DC's

The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Arthur Lipsett Day

 

‘Arthur Lipsett is cinema’s lost prophet. Outside of Canada, his unique legacy of work has long been forgotten. But the Montreal-born filmmaker’s masterpiece, 21-87 (1964), inspired an idea that is probably worth the GDP of a small country these days. “When George saw 21-87, a light bulb went off,” says George Lucas collaborator Walter Murch. That spark formed Lucas’s ideas for “the force” and the rest is Star Wars history. Lucas himself acknowledged the influence in a hidden code Lipsett might have appreciated – Princess Leia’s cell number on the Death Star was 2187, while the action in his dystopian sci-fi THX 1138 (1971) took place in the year 2187.

‘Growing up in suburban Montreal in the 40s, the son of Russian Jewish parents, Lipsett’s childhood was traumatic. As a young boy, he had watched his mother walk out into the snow and drink rat poison, dying days later. By the mid-50s, Lipsett was studying art at Montreal’s Musée des beaux-arts, under the wing of expressionist painter Arthur Lismer, a member of the influential “Group of Seven” art movement. On graduating, a recommendation from his mentor led to work as an editor at the National Film Board, based in Montreal’s Ville St-Laurent.

‘As the evening crept in and his co-workers began to leave, he would embark on bizarre experiments until dawn – chain-smoking and raiding the garbage, he would dig out scraps of sound and visuals, and recycle them into collages that used the cinema screen as their canvas. In 1961, the results of Lipsett’s frenzied late-night scavenging surfaced in the short film Very Nice, Very Nice (1961). In the film, Lipsett turned apparently ordinary stock images into a horror story of modern life. As washing machines, Bakelite TVs and Ford Thunderbirds rolled off conveyor belts into suburban homes, and American and Soviet relations cooled into nuclear dread, Lipsett distilled the Cold War climate into six minutes of controlled hysteria. Like some finely-tuned antenna, it portrayed Lipsett’s perception of the universe in all its absurdity, laced, as it was, with pitch-black humour. Influenced by the Beats and the cut-up technique that William Burroughs pioneered, his images of cityscapes, crowds, circus acts and hydrogen bombs jostled for space alongside a soundtrack of random conversation, heavy breathing, chanting and car horns.

‘While some critics found Lipsett’s machine-gunned images baffling, the younger generation felt he was talking their language. So did Stanley Kubrick, who sent him a letter describing Very Nice, Very Nice (1961) as “one of the most imaginative and brilliant uses of the movie screen and soundtrack that I have ever seen”. It’s rumoured that Kubrick even asked Lipsett to create the trailer for his cold-war satire Dr Strangelove (1964) and was turned down by the 25-year-old. Pablo Ferro stepped in with the now famous opening, featuring a couple of B-52s in a mile-high metallic love scene. Meanwhile, Lipsett was nominated for an Oscar in 1962, and he became something of an outsider celebrity in Montreal’s avant-garde circles. He was operating in the right place. The city may be hyped these days for its music scene (Arcade Fire’s Win Butler claims it took just two days to put a band together on arriving), but Montreal’s film scene has long been a hot-bed of homegrown talent. In keeping with its liberal attitude, the Film Board gave Lipsett free reign to conjure up his next creation, 21-87 (1964). This time, the filmmaker used his own footage as well, captured around Montreal on his Stellavox Candid Tape Recorder. For the soundtrack, field recordings, gospel music, church hymns and conversation were instinctively cut together like some wired jazz improvisation. Opening on a skull, cutting to a woman suspended from a trapeze, a corpse being sawn in half, funhouse mirrors, circus elephants and monkey astronauts, it was Lipsett’s breathtaking indictment of mass-consumerism. The film wasn’t just a portal into Lipsett’s own brain – he had plugged into, as he put it, “the collective consciousness and unconsciousness of a civilisation”. Featuring conversations with Warren S McCulloch, pioneer of artificial intelligence, and Roman Kroitor, a director who helped develop IMAX, he questioned what it is to be human in the age of technology.

‘Montreal filmmaker Eric Gaucher, who recently completed a beautifully shot documentary on Lipsett, describes him as an accidental filmmaker. “He always approached film from an artist’s perspective. He challenged mathematicians to re-edit and re-structure his films just to see what could happen,” he explains. “He was very liberal in that sense.”

‘Lipsett followed up with Free Fall (1964), inspired by a Dylan Thomas poem and intended as a collaboration with avant-garde composer John Cage, employing his use of “chance music”. With its rapidly edited flashes of disconnected faces on city streets and sunlight streaming through trees, Lipsett talked about his film as an attempt to “hold time together” and described his intentions in typically apocalyptic language – “An attempt to express in filmic terms an intensive flow of life – a vision of a world in the throes of creativity… a visual bubbling of picture and sound operating to create a new continuity of experience… it is as if all clocks ceased to tick – summoned by a big close-up or fragment of a diffuse nature – strange shapes shine forth from the abyss of timelessness.”

‘Next came the time-capsule A Trip Down Memory Lane (1965), followed by Fluxes (1969) and N-Zone (1970), each film becoming progressively darker. Fluxes (1969) featured newsreel footage of the architect of the Final Solution, Adolf Eichmann, recorded over a soundtrack of 50s science-fiction dialogue. By the time Lipsett completed N-Zone (1970), with its repeated chant “In ten years, Margery has not slept once” playing over pictures of dead animals and injured dogs, the NFB was beginning to find his vision of life impossibly bleak. At the same time, Lipsett’s mental health was rapidly deteriorating. He resigned from the Film Board in 1978, and began to grow increasingly paranoid with the onset of chronic schizophrenia.

