chicago film archive

From: Bernard Roddy (email suppressed)
Date: Wed Jan 03 2007 - 07:39:13 PST

The titles and descriptions of the "Urban Crisis" series at Chicago Film Archive's site remind me of what the radical activist community calls "riot porn" . . I'd love to see those films, but I had some other reactions to the conversation:
  In Three Songs about Lenin Dziga Vertov obsesses about a bench on which Lenin was photographed (“made famous by a photograph,” a title says), and this feels so much like doting on the image of some print about the black power movement. We like our justice mummified - like that bench in different seasons, a death knell 24 times a second. It’s understandable if the name Aaron Patterson means nothing even in Chicago, that no connection is made to the demonstration downtown this past summer to call Mayor Daley to task for the blatant, repeated police torture of black suspects under Jon Burge. If that bench is so much more clearly a fetish for Vertov, it’s not to our credit. For some reason hearing about grant money always makes me think of how it might otherwise have been used, or more exactly, about what factors go into choosing to preserve old films and which ones. I wouldn’t conclude it should be used any other way, but what exactly goes into this embalming process?
  There was a screening a couple months ago of that Anthony McCall “Argument” something or other film, not the “Line Describing a Cone” thing, and those guys were focused, hard-hitting, on-target. I was standing in back at Chicago Filmmakers and some point-black radical voiceover rhetoric drove a middle-aged middle-class couple right out of the theater. It tore me up that down the street, at Mess Hall, a couple members of Critical Art Ensemble were giving a talk at that very moment. I could not decide, watched the start of the film, left to find the street-level storefront packed to the windows, gave it up, returned for the final quarter of the film. I’d love to see that film in full, but CAE is current. No benches in photographs. The dead are beautiful, but to await death like this . . life itself risks being sacrificed in these machinations for prime plots in the graveyard.
  That McCall film closes with the filmmaker reading off a list of all their expenses and sources of support for the project, who turned them down for funding, how expenses compared with those of other productions, what their own backgrounds and qualifications were, etc. Could such a film receive serious critical attention today?

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