Thursday, February 26, 2009

Not about film preservation, but...

...I was just thinking this might be a fun thing to put up regardless. I find it kind of touching too, so I hope no one thinks it's too frivolous or anecdotal. I feel like this kind of stuff is also really crucial in its way, even if superficially it may seem trivial or indulgent for me to post it here.

In November of 2007 I visited Boulder and Denver to do a whole mess of stuff, although the primary reason for the trip was to spend some time with the Stan Brakhage papers, housed at CU. Aside from finding a lot of documents (particularly lab invoices) that would be extremely helpful to the restoration work on Stan's films, a lot of interesting ephemera related to Stan's life and career. In some cases, I took snapshots of some of this material, even if not relevant to actual preservation work, usually because I found it interesting or helpful to filling in holes in what I knew about Stan's biography during the early-to-mid-'50s in particular, a period of his life I'm very curious about.

A lot of folks who've studied experimental film know that Stan and filmmaker Larry Jordan went to high school together. Here's an article from the school's newspaper following a play they appeared in together. The school is South High, the paper was called (is still called?) The Confederate, and the date of this little article is February 21, 1951. That's Larry on the left, and Stan in the middle.
I just hope you find this sort of curious and sweet, and of historical interest, and I promise I'll get back to focusing on the usual stuff after this.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hell Spit Flexion.

Several months ago, I went through pretty much all of Stan Brakhage's 35mm painted originals to figure out what was up with them regarding their condition, production process, and what they might need in terms of preservation.

Now, maybe this is something some people have already noticed, but personally I was surprised to discover that Stan created Hell Spit Flexion (1983) by painting over a 35mm print of The Garden of Earthly Delights (1981). The photo here is of the painted original, and you can see this magenta, faded print of Garden... underneath the paint, particularly in the lower center (as it's oriented in this photo) of the middle frame.

The color in the underlying print of Garden... is faded because, as many of you probably know, Eastman Kodak's color print stock (in particular) had major dye stability problems up to 1982-83, when it was reformulated to "low-fade" LPP stock following a major outcry and ultimatum from dozens of filmmaking luminaries (one of whom was Stan Brakhage).

So there is already a 35mm internegative of the film, made in 1983 from this painted original, which could sensibly be considered an "original negative" of sorts. However, if we decided to go back to this painted original to make a new preservation negative, the faded color of the underlying Garden... print would make it very difficult (or perhaps impossible) to match the original appearance of the film at the time of its making.

Here's another picture from the original, this time of the titlecard. Notice how it's actually made up of the original blank copyright notice frames from Garden... (time to get out your Criterion DVD), except with "Hell Spit Flexion" scratched in, and the copyright year changed (also via scratching) from "1981" to "1983". (For that matter, Hell Spit Flexion is on the Criterion DVD too, as part of The Dante Quartet (1987), although it might be hard to compare, as it's the tiniest part of the Quartet.)



That's all for now... as I said in the previous post, let me know if you think the watermarking thing is OK, or annoying, or ineffectual, or whatever. Thanks!

Enter Brakhage.

This is a test of sorts.

So far, everything I've posted on this blog in terms of photos/information has been done with the permission of the filmmakers (in some cases, like with Robert Nelson, the permission is implicit).

Marilyn Brakhage and I talked several months ago about starting to put Stan Brakhage related material on this blog as well.

For some time, we've periodically talked about the idea of a major website with lots of info about Stan and all of his work, ever expanding, but that's still a little ways off. (By the way, if you'd be interested in volunteering your help on that hypothetical project, contact me through this blog. Can't promise anything right now, but it'd be nice to gauge interest.)

In the meantime, Marilyn was OK with the idea of posting some stuff here, and I have tons of pictures and info I could share here, not that I want it to become an exclusively Brakhage blog or anything, but it's still quite a lot of fascinating stuff. One particular thing we agreed on would be to watermark the photos somehow, just to keep them from being circulated without some kind of notice of copyright and provenance attached. Fair enough?

So I'll give it a shot here today. I've put a lame, homemade watermark on the photo which will appear in the following post. Hopefully it's not too annoying or intrusive. Please let me know if you have a better suggestion, I'm all ears. What do you think?

Also, when I step back a bit, and take a gander at this blog, I realize that it isn't terribly specifically about film preservation, is it? It's more about unique, weird, amazing, or anomalous findings in the course of my working on the preservation of (primarily) experimental films, frequently having to do with unique production practices.

So should I include more preservation information? Is anybody curious about that kind of stuff and would like more of it? I'm extremely open to suggestions.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Suggestions? Comments? Questions?


I have no idea how many people look at this blog, especially considering it's so sporadically updated. But sometimes people will mention to me that they check it periodically, so I guess somebody's looking at it.

Anyway, I thought I'd specifically solicit suggestions, request, comments, etc. at this point. Do you have questions about something general or something in particular that I might be able to answer through this blog? Requests for coverage of specific films/filmmakers/questions about film preservation? Random thoughts? General feedback? Students of film archiving are particularly welcome and encouraged.

I'd love to hear from people, both to get a sense of who's actually reading this thing, and with the idea that if people have specific questions or feedback, it'll probably prompt me to update more regularly.

Anyhow, thanks for reading!

-Mark T

P.S. For those of you in the Bay Area, hope you can make it to the SF Cinematheque screening I'll be doing on April 1 at Yerba Buena. It'll be a nice, hefty show of restored experimental works from L.A. in the '60s-'70s. Lots of beautiful and crazy stuff, including films by Thom Andersen, Morgan Fisher, Gary Beydler, Roberta Friedman & Grahame Weinbren, David Wilson, Diana Wilson, Fred Worden, Chris Langdon, and Pat O'Neill.
http://www.sfcinematheque.org/calendar.php

p.p.s. The "cut here" image is from a preservation project I've been working on for Picasso (1973) by Chris Langdon.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Time Squared

In the meantime, here's the original titlecard for Ed Emshwiller's Thanatopsis (1962), before it was called Thanatopsis:

OK, I promise a post on Print Generation is still coming, but I'm waiting to get a print from J.J. to fully figure everything out. Ultimately, I'm intending it to be a sort of technical breakdown of the film's production. J.J. said that would be cool - I was worried he would think it would demystify the movie somehow, but he wasn't worried about that.

Also, in an ideal world, I'd make a scan of the same frame from every single generation, which I think would be a pretty amazing demonstration from a technical point of view. If anyone wants to volunteer to do this, drop me a line. Ideally, you're in LA and have time on your hands.