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|5 reviews in total|
For the most part, the documentaries of Emile De Antonio tend to be abstract and withdrawn from any sense of personal expression or feeling. Point of Order and In the Year of the Pig may have dialectic meanings that show the radical left wing politics of De Antonio, but the viewer never actually sees the soul of De himself. After a brilliant and subversive career, De died in 1989, but he first completed his final act to the play of his life- Mr. Hoover and I. Mr. Hoover and I is an autobiography, there is no way around that, but it is a different form of autobiography. It is a biography of images and explanations all told behind the backdrop of the life of J.Edgar Hoover and why not. It is Hoover and the establishment that he represents that De fought for so many years against. Although De's life had taken many different shapes- from art patron to radical filmmaker- one thing always haunted him- the spectre of the establishment, an establishment that personified itself through Hoover. Where the attacks of In the Year of the Pig and Point of Order arise from an intellectual sense of montage- the attacks in Hoover are direct. This is De telling us what he believes, not relying on a montage of found army footage. Hoover presents the side of De we never see- the man- the man who loves his wife (wives), has his haircut, likes to poke fun at himself ("anyone who knows me, knows that the only time I empty my wallet is at a bar" on charges that he donated money to Soviet causes), and most of all is a many of passion for what he believes in. Knowing that De passed away only months after finishing Hoover, it almost brings tears to the eyes of harden De fans for it wasn't until he left us that we got to see the real Emile De Antonio.
"The first truly beat film" -Jonas Mekas
It is easy to say that Pull My Daisy is the epitome of "beat generation" cinema. It can also be said that Pull My Daisy was the first film to practice the radical beliefs of "The New American Cinema Group". After all the historical and analytical nonsense is done, you are still left with a film that is passionate, personal, and most importantly- a film that entertains while expanding your understanding of art and the artist within a movement.
Pull My Daisy is based on the third act of a play written by beat generation mastermind Jack Kerouac untitled The Beat Generation (which was changed because MGM had the copyright to Beat Generation because of a low budget B-movie made by the studio in the late 50's). The new title was based on a poem written by Kerouac, poet Allen Ginsberg, and Neal Cassady in a be-bop jazz meditation (jazz and meditation- two important aspects of the film!) The film takes place in a New york apartment and never leaves the apartment except in one dream sequence. The cast of characters reads like a who's who of the beat generation: Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Curso, Peter Orvolosky (all of which retain their real names during the film). The film itself is beautifully narrated by Keroauc with a subtle be bop jazz soundtrack. The cast acts like themselves- substance abusing philosophers who sit in lotus positions contemplating life and art. The story picks up with the entrance of a bishop with his mother and sister. He is an outsider who enters this world of poets and must focus on their neo-buddhist rantings of "is baseball holy...etc.".
Where other films of "The New American Cinema" seem detached and unaccessible to the public- Pull My Daisy is an honest and almost affectionate portrait of the beat generation. This is the one film (with a possible inclusion of Cassavette's Shadows) of the movement that expands past the area of modernist-artistic riff-raff and tells a true story that is virtuous and right (yet highly symbolic and leaves the viewer questioning many aspects of life). Pull My Daisy is the shining star of the cannon of "The New American Cinema" and is a film that should forever be preserved for generations of alienated film makers and cinema fans.
Jack Smith's 1963 short Flaming Creatures might be one of the most sexual perverse film ever made. It has ever amount of sexual deviance that made up the New York underground in the 1960's- transexuals, S&M, lines such as "do they make a lipstick that doesn't come off when you s*** c****?", drug use, and a radically innovative orgy scene that plays more like a Greek tragedy than a work of pornography. On the surface, Flaming Creatures appears to be art at its lowest, but a closer examination of the film proves that Flaming Creatures is not only high art, but a siminal piece of film in the cannon of The New American Cinema. Filmed on top of Smith's New York studio on a basic 16mm camera, Flaming Creatures embodies the true independent spirit of The New American Cinema. The orgy scene in the film is perhaps the greatest combination of art and film. The "creatures", as Smith puts them, engage in a rape-orgy scene of sailors and a transexual. The orgy plays like a tragic meeting the old America with the freshly birthed new morality in America. What is even more remarkable is the "earthquake", caused Smith's shaking camera at the end of the orgy. It as if the world is opening up on Smith's creatures and swallowing them and all their perversions. No one can deny that Flaming Creatures is a difficult film to watch- both in its content and deep artistic meanings, but the spirit of the film is the reason it should be preserved for generations to come.
When Jonas Mekas, Alfred Leslie, etc sat down to compose the mainfesto of
"The New American Cinema" in 1961, the amount of films made under this
artistic statement doubled. Out of this period, we see the creation of some
of the greatest underground films the world has seen. Taylor Meed's The
Flower Thief, Bruce Conner's A Movie and Report, and most importantly
Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising.
Scorpio Rising's devices are fundementally simple-didactic montage, ironic sountracks, and archival footage. What seperates SR from the realm of mediocre is its deep underooted message of sexual perversion, S&M, and the cruelty of sexuality to a point of Nazist ideology. Scenes such as young man with a smile on his face being "raped" by leather clad bikers is a point of sadio-estasy. To say that SR is not a 22 min. perversion is to ignore its fundemental principles and the principles of its filmmaker Kenneth Anger. Anger has emerged himselfin both the terror of the haunte monde of Hollywood in the 30's (hence the birth of his hugely read Hollywood Babylon- a study as perverse as SR) and the drug and sexually illusioned world of the 50's/60's lower bohemia.
Scorpio Rising is a film of a generation. As Allen Ginsberg put it: "a generation starved on madness". It's signifigance ranks up there with Keroauc, Ginsberg, and Burroughs. Anger's film is a portrait of a world so far from our 90's train of thought- yet so strikingly fimiliar.
In The Year of the Pig is as important to narrative cinema as it is to documentary cinema. The raw and powerful anti-Vietnam (note- De made the film in 1968 and not in the 80's or 90's like directors such as Stone or Kubrick) documentary is composed of archival footage, interviews done by De himself, and an amazing soundtrack done by a student of avant-garde composer John Cage. De first tackled didactic montage in Point of Order and he all but masters it in this film. Imagine this- war torn American soldiers, legless and bloody, being carried off the battlefield while "Old Glory" is being played on timbas and other Indonesian instruments. It is so anti-American, anti-War, and brilliant. This film is a seminal piece of work in the New American Cinema and should be preserved for generations to come.