MAR 2001

freeform manifesto in honor of the

ann arbor film festival 2001

by arwulf arwulf

Under the new moon on foot, between the snowflakes and over the scarred pavings of this rapidly mutating metropolis, where houses have disappeared forever leaving blacktop parking lots and abandoned fast food restaurants, I still walk with eyes in back of my head, and maybe a new set of peepers progressively protruding from the top of my woolen hat. Recently, skyscrapers have been described [by investors, of course] as a solution to urban sprawl. But I don’t think so, really, do you? Chicago, for example, put up plenty of these ugly brutes and still spread for miles in every direction except into the Lake, although the pollution introduced into that water body should count as a liquid form of Sprawl. Nothing can stop this repulsive growth except Vasectomy, and nobody wants to seriously propose the sort of paradigm shift which would emphasize anything beyond reckless progeniture. But I will continue to mention it in public, even while writing about the cinema:

VASECTOMY-VASECTOMY-VASECTOMY. There are too many people on the land and the men need to make dynamic changes in their individual & collective reproductive capacity. Enough is enough. The Sports Bar on Maenad Street next door to Stinko’s was a Funeral Parlour years ago. My name is Arwulf and I came to talk about reality.

In the words of the Crow people, from the Song of the Bald Eagle: "We want what is real. We want what is real. Don’t deceive us." Poetically speaking, I propose a doubling or tripling of each person’s perceptive abilities. Start with the third eye in the middle of the forehead. Open sesame. There are latent eyeballs in the palms of each hand. Reach for the Sun and pay close attention to the phases of the Moon. This is a decidedly magical existence and yet most of us are behaving as if Life were as boring as the waiting room adjacent to the parts & service division of a local automobile dealership. Whole sections of the population have forgotten that two people in love do consist of three-dimensional humans in four-dimensional cooperation, involving two streams of ancestors and an infinite number of possible interactive variations from day to blessed day. There are so very many angles from which to watch; 360° multiplied by another 360° to form the sphere of having a living brain inside of a private screening room. None of this is boring, need I say.

Okay, get this. Ernst Krenek, a composer of strangely wonderful music, was born in Vienna in 1900. As I skate through his life’s story for the thirteenth time, I come up against thought-residue which stands on hind-legs, gently barking in terminology strangely relevant to my present state of mind. "The means rule, the end serves. We know nothing, but we have computed it." I am so grateful to be exactly the age that I am, for the prospect of witnessing a chronic detachment from reality brought on by another hundred years of on-line chat-rooms leaves me with a craving for tangible organic wonders like sand dunes, if they don’t quarry them all away, and lentil soup made at home in a large vessel. Make enough so you have some to share. When seeking two-dimensional gratification & fulfillment, just at this time of year it would be wise to enter a large and beautiful three-dimensional enclosure like the Michigan Theater armed with series tickets to an internationally renowned festival of independent & experimental films. And that is after all what I’m talking about here.

Drawing upon Krenek’s cardinal terminology used as the framework for his Sestina [1957], I here present six coordinates for contemplation of and participation in this mind-blowing annual Ritual of Projection and Seeing:

Stream—signifies the living current of changes which are documented, animated, dramatized, galvanized, deepened, flattened or broadened; it’s Life made into visible trails of light and dark. If we sit for the whole festival, for one night, or just one cluster of films, the ripples of human expression will move each viewer differently. What will happen to you? This whole festival is a science experiment and you are the subject.

Mass—it is weight and proportion; the ratio of filmic torque to your brain mass, divided by what you had for lunch and what you think you already know. For best results suspend your ego in a viscous darkened place whereby no traces of hubris may interfere with the pure and noble processes of submitting to the procession of frames tinted with pigmented emulsion. You are blood and wind. The film is light and pulsing tonality. Be it awhile.

Chance—the great principle of all human endeavor; there is positively no way of knowing what will occur at the Film Festival. Some may insist that they have seen it all, and these members are either mistaken or lying. Aleatorical principles provide access to an immeasurable stash of variants. Every show is different, and different from anything you might expect. It’s like waking up each day; nobody can say for sure what’s coming.

Shape—I’m not positive but I think that most of this can be reduced to the double helix. Certainly Giorgio de Chirico would calibrate the meaty charms of overstuffed furniture for positioning in the exact center of a chosen landscape. But these are all films. There may be anthropomorphs, or simply color and not color. Narration is a shape and so is silence. The mood of the audience is often shaped like a big dog on a red leather jacket.

Time—well there’s the duration of the festival at large; all of the rest of the year when the festival is reforming, recombining or reclining; and the time frame of each filmic unit as witnessed by the screening committee and by those who choose to take the time out of their turbulent lives to sit in a darkened chapel and stare through the shadows at a screen full of as yet unidentified manifestations. Repetition structures are especially good for you.

Number—this is about dimensions, as Mass duly dealt with relations. One of my thickest problems in life has always been the fact that I live in four dimensions at all times. So the Film Festival is Every Film Festival I’ve ever been to, and in fact these compounded festivals are always in progress! As for the current festival in question, your participation is very important, as each theater seat when occupied becomes an oculus.

Birds have unmatched peripheral vision. We can only aspire to their every-which-way cognate swivel. A Film Festival week or week-end constitutes good practice for development of this span. Everything which transpires in the theater does apply. Anything might be visible. We should be as vigilant as serpents or ladybugs, waiting to see the next degree. Witness! Witness! If the screen were the Sun we would be heliotropes following the flicks from dawn to dusk of each showing. Duration is crucial or immaterial. You are there or possibly here. "It is a dream! I want it to go on!" says Nietzsche. "Our innermost being, the common substratum of humanity, experiences dreams with deep delight and a sense of real necessity."

Ann Arbor’s Film Festival is one of the coolest things still occurring with regularity hereabouts. Turn off your television, shut down the computer, put everything else on hold for a few days and put yourself in the balcony or (the orchestra pit?) on the main floor of the Michigan Theater for this remarkable marathon of unusual films. All principles of Hollywood Blockbuster predictability and stagnation are hereby suspended. If you become entertained, why then good for you. But we hope that the entire notion of entertainment will take on unexpected dimensions as you find ways to develop yourself under the haze of light reflected from the big screen.

If I write strangely it has a lot to do with having grown up on the fringes of this university environment, raiding the libraries and trying to support independent sellers of creative literature and music. I am also a human product of the Film Festival Laboratory. My brain, much like the brains of hundreds of other devoted viewers, has morphed itself according to the principles of sustained experimentation as played out at these Film Festivals each year. There is an aspect in our lives which I hereby trace directly to the established cycle of strangely wonderful 16 millimeter films which have trundled through this community for decades. If I mourn the almost complete extinction of our once famously active campus film groups [as a youngster I saw a lot of European art films for 75¢ a pop], I stand and sing at the top of my lungs a song of appreciation for the Ann Arbor Film Festival. May it continue, and may it continue.


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