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Friday, September 23, 1994

Grad school 5, watching Griffish films on vhs

Sept 23: Went to library but couldn't use 16mm projector so I watched some video. Have I complained recently that I still don't have a tv; it is supposed to be shipped to me from Regina but hasn't been yet. Here's what I watched:
     As it is in Life        D.W.Griffith  1910 10 min
     The Mender of Nets      Griffith      1912 10 min
     A Arcadian Maid         Griffith      1910 10 min
     Wilful Peggy            Griffith      1910 10 min


Wednesday, September 21, 1994

Grad school 5, starting to watch films including "The Golem"

Sept 21   Watched Paul Wegener's "The Golem" on 16mm at the library. I've read about it numerous times and have looked for it often but never been able to find it. It combines my love for German Expressionist design with the creation of a man. It was quite interesting, the monster of stone which seemed to have a few lustful thoughts. It was upon this monster that Universal initially wanted to base Frankenstein (with Bela Lugosi as the monster) but eventually changed the look.
     Also watched many other films today (I spent the day in the library). They are as follows:
Migration               David Rimmer  1969 11 min
Surfacing on the Thames D Rimmer           5 min
The Golem               Paul Wegener  1920 72 min
Puce Moment             Kenneth Anger 1949 6 min
Eaux D'Artifice         K. Anger      1953 13 min
Kustom Kar Kommandos    K. Anger      1965 3 min
Invocation of my Demon Brother, Anger 1969 11 min
Meshes of the Afternoon Maya Deren    1943 14 min
At Land                 Maya Deren    1944 15 min
A Study in Choreography M. Deren      1945 4 min
Ritual in Transfigured Time  M. Deren  1946 15 min
Meditation on Violence  M. Deren      1948 12 min
The Very Eye of Night   M. Deren    1952-59 15 min
Exposure           Michelle Mohabeer  1991? 8 min
Coconut/Cane and Cutlass     M.Mohabeer    1994 30 min

     Michelle did her presentation in class today so I include her works in this list. I didn't understand how she got the superimposed images on the sword, and her explanation just didn't make it any clearer. I think that money tames filmmakers. I think her film would probably have been better if it was stripped to its bare bones. Nothing fancy. If you have ideas, express them, don't hide them under expensive effects. Otherwise, it was a seductive viewing.

Saturday, September 17, 1994

Grad school 4 at Toronto Film Festival

Sept 17   Last night got out to the festival and saw Darryl's film. I look forward to seeing it in class and talking about it. I felt very disturbed by the laughter by the audience AT the subjects of the two films. At least in the first one (on folk artists) the subjects recognise that they are selling their personas along with their art so would be prepared to be laughed at. The collectors on the other hand did not invite public scrutiny into their lives. I wonder what Darryl thinks about this.
     Also saw Ang Lee's "Eat Drink Man Woman", at a regular theatre but it was a festival film 6 days ago so I guess it will count for me seeing a festival film. I typed up some notes about it; feeling nervous about what to say about films in front of classmates. I don't know if I could defend my opinions against some of them. Here is what I was struck by in the film:
- Technically speaking, this film is very simple. Conversations between pairs of characters are commonly covered in long (up to 2 or 3 minutes) unbroken, static shots. The camera rarely moves. One of the rare moving shots, a hand held shot quickly moving through a gigantic kitchen, appeared to me to be just that, hand held (no dolly and probably no steady cam) through a real kitchen (floors, ceilings, stoves, and 100 people working).
- The process sequences showing how the food is prepared give the film the most 'flavour'. I remember that a common first year production exercise was to show "how something is done". Through a series of simple shots a complex procedure can be clearly depicted. In the film, lavish gourmet chinese cooking unfolds theatrically, As we the audience watch the chopping and frying and ladling, we feel drawn in. The simplicity of the film techniques lend to the apparent simplicity of the cooking process, it brings us in close; allowing us to understand as if we were there. As a result, the food seems very real and very appetizing.
- It is during the conversations and the cooking that we feel closest to the film. Some other scenes (ie: the teacher with her students and the growing relationship with the volleyball coach) are covered in a more common way with more intercutting and thus do not seem as intimate as the aforementioned scenes.

