It's really hard to find any interesting on-line writing about cinema. Practically every other art form has a plethora of wonderfully obsessive and insightful blogs and web zines (with a few exceptions which I'll list at the bottom of this entry). Singularities hopes to start a new trend in discussing film with enthusiasm. I will be doing interviews with filmmakers, reviews of screenings and films, listing upcoming events film related, and letting you know about some interesting findings of mine.
This week's theme is: Exploitation Cinema
Usually seen as a low-quality degredation of art, exploitation cinema is probably the best thing to happen to film. Exploitation allows "offensive" humor and ideas to be expressed in the midst of repression (then and now). In Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising we find gay culture being represented through occultism and bikers, a dramatized metaphor for homosexuals' place in society at the time. But was Anger exploiting the gay population - why is it called exploitation? Simply because the films represent archetypes of our world - who in turn don't believe they are archetypes and would rather not be depicted in this way- being exploited.
Artists like Eadweard Muybridge (he made "photographs in motion" or sequential photographs of nude people doing various activities) were able to work in this field of exploitation until it stalled from 1930-1968 because of the Production Code that was put into effect to wipe any sign of public indecency from cinema. The 1970's saw a huge resurgence of the genre, and this when some of the best classic exploitation films were made. It is famous for having sub-genres such as blaxsploitation, sexploitation, teensploitation, biker flicks, zombie films and spaghetti westerns. Your favorite filmmaker is probably an exploitation filmmaker of some kind or another. Obvious members of the genre include John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble) and Ed Wood (Plan 9 from Outer Space, Glen or Glenda?), but also includes Larry Clark (KIDS, Wassup Rockers) and Todd Solondz (Happiness, Welcome To The Dollhouse).
Exploitation cinema allowed uncensored critiques of society come to fruition, inspiring artists of all mediums. It gave rise to lowbrow art in all it's glory. Dawn and her family in Welcome to the Dollhouse are exaggerations of the suburban family; the subtle approach to cliché through class and youth sexuality mark the current take on exploitation - a cinema for for those with euphoric attachments to surfaces and cynics of cultural organization. The archetypal teenagers in Larry Clark's KIDS are just being themselves, or rather acting like versions of themselves, therefore parodying what it is to be a teenager living in the Bronx in the mid 90's. Exploitation is all around us, you smell it in your morning coffee and see it ievery time you look in the mirror; use it as inspiration to change something or not change something.
Interview: Julian Vargas
Local Bay Area filmmaker Julian Vargas makes films about love. However, his roots as a Catholic schoolboy in Bogota, Columbia have definitely given him a bizarre outlook on the subject. It's no wonder he began making films about repressed sexuality and cultural abnormalties- those nuns are harsh! Vargas makes new classic exploitation films, meaning, he borrows aspects from the older films such as love in turmoil matched with nudity, and brings his own version of pop songs and family drama to play. See how floating crystals, happy endings and Nancy Sinatra fit into this unique artist's vision.
Caitlin Denny: Filmmaking, as most people know, takes quite a long time even with the help of others - what is your process of working?
Julian Vargas: I usually start with a feeling or a narrative that comes from whatever is going on in my personal life and whatever is surrounding me and influencing me at the moment, it has to begin with the need of expressing something. The goal is always to find the correct amount of abstraction without losing the initial emotion. After this creative process, the production process is pure organization and focus. I tend to make my films [through] the priority of my life, if other things are distracting me I always feel that there is something wrong with me. It can be challenging when your personal life is so attached to your creative work but I don't see [any] other way to do it.
CD: Can you talk about the titles of your pieces and the origins of those titles?
JV: I come up with them as if I was going to title a song. I like to think of my movies as pop songs. I intend to make something that is delicious from start to finish and keep you wanting for more. Great pop songs are catchy, unique and somewhat strange and they always make you feel something inside.
CD: Why use cinema to translate your thoughts? What has cinema got to offer that, say, sculpture can't offer? Would you be interested in working in another medium?
JV: Cinema is the most open and accessible art , it's the only one that allows you to integrate as many other art forms as you please.
I grew up with TV and film, and this influenced me from an early age. In my adolescence I had to fight this influence, especially when [I] started caring about finding love, it was really painful to realize that life doesn't work like the movies, you have to learn that life can be a real shit and that what ends in a happy ending after 2 hours of torture can take forever in real life and the happy ending might never come. This kind of conversation with cinema, really made me realize the impact it can have in our lives, and how comforting or damaging it can be. Cinema is the art form that I feel more passionate and obsessed about. I tried photography for a little bit, but I was too impatient, I wanted moving images. I believe I found what I love and I'm still not sick of it to drop it.
