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NICK ZEDD UNEDITED: “Trumph of the ILL” Part Two

Drew Tinnin

March 14th, 2012

My knowledge of the current state of film is restricted to free movies I view on flights in and out of the country, doing film tours (and occasional bootleg DVDs I buy on the sidewalk, like the mildly disappointing MACHETE.) Among the latest movies I’ve seen are COWBOYS AND ALIENS, a moronic yet initially entertaining genre piece that succombs to mindless violence and special effects like most action films. I see no new trends in film. Just as in the past, there are mostly bad movies and a few good ones.

CONTAGION by Steven Soderbergh held my attention enough to watch the whole thing between Mexico City and London.The acting was not bad and the subject matter at least seemed more real than a lot of the shit that passes for entertainment on our hell planet. One of the X-MEN movies was so phony and boring I had to turn it off after the first five minutes.

Sons of Anarchy had believable acting but annoyingly sentimental scenes designed to hook family audiences. I couldn’t take two episodes after an hour.

In Mexico City I watched the first half of THE GHOST WRITER in singer Alejandra Guzman’s bedroom on a giant  screen suspended over her bed, lying next to her daughter and my wife Monica. (They were friends as teenagers.) I had no idea the film was directed by Roman Polanski and had so angered the State Department  and CIA that they engineered his winning a film prize in Sweden in order to interrupt filming additional scenes that would have excoriated the Blair administration’s handling of the Iraq War build up further, then got him arrested and put on trial, preventing him from being physically present  for the editing of the film. At least this is the story told to me by fellow ex- pat Dave Vulcan in Berlin who worked on the movie.I was unable to watch the final half of this movie due to the fact that Alejandra summarily invited us all to leave before it was over since her chauffer had to go home and he was our ride.

In Berlin I participated in something called the Director’s Lounge at an underground bar/ theater called Naherholung Sternchen hidden behind a big movie theater on Alexanderplatz. Inside I met a photographer named Miron Zownir who gave me a book of his pictures, images of sickly people dying on the streets of Moscow, filthy whores in Berlin and NY in the 90’s, and other assorted peculiarities. He told me he wanted to take pictures of me in drag.

Though I missed most of the films, one that stood out was called 'Silhouette' by Astrid Busch, in which a man awakens to find his vision blurred, is unable to navigate his apartment without breaking things, steps on broken glass and stumbles, bleeding, trying to locate his keys. The entire film is presented subjectively as his inability to get the door open makes him go to a balcony. Everything remains blurry, then we see a closeup of the street. Finally things become clear as bystanders debate whether the guy on the ground tried to kill himself or fell accidentally. Red blood fills the screen as the words "YOU’RE NEXT" appear.  This film had a personal resonance for me since I’ve been getting over a double eye infection in the last month. A new feature called WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS: A MAN WITHIN by Yoni Leyser featured never-before-seen archival footage of the author as well as exclusive interviews with colleagues and confidants including John Waters, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Amiri Baraka, David Cronenberg, Genesis Breyer P- Orridge and others. It’s the best movie about Burroughs I’ve seen thus far. I hope it gets some kind of distribution.

Returning to Mexico from Berlin, I was invited to the 2 FICUNAM Festival Internacional De Cine where a retrospective of politically transgressive agitat prop films by Japanese director Masao Adachi was presented. Invited to the festival but denied a passport by the Japanese government, he spoke to audience members via Skype.

Nicholas Ray’s lost film NO WAY TO GO HOME AGAIN was screened; a multiple projection experimental feature starring the director and his students from a communal film class in upstate NY. A sprawling, incoherent mess screened once at Cannes in 1973 to universal condemnation, its use of super-8, 16mm, 35mm and video was an inspired failure pointing the way to a new method of communicating cinematically. Having made several multiple projection films myself, I was intrigued to see the results. Some anguished and striking performances were wrenched out of two of the students, all of whom shared duties as crew members in the making of the film. The director’s wife Susan presented a documentary about the making of the film afterwards, which was a superior effort.

THE SUBSTANCE: ALBERT HOFFMAN'S LSD was shown in a parking lot of the Centro Cultural University. It is a wildly entertaining documentary by Martin Witz telling the story of the discovery of LSD by Hoffman in 1943, it’s subsequent use by the CIA as a truth serum and experimental drug administered to US soldiers, then given to volunteers like Ken Kesey in the late fifties leading to Timothy Leary’s dismissal from Harvard for self experimentation. The sequence depicting Leary’s psychedelic retreat for enlightened initiates of LSD at Millbrook Estate is idyllic and inspiring, as LSDs eventual dissemination to the general public and its effect in helping to spread a counterculture is shown most dramatically. LSDs eventual demonization by the media and governments worldwide leads to a dark age of psycho-chemical repression that only recently has been revised in some segments of the psychoanalytic community.

The powerful (alleged) therapeutic effects of psilocybin are shown in controlled experiments administered by professionals at John’s Hopkins University. Footage of Maria Sabina in Mexico meeting Hoffman’s team of psychopharmochologists visiting from Sandoz labs was greeted with cheers by the Mexican audience. The smell of pot permeated the parking lot.

I’ve seen so many films in the last two weeks that it’s hard to remember all of them. One that I saw at Christmas on a Mexican TV channel, made in 1962 was CAPERUCITA Y PULGARCITO CONTRO LOS MONSTRUOS, or LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD & TOM THUMP VS THE MONSTERS. It’s been called the holy grail of weirdo kiddie movies - a morbid, bizarre case of Grand Guignol for toddlers and the strangest permutation of genres ever concocted.

Featuring a Smörgåsbord of ludicrous monsters including Carrot-Head, ogres, vampires, robots, witches, skeletons, Siamese beasts and special appearances by Stinky the Skunk and the Ferocious Wolf, this bizarro world fantasia depicts a low budget race war between a flock of peasant children and an army of clumsily gesticulating monsters. It is beyond belief . Made in Mexico by Churubusco-Azteca studios and dubbed into English by K. Gordon Murray, it’s the most entertaining movie I’ve seen all year.

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