- The intimate nature of the film leads us to believe in the characters and to care about their dilemmas.

Post script: Darryl is Darryl Varga and his film was Hunters and Collectors. The "festival" was  the Toronto Film Festival. 

Thursday, September 15, 1994

Grad school 3

Sept 15   Dropped into the department for a few minutes, poked around the equipment room. I've never used a CP16 and would like to learn it.

     Margaret and I finally went downtown. Of course we got lost, but not very lost. Made it to all the book stores, but not to any movies. There are line-ups everywhere and we just couldn't deal with it. How long do you have to live here before your skin stops feeling like you've been dipped in Mazolla? Couldn't get the books for this class but I did get The Complete Film Dictionary. Kinko's didn't have the Super 8 book. 

Post script: the department refers to the Film Department at York University. I never did find that super 8 book. 

Wednesday, September 14, 1994

Grad school day 2

Sept 14   Got into some more avoidance today. Shopped. Got a can opener. My VCR finally arrived but still no tv. I got out an Oscar Wilde book from the library. Upon reading a collection of his short stories a couple years ago, I became very excited about more writing stories; and I did. They are short fairy tales, some of which were created verbally as bed time stories for Margaret. Even though I show very few people my stories, I am really quite proud of them. I think one of them, either already written or one I am yet to write, will be the basis of the short film we are to make this term. 

Tuesday, September 13, 1994

York MFA program, first day of class

September 13, 1994      I was initially very excited when I saw that you were requiring us to write a journal. I find them a great outlet for all the complaining I want to do but find socially embarrassing to vocalize. Journals I've done in the past have always remained hand written which meant that I could add to them anytime, anywhere. Typing is not a problem, though it may not end up as spontaneous. I apologize now for any times in the following pages where I may drift off topic. I have no intention of editing it all out as I think that some of the more mundane thoughts of today may reveal themselves to be the revelations of tomorrow. In other words, please bear with me.
     We had our first class yesterday. I was extremely nervous going into it and remained so until the end. Although I am fairly certain that I will be able to keep up with my classmates in scholastic matters, I worry that my reclusive ways may leave me straggling behind when it comes to developing interpersonal relations between myself and the others. Although today I spoke at length with Mark from Concordia and we shared many of the same thoughts about the state of the Canadian film industry.
     Mark and I talked about horror films, a favourite topic of mine, and how the recent Canadian horror films I've seen (ie "Dracula Rising") which pull most of their punches and substitute style and gloss for tension and atmosphere. The purpose of this, I propose, is that the market for our "B" movies is through venues such as pay tv which must be "appropriate" for a wide audience. Don't get too scary, we don't want to create any new Cronenburgs out there. Italian and Spanish horror films pull no punches. Perhaps they don't get the rapid support of the film establishment, but they make money and international reputations for their creators. Neither of us desired to see the continued support of mediocrity in our cinema, here or in any country.
     So we'll be shooting super 8 film eh? I wish I'd known. I left my camera and projector at home (home will always be Saskatchewan. Oh well, start off on a equal footing I suppose. I have a couple 16mm cameras being shipped here for when I need them. I used to shoot 8mm when I was younger (1976-1982) so I think I'll be an interesting endeavour.
     Went to Scott library to watch Wells' Magnificent Ambersons
on lazerdisc. I hadn't seen it before. Frankly I was a bit disappointed. There are bits of interviews and storyboards and so on after the movie; they explained how he lost control and how so much was cut out. I felt regularly confused by what was going on and who was who. It wasn't that difficult but something was seriously wrong. My tv still hasn't arrived so I am feeling very frustrated, my evenings have been filled with reading and time with Margaret. Margaret (Bessai), whom I may regularly refer, is my partner of nearly 4 years. She moved here with me. She has a degree in visual arts and frequently assists me with my animation or other aspects of my films.

     Regarding the film festival; I really wanted to avoid the chaos of the big crowds until I feel more settled in my routine here. There is constant pressure to go to films there, so I suppose I will have to try.