Monday, April 13, 2009

Film And Performance Art

In an effort to broaden my perspective on the arts, I've attended the annual Ann Arbor Film Festival off and on for many years. Support the local arts, right? This past month I attended one session in the weeklong festival. That's enough really. I just don't get a lot of this newfangled artsy stuff.

The session I attended featured a retrospective of the film-maker Bruce Conner, who frequently entered his experimental film clips to festivals like the one in Ann Arbor. Unfortunately, Bruce died this past year.

One of his films I saw contained about 20 minutes of stock footage showing the first atom bomb test in the Bikini atoll. The same bomb. The same explosion with the same mushroom cloud. Over and over. For 20 minutes total. The camera angle might be different. Sometimes the camera would linger on the image as the mushroom cloud rose and fell, or as a wave of atomic fog slowly enveloped the ships that were anchored in the atoll.

But there was no narration. No people. No color either as it was all in black and white. If this is art, this is some of the stuff I don't get. Another Conner film featured a nearly naked Marilyn Monroe look-alike who seemed to adlib for the camera like some sexy model. Though there was probably less than a minute's footage of her, the film looped that same footage over and again while the real Marilyn Monroe crooned a song that served as the background music. When the song was finished, it re-played from the beginning while the same footage played once more. This happened five times in all. I didn't get this film either but it was a little more bearable to watch.

Before the films all began, a performance artist by the name of Pat Oleszko did a little skit for the audience there at the Michigan Theatre. Dressed like a shiny, updated version of the tin man from the Wizard of Oz, Ms. Oleszko read a narrative about the traveler Gulliblur. Eventually, her narrative came to life in the form of a giant inflated creature of some sort, a rocket on a stick carried about the stage by an actor, finger puppets, and the deep, blue sea--which resembled a giant snake made up of bright blue bubble-wrap.

The energetic Ms. Oleszko eventually led the actors who played the sea off the stage and out into the audience where they bobbed like waves, while holding up ships, mermaids and other props. If there were a deeper meaning to all this, I didn't get it either though it was all very bright and colorful. So I got the art part in a way. Just not the performance part.

After I go see something like this, I like to come home and watch a good horror movie (or even a not-so-good horror movie). The killer or monster represents evil. The damsel in distress represents innocence. And the hero represents, well, the good guys. This I get and I don't even have to think about it.


Anonymous cassie-b said...

I like the slightly old-fashioned stuff myself. And some of the really oldies are still terrific.

5:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been out of the loop lately. Who won your family bracket this year?

6:17 AM  
Blogger Carine said...

I'm a lover of old-fashioned fun comedies, love stories and my favorite-musicals.

hubby loves terrible movies. In fact, he decided to get netflix-presumeably to "save" us money.

So far, after 3 very long months, the 4 of us have endured many movies-only 3 of which my daughter-in-law and I have enjoyed.

Our son, having his father's gene pool in this matter, enjoyed about 1/3. Seems only hubby is enjoying bad movies Dave.

Me, I like to be entertained and informed-I really dislike watching the films you've described. I'd rather read a good book, or better yet, work one of my challenger level crosswords.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

I think I'd go crazy at a film festival. I can barely sit through one movie in my own house.

2:06 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

CASSIE--I have a DVD with some old public domain movies on it. I'm watching the serial The Lost City from about 1935 right now. Not a classic.

ANONYMOUS--No, I think you're looping the same comment over and over. I'll have to check and see whose profile has the trophy to prove they won the bracket.

CARINE--I'm kind of the same mind-set of your husband--get Netflix so I can see some old sci-fi movies without paying a lot of money. I did promise the missus that we could take turns picking out movies to watch.

FRED--You would get restless very quickly. In fact, a lot of people do walk out of these once they find out it's not their cup of tea. Experimental film isn't for everyone.

3:56 AM  
Blogger Nankin said...

Dave, you're braver than I am to even set foot in one of those places. I'd rather watch an old movie that I know I'll enjoy even though I've seen it numerous times, rather than one of the newer pieces of stuff on the market today.

6:38 AM  
Blogger Merle said...

Hi Dave ~~ We all have our preferences in movies - I like Comedies best and not any of the sci fi or star wars. but that's me.
Thank you so much for your comments a while back. My painful back has
settled down quite a bit, I'm glad to say. So there is no need to sue!! They do a lot of that sort of thing here too. I am glad to finally feel OK again. Take care,
Regards, Merle.

4:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE American Idol I don't watch it but I did see what happened on the news. I think with two eliminations next week he will be going home. JMHO
So far as the movies go Merle is right we all have our preferences. I used to like the action films but then the violence level got way up there with all the new technology. I prefer comedies and "CHICK FLICKS!" now.
Weather is GRAND we should all be out in it for the whole weekend!!!

9:53 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

G'day Dave, I like most movies... with a preference for action or westerns but avoid the art house stuff.

Re the doco that you saw recently, I posted on it here

and here.

if you are interested.

6:17 PM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Doesn't sound like anything I would like....It sounds kind of like going to an art museaum and looking a modern art...I like a house to look like a house and a tree to look like a tree....I am pretty simple minded when it comes to art... I enjoy looking at light houses and a roaring sea.....

10:52 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

NANKIN--I figure I have to support the local arts scene. I think I took my wife once one year, and that was enough for her. So you're in good company.

MERLE--Wendy's favorite is comedies too. There's not that many good ones coming out any more though.

CAROLDEE--I don't watch American Idol either but the missus is a big fan. And she thinks Matt has the talent to go all the way.

PETER--Thanks for those links. I had already read the one about the perfume. That's interesting about the weight because I wondered about that, remembering that they had weighed my bag before we boarded our plane earlier this year.

LUCY--I'm a big fan of roaring seas and lighthouses too. I have a collection of lighthouse magnet pictures at my work.

4:46 AM  
Blogger Kacey said...

Hi Dave.... I don't seem to understand this artsy stuff, either, but I went to the Google search thingy and typed in "The Ballad of King Jimmy, the monkey". The first one that comes up is the "You Tube" of this little film. It won the Rod Serling Award in 2006 and then won some foreign film award the next year and the Binghampton Mets Baseball Team in New York plays it on their scoreboard after every homerun. This is supposed to be an arty film of animation and is supposed to be really good. I don't understand all the fuss, but am happy about it, because Alex is my grandson and he made the film. He is graduating in three weeks from Nyack College in New York in film and video production. He worked as an intern this year on the set of Thirty Rock and Ugly Betty. So, check out "King Jimmy" on You Tube and tell me what art is these days!

6:54 PM  
Blogger Merle said...

Hi again Dave ~~Thanks for your comment and I am so happy to be finally feeling much better. I hope your son is also. The tablet that started my recovery was a Digesic.
I liked the tomato joke too.
You are right, there are not many comedy films anymore.
Take care, Best Wishes, Merle.

8:13 AM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

KACEY--I found that monkey video. That's exactly the type of stuff you see at the A2 Film Festival. But the monkey video I understood. Monkeys can't swim.

MERLE--Digesic is a new one on me. But if it's making you feel much better, it's probably worth checking out.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Steven Fama said...

Dear Dave,

You short-changed Conner's CROSSROADS, which you pegged at 20 minutes, by almost one-half.

It's a 36 minute film.

I find the film meditative, the images both repelling and attractive. Some of the better times I've seen the film, I fell asleep part way in, waking up before the end. Hynagogic nuclear explosion mushroom clouds are quite a 'scape.

10:31 AM  
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