‘After his move to a house overlooking an enormous cemetery, Lipsett’s life story grows hazy. He found himself in and out of hospitals and on and off medication. He briefly returned to cinema once, with an idea for a film on “the occupation of corners”, but it never materialised. After a series of failed attempts at suicide (what he called his “little experiments”), he took his own life in 1986, just before his 50th birthday.

‘Over two decades later, his films remain available only at the expansive National Film Board archive. While the likes of experimental filmmakers Bruce Conner or Maya Deren find ever-expanding audiences, Lipsett has fallen through the cracks. Gaucher’s vital documentary (some of which was shot with Lipsett’s own Bolex) is only the second attempt to analyse his life on film. Record company Honest Jon’s valued Lipsett’s soundtracks highly enough to release a limited-edition compilation on vinyl, but outside of a small filmmaking community, the man once described as the William Blake of cinema remains an enigmatic figure. “His films generate a severe emotional reaction to humanity,” says Gaucher. “That’s what I get out of most people who watch them.” For all his contemplation of spiritual disillusionment, Lipsett found the human warmth in what he described as “the super-machine age” and it still resonates today.’ — Hannah Lack, Dazed Digital

 

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Stills









































 

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Further

Arthur Lipsett Great Director profile • Senses of Cinema
Arthur Lipsett @ NFB
Arthur Lipsett @ IMDb
The Spiritual Disenchantment of the Super Machine Age
A Clown Outside the Circus
Reflections From the Social Dystopia: Films by Arthur Lipsett
The End
HOW ARTHUR LIPSETT INFLUENCED GEORGE LUCAS’S CAREER
Arthur Lipsett @ Light Cone
ARTHUR LIPSETT, SOUNDTRACKS
Making meaning with images: tools, resources and inspiration for visual communication
The Subtle Reference in The Force Awakens to the Art Film That Inspired Star Wars
Do Not Look Away: The Life of Arthur Lipsett
Transcending the Documentary: The Films of Arthur Lipsett
On Arthur Lipsett
Experimental Film Through the Eyes of Arthur Lipsett
From Compilation to Collage: The Found-Footage Films of Arthur Lipsett
Remembering Arthur Lipsett: The Collage Makes the Man
The Arthur Lipsett Project: A Dot on the Histomap.

 

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Extras


Trailer for “Remembering Arthur”, a documentary film


Lipsett Diaries – A Discussion with Theodore Ushev and Chris Robinson (Making of)


Les Journaux de Lipsett

 

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Bruce Conner interviewed about Arthur Lipsett
from INCITE!

 

Amelia Does: I was wondering if you could talk about Arthur Lipsett and compare some of the films. Do you remember seeing Very Nice, Very Nice (1961)?

Bruce Conner: Yes, I remember seeing Very Nice, Very Nice, and some of Lipsett’s films in 1964-65 in Montreal. I met him only briefly–for no more than about ten minutes–and I thought he was a rather intense person and very much in a critical frame of mind. He seemed to have bitterness as well at times. But otherwise he seemed a nice person to me.

AD: Did he tell you that he had seen your works?

BC: I’m sure he had seen my films. He was headed in the same sort of direction that I was. Looking over his films in general, I see a number of things that could be derivative from my films. A Movie and Cosmic Ray, which I completed in 1961, were totally unique films and nobody had made anything quite like them before. So when I saw more films like mine following that period, that use some of the same techniques, I could recognize the films as being like my films.

Many times I felt it difficult to recognize if somebody might be making films like mine, whereas another person might think so. But there were certain technical aspects in the way the films were made that became noteworthy: [using material] shot by other people, movies that are part of the [everyday] environment–documentaries, feature films, travelogues, sports films, all sorts of material–and assembling them sort of like a collage, not in a perfectly logical manner, dissertation, story form, etc, but using them in a number of different ways–for instance, a poetic manner–creating relations that might have to do with form, images, and perhaps a general context.

AD: Do you remember seeing Very Nice, Very Nice and being struck by the fact that it was made up of a lot of photos?

BC: Well, I’ve seen people using photographs before. He [Lipsett] used a lot of various filming techniques like dissolves, where one image merges with another image, sort of like that kind of thing people do on computers now with different images, merging them together. You can see that sort of transformation. I thought we had some kind of commonality in terms of themes: anti-war, anti-Bomb.

Prior to A Movie in 1958, I don’t think people used black leader as a film element except to fade-out; if the screen went black it was to indicate an accident. So to use that for a purpose in A Movie was very unique at that time, as well as making the film out of disparate elements. Also, utilizing the character of film itself, the structure and form of it, its scratches and flares, and differences from one print to another–usually these were considered to be defects, but I was using these as tools, as effects! I don’t know if this was entirely all my invention; people were becoming more and more concerned with film and using characteristics of film that were not considered professional.

Arthur used a little bit of that but not much, due to the fact that he was using film footage or clips that were in much better condition than mine. He had access to more pristine material at the National Film Board. Of course myself and other filmmakers were using 16mm and 8mm, and as filmmakers in the United States we were quite envious of a government-sponsored organization like the Film Board that would sponsor and encourage the kind of films that Arthur and others were making at that time. In a way there is a little bit of contrast between my films and Arthur’s because of his access to technology and expertise and funding. I had to pay for everything that I did. I paid for everything I made and the items personally. So you’ll see splice marks, and the material that I spliced was not copied into work prints, and every time I would make a splice, I would lose a picture, and running it through the projector would produce scratches. But I decided that this was inevitable, like antiquing furniture, or antiquing collected patinas, or a Chinese bronze–as I discovered, it’s the character of the film–it varies from perfect even when it’s a brand new print, projected for the first time. The presentation is always variable.

