Much has been said about what is regarded as the quintessential cinematic experience: the darkened, softened, uterine surroundings, the hypnotic flicker ahead, the lulling whirr from the projection booth. It is a comfortable hiding place from which to observe others' nightmares and desires. As much as we at Balagan embrace this fancy, we like to break the spell on occasion by channeling an earlier form of cinema, when projected images elicited bewilderment instead of reverie. This time, we aim to shatter cinematic illusions by shifting our attention 180° away from the spectacle. As we ponder the screen, the stage and the curtains; as we gaze into the spectators' faces and observe their body language -- entranced or impatient -- we see a reflection of ourselves. So we enter Lacan's "mirror stage": the anxious moment of catching sight of oneself for the first time and beginning to grasp the reality of one's existence.
Projector Obscura, Peter Miller, 2005, 35mm, 10 minutes
A portrait of seven screens as recorded by their projectors. Projector Obscura is a series of films that are exposed using projectors rather than cameras. The extreme similarity between the design of the motion picture camera and projector is such that if the projection booth is adequately darkened and unexposed film is run through a projector, light illuminating the theater will enter the projector lens and expose the film. 35mm film projectors used this way will record the objects and space before them, exposing the relationship between two fixed elements in the cinema: the projector and the screen. In Projector Obscura, the lens, which is normally responsible for casting out so many images, is given a chance to take in light and reflect upon its theatrical space, and the screen is given a chance to stand bare. The theaters shown here are the Biograph, the Gene Siskel Film Center, Anthology Film Archives, Gateway, MFA-Boston, Coolidge Corner and Harvard Film Archive.
10 Minutes Older, Herz Frank, 1978, 35mm shown on video, 10 minutes
“For me, Ten Minutes Older still remains a model documentary. There, the screen time and the real time are identical. There are no words, and it was taken all in one breath. The face of a kid, who for the first time gets to know the familiar fight between the Good and the Evil, reflects the depths of the human soul. We did not edit anything, we simply started rolling in the right time, and we were patient enough to sit through the drama of the little child… The film lives, and this is the most important thing! One of my friends from documentary filmmakers laughed saying that this is my '[Battleship Potemkin]'. I do not object.” – HF
Black and White Trypps #3, Ben Russell, 2007, 16mm, 12 minutes
The third part in a series of films dealing with naturally-derived psychedelia. Shot during a performance by Rhode Island noise band Lightning Bolt, this film documents the transformation of a rock audience’s collective freak-out into a trance ritual of the highest spiritual order.
Film Feedback, Tony Conrad, 1974, 16mm, 14:25
Made with a film-feedback team which I directed at Antioch College. Negative image is shot from a small rear-projection screen, the film comes out of the camera continuously (in the dark room) and is immediately processed, dried, and projected on the screen by the team. What are the qualities of film that may be made visible through feedback?
Necrology, Standish Lawder, 1970, 16mm, 12 minutes
“In NECROLOGY, a 12-minute film, in one continuous shot he films the faces of a 5:00 PM crowd descending via the Pan Am building escalators. In old-fashioned black and white, these faces stare into the empty space, in the 5:00 PM tiredness and mechanical impersonality, like faces from the grave. It’s hard to believe that these faces belong to people today. The film is one of the strongest and grimmest comments upon the contemporary society that cinema has produced.” — Jonas Mekas, The Village Voice
Audience, Gail Camhi, 1980, 16mm, 5 minutes
Diagram detailing the process of making "Film Feedback":