For eighty-three short minutes, that shiny future world of boxy robots and yellow-haired doppel- gangers and lo-fi digital freak-outs promised by the likes of George Jetson and Barbarella and Max Headroom is yours at last. Come to the theater in your best aluminum foil space-travel gear, and join Magic Lantern as we take a rocket tour of what the days ahead have in store. Those solar flares keep interfering with our future-detecting equipment, but from out here I can tell for sure that we’ve got A Classic of Sci-Fi Cinema, An Interactive Cyborg Drama, and A Very Rare 16mm Film Print That Will Change Your Life Forever. Nanu nanu, indeed.
Featuring: Terminal Self by John Whitney Jr. (9:00, 16mm, 1974-5), Space Trip by the Motorola Company (7:00, 16mm, 1971), No Sunshine by Bjorn Melhus (6:15, video, 1997), Total Power Dead Dead Dead by Stephanie Barber (3:00, 16mm, 2005), The Sad Robot by Forcefield (2:15, video, 1996), The Ataraxians by Sabine Gruffat and Ben Russell (6:00, 16mm, 2004), Leaving the 20th Century by Max Almy (11:00, video, 1982), La Jetee by Chris Marker (29:00, 16mm, 1963), Allures by Jordan Belson (9:00, 16mm, 1961) 83:00
Terminal Self by John Whitney Jr. (9:00, 16mm, 1974-5) From the mind that created the 46-minutes of CGI effects on The Last Starfighter (in which a video game warrior is asked to save the world) comes this computer-based experimental film about distortion and contortion of the self. Electric eyes and celluloid bodies for expanded consciousness.
Space Trip by the Motorola Company (7:00, 16mm, 1971) Traveling out of his living room into the cosmos inside all of us, a little boy takes a ride on a tiny rocket to the stars in this tripped-out educational film (courtesy of the Chicago Film Archive).
No Sunshine by Bjorn Melhus (6:15, video, 1997) Two infantile bodies are floating in a cyberspace ball. They are simultaneously connected with two subconscious bodies in the background. The attempt of unification and metamorphosis is interrupted by one part, meanwhile the other part is liberated. A glance over the shoulder means destruction. The sources for the soundtrack are fragments of the childhood voices of early Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder songs.
Total Power Dead Dead Dead by Stephanie Barber (3:00, 16mm, 2005) A haiku or love letter to the charm of two-dimensional images. The spectacle awaits our adoration, gives a tender intimation of collusion.
The Sad Robot by Forcefield (2:15, video, 1996) Oh, the sorrow of death visited brought upon us by the vengeful gods of the Heavens above. As one falls, so shall we all.
The Ataraxians by Sabine Gruffat and Ben Russell (6:00, 16mm, 2004) From the south of France, a science fiction film about the end of the Leisure Class and that which came to replace it.
Leaving the 20th Century by Max Almy (11:00, video, 1982) A science fiction narrative of televisual time-travel via the electronic circuit and computer chip. Almy dramatizes a three-part transition — countdown, departure, arrival — to a technological future, foreclosed and dehumanized. Applying computer graphics and digital effects to critique the manipulative, mediating effects of technology, Almy simulates the hyper-reality of a futuristic “landscape with no detail or points of reference,” a space without perspective or point of view. No longer seduced by television or spectacle, the subjects depart and are transported as objects, arriving at a place where human relations and communication fail, transmission isterminated, the message is not received.
La Jetee by Chris Marker (29:00, 16mm, 1963) The basis for the 1995 film Twelve Monkeys, Marker’s sole fiction film is constructed (with one crucial, brief exception) from still photographs that are combined in serial fashion with voiceover narration and music. The result is one of cinema’s most compelling works, a love story set in a bleak future involving time travel and memory. After the destruction of civilization by war, a member of the underground survivor community, haunted by glimpses of a barely recalled face, is sentby scientists back to the past to look for a key to humanity’s salvation. There he finds a lover, a love of the world when it was still alive, and traces of his earlier self. This ecstatic, lyrical film conveys the pain and weight of modern history and the intense power of images.
Allures by Jordan Belson (9:00, 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.”