I also tried to conform my images to music. In a couple of cases there were words, like in my film Report, about the assassination of President Kennedy, but my films were more like visual mimes or performances that used music to hold them together, creating a visual and oral dance.

The unique thing about Arthur’s work, and what is interesting to me, because I was getting involved with using “concrete” electronic or experimental music at that time (in San Francisco and Massachusetts in 1965), and I had myself purposely taken my money from the Ford Foundation grant for filmmaking–a windfall from 1964­–and decided to spend all the money on doing sound recordings, editing, and that type of work. Arthur was doing more sound editing and creating new relationships between sound and picture.

AD: So you liked his films?

BC: Well, I was interested, since that is where I was going at the time. However, I abandoned that direction after my Ford Foundation grant. I decided that I’d ruin my reputation as a filmmaker if I used one of these sound collages in a film that I hoped would do that–a notorious film that would create riots and possibly destroy it.

Now, one point where I think Arthur’s films [diverge] with mine, is of course the sound editing, and also his predilections toward using a lot of Oriental imagery, Asian imagery, Asian religion, Asian politics, Asian performance. I don’t think I use as much. Another point is that Arthur would make much longer films than I would. My films were ten seconds, three minutes–the longest film I ever made by 1976 was thirteen minutes. Most of them were around three or four minutes long.

AD: Is there a reason that you return to collage filmmaking periodically in your career?

BC: Well, economically. I can’t afford to make films very often. And I do all the work myself, so I have to put everything else on the sidelines [when I’m making films]. There’s no way of making any money in this, though, so if I’m making a living, I have to do that [filmmaking] some other way. I’m also into exhibiting other artists.

When I make films, it’s because it’s an appropriate medium for me at that moment, or there’s an interest that I feel I have to work at through film. I don’t just make them for myself–I figure I have to if I am going to be producer, writer, director, cameraperson, editor, and distributor of these films, for my entire life. I usually haven’t made films that I don’t expect to see again and again. It’s not like doing a drawing or painting: you exhibit it and that’s it. They [films] do have a longer life.

AD: I feel that Arthur Lipsett could have improved some of his work, but also accessed something great in a perfect form of his own expression. Do you feel that artists do that sort of… when they access their truest form of expression?

BC: Well, I think that people do something great depending on your definition of “great.” [Laughs.]

AD: I feel that some people are lucky that they find what is true to their own lives to freshen up their will or spirit.

BC: If that’s what people value and consider great then–I can’t get into discussions about what is great. Material that was considered absolutely great in the past is now so obscure and uninteresting that nobody will have anything to do with it. We are always involved with our contemporary judgment. You know, it’s nice to have certain constant principles in making various objects and talking about them but it’s deceptive if you start presupposing that they are universal principles.

AD: I was speaking more from a personal view about an artist. Does a true expression happen all the time?

BC: Well, hopefully it happens all the time.

AD: Are you surprised that Arthur’s work is getting more recognition?

BC: Well, I am surprised that anyone is paying attention. [Laughs.] There are so many works and films from the past that have disappeared so quickly, and there are so many that go through the time or period without receiving much attention. I’ve run into people who have refused to listen to old music recordings, people who have refused to watch old black and white movies, because they’re old, and they’re not stereo sound and widescreen and have all the things that are considered very important now. I channel my views–my stance is being outside what is in fashion at the time, all the time. And I would like to feel that a rationale for preserving material and still showing it over a period of time–I make an assumption that time is on my side.

AD: Did you ever make any plans for your film projects?

BC: Very, very, very seldom. The only time I did was when I applied for the Ford Foundation grant and did nothing but fantasize about films that I had no intention of making. And the only one that came close to it was: I did a whole bunch of homework to try to find footage of the first Atomic Bomb tests in Bikini Atoll in 1946. I tracked it all down and found where it was and then made a proposal for a grant, in which I described the film that ended up being Crossroads (1976). There would be no narration; it would use the same event over and over to music or sound effects. I expected it was going to be a very short film with lots of fast cutting but when I actually looked at the footage–I found shots at the National Archives of [Motion Picture Film] that would start running and the bomb would go off and it would run for eight or nine minutes. So [Crossroads] ended up being 37 minutes long, with very long takes of the same event, and music and sound–you see nobody on screen at all, there’s no text predisposing you one way or another. I think [that film] was probably the only one that was going to be close to what it was [on paper]. But I still felt that what I proposed left me plenty of leeway with sound effects and music and how I would organize them in the film and in the context that I wanted to.

AD: Is there anything else that you want to add?

BC: Well, I had heard about Arthur going through the streets with a camera with no film in it, and that he was very eccentric. You know, what he was doing has now become almost an academic cliché.

AD: What do you mean?

BC: The type of thing called performance art. It’s got to the point where, if you really want some money to do something, to get grants to do environments, performance pieces, etc, etc–hopefully with a lot of television sets around–that seems to be what funding organizations put out money for. It’s almost like a hobby-craft activity, where somebody says, Oh, I want to do this thing where I am wearing a heavy overcoat and filming with a camera that has no film in it, and maybe they would explain why they would want to do this, and why people would react to this on the street.

It’s hard to verbalize this sort of thing when you don’t have the language to be able to do so. What I’m talking about now is something that I wouldn’t have been able to talk about in the 1960s. For one thing, I was doing work before there were names for it: conceptual, environmental, assemblage performance pieces, etc, etc. We didn’t have any terms for these. So instead, people related to it as crazy. And people who were doing it didn’t necessarily have a way to explain what it was either, and I wouldn’t be able to!

