pseudopodium
. . . Lumière & Company

. . .

Lumière & Company had a nice notion: take a beautiful little 1895 movie camera, holding about a minute's worth of film, lend it to some directors, and then show the collected results. The problems were who the camera was lent to and how the results were shown. The minute-movies are of a trite piece, and they're widely separated by making-of-the-minute-movie documentaries (often showing a laughably out-of-proportion crew) and by footage of tedious answers to pompous questions. Even the credits sequence is a downer: there are only three women among the forty directors, and one of 'em is Liv Ullmann.

Which gives a clue as to how the nice notion turned nasty. There aren't many female directors in the big studio systems, but there are plenty in the experimental film world. As with the IMAX experience, all the Lumière production managed to prove is that standard studio directors don't know what to do without a standard studio, missing the positive side: no matter what their other problems might be, experimental filmmakers know how to experiment. (It's no suprise that the most praised of the forty minute-movies was by David Lynch, who began as an experimental animator.)

Which naturally turns our thoughts to Zoe Beloff, one of our favorite experimental filmmakers, for whom the Lumière project's constraints would've been tailor-made.

As evidenced by Beloff's digital-video work: the best I've seen, and I think that's because she doesn't just understand the pre-cinema nature of Web and CD-ROM media (although that understanding is rare enough) -- she loves it. True, those teensy low-res frame-skipping black-and-white windows on black backgrounds are no more than you'd get from a flip-card peep-show -- but she loves flip-card peep-shows. True, QuickTime VR is less Gibsonian-virtual-reality than it is a contemporary version of those cheesy nineteenth-century panoramas -- but she loves panoramas.

Beloff has always been influenced by pre-cinema movies, but her latest online project comes right out and gives us a hands-on museum of Thaumatropes, Phantasmagorias, Auto-Magic Picture Guns, and Nic Talkies. Some of the rickety old toys didn't quite work for me -- but that's to be expected of rickety old toys -- and some of the sideshow spiel seemed a mite overblown -- but that's to be expected of traveling spectacles. And Marcel Duchamp as maker of the world's largest magic lantern slide works for me just fine....

 

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