CD: Some people are shocked, and sometimes offended by your films. How do you respond to this?
JV: I think it's a good thing. I've never been fond of playing it safe, I don't like things to be static, I get bored easily, I think that things need to change and nothing will change if everyone is being tame. I believe on putting yourself out there and humiliating yourself a little or a lot if you have to, and don't see a lot of people doing that, and it frustrates me, I don't mind taking on the dirty work, somebody has to do it- plus, it's really the [most] fun job. Most of the work that I admire is not easily digestible. Causing someone a massive diarrhea can be something to be proud of. I think that art should challenge, provoke and produce some kind of change.
CD: Your work could be categorized in many different genres, experimental, drama, comedy, exploitation, gay; how do you describe your work?
JV: At the moment my work is going through an experimental stage within narrative. Currently I'm interested in the appropriation of film genres for the purposes of personal expression. A lot of the work has a tendency for sexual deviance, more than promoting a particular sexual orientation, I intend to create a space of freedom where anyone is welcome.
CD: Your work illuminates the human drama of living, what are your thoughts on your work as a philosophical mode of representation?
JV: I'm don't know if it works as a philosophical mode of representation, in fact I'm not even sure what that means. If anything it is an abstraction of human drama and fantasy.
CD: Who and what are the biggest influences on you and your work and why?
JV: I feel like every piece has a different set of influences, and some influences tend to come more often than others. I tend to be influenced by artists who manage to capture a balance between self-expression, humor and artistry, filmmakers like Kenneth Anger and George Kuchar come to mind. Recently I had the chance to see the work of Gilbert & George , another example of expert provocateurs who work in a similar vein. I'm also very influenced by the work of Ingmar Bergman, especially in films like "The Silence" and "Persona", he is a master on communicating sexual tension, his cinematography is always impeccable. Well-crafted pop songs are of great inspiration for creating narratives, the works of Nancy Sinatra come to mind.
CD: How would you like you and your work to be remembered in 100 years?
JV: I don't really care. That's a long time.
CD: What's the last film you saw?
JV: I saw "Showgirls". You know they were planning to make a sequel. I think I would like to make it. Nomi Malone needs a comeback.
Review: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
Dir. Russ Meyer
(20th Century Fox , 1970; released 2006)
genre: hippie sexploitation blood bath
you might like: Multiple Maniacs, Showgirls, Sleep Away Camp
fact: Groovy 60's band, The Strawberry Alarm Clock wanted their scene removed from this film.
Nothing's like screwing in a Bentley- except for watching BtVotD! I felt like two leprechaun hookers were making love to me as I watched the teen? rock band The Kelly Affair move to Hollywood, become sluts, alcoholics and paraplegics and get shot in the face all within the span of one week. However, the best word to describe this film is "cute". Everything is bright and fluffy, even the decapitation scene! One of the most exciting things about this film, besides the abundance of titties, is the Roger Ebert commentary available on the newly remastered DVD. YES I SAID ROGER EBERT! Ebert co-wrote the script of this outrageous film with director Russ Meyer. In the commentary you will hear Ebert note more than once on his influential and legendary writing spawning infamous sayings such as "This is my happening and it freaks me out! ", and "You will drink the black sperm of my vengence!" Within the scope of exploitation films BtVotD is one of the tamest, but also one of the most enjoyable for it's quality, a hit or miss trait in the genre.
Filmmaker of the Week: Doris Wishman
As one of the only, and certainly the most popular, female exploitation filmmaker, Doris Wishman is my filmmaker of the week. She began making nudist films in the 1960's and continued making films in other exploitation genres until her death in 2002, aged 90. Her cult following is for good reason, as Wishman's films are seen as proto-feminist for their strong female leads using tits and ass to their advantage. The Queen of Sexploitation, The Female Ed Wood, Wishman is a controversial film icon you should know about.
News of the Week:
John Waters lectures at the European Graduate School. He mentions a bad Elizabeth Taylor film titled "Boom!" as an inspiration. Watch his lecture, then watch part of "Boom!" below.
Film Moment of the Week:
Samuel Fuller's "Shock Corridor". A scene depicting an attack by insane asylum nymphos.
"FREAKY FANTASY FILMS... FROM THE 80S" / Films: Return to Oz, Beetlejuice, Meet The Feebles ALL THREE FILMS for only $10.00!
August 9th 12am
Landmark's Bridge Theatre
3010 Geary Blvd
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
August 16th 12am
Landmark's Bridge Theatre
3010 Geary Blvd