Film Club

March 27, 2012 , 7PM, Free

Czech and Other Experimental Films Now and Then

Short films by Amos Poe, Svatopluk Innemann, Alexander Hackenschmied

Curated by Jaroslav Andel

Q&A – Jaroslav Andel and Amos Poe


Prague Shining in Lights (Praha v záři světel)

Dir. Svatopluk Innemann, 1928, 26 min

Aimless Walk (Bezúčelná procházka)

dir. Alexander Hackenschmied, 1930, 10 min

Empire II

dir. Amos Poe, 2003, excerpt, 40 min

Czech and Other Experimental Films Now and Then

Yesterday’s experiments have often turned into today’s canons. Avant-garde cinema of the 1920s and 1930s is a case in point. What was once an exciting discovery became part of everyday visual language. And yet watching some historical experimental films, one can somehow feel their originality and freshness even today. Will today’s experiments also turn canonical?

To ponder this question it is intriguing to see today’s experimental films next to historical films of the same or similar genres. For this purpose, the program of three film evenings comprises several experimental shorts in three different genres: abstract films, big city life films and narrative films. The program presents historical pictures by Czech filmmakers Alexander Hackenschmied, Otakar Vávra, František Pilát, Svatopluka Innemanna, Karel and Irena Dodals, while contemporary examples include shorts by Americans Amos Poe, Michael Joaquin Grey, Bill Morrison, British Isaac Julien, and two young Czechs Kryštof Pešek and Hana Železná.

The key Modernist concept of abstraction had a major impact on avant-garde filmmakers in Europe. As the films The Light Penetrates the Darkness by Vávra and Pilát and The Idea Seeking Light by Karel and Irena Dodals demonstrate, abstraction was often associated with technology and progress or with spiritual issues. This heritage can still be detected in the work of contemporary authors, though these interests have branched out into various directions. Here the issue of materiality of the film medium and its dramatic transformation through digital technology represents a major subject and concern.

Big city life was another key theme that attracted avant-garde artists and filmmakers.

Aimless Walk by Alexander Hackenschmied reconnects this genre to its origins by invoking the trope of flaneur. Hackenschmied’s Prague Castle provides a striking complement to Amos Poe’s Empire II, an impressive variation on Andy Warhol’s classic. The dominant architectural icons of Prague and New York emerge here as historical symbols of the European and the American city.

In narrative films, avant-garde filmmakers have come closest to the mainstream commercial cinema. Characteristically, erotic desire and fantasy occupy a major theme in this genre. Hence a juxtaposition of historical and contemporary examples reveals telling insights into changing mores and conventions of contemporary society.

~Jaroslav Andel

See also:

Czech and Other: Experimental Films Then and Now

March 13, 7pm, Spark of Being & 657 Second

March 20, 7pm, Erotica and Abstraction

Jaroslav Andel:

Ph.D. Jaroslav Andel received his Ph.D. in Art History from Charles University and his M.F.A. in Photography from the Film and Television Faculty of the Academy of the Performing Arts in Prague. As a visual artist in the1970s he had several one-person exhibitions and participated in group exhibitions of photo-based and conceptual art in Europe, Asia and the United States. In 1982 he moved from Prague to New York City, and has since has produced numerous exhibitions and publications on modern and contemporary art both in the Czech Republic and abroad. He is the co-author of Czech Modernism 1900-1945 (Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston, Texas, U.S.A. 1990) and co-editor of Cinema All the Time: An Anthology of Czech Film Theory and Criticism, 1908-1939 (Czech National Film Archive: 2008). He is the artistic director of the DOX Center for Contemporary Art in Prague.

Amos Poe is one of the leading figures of the No Wave Cinema movement (75-85) that grew out of the bustling East Village music and art scene. The No Wave paralleled the punk music explosion and included Jim Jarmusch, Abel Ferrara, Eric Mitchell, James Nares, Beth and Scott B, Vivienne Dick, Sara Driver, John Lurie, Richard Kern, Nick Zedd, Bette Gordon, Melvie Arslanian, Charlie Ahearn, among others - they embraced B-movie genres, the avant-garde, & the French New Wave to create a fresh, vibrant American art cinema.

Poe is considered by many (see John Pierson's book, "Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes", Legs McNeil's "Please Kill Me", or C. Patterson's "Captured") to be the "father" of the modern Indy American cinema. In '75 Poe and Ivan Kral (Patti Smith Group, Iggy Pop) produced, edited and shot the now classic and definitive punk film, THE BLANK GENERATION. This film chronicles the seminal performances of Richard Hell, Patti Smith, Blondie, Ramones, Talking Heads, Television, Heartbreakers, Wayne County et. al.

In '76, Poe wrote, produced, and directed his debut groundbreaking feature, UNMADE BEDS, an homage to Godard's "Breathless" and the French New Wave. In '77, using a car loan for $5,000, Poe wrote, produced and directed his most influential film, THE FOREIGNER, starring Eric Mitchell, Patti Astor, Duncan Hannah and Debbie Harry. In '79-'80 Poe concluded his "underground trilogy" with the bleakly beautiful SUBWAY RIDERS, the first foray in color. These bohemian films starred the downtown demimonde of artists, musicians and poets. During this era, Poe also directed the legendary weekly TV show, GLENN O'BRIEN'S TV PARTY.

