April 20th, 2016
@ University at Buffalo Center for the Arts, 112 (map)
Organized to rhyme with the installation of Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Visitors at the University at Buffalo Art Galleries, THE MOON RETURNS AT DAWN brings together three films that play with the idea of repetition. Much like how The Visitors gains its power from the various recitals of its enigmatic phrase, these three films variously gain their ability, humor, and structure through mechanical and human cycles. A rarely seen Canadian pre-structural masterpiece, A.K. Dewdney’s The Maltese Cross Movement takes its name from the gear that makes the series of still pictures on a film strip seem in motion. The movement of the gears animates a flurry of images, as a poem is eventually recited by the “projector”, and by extension, the film itself. An early film from Scott Stark, Degrees of Limitation has the filmmaker using the limitations of his spring-wound camera, the limit of the 2 1/2 minute roll of film in the camera, and his body: Stark winds the camera and runs up a hill, returns, winds it a bit more, and runs up a bit further, and so on, while a tension emerges on whether the cycle will reach closure. Finally, J.J. Murphy’s classic Print Generation has the filmmaker reprinting a single minute of footage over and over again, from abstraction to legibility and back again. The eye attempts to make sense of the swirling images, discovering “deep within the film emulsion itself new forms of visual pleasure” (Scott MacDonald). These three films together also function as a portrait of the apparatus of filmmaking, with Dewdney’s film focusing on the projector, Stark’s on the camera, and Murphy’s on the film stock that moves through both.
All three works were restored by the Academy Film Archive, and will be presented on 16mm.
Special thanks to the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre, Canyon Cinema, and Scott Stark.
The Maltese Cross Movement
Alexander Keewatin Dewdney
8 min, 16mm, sound, Canada, 1967
“The film reflects Dewdney’s conviction that the projector, not the camera, is the filmmaker’s true medium. The form and content of the film are shown to derive directly from the mechanical operation of the projector – specifically the maltese cross movement’s animation of the disk and the cross illustrates graphically (pun intended) the projector’s essential parts and movements. It also alludes to a dialectic of continuous-discontinuous movements that pervades the apparatus, from its central mechanical operation to the spectator’s perception of the film’s images… (His) soundtrack demonstrates that what we hear is also built out of continuous-discontinuous ‘sub-sets.’ The film is organized around the principle that it can only complete itself when enough separate and discontinuous sounds have been stored up to provide the male voice on the soundtrack with the sounds needed to repeat a little girl’s poem:
The cross revolves at sunset
The moon returns at dawn
If you die tonight,
Tomorrow you are gone.”
– William Wees, “The Apparatus and the Avant Garde,” Cinema Canada
Degrees of Limitation
2 1/2 min, 16mm, silent, USA, 1982
“A single 100′ roll shot with a hand-wound 16mm Bolex. For each shot the camera was wound one additional time, allowing me to make it a little bit farther up the hill. Will I reach the top before the film runs out? A study in self-imposed limitations.” – S.S.
50 min, 16mm, sound, USA, 1974
“PRINT GENERATION is a masterfully accomplished film. With it, Murphy sums up concerns that have marked independent filmmaking since the late Sixties: intrinsic film structure and personal diary.” – Mike Reynolds, Berkeley Barb
“The film begins with glimpses of a series of shimmering red points of light which, through succeeding generations, begin to reveal the definition of a figure or an object. The sparkling reds – actually the last vestige of light held by a tiny crystal of emulsion – transform into whites, then the shock of blue-green is discovered, separating next into blue and green and combining for secondary colors in what by now is a recognizable representation.
Once the images are brought up to full color, the movie heads back toward abstraction. A viewer, having built a picture from an abstract pattern of dots, now must literally choose what is seen, whether to hold memory’s trace of the representation or swim into the dancing crystalline waters of emulsion. It’s a wonderful choice, a fine film.” – Anthony Bannon, Buffalo Evening News