The Magic Show

“The Magic Show,” designed and printed by Pippi Zornoza

“The Magic Show,” designed and printed by Pippi Zornoza

CURATOR MICHELLE PUETZ IN PERSON! Because “M” is for “May” and “Myth” and “Mekalekahi mekahineyho,” and because that last word is TV Genie-Speak for “Magic” which is shorthand for “Magic Lantern” which is, in turn, Rhode Island slang for “Movie,” your supernatural friends at Magic Lantern have conjured up “The Magic Show” for your wide-open eyes. Guest-curated by Michelle Puetz from the Windy City, this program makes manifest an assortment of fantastical films in which cinema is revealed as Magical Form and magic is visualized through the space of the theater.  Dearest viewers, don’t forget to bring your lucky rabbit’s foot and your amulet pouch, for you will bear witness as 16mm practices of the occult, black magic, and alchemy are brought to light at 24 frames a second. This is no sleight-of-hand trickery, and there is no rabbit in our hat – this is the true Magic of Magic Lantern, a cinema of demons and ghosts and Mick Jagger (!) and puffs of smoke and the marks of fireflies and crabs and the dance of light on the inside of your skull. Yes, dear viewer, be prepared – your eyes will bulge and your world will expand infinitely as invisible realities emerge through a Magical Explosion of Sensations!

Featuring: The Red Spectre by Ferdinand Zecca (7:00, 16mm, 1903), Our Lady of the Sphere by Larry Jordan (10:00, 16mm, 1969), Spiral Vessel by Janie Geiser (6:00, 16mm, 2000), Cat’s Cradle by Stan Brakhage (6:00, 16mm, 1959), Lachrymae by Brian Frye (3:00, 16mm, 2000), What the Water Said, Nos. 1-3 by David Gatten (16:00, 16mm, 1997-98), Early Abstractions, No. 10 by Harry Smith (6:00, 16mm, 1956), Allures by Jordan Belson (8:00, 16mm, 1961), Invocation of My Demon Brother by Kenneth Anger (11:00, 16mm, 1969)

TRT 73:00


The Red Spectre by Ferdinand Zecca (7:00, 16mm, 1903) A dazzling hand-colored black and white film from the Pathé studios at the turn of the century. In a strange grotto deep in the bowels of the earth a coffin uprights itself, dances, and opens to reveal a demonic magician with skeletal face, horns, and cape. He wraps two women (who appear to be in a trance) in fabric, levitates them, and causes them to burst into flames and disappear…

Our Lady of the Sphere by Larry Jordan (10:00, 16mm, 1969) “Animation. The mystical Lady with the orbital head moves through the carnival of life in a Surreal Adventure. A classic. Show it to anyone who likes movies.” – Larry Jordan

Our Lady of the Sphere – perhaps Jordan’s most exquisitely perfect creation – is a color collage of roccoco imagery juxtaposed with symbols of the space age. The images metamorphose, transmute, interpenetrate and otherwise change with the fluid effervescence of bubbles rising out of water, punctuated by sudden flashes of light, alarm buzzers and abrupt visual surprises. It is a mystical, jewel-like creation, like a Joseph Cornell box come to life.” – Thomas Albright, San Francisco Chronicle

Spiral Vessel by Janie Geiser (7:00, 16mm, 2000) A found psychological test kit yields puzzle figures with cutout ears, cutoff heads and pull-away parts. The ear opens into an interior world of shifting science book images which, when isolated, evoke mysteries more than they reveal facts.

Cat’s Cradle by Stan Brakhage (6:00, 16mm, 1959) “Sexual witchcraft involving two couples and a ‘medium’ cat.” – Cinema 16

Lachrymae by Brian Frye (3:00, 16mm, 2000) “Brian Frye’s Lachrymae is a film poem in which the light of fireflies functions as a tiny miracle.” – Fred Camper.

At dusk, fireflies rise from the Marble Cemetery in the Lower East Side.

“.. and yet of that living breathing throng, not one will be encased in a material frame. A company of ghosts, playing to spectral music. So may the luminous larvae of the Elysian fields have rehearsed earth’s well beloved scenes to the exiled senses of Pluto’s Queen.” — W.K.L. Dickson

What the Water Said, Nos. 1-3 by David Gatten (16:00, 16mm, 1997-98) These films are the result of a series of camera-less collaborations between the filmmaker, the Atlantic Ocean and its underwater inhabitants. For three days in January and three days in October of 1997, and again, for a day, in August of 1998, lengths of unexposed, undeveloped film were soaked in a crab trap on a South Carolina beach. Both the sound and image in What the Water Said are the result of the ensuing oceanic inscriptions written directly into the emulsion of the film as it was buffeted by the salt water, sand and rocks; as it was chewed and eaten by the crabs, fish and underwater creatures.

Early Abstractions, No. 1-5, 7, 10 by Harry Smith (6:00, 16mm, 1939-1956) “My movies are made by God; I am just the medium for them.” Harry Smith

“Smith’s films can be watched for pure color enjoyment, or for motion – Harry Smith’s films never stop moving – or you can watch them for hidden and symbolic meanings, alchemical signs.” – Jonas Mekas

“My cinematic excreta is of four varieties: – batiked abstractions made directly on film between 1939 and 1946, optically printed non-objective studies composed around 1950, semi-realistic animated collages made as part of my alchemical labors of 1957 to 1962, and chronologically superimposed photographs of actualities formed since the latter year. All these works have been organised in specific patterns derived from the interlocking beats of the respiration, the heart and the EEG Alpha component and should be observed together in order, or not at all, for they are valuable works, works that will live forever- – they made me gray.” – H.S

Allures by Jordan Belson (8:00, 16mm, 1961) “’I think of Allures,’ said Belson, ‘as a combination of molecular structures and astronomical events mixed with subconscious and subjective phenomena–all happening simultaneously. The beginning is almost purely sensual, the end perhaps total nonmaterial. It seems to move from matter to spirit in some way. Allures was the first film to really open up spatially. Oskar Fischinger had been experimenting with spatial dimensions but Allures seemed to be outer space rather than earth space.”

Invocation of My Demon Brother by Kenneth Anger (11:00, 16mm, 1969) In 1967, the footage for Anger’s Lucifer Rising was allegedly stolen by Anger’s “Lucifer”, Bobby Beausoleil, who was later convicted for his participation in the Manson murders (Beausoleil denies stealing the footage to this day). Anger went into a deep depression and publicly renounced filmmaking via a full-page “In Memoriam” in The Village Voice. He later moved to London and met up with Mick Jagger and the Stones.   By this time, Anger had begun editing two other versions of what was to be Lucifer Rising, although by the final edit it had taken on a very different form, which led to the incarnation of Invocation, a mind-bending collage of sonic terror and subversion and fast paced ritual ambiance which found the union of the circle and the swastika, a swirling power source of solar energy. Mick Jagger contributed a suitably eerie soundtrack with a newly acquired synthesizer.

Invocation of My Demon Brother is Anger’s most metaphysical film: here he eschews literal connections, makes the images jar against one another, and does not create a center of gravity though which the collage is to be interpreted, as the images of Christ could be interpreted through the actions of the motorcyclists in Scorpio or as the images of Crowley could be interpreted through the ritual of Inauguration. Thus deprived of a center of gravity,the very image has equal weight in the film, and more than ever before in an Anger film, the burden of synthesis falls upon the viewer.