I think the difference between socially unacceptable behavior and socially acceptable behavior is whatever kind of insanity that the current society and culture considers to be worthwhile, and as long as you fit in there you can continue [to act] absolutely out-of-your-mind, which seems to be the case too many times. [Slight laughter.] I got to go.

 

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8 of Arthur Lipsett’s 13 films

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Strange Codes (1974)
Strange Codes, Lipsett’s final completed film wherein he films himself alone within the confines of his apartment, will come two years later, but he was already preparing for his early death in N-Zone. Through his films (especially his late films), I get the impression that I’m seeing secrets and private abstractions that are never completely revealed, but are definitely felt, sometimes overwhelmingly so. Perhaps a source of this worldview is the fact that Lipsett witnessed the suicide of his mother at the age of ten? In any case, he was diagnosed with chronic paranoid schizophrenia in 1982, and (reportedly after several attempts) committed suicide in 1986, making this the twentieth year since his death.’ — Mubarak Ali




the entire film

 

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N-Zone (1970)
‘Arthur Lipsett’s N-Zone is the longest, loosest and last of the collage films he produced at Canada’s National Film Board (NFB). It marks the end-point of his trajectory from feted young genius to discarded problem child/eccentric within the NFB. Lipsett’s N-Zone begs comparison as poor cousin to Chris Marker’s Zone in Sans Soleil (1982) and Tarkovsky’s in Stalker (1979). So let’s try to get to the question of what the film means; the idea of fleeing from one’s self clearly fits in with an erasure or refusal that is communicated to me by N-Zone. We are witness to Lipsett’s psyche hitting the wall. This is a not a celebratory experience. The N-Zone is a landscape of fumbling denials. A sense of “non-being” is communicated, a state often situated within the colonial experience: It is The Seekers singing “Island of Dreams” without the dreams. There is no magical inner chamber called “The Room” within the “Zone” as in Tarkovsky’s Stalker, where your innermost wishes are granted. Here your dreams don’t come true. Towards the end of the film, some footage is repeated of two men in white coats passing through a gate marked with a nuclear danger sign. They methodically inspect and record details of the plants in this fenced-off zone. Is this what is left of the asylum? In the end we are left hanging with the thought that Lipsett became what he collected: a discarded reflection suspended in a landscape of denial.’ — Senses of Cinema


the entire film

 

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Fluxes (1969)
‘This experimental short conveys avant-garde filmmaker Arthur Lipsett’s view of the human condition and the chaotic planet on which we live. As in his other films (Very Nice, Very Nice; 21-87), the flow of images in Fluxes seems somewhat disjointed and erratic — yet it all builds up to a devastating indictment of the modern world. The film’s only commentary consists of unrelated snatches of words and sounds.’ — NFB


the entire film

 

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A Trip Down Memory Lane (1965)
‘A surrealist time capsule combining fifty years of newsreel footage, A Trip Down Memory Lane was Lipsett’s first pure collage film, composed exclusively from stock image and sound from the NFB bins. Continuing his process of excavation, mediation and transformation, the film constitutes a brief audiovisual tour of the post-war technocracy. “Another incisive look at human might, majesty, and mayhem,” reads the NFB catalogue description. “The filmmaker calls this a time capsule, but his arrangement of pictures makes it almost explosive. There are hundreds of items, once front-page stuff, but all wryly grotesque when seen in this reshuffle of the past.”’ — no.w.here


the entire film

 

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21-87 (1964)
‘It would be easy to perform a logical and technical analysis of Canadian artist Arthur Lipsett’s 1964 film 21-87. One could describe the different issues that he confronted in his film and their importance within the social-political context of the late 50s and early 60s. Many interesting articles could be written on his incredible sound montage and strong film editing skills of recovered images. However, each of these approaches would merely be surface analyses of the images and sounds that compose the film. They would address the facts and flat truths of the fragmented images, but would entirely miss the film’s deeper meaning, its powerful psychological effects and its artistic inspiration. In fairness, Lipsett’s film illustrates a technical and artistic capacity for creating ‘collage’ films. 21-87 is entirely composed of found footage and cuts of film that were discarded in the editing process. Lipsett then interwove and juxtaposed these fragments of film with an original patchwork soundtrack. The structure of the films is integral in communicating the potent connections between the images and ideas. Within the convention of 60s avant-garde collage films, his work reacted against the dominant ideologies of the time. Like Bruce Conner, another collage-style avant-garde filmmaker, Lipsett exploited images that typified the concerns, creations and insecurities of contemporary society; images of science and technology, images of war and destruction and images and sounds of religion. Lipsett was especially interested in representing industrial dehumanization, the decline of religion, non-American religious traditions, consumerism, apocolyptic thinking and man’s senseless pursuit of self-annihilation. However, to limit the discussion of 21-87 to the context of a typical collage film would be superficial. Some collage films, such as Conner’s, are certainly more visually interesting and technically precise. However, they fail to make a strong psychological connection with the viewer. In contrast, Lipsett’s films possess the ability to psychologically and emotionally affect the viewer. This powerful effect in accomplished because his films are an emotional reaction, not simply to the historical and institutional context of their creation, but to the condition of his mind. In this way, 21-87, transcends the category of avant-garde collage statement films to become an unconventional psychodrama. The film 21-87 does not adopt a trance or dream structure like Maya Deren’s or Stan Brakhage’s films. Lipsett does not need the conventional special effects or photographic illusions because the editing structure of 21-87 is sufficient to create a convincing portrait of his depression and despair. His film is an intensely personal portrayal of the mind of a hyper aware individual. It was not Lipsett’s intention to depict the world as an inherently terrible place for everyone, but simply a terrible place for himself, through his interpretation. He shares his interpretation by combining the images and sounds that saturate everyday contemporary life into an overwhelming statement guided by personal insight. Though his insights became increasingly illogical and paranoid, the clairvoyance of his vision and his talent for self expression are demonstrated by his remarkable ability to create a personal narrative experience from banal and impersonal fragments.’ — cs.ccgill


the entire film

 

