From: Steve Polta (email suppressed)
Date: Mon Sep 21 2009 - 15:47:15 PDT
The suggestion was that painting on both surfaces of the film created an "in-focus" layer and a "soft-focus" layer to the so-called imagery. This is my understanding of the announcement and my experience of the film: at times there appeared to be a sharp "in-focus" layer of painting which seems sharp and defines against a more diffused "soft-focus" ground. Another significance of such a technique is that the two "superimposed" layers of imagery can be perceived as moving against each other, for example, one layer appearing to behave a certain way while the other behaves differently. At times this "behavior" seemed like directional movement; at others, more akin to an energetic disposition; etc. Another film which plays abstract figure against abstract ground that comes to mind is the super/regular mold-growth film by the silt collective known as KEMIA. (You also see similar methods in some Brakhage films--titles escape me at the moment.)
I can't speak specifically about Sistiaga's techniques but Cinematheque has several books in its library which discuss this film and Sistiaga's work in general. These books include images of Sistiaga at work, with long strips of film layed out on these huge tables or on arrays of multiple reels. This library is accessible (by appointment) for on-site use as a benefit of organizational membership. Plan ahead and maybe you can stop by next time you are in San Francisco...
Thanks for coming to the show, and for your comments.
Archivist, San Francisco Cinematheque
--- On Mon, 9/21/09, Myron Ort <email suppressed> wrote:
> From: Myron Ort <email suppressed>
> Subject: Re: Sunday entertainment in SF.
> To: email suppressed
> Date: Monday, September 21, 2009, 1:03 PM
> José 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
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at
> <email suppressed>.
For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.