Wow. It's amazing how awkward and wrong this original ending to Alexander Payne's 1999 feature Election seems. According to Peter Sciretta at Slashfilm, this six-minute segment comes from a VHS transfer of an original work print found at a flea market. The ending tested so badly, Payne went back to shoot additional footage for the more satisfyingly harsh ending he released.
We did silent takes of almost every scene so we could maybe use them in the editing. Terry Malick apparently shoots silent takes so he can mold what he wants out of the scenes. But with our takes we actually created a silent version because we had enough material and we realized we could -- maybe it'll be on the DVD. Everything is there except the dialogue -- all the sounds and music, and you hear all the footsteps, but there's nobody talking and no lips moving. They're the same scenes, but it has the distance of not being dialogue-driven. It's the exact same love story but it plays like a different movie.
It's funny, because Gerry and Elephant only have like 10 pages of dialogue between them anyway.
"One idea could be using mirrors so photographers could do their jobs out of the president's sight line, the White House's Earnest said."
My mind is blown and I am still picking up the pieces after contemplating the possibility that White House photographers might be instructed to shoot using mirrors so as not to disrupt the president's line of sight.
I mean, the compositional challenges pale in comparison to the artistic compositional goldmine that such an environment would provide. I mean, just imagine. Here's one AP shot I didn't post the other day about Sforzian backdrops at Fort Campbell. Check out how the floating reflection of the camo netting draped over the crowd barrier, which is picked up in the teleprompter:
With mirrors, photos of the president would be like rainbows, visible only from the single specific angle that aligns the lens, the mirror, and the face.
Left alone, Alexei locates and sits in front of a large mirror hung on the wall. The next shot begins stationary behind Alexei, facing his reflection in the mirror, and the camera slowly pans in over his shoulder, focusing ever more tightly on his reflection, until, gradually, the reflection becomes the sole image of the frame, staring back toward the actual Alexei.
There is then a sharp cut to reveal a medium close-up of Alexei sat contemplating his reflection from the opposite angle. This shot/reverse shot dynamic and the 'eye-line match' are common to most conventional cinema, establishing an object, or person, as perceived by a character from their point of view.
As David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson describe it 'shot A presents someone looking at something off-screen shot B shows us what is being looked at' (2004: 303). However, as in this case, the 'eye-line match' refers conversely to an interaction between two characters, here, the actual Alexei and his virtual counterpart. It is as if he is reacting to/with his reflection. This dialectic can be read as representing the Deleuzian 'crystal-image':
'In Bergsonian terms, the real object is reflected in a mirror-image as in the virtual object which, from its side and simultaneously, envelops or reflects the real: there is a 'coalescence' between the two. There is a formation of an image with two sides, actual and virtual. It is as if an image in a mirror, a photo or a postcard came to life, assumed independence and passed into the actual, even if this meant that the actual image returned into the mirror and resumed its place in the postcard or photo, following a double movement of liberation and capture.' (Deleuze 2005b: 66-67)
I see Barack Obama as Alexei. And a virtual presidency. Can you begin to imagine what kinds of images this would produce? Forget the stunning conceptual aspects for a minute; has anyone at the White House thought through the political implications--should we call them the optics?--of not permitting the cameras' eyes to gaze upon the President directly?
Maybe not mirrors, then, but what about one-way mirrors? Is that what they're thinking? Put the photgraphers on the darkened side of a one-way mirror. Fortunately, there's only 225 hours of Law & Order-related programming on basic cable each week to communicate the absolute trustworthiness of anyone speaking on the mirrored side of the glass.
Before getting too fixated on the complications of presidential imagemaking, though, it's worth remembering that the White House is already a supremely weird place for photographers to work. Go back to 2009, just days after President Obama's inauguration, when the NY Times' Stephen Crowley pulled back the curtain on the surreal and utterly staged 12-second tradition known as the "pool spray." These are the images whose authenticity is suddenly, apparently, of such great concern.
I'm getting pretty comfortable with my love affair/obsession with the US Pavilion at the Expo 67 in Montreal. I mean, it's got Buckminster Fuller; Alan Solomon curating gigantic paintings; photomurals; and satelloons, what's not to love, right?
So seeing Design for a Fair, the 1968 promo short film by Peter Chermayeff is awesome just as it is. The vintage footage and photos are some of the crispest I've seen, and it really is pretty crazy on a whole bunch of levels that this thing existed at all.
But maybe the greatest thing--even better than the giant graphic designed flags that look like a lost Ellsworth Kelly, as if there wasn't enough giant, escalator-optimized, actual art already--and even better than the sheer soft power/propaganda play that was so drop-dead awesome it won the future for the day--is the voiceover.
Because the whole thing really sounds like Chermayeff's idea. Every last bit of it, dome to nuts. It's fantastic. Chermayeff, of course, is an architect and exhibition designer, and his former firm, Cambridge Seven Associates, or C7A, was contracted by the US Information Agency to produce the US Expo entry.