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Free Fall (1964)
‘Arthur Lipsett’s nine-minute experimental film Free Fall (1964) is exemplary of what might be considered both an artistic and a spiritual project. Although he may not have fully realised it, Lipsett was using media as a ritual or gateway, acting as medium and prophet, and reaching into the subconscious of humanity. With his films, he created a trance-like experience for the viewer. Lipsett’s signature collages of images and sounds shift focus from the predominantly storytelling dimensions of film to something entirely different, a multi-sensory experience in which the viewer is purposely confronted with material that provokes thought, insight, emotion, contemplation, etc. He was concerned with spiritual, philosophical, ethical, moral, historical, epistemological, and political questions, without assuming the answers. Like a shaman, Lipsett entered into the unknown thematically and technically, exploring new territories in the medium with a focus on indeterminacy and dissonance. Collage is a form that emphasises the work carried out by the viewer; you are expected to derive your own interpretation from the materials the artist presents to you.’ — Senses of Cinema


the entire film

 

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Very Nice, Very Nice (1961)
‘Like all of his films, Very Nice, Very Nice disrupts the representational value of documentary image and sound, moving beyond the genre’s aesthetic codes of truth and reliability. The result is a sardonic re-reading of 1950s consumerism, mass media and popular culture. For example, over an anonymous claim that, “People always seem unwilling to become involved in anything… I mean really involved”, Lipsett shows the burnt corpse of a probable war casualty followed by two shots of different women looking down and away. We then hear another voice saying, “Almost everyone has a washing machine, a drying machine.” Seconds later we see a man holding a placard reading, “The End is at Hand”. Over a comic image of U.S. Air Force jets stacked up to the sky we hear mocking laughter at the suggestion that “the situation is getting worse”. And against a clip of McLuhan’s statement that, “People who have made no attempt to educate themselves live in a kind of dissolving phantasmagoria of a world”, Lipsett dissolves several blurry, disinterested faces into one another. These examples of “vertical montage”, as Sergei Eisenstein described the moment-to-moment juxtaposition of a film’s audio and visual tracks, indicate how sound influences a shot’s signification. William Wees observes that in found footage films such as those of Lipsett and Abigail Child, “the incongruity of sound and image expose, satirise, and produce new readings of the banalities, cliches and conventional modes of discourse – verbal and visual – that are endemic to the mass media.” The critique of mass media is an important aspect of Lipsett’s work, although such a critique is easily undermined in our age of self-conscious advertising campaigns and political spin. I wonder if similar films could be made using today’s images – or is the media itself now too saturated in postmodern irony? The images of the repulsive and often overlooked damage left by both war and technological progress which punctuate Very Nice, Very Nice give the film its lasting punch. History has had the final word on the atom bomb, the space race, Richard Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller and John F. Kennedy, and it is not flattering. But as Lipsett’s narrator asserts at film’s end, “The more determined of us are doing something about it. Warmth and brightness will return, a renewal of the hopes of men.” Although they cut against the film’s grain, these concluding remarks suggest the possibility of an optimistic worldview while underlining the importance of active, political engagement. Throughout Very Nice, Very Nice Lipsett’sresolute cynicism is offset by tender, affirmative moments of humour and humanity: images of children at play and the upbeat sounds of jazz music (complemented by shots of – is that the tenor saxophonist, John Coltrane?). It is not incongruous, then, that two of the film’s working titles were “Strangely Elated” and “Revelation”. Most importantly, these sequences place a clear value on individual expression as an act of creative resistance.’ — Senses of Cinema


the entire film

 

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Hors-d’oeuvre (1960)
‘A collection of short cartoons produced by NFB animators. One-minute clips for government sponsors provide an amusing, fast-paced sampling of animation techniques. Among them are reminders about television programs, traffic safety rules, and the Department of Labour’s admonition, “Why wait for spring? Do it now.”‘ — Light Cone


the entire film

 

