Welcome to the eighth program of our Virtual Film Festival, which offers a weekly watching schedule of moving image works available for free streaming, and curated by our expert contributors. Previous programs can be found here.
It is the meeting of titans from two wildly different manners of filmmaking — Martin Scorsese and Jonas Mekas. Marty greets him with no fewer than three “Good to see you”s before having to excuse himself and get back to work, “we’re rushing like mad here.” Jonas understands, “Oh. I am not here.” As he walks away, Marty continues to speak beyond the range of the compact camcorder’s microphone, though we can make out an “enjoy!” and his hands flail about as if to gesture ‘make yourself at home.’ This invitation is then confirmed seconds later as Jonas meets the assistant director — one Joseph P. Reidy according to IMDb, ‘Joe’ according to his introduction. “This is your home also, okay? You’re part of everything, it’s great to have you around,” he tells Jonas.
Mekas wandered around a handful of on-location shooting days of The Departed (2006) with a metaphorical all-access pass and his camcorder. The result is Notes on an American Film Director at Work: Martin Scorsese (2005), and until the day before yesterday, I had no idea it existed. Though it largely plays like typical behind-the-scenes material, most of it is more exciting to watch than the film actually being made. When we first meet cinematographer Michael Ballhaus (who oft shot with Fassbinder), we can only see his belly. It’s not until he reappears a short time later that we witness his thin white mustache up-close. