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Ideas About Seeing: The 53rd Ann Arbor Film Festival

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The Royal RoadAttending the Ann Arbor Film Festival is a bit like stepping into a parallel universe. Here, dialogue and narrative lie on the margins, while abstract animation and ethnographic documentary take center stage. Absent are movie stars, paparazzi, and bidding wars; here, a “big name” is someone like Peggy Ahwesh or Lewis Klahr. It’s as if this one week in March at the historic Michigan Theater, just a couple blocks away from the University of Michigan campus, had been carved out of normal space-time and given over to the love of film as an art.At the Aaff, assumptions about 21st century moviegoing don’t necessarily hold water. Slates of short films dominate the festival’s schedule, and even the occasional feature tends to be paired with a short or two. Digital projection is hardly the default, and the sheer diversity of formats makes each program an object
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2015 Ann Arbor Film Festival: Official Lineup

The Ann Arbor Film Festival celebrates its epic 53rd annual edition on March 24-29 with a colossal selection of experimental short films and features.

Feature film highlights include the documentary Speculation Nation by regular collaborators Bill Brown and Sabine Gruffat, which examines the recent Spanish housing crisis; a new ethnographic doc by Ben Russell, Greetings to the Ancestors, which plunges deep into the culture of South Africa; and Jenni Olson’s grand California study The Royal Road.

Short film highlights include the much anticipated new film by Jennifer Reeder, Blood Below the Skin, a narrative following a week in the dramatic and romantic lives of three teenage girls; a new music video by Mike Olenick called Beautiful Things with music by The Wet Things; new animations by Don Hertzfeldt, World of Tomorrow, and Lewis Klahr, Mars Garden; plus new experimental work by Vanessa Renwick, Peggy Ahwesh and Zachary Epcar.

Special
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Movie Poster of the Week: Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”

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Was any film ever as associated with its poster as the film that this week was voted the greatest film of all time in that bellwether of cinephilic pantheon-building, the ten-yearly Sight & Sound poll? Of course, Saul Bass, the master behind the Vertigo campaign, was an early exponent of cinematic branding, dedicated to creating a clear through-line from title treatment to credit sequence to poster to advertising.

But Bass’s Vertigo designs are so firmly associated with the film and with its director Alfred Hitchcock that it comes as a surprise to realize that Vertigo was the only poster that Bass designed for the director. (He worked on only two other films for Hitchcock, designing the title sequence for North by Northwest [1959] and both the titles and the shower sequence for Psycho [1960]).

The poster above is not the more famous one-sheet, which you can see just below, but the enormous
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L.A. Filmforum: Film/Music/Forms – Early Abstractions of the 1940s and 1950s

Oct. 23

7:30 p.m.

Egyptian Theater

6712 Hollywood Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90028

Hosted by: L.A. Filmforum

Alternative Projections is an ambitious new screening series by the L.A. Filmforum that surveys the experimental filmmaking scene of Los Angeles from 1945 to 1980.

“Early Abstractions of the 1940s and 1950s” covers abstract selections from the post-wwii era. Included are several films by John Whitney and James Whitney, two of the more well-known names from this period. But, there are also films by Sara Kathryn Arledge, Curt Opliger, Elwood Decker, Lynn Fayman and others. The full lineup of films is below.

The Alternative Projections project is the result of three years of research into the archives of several film venues and organizations. In addition to the screenings, there is an extensive online catalog of film titles and filmmaker names.

The L.A. experimental film scene, thanks to its close proximity to the commercial film industry,
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