Mixing film and performance is hardly a new thing. Back in the day, silent films had live musicians. Choreographers have been combining dance and film for decades now.
But something all together different will happen at "Live Cinema at FrenetiCore" on Nov.11-13, as part of the Cinema Arts Festival, presented by the Houston Cinema Arts Society (HCAS) and co-sponsored by Aurora Picture Show. Here, the "live" part is instigated by the filmmakers.
Cinema Arts Festival Artistic director Richard Herskowitz is particularly excited about this collection of films, which fuse live music and performance elements. Don't expect a live scoring of film either, music is more integrated and interactive here.
"These are collaborations, really interesting combinations of music and film," Herskowitz says. "Music supports the film and vice versa."
Consider Utopia in Four Movements, a live documentary by filmmaker Sam Green and musician Dave Cerf, showing on Nov. 12 and 13. Green, nominated for an Academy Award for his feature The Weather Underground, examines optimism in his completely original approach to documentary. The failure of politics, the still-limping economy, a troubled earth and a culture of naysayers, has so eroded the Utopian impulse, it's no wonder it makes such a rich canvas for Green and Cerf.
In a rare film-meets-performance-art event, Green will cue images and narrate while Cerf and the Brooklyn-based notorious electronic mixmasters, The Quavers, perform the soundtrack.
"This is a hybrid event, it's not a film fixed to a tape," Herskowitz insists. "No two performances are the same either."
Utopia in Four Movements perfectly fits Aurora's mission to present artist-made non-commercial film and video.
"I was interested in this project because Sam is a documentary filmmaker who I have great respect for," says Mary Magsamen, curator at Aurora Picture Show. "I wondered how he would expand his ideas into a live performance. Not everyone can do this well. Seeing something live is a very different experience because the unpredictable nature of working live changes how one experiences the piece both as an artist and as a viewer.
"I seek out work that challenges the normal conventions of making and does not fit within one specific medium."
Self-taught filmmaker and visual artist Brent Green gives new meaning to the "making" part of filmmaking. Green and Donna K. will be in town on Nov. 12 and 13 with Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then, a stop-motion animation with live actors, accompanied by John Michael Schwartz and Brendan Canty (Fugazi's drummer). In his first feature film, Green tells the story of Leonard Wood, a man who hand-built a healing house for his cancer-ridden wife.
Green reconstructed the exact house down to the last detail. The showing is co-sponsored by DiverseWorks, which opens a companion exhibit of Green's sculpture and film props on Nov. 5.
"Brent's work is hard to describe. As a sculptor, an animator and a media artist, he's also a hybrid. He built every single thing in the film," Herskowitz says. "It's really an architectural film."
The ultimate do-it-yourself artist has been hailed by The Village Voice as "an emerging Orson Welles of experimental cinema."
I first encountered Green's work as part of Flicker Fusion at DiverseWorks. Green's eerie and enticing work draws the viewer into his ethereal narratives. DiverseWorks co-executive director Diane Barber was blown away when she first saw Green's work too.
"I’d never seen anything like it. Not only was the film intriguing and unusual, but the intensity of Brent’s delivery made for a magical experience. I was riveted and when he finished I thought to myself, 'This guy is a creative genius,' " Barber recalls. "Since then, I’ve gotten to know Brent a little bit and I still think he’s a genius, but I also think he’s a little crazy, but in a good way.
"Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then, both the film and the exhibition, are the most recent manifestation of that genius plus crazy streak that makes Brent Green one of the most interesting artists around."
Also included in the mix is a double feature on Nov. 11 of A Walk into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory by Esther Robinson paired with Danny Williams: Factory Films, which will include an introduction by Robinson (Williams' relative) and live music by The Quavers. Robinson's film delves into Williams' mysterious disappearance in 1966. The three Williams' films reveal life at the center of the Warhol mayhem machine, including footage of Edie Sedgwick, Warhol and the earliest known record of The Velvet Underground rehearsing. Williams was Warhol's lover and the designer of The Velvet Underground Exploding Plastic Inevitable Lightshow.
"Live Cinema at FrenetiCore" fully lives up to HCAS' mission.
"The very foundation of the Festival examines how film overlaps with the other art forms The task force had this in mind from the very beginning," Herskowitz says. "It's not just a film festival, but a Cinema Arts Festival."
The Cinema Arts Festival will be held Nov. 10-14 at Houston Visitors Center, Discovery Green, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Rice Media Center and Edwards Greenway Grand Palace Stadium 24. The event is the only festival in the United States devoted solely to films by and about visual, performing and literary artists.
Brent Green describes his film Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then:
Utopia in Four Movements Trailer: