The Dead and the Undead Show

“The Dead and Undead Show,” designed and printed by Mat Brinkman

“The Dead and Undead Show,” designed and printed by Mat Brinkman

We at Magic Lantern have been digging in to hide from the cold (s)hell of winter – but it seems that we might’ve gone a bit deep this time, for we’ve unearthed not only spirits and ghouls, but Death Himself. Just like Winter, this screening is an examination of life in the seeming absence of life, and there’ll be enough fuel for thought to keep you warm throughout the coldest months. In short order, we’ve got: Dadaist ghosts, intellectual zombies, cut-n-paste cadavers, Death with a guitar, obituary interpret- ations, and transcendant autopsies. The last film on the program is a rare 16mm screening of Stan Brakhage’s The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes, and this film alone is enough to stop your heart…

FEATURING: Ghosts Before Breakfast by Hans Richter (7:00, 16mm, 1926), Afterlifers: Walking and Talking by HalfLifers (16:15, video, 2004), Engram Sepals by Lewis Klahr (6:00, 16mm, 2000), The Obituary Project by Hope Tucker (12:30, video, 2000-2004), Master of Ceremonies by Chris Sullivan (10:00, 16mm, 1987), The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes by Stan Brakhage (32:00, 16mm, 1971)

TRT: 84:00

SYNOPSIS:

Ghosts Before Breakfast by Hans Richter (7:00, 16mm, 1926) Featuring flying bowler hats, bearded men with pigtails, and a strong-willed tea set, this film is a joyful example of the supernatural in the silent era of cinema. The original version was classified and destroyed by the Nazis as “degenerate art.”

Afterlifers: Walking and Talking by HalfLifers (16:15, video, 2004) The HalfLifers exhume cinema’s favorite incarnation of mindless, decaying mortality, the Zombie, in the hopes of breathing new life into this misunderstood figure. From a panel discussion in an old TV studio to a quarantined helicopter high above California’s roll- ing hills, these life-challenged entities walk, talk, and chew over some of the more difficult questions of this “whole linear birth- death system.”

Engram Sepals by Lewis Klahr (6:00, 16mm, 2001) The dead body remembers. The Tibetan book of the dead meets film noir. An elliptical narrative of adultery and corporate espionage set to a score by Morton Feldman and shot in high contrast B&W. There’s a glimpse of Eternity in those deep, luminous blacks…

The Obituary Project by Hope Tucker (12:30, video, 2000-2004) An obituary, as much a work of fiction as it is non-fiction, is traditionally a place where one’s social contribution is whittled down to its barest form, where the last ninety years of a life can become eclipsed by an escape from a burning building. A French porn star surrounded by exploitation with a large but anonymous fan base might have no obituary at all, garnering only an AP wire report. Outside the realm of the obituary, a songwriter’s identity remains as unfamiliar as his motives for penning a familiar holiday standard.

Master of Ceremonies by Chris Sullivan (10:00, 16mm, 1987) A house on a lonely road catches on fire in the middle of the night; despite their best efforts all perish and make a reluctant transform- ation into the spirit world. This film is about forgiving Death as a janitor of the planet. Death has no morals, and no mercy. But in his guilt, Death puts on a variety show for his victims. Drawn on black paper with silver pencil.

The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes by Stan Brakhage (32:00, 16mm, 1971) In the fall of 1971 I began photographing in the Allegheny Coroner’s Office in downtown Pittsburgh. Thanks to the help of Sally Dixon, head of the Film Department at the Carnegie Museum, and the kind cooperation of Coroner Wecht, I was to be permitted to photograph Autopsy – a term which comes from the Greek meaning: “The act of seeing with one’s own eyes.” – Stan Brakhage

“… Stan Brakhage, entering, with his camera, one of the forbidden, terrific locations of our culture, the autopsy room. It is a place wherein, inversely, life is cherished, for it exists to affirm that no one of us may die without knowing exactly why. All of us, in the person of the coroner, must see that, for ourselves, with our own eyes.”

“What was to be done in that room, Stan? And then, later, with the footage? I think it must have been mostly to stand aside: to ‘clear out,’ as much as possible, with the baggage of your own expectations, even, as to what a work of art must look like; and to see, with your own eyes, what coherence might arise within a universe for which you could decree only the boundaries.” – Hollis Frampton