Monday, September 20, 2004

Laziness, and a brutal case of the bookworm, prevented me from attending Morgan Fisher’s new film ( ), described in the Film Forum Los Angeles catalog as “a rigorously constructed homage to the unsung building block of narrative film language known as the insert shot.” Ah, the insert shot; according to, “a close-up of something that exists within the basic scene,” as below.

Don’t know what film these stills were taken from, but they convey the idea. I can only imagine Morgan managed to conjure up something magnificent. Hope it screens again sometime. Also showing was Thom “Los Angeles Plays Itself” Andersen’s --- ------- aka Short Line, Long Line (the first film in the wordless title meme?) which I caught last year, and which parodies rock and roll of the 1966 variety, as well as Eisenstein’s dialectical film montage, if you can believe that. It’s been awhile, but I recall a highly structured film: short shots of various rockers, jazzmen, and 60s scenarios, followed by long shots of the same, growing in length up to the apogee, then turning heel, shortening in length to the end of the whole shebang. But anyway: I did manage to see, Thursday last, a three-and-a-half hour documentary on Henri Langlois, that phantom of the cinematheque, entitled Henri Langlois, the Phantom of the Cinematheque. I was aware of but not versed in Langlois’ essential role in preserving film prints throughout the war (storing canisters in bath tubs and transporting them in baby carriages to hide them from the Nazis) and on through the 1970s. The documentary makes the case for Langlois as a “poet of the archive” who screened films thematically, often intuitively, sometimes strategically. Langlois recalls trading away a Theda Berra film very early in his career, assuming it was meaningless fluff, and not realizing the treasure he briefly held. The Langlois Lesson: hold on to it all, you can never foresee the vagaries of critical reception. I concur hesitantly, if only because I’m suspicious of the nostalgia so many from my generation feel for vintage television commercials (Schoolhouse Rocks, say, or Hey Mikey, He Likes It), nostalgia which often consigns (false) value to such cultural ephemera.

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