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p.s. Hey. ** Dooflow, Hi, Dooflow! Really nice to see you! My pleasure about the Stadler spotlight, and sanity is definitely the goal. Thank you. I hope you’re doing great. What’s up? ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Ha, I’m so staying away from that M/B topic given that it has caused havoc in this blog in the past. Barbara Hammer has a newish documentary about Elizabeth Bishop that forefronts her romantic/sexual preferences and that I think you might quite like if you haven’t seen it. ** Sypha, Ha ha, it seems you can not escape my smart aleckry. Sorry. ** Jamie, An excellent post-sunrise to you, sir. Saturday’s Writing Gang meet: yay! Hm, tough questions — and thank you for answering mine — , let’s see … Most inspiring thing: I read Gary Lutz’s new little book ‘Assisted Living’ yesterday, and I think he’s probably the most exciting living prose writer in English, and his new stories are as mindboggling as ever, and they drove me crazy, so I think that’s surely the most inspiring yesterday thing. Favorite color: My favorite color changes all the time and always has. I think right now my favorite is ‘coin gray’. If I could instantaneously learn a musical instrument right now, uh, it would be whatever app or software our whatever it is that noise musicians use to make their music. I don’t have any more questions for you today only because I’m rushing a bit to finish before our film auditions start, but I probably will tomorrow because of my questionnaire fetish, as well as, of course, out of curiosity. Joshua Sanchez’s next film is a fiction film about David Wojnarowicz, which should be pretty amazing. Yesterday was just film work and prep for the auditions and stuff. I didn’t end up seeing Joshua. I think he got too busy or something. Cool, wish Hannah ultra-luck from me re: her lecture, which I’m sure she won’t need. What was it about? How did it go? Love returned, Dennis. ** Steevee, Hi. I hope the Kristi Jacobson interview went really well. You can talk about the Trump fear and stuff here without trepidation. The flurry of continuing horrors is very hard to know how to cope with and respond to, although people are, thank fucking god. We’ll see. ** Toniok, Hi, man! Thanks for jogging me into making the post. Thank you! I don’t think I’ve even heard of Cordwainer Smith. I feel like that’s a name I would remember. I’ll look into him. Thanks a lot for the alert, pal. ** Kevin Killian, Mr. Killian! A great, great honor, always, to have you here in my other friends’ and my little pad. Of course I was happy to add some overhead light to Matthew’s book/work. No, I’ve been meaning to get myself a copy of ‘Sperm Cult’, and you have successfully raised that desire to a level of consciousness whereby I will order it, or what is required, today. I’m obviously excited for it, given those two powerhouses. Take care, dear friend! ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! My bad moods tend to last really short times, and always have. I’m lucky. I have this kind of central cheerfulness or something that eats negativity away or something. You feel even better today? I think Zac does, thanks to attacking the bug with pharmaceuticals. No, I haven’t solved the bank problem yet. Ugh, But the apartment search is starting to get back in full swing. I should re-upload the old escort and slave posts. I don’t think that will be so hard since I think I organized the images in files. There are so many of them though, I’m not sure where to start, ha ha. Have a great day! How was it? ** Suzy V, Hi! Undergrad applying, right. Well, I hope the American University of Paris is the winner. I’ve known people who were students there in the past, and I think they quite liked it. Plus, Paris is fantastic. Have you been here? I love it and highly recommend it as a place to be. Plus, we could hang out. So that’s my two cents. Wrong, right! Cool, I’ll go over to the bandcamp page and indulge, starting with the 2014 demo. Thank you! What’s the Wire cover? I love Wire. And it’s exciting that you’re working on a novella or a story grouping. So you’re doing really good! That’s heartening to know. Anyway, cool, it’s really nice getting to talk with you. Awesome! Have a really swell day! ** Raymond, Hi, Raymond! Thanks a lot, I’m glad it intrigued you. What’s going on with you? ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Nah, you weren’t snarky, man. ‘Odyssey and Oracle’ is kind of a benchmark record of the ambitious rock/pop/psychedelic era. If that’s a thing one is interested in, it’s pretty great and seminal. ** Kier, Hey! I like deaden. I mean obviously, ha ha. I like a ‘sounder’ of slaves, and I think, based on how frequently they throw the word pig around, they would be cool with that term. I’m glad your magical bed position seems to have helped. I have to move because the previous owners of this flat where I live sold it to some new person who wants to move in here, so I’m getting kicked out. It sucks. I love this place, but alas. In a new place, I’m just looking anything central, ideally in the 4th, 3rd, or 10th arr., that’s not too small or expensive. I can’t be too picky. Really excited to talk to you in a bit. Don’t be nervous. Zac’s as friendly and chill as I am. It’ll be fun! See/talk to you very soon! Big love, me. ** New Juche, Hi, Joe. The guy who did Void Books just decided to kill it not too long after ‘The Sluts’ came out. Not sure why. Now he’s doing stuff in fashion. It was a great press, and it’s a loss. Yes, ‘The Sluts’ was republished after that ltd. ed. version in a normal version the States by this publisher Carroll & Graf. They folded, but I guess some other publisher took on their books because I think the book is still in print. I’m well, and I hope you are too! ** Statictick, Hi. I have no clue about Jesse. He kind of forcibly cut off everybody. I hear he’s on Facebook, but he’s not in my friends group. Ugh about your friend Amy’s legal mishap. Yeah, that’s stupid, and, yeah, the South, at least these days. ** Misanthrope, Hi. Oh, I think Matthew’s humor has been noted? Wow, you’re as nerdy about words and phrases as I am, cool. I feel less alone and weird. Being over here, you really realize how vague and kind of meaningless a lot of common American sayings are. I’ll just toss out some phrase everybody says in the States without thinking, and even people who speak really good English like Gisele or Zac will say. ‘Why does that mean?’ And then I’ll have to think about it and realize that it doesn’t really mean anything, It’s weird. Wow, your placement on that escalator was very fortuitous indeed. Lucky kiddo. Gold star for you. ** Jeff J, Hi, Jeff. We haven’t cast anyone officially yet. We have this guy we really want for the lead role, but we haven’t offered him the role yet. We will tomorrow and pray he accepts. Otherwise, we’re still looking for people for every role. We have some real possibilities, but I think we’ll be doing auditions for at least another week or two before we’ve got our line-up. If the guy we want for the main role says yes, I’ll feel pretty good. I feel pretty confident that we’ll find really good people for the main roles based on how interesting the ones we’ve auditioned so far have been. Angela Schanelec: hm, I don’t think I know her work. Hm. I’ll investigate. Cool, thank you! Clarity is key and a very hard thing to come by in general at the moment, yikes. ** B, Hi. That silver lining is indeed pretty much all there is to hope for and count on. At least that aspect is very promising, obviously. We’re in the midst of auditions and will be for a while. We have more today, some tomorrow, probably on Saturday too, and then, next week, we’ll travel to the shooting area in Caen to auditions performers from that area. We feel pretty positive about how it’s going. Good, great, that the salon went well, and, most importantly, that your play was well received! Congrats, man! Of course I’d love to read it. Honestly, I’m swamped out to the max so it will take me no short amount of time to read it, but, yes, I’m very intrerested to. Warm thoughts back! ** H, Hi. Oh, fantstic about your interview with Mike! I need to get that book asap, like … today! I’ll greedily read the interview as soon as I come up for some air, hopefully tonight or tomorrow. Everyone, the fine and honorable H has interviewed the fantastic writer and longtime, occasional d.l. of this blog M Kitchell about his new book ‘Hour of the Wolf’. A real meeting of the amazing minds right there, so do click this and read the interview. Plus, a new book by Mr. Kitchell is always an event, so there’s that too. Thanks! ** Right. Today’s focus is on the fascinating and kind of under-acknowledged filmmaker Arthur Lipsett, who famously and heavily influenced George Lucas, even though their work would seem to have pretty much zero in common. Anyway, he’s very worth investigating, if you feel like it. See you tomorrow.

