IN THE SIGN OF SEX AND PSYCHEDELICS - A TRIBUTE TO CINEMATIC TRENDS OF 1968
Wednesday 19th MarchDoors 7:30pm £7/£5 members & concessions 1968 was the pivotal year of the 60's as the optimism of 1967's 'Summer of Love' gave way to the dark omens of 1969, like Altmont and the Manson killings, that heralded the end of an era. This intermediate period - roughly the year 1968 - was a time of heightened experimentation as well as upheaval as 'straights' joined hippies in exploring new lifestyles. This adventurous spirit was felt in the arts as well as politics. Happenings and installations became the norm as artists began to invent new mediums of creative expression and combine old ones. For example a movie was no longer just a movie, as film screenings came to incorporate live performance, liquid slide effects and multiple-screen projection, creating a movement that would later be identified as "expanded cinema". Station16, a Copenhagen film collective, has taken the opportunity to welcome in 2008 by focusing on the American scene and paying tribute to the kind of expanded cinema that flourished 40 years ago, in 1968. One of Station16's members, Jack Stevenson, an American film writer and print collector living in Denmark, will travel to London on March 19th to present this program which reflects 1968 in both form and content. It does so by (1) featuring films from that year, (2) featuring films that deal with subjects that were topical in the media that year - sex and LSD - and, (3) by utilizing double-screen projection and composed soundtracks, combining it all in a way that embraces the spirit of experimentation that was typically '68 while at the same time creating something new. PART ONE: RUMINATIONS ON LSD LSD CASE STUDY, 1968, 5 min., Produced by Lockheed Aircraft Company LSD, TRIP TO WHERE, 1968, 45 min., Produced by the U.S. Navy LSD LECTURE, 1968, 25 min., Prod. By the U.S. Navy PART TWO (40 min): SF '68 - A CELEBRATION OF AMATURE HOME SEX CINEMA PUMPKIN AT THE HALLOWEEN PARTY, 40 minutes MORE INFORMATION
PART ONE: RUMINATIONS ON LSD: LSD, which had only been made illegal in the States in October of the previous year, was the hot topic of the day - filling papers with lurid horror stories and providing the gristle of B-movie melodrama. 1968 was 'the year of LSD' in the popular imagination. It was deemed not only a threat to social order but also to America's national security. For a brief span of time a home-grown fighting force decimated with LSD-trippers suffering random flashbacks was more feared by military planners than the nuclear arsenal of the Soviet Union. The following three films, all made by the military or by military contractors, illustrate how the Department of Defence sought to arm our fighting men and women against this insidious scourge with a bracing dose of knowledge - or what passed for knowledge at the time. THE SPECIFIC FILMS: LSD CASE STUDY, 1968, 5 min., Produced by Lockheed Aircraft Company, (director unaccredited, but very possibly directed by exploitation master William Rotsler) A young girl attends a hip party only to be given a tab of acid. Nothing happens. She takes a walk with a friend to get something to eat at a hotdog stand and all the monstrosities of the id come to life. LSD, TRIP TO WHERE, 1968, 45 min., produced by the U.S. Navy, director unknown. (played double-screen) Utilizing professional actors and featuring a swinging psychedelic music score and some startling if at times cheesy special effects, this films probes deeper into the psychology of drug use than most while at the same time regurgitating all the familiar stereotypes....Three sailors on shore-leave visit a hippie pad and drop acid: one experiences terrifying hallucinations that include weightlessness, extreme paranoia and brief gender confusion, while another functions as the poetry-spouting "guide" and the third as an innocent bystander drawn into this psychedelic web of horror and forced to make moral choices. The ways in which peer pressure and the boredom of military life contribute to drug use are explored, giving it a realistic feel on one level, but its campy effects and melodramatic plot overshadow everything else and have secured it status as an obscure classic of 60's cult cinema. This film plays on left side in double-screen format while a spool of the low-budget 1965 monster movie, "Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster" plays on the right side, representing the schizophrenia of drug addiction which renders its victims half-man, half machine. (In fact this film makes more sense if you see the doomed hero as an addict rather than a "human robot" blown up in a rocket accident.) LSD LECTURE, 1968, 25 min., Prod. By the U.S. Navy. (Played double-screen) In 1968 the Navy filmed a Sergeant lecturing about the perils of LSD. The end result was almost unwatchable; there is no camera movement to mitigate the boredom of a ceaselessly droning talking head until over half way through the film, and the Sergeant knows little about his subject and seems to eventually lose concentration and interest and begins to ad-lib. This plays on screen left with sound. ...On