork is used - not the well-composed cinematography in his previous films, but more along the lines of a home movie's camerawork. Not a bad film, but with some flaws to be sure and I prefer his conceptual shorts.
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Experimental Home Movie
13 February 2021
While Man Ray is mostly remembered for his significant contribution to Dada art (in several well-known Dada films), the majority of his work listed on IMDb in fact consists of a series of short home movies he made of various things, none seemingly made with the intent of ever being released. It seems that after the artist's years as a filmmaker, the home movies he made 1923-1938 somehow resurfaced and were compiled in a nearly feature-length collection aptly titled "Home Movies". While nothing in particular is unique about them, they do provide interest to fans of old film - especially those interested in the artist himself.

"Rue Campagne-Première" is the earliest available in the collection, and the exact point of it remains unclear, although a good guess would be that Man Ray was just fooling around with camera angles when he made it. Unlike other home movies, none of his friends are present: the one-minute clip focuses on a street shop, apparently the title location ("Rue" means street and I assume "Campagne-Première" is the exact street name) shown through three views: first, a rather well-composed view from above; second, a view through a lens mask so that the street is shown sideways (a neat experimental angle); and third, a shaky shot similar to the previous one but with no mask and completely non-stationary. It seems that Man Ray might have had something in mind when he created this, as perhaps he hoped to include at least the first two shots in one of his Dada films and never did so. In any case, an interesting experiment, though still no more than an amateur home movie.
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Juliet (1940)
Jumbled Man Ray Home Movie
12 February 2021
While Man Ray is mostly remembered for his significant contribution to Dada art (in several well-known Dada films), the majority of his work listed on IMDb in fact consists of a series of short home movies he made of various things, none seemingly made with the intent of ever being released. It seems that after the artist's years as a filmmaker, the home movies he made 1923-1938 somehow resurfaced and were compiled in a nearly feature-length collection aptly titled "Home Movies". While nothing in particular is unique about them, they do provide interest to fans of old film - especially those interested in the artist himself.

"Juliet" is titled after Juliet Browner, who I suppose was one of Man Ray's friends, although while she takes up a fair amount of screen time in this three-minute home movie she certainly doesn't stay the main focus consistently. There are a variety of scenes to be seen in this one: a classic old amateur film where the cameraman used one reel of film sparingly, taking short and sweet glimpses of everything, none with much relevance to the others. The opening shots of Juliet and Man Ray behind the window where it creates a neat blurring effect are quite artistic and cool; the rest of the film consists of street shots, Man Ray talking to Juliet and as well as screwing around, and Juliet doing an interesting dance. Not very coherent, but not a professional film, so it didn't need to be. Just another fascinating glimpse into the life of this artist.
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1:42.08 (1966)
As Always, Excellent Craft
11 February 2021
"1:42.08" remains, in my opinion, one of the lesser George Lucas student films due to it's lack of a strong concept or idea to convey during the runtime. There is no real story to speak of for the five minutes or so that it runs, and this certainly doesn't allow any room for an idea to begin with, as in earlier films like "Herbie" and "Freiheit", which are both solid examples of a good student film. The technical skills displayed within those latter two works are likewise showcased here, always remaining excellent for a student work, and if anything, this brief film is more like in exercise in these skills with nothing more to stand on than that. Not a bad thing, as it does give more focus and highlights this aspect, but at the same time, it feels a lot emptier in general, even for one watching it for these things alone.

The title of this short refers to how long it takes Pete Brock to complete a full lap in his race car - the subject of the film. That's all this film really consists of - footage of first the car being readied, then the remainder taken up with views of Brock completing his lap. The setup certainly gives the filmmaker an opportunity to show off good camerawork and editing, and both are indeed included - with great stationary shots, tracking shots, and even an airplane view all nicely mixed together. Very well made indeed, with excellent craftsmanship, but not the most interesting thing to watch for the average viewer. Without a real story, it comes off more like a documentary that can only really be appreciated if seen for the technical side alone - and hence something that only a buff of independent films (like myself) would be interested in.
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Dance (1938)
A More Artful Man Ray Home Movie
10 February 2021
While Man Ray is mostly remembered for his significant contribution to Dada art (in several well-known Dada films), the majority of his work listed on IMDb in fact consists of a series of short home movies he made of various things, none seemingly made with the intent of ever being released. It seems that after the artist's years as a filmmaker, the home movies he made 1923-1938 somehow resurfaced and were compiled in a nearly feature-length collection aptly titled "Home Movies". While nothing in particular is unique about them, they do provide interest to fans of old film - especially those interested in the artist himself.

"Dance" is an interesting one due to seeming more like a finished product of what could have been a finalized film (if the footage near the end was cut). Unlike other home movies, it focuses on one subject specifically the entire time, and almost has the feel of Maya Deren's "Meditation on Violence" due to similar themes. The home movie consists mainly of a dancer, identified only as Jenny, scantily clad and performing a repetitive dance which I suppose could be sexually arousing to some but failed to be so in any real way to me. It has the feel of footage that could be put into an art film, with interesting lighting going on and some alright camerawork (even if it doesn't show the dancer's head much). The ending, where we see what I believe to be Man Ray himself talking on the phone and sitting at a desk, is the only part that would be cut out, due to changing the focus. However, it is an oddly engaging film to watch with plenty of interesting elements, that could've been used in a bigger project rather than remaining one of Ray's home movies.
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