And so, as Chermayeff tells it, they knew they wanted a 3/4 geodesic dome, so they ordered one. And they wanted some giant art, so they ordered that. And the moon stuff, and the Hollywood and all the happy parts of American culture.
Now I don't doubt a thing; I'm sure that's exactly how it all went down. It's just that that's not how it's typically remembered. Architects only remember Fuller; the art world only recognizes Solomon and the artists, not the venue or the show or the implications of it; and everything else is artifact and prop. [And the poor lunar photomural, I've hardly found anyone remembering that at all.]
The historical focus is either on the general awesomeness of the spectacle and mood, the political context and propaganda, or on the parts in isolation. What Design for a Fair reminds me of, though, is the visitor's experience, the carefully orchestrated messaging, and the reality that it was orchestrated by a contractor working to a brief provided by the USIA. It was a government-funded gesamtkunstwerk, a massive piece of installation art before the fact, and probably one of the most cost-effective public diplomacy efforts of the Cold War era. It literally seems unimaginable today.
People often ask me, "What is it that makes your Google Street View Art so different, so appealing?"
Actually, no one asks me that, they just send me "Hey, look!" emails with links to Jon Rafman and Michael Wolf. But if they did ask me, I'd probably go off about Bergson and the flaneur's gaze and Deleuzian notions of cinematic time and the panoptic surveil--
"Hey, look! Shiny object! Want that!"
Seriously, chrome that bad boy in an edition of 5, please. I'll keep the AP.
Before I talk about Microworld, the 1976 industrial film made for AT&T by Owen Murphy Productions, let me just state the obvious, and get it out of the way:
We are long, long overdue for a comprehensive, scholarly retrospective of William Shatner's spoken word pieces. The mandarins who keep our cultural gates should not be able to just drop a masterpiece in our laps on their own whim, not we who have known "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" for decades. I give you three months, and if I don't see any movement, I'm taking the curatorial matters into my own hands.
OK. Microworld. Holy crap, who made this thing? Owen Murphy Productions, who made several other films for Bell Labs over the years, including Incredible Machine (1968) which screened as part of the film program [PDF] at "The Machine As Seen At The End Of The Mechanical Age," Pontus Hulten's 1968 exhibit at The Museum of Modern Art. [that's the show with the exhibition catalogue with the crazy, stamped metal cover.] Owen Murphy probably needs his/their own retrospective, too.
[11/2011 UPDATE: Thanks to Robin Edgerton, who has been working on the AT&T film archive, for pointing out that the correct title was Incredible Machine, not The Machine, as MoMA's press release had it. You can watch Incredible Machine online.]
That will give us a chance to appreciate the backlit photomurals
and the rather incredible prop circuitboard dioramas. [I left the timestamps in for easy reference.]
Shatner marvels for us at the minute intricacy of circuitboards reduced to eye-of-a-needle-sized microchips. Microchips which are apparently still designed in large-format, paper schematics.
Which are drawn. With a pen. By a [computer? punch card? stencil?] controlled mechanical printer.
Holy crap, people, this is a drawing.
Turned into a backlit transparency, but whatever. A DRAWING.
Anyway, just saying, there are--or were--amazing drawing machines creating amazing, massive drawings, in the service of America's most advanced scientists and engineers--who apparently didn't bother keeping them? Where are they? What are/were they? Do any survive? What else could they be used for? I think I must find the answers to these questions.
UPDATE: ASKED AND BEGINNING TO BE ANSWERED
Thanks to Beau [aka @avianism], who points me to pen plotters and their adaptation and creative deployment, apparently in the last few years, by artists such as Douglas Repetto, whose drawing below, is part of the chiplotle group on flickr.
Chiplotle is a Python library created by Repetto and Victor Adan at the Columbia University Computer Music Center which allows you to code for and operate pen plotters from a laptop. The future of the past is here.
When I saw it on Matt Connors' blog, I realized I've never seen the 1985 music video for Culture Club's "The War Song," but it's amazing for how familiar it feels.
Not the particular specter of war, of course; it's worth remembering that the nuclear disaster we lived in fear of back then was quite different.
I mean the kind of dramatic, operatic style of the video itself. It FEELS like 80's MTV. And no wonder. Turns out "The War Song" was directed by Russell Mulcahy, who is basically the Orson Welles and John Ford of MTV's Golden Age. Not only did Mulcahy direct the first video ever shown on MTV, The Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star." He made two of Duran Duran's three greatest videos--"Hungry Like The Wolf" and "Rio." [The 1981 video "Girls on Film" was made by Godley & Creme.] Spandau Ballet's "True." Billy Joel's "Allentown." Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes." And on and on.
Holy smokes, in between Culture Club and Falco, he directed the original Highlander, too.
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