Amos Poe – Empire

... the joint the prick the finger the needle, the eye of the empire...

a peak hypodermic.

sometime of day god shoots up on it...

do you believe in god?

he is my trainer...

save the clowns of heaven

guiding the fold

and granting us wisdom

the kingdom of bliss

the lord is my shepard i shall not want

me i just laugh i reel from my amp

the bush is in flames

but i could care less

i'm leaping lizard

leaping lizards

i'm in a hurry

i don't plug in

i'm at the finish

i'm finishing

i step up to the microphone

i have no fear

- patti smith “babel field”

Amos Poe’s EMPIRE II

NYC is a star!

This is an experimental-underground-documentary film starring New York City from my window and balcony. I began shooting on Nov. 1st 2005 (the day I moved in) and ended exactly a year later on Oct. 31st 2006. The idea was to get a 3 hour film from 60 hours (mostly time lapse) of raw capture WITHOUT editing out a frame. This was accomplished with a 2000% compression in Final Cut Pro. So it’s a year of New York in three hours. EMPIRE DUE was mostly inspired by Andy Warhol’s 1964 EMPIRE (co-directed by John Palmer, shot by Jonas Mekas). The first time I saw this film (’73?) at the Anthology Film Archives on Lafayette Street, I fell asleep two or three times during the eight hour screening. But the great thing about it was that every time I woke up I hadn’t missed a thing. It was inspirational like a lot of the films I was watching at that time, like PERSONA, or BLOW-UP or LAST TANGO IN PARIS, CONTEMPT, FACES... But Florence has a lot to do with it too. Especially Dante’s Divine Comedy, Brunelleschi’s Dome and Donatello’s and Michelangelo’s “David” – one Dave is like the Chrysler Building, the other is like the Empire State Building. So this movie is really about light, sound, and music; time and space, or time and place. As Steve Earle says, “… God, I love this town”. The funnest part of making this motion picture was working with my students and friends on the sound/music design and mix. Finally, thanks to all the artists, musicians and poets who made this possible. – Amos Poe/August 2007

Alexander Hammid (Hackenschmied)

Alexandr Hackenschmied (Hammid) (1907-2004) is one of the most significant personalities of Czech film and photograph avant-garde. In the beginning of the 30's he was a distinct promoter of world avant-garde movements and he organized one of the first avant-garde film projections in Prague, showing various films including those of Man Ray.

While in Czechoslovakia he made several short avant-garde films (Aimless Walk, Prague Castle and others) and he co-operated as a director of photography, film editor and art advisor at many other films (The Earth Sings, November and others). He published several articles on film and photography.

After his emigration to the U.S.A. in 1933 he co-operated with an American documentary filmmaker Herbert Kline. He will be always remembered as a co-director of a film Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), which he made together with his wife Maya Deren. This film is considered to be the most essential and influential film of early American avant-garde. Later he participated on other Deren's films, as a director of photography and film editor.

After 1961 he began to co-operate with Francis Thompson. Being the co-director and film editor he created several multi-projection and IMAX films for various world exhibitions.

His work as a photographer is also worth a notice even though his photography works have been reviewed only recently. His style as a photographer was influenced by the experience he acquired while being a cameraman, and his formally pure photographs are considered to be part of the Czech New Photography (together with Jiří Lehovec, Ladislav Emil Berka, Eugen Wiškovský).

Svatopluk Innemann was a Czech film director, cinematographer, screenwriter and actor. Innemann, brother of I was one of the pioneers of Czech cinema.

Innemann was born in Slovenia during their engagement, but was raised in Prague, where he studied to be a pork butcher. Around 1918 he became interested in film, and began to work as a camera operator. As cameraman, he co-created his first film with Otta Heeller. From 1919 he worked independently.

Innemann’s early career was varied; he was involved in operettas, comedies and melodramas, short films and documentaries, often as cameraman. He made his directorial debut in silent films with the fairy-tale Červená karkulka (Little Red Riding-hood) in 1920. In 1925 he directed the popular comedy Z českých mlýnů (From the Czech Mills) and made a biographical film about Josef Kajetan Tyl, , an important personality of the Czech National Revival. In 1927 he directed Milenky starého kriminálníka (The Lovers of an Old Criminal), starring the Czech actor Vlasta Burian, known in Czechoslovakia as the “King of Comedians”. He directed a total of 16 silent films: in 1931 he directed his first sound film Poslední bohém (The Last Bohemian), about the Czech writer Jaraslav Hasek, and made the popular comedy Muži v offsidu (Men in Offside) with Hugo Hass in the title role. It remains popular in the Czech Republic.

The 1932 film Před maturitou, made in cooperation with the Czech writer Vladislav Vancura, is considered Innemann’s second creative peak. In 1933, he directed the crime film Vražda v Ostrovní ulici, the first film to be made in the Barrandov Studios. His film career ended in 1937 with Švanda dudák, based on a theme by Josef Kajetán Tyl. Later, during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, he intended to perform his own play with very controversial topic (he tried to portray German leader Adolf Hitler)), but from 1940 had to undergo treatments for a mental disorder. He was one of the very few Czech filmmakers who claimed German citizenship during the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. During World War II, Innemann cooperated with the ambitious and unsuccessful Czech director and Nazi collaborator Vaclav Binovec. At the war’s end, Innemann’s wartime activities were investigated. He died on October 30, 1945 at his home in Klecany, near Prague, with the investigation incomplete.

More info: 646-422-3399

Organized by: Czech Center New York