16 Comments

  1. Hi!

    You really are lucky, then! I’d say my bad moods are usually quite short, too, but I tend to fall into a kind of ‘grey’ mood sometimes and it can last a bit longer.
    Yes! I feel better and better! I’m glad Zac does too!
    This must be so annoying, especially with how much else you have to work on right now. I do hope you find a solution and an apartment too, soon!
    Ah, that would be awesome!! I mean if you re-uploaded them. I can imagine, though, that it’s a bit tricky because of how many of them are waiting in line, hah.
    I’m just about to head out for another interview; I hope it’ll go well! I’ll tell you tomorrow!
    How was your day? I hope it was great!

  2. Bonjour, Dennis.
    Hannah says thanks for your good wishes. Her lecture was great, thanks for asking. It was a kind of introduction to the nouveau romain and the the thinking that went with that and it was genuinely fascinating. I think you might have liked it – she referenced a few books that you’ve mentioned around here. She was a total natural and I was very proud and smitten.
    I’m so excited by today’s post that I’m tempted to try and play some of these films on my clapped out laptop. The sound right up my street. I always get a little upset hearing about folk becoming schizophrenic. I think it’s one of my big fears. Thanks a lot for another great post, man.
    Yes, yes, yes to Joshua Sanchez making a film about David Wojnarowicz, another artist about whom I know a little, but really like everything I’ve heard.
    I’ve been looking at Gary Lutz books too. Do you have any recommendations?
    I’d like to ask you three more questions, but I can’t think of any. Maybe tomorrow. Coin-grey is a funny choice for favourite colour, I say. I like it.
    I’m sure you’ve already blabbed about your Thursday, so I’ll look above. You got Friday plans? I’m going to the dentist.
    Hope you’re all good and the film prep’s going well.
    Lots of love to you!
    Jamie

  3. Hi, D. Another great post! I thought his name was familiar, and then I read the Walter Murch quotation and remembered that’s where I must have heard about him. Life’s nice with me. My wife’s having our first baby sometime really soon (any time now, in fact); I’m doing a lot of DIY to satisfy her requirements for how the house should be, as the nesting instinct has hit her with a vengeance. DIY is a lot more exhausting than I ever realised. Other than that, I’ve been reconnecting with the experimental poetry community here in London and doing some work with the Labour Party’s shadow cabinet (fortunately, not with any of the ones who’ve been doing their best to fuck Jeremy Corbyn). God, I really hope that this current left-wing moment we’re having in the UK doesn’t end up getting snuffed out by a combination of right-wing vitriol and Labour Party infighting. I really think there’s a chance for success, as there was with Bernie in the US. A slim one, but one nevertheless… Anyway, re the poetry, it’s good to see that the London scene hasn’t changed much in the last few years. I read something at an event a few weeks ago, which felt good, as I was able to do it with more confidence than I had been able to muster in the past. I also bought and read a collection that I quite liked: The Odes to TL61P by Keston Sutherland. Have you heard of it? I found much of it quite exciting, which I don’t normally feel about the work coming from that Cambridge/Brighton axis of poets. Hope you’re super well, speak soon.

    • PS – have you ever done/would you ever consider doing a Coil post on the blog? (Random associative thought leading from today’s post on Lipsett’s collage films to thinking about Harry Smith to thinking about that Coil track ‘Sex With Sun Ra’ which mentions him…) Fuck, I love Coil. If you ever did do this, I’d be happy to contribute a bit of bonus material (it’d give me a good excuse to do an interview I’ve been planning for a long time with some musicians who used to live with Peter Christopherson in Tottenham…)

  4. Wow, Void Books, haven’t seen that name in awhile. Didn’t they only put out like 3 or 4 books (“The Sluts” and 3 or so Sotos books)? I think I had them all! One of my biggest regrets in life was when I just gave away my Void hardcover copies of “Selfish, Little” and “Comfort and Critique.” No way am I ever getting those back… ah well, at least I still have my HC copy of “The Sluts” (numbered 72 of 550).

  5. Fabulous Arthur Lipsett Day. I saw “Very Nice Very Nice” eons ago. He’s remindful not only of Bruce Conner, but Robert Nelson and Harry Smith as well.

    Latest FaBlog: Phone Call From a Fascist

  6. There was a period when Fandor was streaming a number of Lipsett films. That’s how I saw VERY NICE, VERY NICE. An intriguing film, but I’m not sure my laptop was the best platform to see it on.

