Tuesday, September 20, 2011


For this show we looked at two films. "The Origins of the Motion Picture" and "The Inner World of Jose Luis Borges". One film about the history and development of movie technology and another about the life and thoughts of the Famous South American writer and poet.

"Origins" was produced by the U.S. Navy in 1955. It credits no individuals but an IMDB check might reveal some pretty well known folks in there. It aspires to be comprehensive and has lots of well researched images from the Library of Congress, The Smithsonian, The George Eastman House and other repositories. It starts with the confirmation by Ptolemy of the persistence of vision in 130 BC and follows up to the development of 35 mm celluloid film. I was glad to see portraits of the luminaries like Daguerre, Plateau, and Muybridge, but missed the details of the determination who got credit for what. This film concentrated mainly on the imaging and projecting machines and less on the history of the form. It's a good introduction to the technology of motion pictures in which Edison get credit for just about everything.

The Borges film looks like a personal project for Harold Mantell the writer/director. It has a lot of hand held footage of Borges at home and at work. There are interviews as well. Some of the interviews are marred by a loud camera background noise. There is sometimes magical footage, (the blind Borges moving through the Bibleotec National in Buenos Aires lit by a single hand held spot, or a scene at home which shows him mouthing the words to one of his poems while his wife sings them back to him). There is an intrusive narrator here and in other moments that makes me wish the film maker had trusted his images more.

I also showed a bonus film of my friend David Cooper graduating from the PHD program at Brown in 1978. Shot by me in black and white 16mmm as a gift to him. I was obviously bored and distracted by the peripheral activity. It's pretty good footage. There might be a story in there somewhere.

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