Friday, October 30, 2009

It's been more than two weeks since i've landed in Berlin, and today was the first day in which i did not go to my office at the Center. Two weeks usually means that it's time to get some fresh supplies (such items as paper towels, toothpaste, etc.); i used up the little traveling tube of toothpaste, i used up the small traveling bars of soap, so i took the time to do the laundry (which takes two hours here; in Europe, the wash cycles and the drying cycles are done to conserve energy, so everything is longer because it's all stretched out), do some shopping, and then i headed to the Kino Arsenal to see the restored print of Jack Smith's "Normal Love".

I had been warned by a number of friends that the restoration was quite good, but somehow the experience of the movie was a little skewed. Flat. Now that i've seen it, i know what they mean. When Jack Smith showed "Normal Love" in the 1970s, he never simply ran the film. First of all, there was always an inexorably long wait. The audience would be sitting there as Jack fiddled around, looking through records, deciding what reels to show, etc. This process could take as much as three hours! Then, once the movie started, there would be interruptions: Jack would stop the projector, or he would change projectors, or he would take a scissor and decide to snip something out of the film while it was in the projector! Anything could happen....

Yet when the images did come on, they were frequently so mesmerically lush and strange that they approached the sublime.

And that was because of rather than in spite of the torpor and insanity that Jack submitted his audience to: it made the beautiful more piercing and emotional, because of the element of danger, of threat.

Now, that element has been removed, and what we're left with is a succession of lush and enriched and stunning color images. And the editing is astute, and there is the semblance of narrative.

All well and good, except that good isn't enough. In a way, it's a betrayal of Jack's aesthetic.

Well, exhaustion is setting in, so i'll have to see if i'm forgotten or remembered.


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