screen right a diverse and bizarre onslaught of found-footage plays, including a condensed version of the puppettoon classic Karius and Baktus, volcano eruptions, a beer commercial, dissection of an earthworm, the grinning visage of a smoking test-dummy, dental surgery and much more - all of which does and doesn't speak to screen right in some intuitive and completely happenstance fashion, at times complimenting the confused state of mind of the lecturer, at times creating new unrelated associations. An expanded cinema masterpiece. PART TWO (40 min): SF '68 - A CELEBRATION OF AMATURE HOME SEX CINEMA : With various US cities now hosting "home movie days" and articles on the subject appearing in magazines like The New Yorker, the humble home movie is being celebrated as never before, having been recognized as a valuable part of American film culture. After prolonged exposure to the sterility and hermetically sealed professionalism of commercial cinema, seeing "real people" in films shot in living rooms and backyards is almost a revelation, films that evince a naivety and spontaneity, films full of unpolished awkward moments. In San Francisco in 1968 the home (sex) movie had its public debut as a theatrical experience when a handful of struggling theaters began packing in audiences with primitively shot 'sex films'. More 'product' was needed and suddenly any amateur cameraman who could persuade a group of reasonably good looking young people to gather at his house and disrobe - or a man who could get his girlfriend or wife to do same - could make money. And because money could be made more films were shot. Hundreds, no doubt. These were 16mm productions on color stock that used lighting for interior scenes - hence the conspicuous trademark shadows - and were at first without sound, accompanied by whatever LPs the projectionist had on hand. They involved loosely staged situations but there were no scripts and no formal plots. They were 'arranged' to some vague degree but they weren't 'faked'. No one connected with these was skilled enough to fake anything convincingly, and therein lies their charm. They were essentially home-movies. Best of all, they could be cranked out in one fun (judging by the frequent grins and laughter) afternoon. Some of these films were made for specific theaters by the employees or owner himself and never played elsewhere. When another film came on the bill they were just stacked in the broom closet and forgotten. This was the brief moment in time when commercial cinema intersected with amateur home movie-making, and the softcore frolics produced during this period were unique in the annals of erotic film culture. It didn't last long: by 1969 local porn moguls Alex de Renzy and the Mitchell Brothers introduced audiences to hardcore action and these comparatively innocent films that never went beyond frontal nudity, suggestive gyrations or non-interactive display of female and later (unaroused) male genitals were obsolete overnight. Nobody noticed in the feverish rush to show increasingly explicit images that something went missing. Audiences could now revel in the joys of grainy penetration close-ups but most of these hardcore films were grim, joyless affairs that lacked the unintentional charm and vitality that their 'softer' predecessors often possessed in spades. The hardcore films were also rushed low-budget affairs but they lacked that playful home movie quality that made their predecessors so enjoyable. After the arrival of explicit XXX films these soft-core home sex movies from 1968 were, as a business enterprise, completely worthless and were boxed away down in waterlogged basements or dragged out to dumpsters when somebody could bother. ...Or left unclaimed in film labs for decades. These films lacked credits or copyrights or in many cases even titles so little wonder they have never been written about, inventoried or identified as a specific genre. This was truly a disposable, ephemeral cinema, but at the same time it constitutes a fascinating and distinct slice of film culture from the city that would prove to be the cradle of American erotic expression. This is an almost documentary snapshot of a lost, more innocent era before hardcore refigured the landscape. With the internet today affording any surf-savvy kid access to 'the real thing,' these 16mm films seem as quaint as museum artifacts, and yet in many cases they still manage to charm, entertain and sometimes even excite. THE SPECIFIC FILM: PUMPKIN AT THE HALLOWEEN PARTY, 40 minutes. This plot-less curiously titled romp is one of the best examples of this genre. Clad in Halloween costumes, nine guys and gals goof around in the yard, bob for apples, strip, dance, make-out and swim in the pool before dressing and going inside to play a board game and do some more dancing. They get naked again, goof around, kiss, etc. Fluid, unhinged camera work, lurid colors, bizarre costumes and good looking go-go dancing (frequently naked) girls make this unique. The film, shown in a double-screen format to a composed soundtrack of cool pop radio hits of the time, gives new meaning to concept of "California girls."