    One of the major problems with Trump is that he and his cabinet deliberately circulate a swirl of rumors and confusion around him and his plans, and many of the more fucked-up rumors turn out to be true. The reports about the anti-LGBT EO could just turn out to be an attempt to add to the chaos (and pander to his evangelical supporters without doing anything yet), but I talked to my token Republican friend today and even he agreed that Trump is starting to act like his senile father. The trouble is that he’s surrounded by a very smart, very far right cabinet.

  7. Hi Dennis

    Gotcha. Found De Capo Press edition of The Sluts for 6 quid. Ha. Or 100 quid for Void Edition. Or 360 quid for French edition. Yeah the Void books were superbly bound and put together, you really didn’t mind paying the extra. It is a real shame they didn’t keep going. The website was good too, but he wasted no time in shutting that down also.

    Have your casting auditions all finished now Dennis? What does this weekend hold in store for you? Me – work and ale.

    Sypha – me too – I had Selfish, Little and C&C, both sold on ebay long ago.

    Best

    Joe

  8. Wow Arthur Lipsett’s is a majorly interesting story, unbeknown to me until now.

  9. hey deedee, reading about arthur lipsett was very cool, i wish i could make myself watch those full films embedded there, but i have these like anxiety related attention-span issues or… attention-span related anxiety issues, or something:( but i really liked the reading part:) it was so weird and nice to see you today! like wow really nice, and so nice to ‘meet’ zac, he’s a cutie and a sweetie. i’m so excited and so happy ’bout the thing!! like !!! big happy! did you have any more audition luck post-skype? i hope your guy accepts the gig tomorrow! i’m finally going to school again tomorrow, like i mentioned, and i’m gonna do my writing thing, wish me luck. looking for a place to move is the worst mostly i think, there’s like a little bit of good stuff, but mostly it’s a stressful suckfest. i’m about to unfold this sofa i’m on into a bed and go to sleep. nighty night, hugs kier

  10. I really liked this article, which gets at the currently popular mindset that’s led to MANCHESTER BY THE SEA being condemned as white supremacist and SILENCE as colonialist: http://filmmakermagazine.com/101541-anti-art-criticism-in-the-age-of-trump/. It’s true that Richard Linklater now looks like a more conservative figure than he did circa DAZED AND CONFUSED, in large part because of the changing times, but BOYHOOD also gave us one of recent American cinema’s most honest representations of what it looks like to age as a woman without plastic surgery. He’s also interested in gayness, whether explicitly (BERNIE) or implicitly (EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!) At the time I interviewed Linklater for BOYHOOD, the big controversy surrounding it regarded his portrayal of Texan “God and guns” culture, so I asked him about his attitude towards guns. If I talked to him now, I’d ask him why his casts are so often white; he’s been criticized for this so often since BOYHOOD came out that he must have given it some thought by now.

  11. Yo, D,

    I’m rather embarrassed to be not that familiar with Lipsett or his influence. (I have to study this post).

    I think it would be best if I email you the mural as it develops. I saw your email addy go by the other day, and stupidly didn’t save it. If you could repeat that, many thanks.

    As for Jesse, yes he was on Facebook for about a year and a half. He deactivated his account. I think he thought his pursuit of philosophy was too heavy for a site focusing on animals and family pix. I hope he’ll like a hello on paper.

    As for Trevor, ‘youngster’ comes from the fact that he is half my age. Very intelligent dude . So…

    I did go on a brief ice sculpture hunt. Found a few that were not a big deal. I will wait a couple of weeks. I wore stomping’ boots. I still fell. Syringomyela sucks.

    Best to all.
    Njr.

  12. Yo, D,

    I’m rather embarrassed to be not that familiar with Lipsett or his influence. (I have to study this post).

    I think it would be best if I email you the mural as it develops. I saw your email addy go by the other day, and stupidly didn’t save it. If you could repeat that, many thanks.

    As for Jesse, yes he was on Facebook for about a year and a half. He deactivated his account. I think he thought his pursuit of philosophy was too heavy for a site focusing on animals and family pix. I hope he’ll like a hello on paper.

    As for Trevor, ‘youngster’ comes from the fact that he is half my age. Very intelligent dude . So…

    I did go on a brief ice sculpture hunt. Found a few that were not a big deal. I will wait a couple of weeks. I wore stomping’ boots. I still fell. Syringomyela sucks.

    Best to all.
    Njr.
    Click to Edit – 3 minutes and 9 seconds
    REPLY

  13. Dennis, Eh, like I said, anyone would’ve done it. I was just in the right place at the right time for the little guy.

    I’ve always found it interesting how other languages will have several words for an emotion like love and they all mean different variations. We just say “love” and you’re expected to know which variation is meant. We usually “get” it, of course, but it is weird to me.

    My little Filipino friend Minnie once thought I was expressing romantic love towards her when I said, “Hello, love, how are you?” She had no idea that that’s just a tiny thing we say out of friendship sometimes. I explained it to her and she understood. But at first, she was like, “HUH? WTF?” Hahaha.

  14. Hey Dennis – Great post on Arthur Lipsett. My friend Ross, who ran the Jacques Rivette website, is a huge fan of his work. He screened all his films (he could find) for me years ago and the guy is a total genius. Glad his work is now easier to see. Some of those docs and the Bruce Connor interview are new to me, so especially happy to see them here.

    You know if Connor’s films are ever going to become more available? Their absence seems like a glaring void in cinema right now.

    Did you have luck with the guy accepting the lead role? Fingers crossed for you and Zac on that.

  15. Very nice Arthur Lipsett day, Dennis. I’m not familiar with his work before.

    Funny, I was just going to ask if you’ve seen the new Gary Lutz.

    Ok, back to the salt mines.

    Bill

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