The Loco-Motion Show


Ours is an era of movement – of automobility and web surfing; of endlessly circulating images, monies, and things; of Heelys, acid trips, tourism, spinning classes, and shifting tectonic plates… In the midst of all this, sometimes it helps to sit still for a few minutes, and sometimes it helps to give in to the currents that spiral around and confound us. But other times, it’s best to do both simultaneously!  That’s why we here at Magic Lantern have drawn together an evening of films about geographic journeying, psychical sauntering, ritualistic reveling, and all manner of boogieing for your kin(a)esthetic pleasure – a virtual expedition through diverse modalities of movement made possible by the moving image, from the revelatory to the routine, the destructive to the liberatory, the grotesque to the erotic. More than just documentaries of sock-hops and jitterbugs, these selections from the East and West Coast Underground, experimental animation, the Soviet avant-garde, Beat cinema, German travelogues and advertisements, British experimental film, and the contemporary avant-garde utilize hatfuls of cinematic magic to deconstruct existing regimes of mobility, imagine alternative choreographies, and gesture toward unexplored trajectories.

“Fuji,” Robert Breer, 1974, 16mm, color, sound, 8 min
A rhythmic re-visioning of a train ride taken alongside Mt. Fuji. Using rotoscoped super 8mm film, looped sound, and abstract animation, Breer creates a quietly astonishing piece that manages to hold together the intimacy of small-gauge diary footage and “minimalist” animation with the immensity of Japan’s highest – and some say holiest – mountain.

“Munich-Berlin Walking Trip,” Oskar Fischinger, 1927, 16mm, b&w, 3 min
A single-frame travelogue shot by Fischinger – an influential animator and practitioner of “pure cinema” – over the course of a walk from Munich to Berlin in the summer of 1927.  Going entirely by back roads, through hop-fields, over mountains, across the Danube, all on foot, with his camera and film materials in a backpack, the journey took him three and a half weeks.  “I was motivated mostly by a longing for freedom.”– OF

“Senseless,” Ron Rice, 1962, 16mm, b&w, sound, 25 min
For Rice – beatnik prankster, mescaline enthusiast, and self-described “witch doctor” – cinema was a form of “MAGIC” capable of “captur[ing] forever the very spirit of motion…”  In “Senseless,” he weaves together diaristic footage originally shot for two separate films (one about Venice Beach, one about Mexico) to create a perplexed, fragmented meditation on the madness of modern society and the reparative potential of travel. “Senseless came close to being a film
equivalent to On The Road.” – David E. James

“Arabesque for Kenneth Anger,” Marie Menken, 1958-61, 16mm, color, sound, 4 min
“Arabesque” can refer to an ornamental rug, a fanciful piece of music, and a sinuous, spiraling line; but it can also refer to a somewhat precarious ballet posture.  No wonder then, that – according to Anger himself – Menken “moved like a dancer” while shooting these kaleidoscopic observations of Moorish architecture, filmed at the Alhambra in Granada in a single day.  A pioneer of handheld camera work, Menken finds incredible vivacity and rhythm where others would only see “the stillness of stone.”

“Newsreel: Jonas in the Brig,” Storm De Hirsch, 1964, 16mm, b&w, 5 min
When Jonas Mekas filmed a performance of “The Brig” in 1964, a play about the torturous confines of military prisons, he used a portable, single-system camera so he could respond to actions and movements as they occurred around him, like “a circus man on a tightrope high in the air” (JM).  What resulted was a powerful statement on the individual’s capacity to resist the restrictions placed on personal/bodily mobility.  This Newsreel offers a glimpse into that statement’s formation, as mediated through the poetic “Third Eye” of Storm De Hirsch.

“passage à l’acte,” Martin Arnold, 1993, 16mm, b&w, sound, 12 min
Part of Arnold’s “trilogy of compulsive repetition” (Dirk Schaefer), “passage” takes a seemingly insignificant family breakfast scene from a classic Hollywood text of the 1960s, and systematically deconstructs its movements, orders, and assumptions, until a hidden message is revealed: “that message is war.” – MA

“MUTINY: Is This What You Were Born For? (Part 3),” Abigail Child,
1983, 16mm, color, sound, 10 min
From a 7 part series, “MUTINY” puts into practice Child’s view of cinema as a chaotic sort of choreography, an attempt to “excavate the possibility of a sideways motion” from the unexamined languages of everyday culture – in this case, from the expressions and gestures of women.  According to Tom Gunning, Child’s highly defamiliarizing aesthetic “demands we run our minds alongside its mobile imagery, learning new patterns of thoughts, new gestures for our bodies, new ways to live, re-conceiving what we were born for.”

“Waterfall,” Chick Strand, 1967, 16mm, color, sound, 3 min
A surrealistic compilation film that pairs heavily altered found footage with Japanese Koto music to invoke “a feeling of flow and movement.” – CS

“Berlin Horse,” Malcolm LeGrice, 1970, 16mm, color, sound, 7 min
A hypnotic study in repetition and improvised manipulation from this pioneer of “expanded cinema,” with re-photographed 8mm footage shot by LeGrice in Berlin, re-printed early newsreel film, and a mesmerizing, loopy musical composition by Brian Eno.  “I have come to realize that my main interest is in creating experiences rather than concepts.” – MLG

“Excelsior-Reifen,” Walther Ruttmann, 1925, 16mm, color, 3 min
An advertisement that Ruttmann made for the Excelsior tire company depicting the comical adventures of an indestructible tire, while also using abstract visual motifs similar to those Ruttmann experimented with in “Lichtspiel Opus I” (1921), which is credited with being the first abstract film shown publicly in Germany.

“Spinners,” Fern Silva, 2007, 16mm on video, color, sound, 7 min
It’s senior night at a New Jersey roller rink.  Shot on 800 speed tungsten light film that Silva obtained from Errol Morris, “Spinners” feels like a documentary of a beautifully surreal alternate world, where short-skirted golden girls roll along beneath trippy house lighting, and memories of failed vital organs are recounted over a killer electric organ soundtrack.  Watch these seniors bust a move, not a hip!

“¡Que Viva Mexico! (Epilogue),” Sergei Eisenstein, 1931/1971, 16mm, b&w, sound, 5 min
A Soviet avant-gardist best known for his ecstatic representations of Russian revolutions, Eisenstein also undertook a Mexican epic that he never completed.  This brief excerpt – from a version compiled by Grigori Alexandrov in 1971 – features rousing footage shot during the Day of the Dead celebrations in post-revolutionary Mexico.  Chock-full of dancing skeletons, spinning Ferris wheels, and some of the raddest sweaters in film history, this Epilogue also gestures toward new beginnings, asking: We’re moving, but where are we heading?