Re: Sunday entertainment in SF.

From: Myron Ort (email suppressed)
Date: Mon Sep 21 2009 - 13:03:32 PDT

Josť Antonio Sistiaga - Impressions en Haute Atmosphere (1968-70)

A beautiful 35mm print of this film was shown last night at the SF
Cinematheque. Only about 7 minutes and has a perfect soundtrack. Very
exciting and magnificent hand-painted film.

On the other hand:
Sistiaga's "Ere Erera Baleibu Icik Subua Aruaren"
  was also shown in a nice 35mm print, however the live performance
of incessant screaming electric guitars, electric bass, and drums +
percussionist beating on a 55 gallon metal barrel top, personally did
not work for me (just my opinion) and makes evaluating the film
difficult for me since even with fingers trying to plug my ears
for 77minutes, the overly loud PA system (including continuous
uncontrolled feedback problem) provided continuous gut pounding bass
boom antithetical to comprehending or enjoying visual subtleties. The
film was originally made to be silent. The live music performance,
according to the announcer, was done hopefully to drum up more
audience. I guess times are tough all over. The film then was a
light show. Mostly the band played with their backs to the screen
(except the drummer) even though I think they thought they were
performing a "soundtrack" since they said they normally would have
more vocal elements. Can you imagine watching any other film with a
soundtrack so loud even ear projection cannot mitigate the unpleasant
effects of the noise level? I guess I am too old for this kind of
thing, even though I used to help with the light shows at the Avalon
in the late 60s. I tend to think PA systems (solid-state budget rice
boxes), sound guys, and loud bands have devolved from what it was
back then. Sorry about the geezer-speak......

In any case I found some of the techniques in these hand-painted 35mm
films to be somewhat mysterious and quite interesting. I assume the
film was made by "painting" directly on the entire surface of 35mm
clear stock of some kind. Colored ink sprays, reticulating/cracking
inks, dried bubble patterns, interesting random default
configurations emerge as a result, the whole approach suggests
methods that would indeed make painting such a long film possible. I
have read somewhere Sistiaga made his own paints and inks. When
projected with cinemascope format equipment the resulting default
effect is to make the round droplets sprayed onto the film (or even
a round punch-out) appear oval because of the anamorphic projector
lens. Since the film is 77 minutes long, that is a lot of film to
paint on, eg. about 7000 feet at the 24 fps speed which is the
intended speed. For much of the film there is a circular motif
(oval) vignette in the center of the frame in which there is
"different" painting going on. Not sure how this was achieved since
most of the rest of the imagery is without regard to frame lines.
Obviously the film is set up to be projected with regard to frame
lines because there are titles and then there is this circular motif
consistently in the center of much of the imagery. What comes to
mind is either a stencil of some kind or possible A/B printing
(doubtful). The announcer at the show mentioned that he understood
that the artist painted on both sides of the film (not really sure
what advantage that has). The steadiness and relative precision of
the placement of the circular motif in the middle of the frames would
be difficult to do strictly by hand application, and how was the
spray on the outside of the circular motif kept out of the center of
the circle where the different painting takes place. Some kind of
extensive stencil technique + resist, ? Not exactly sure. Very
exciting visual phenomena results.

Myron Ort

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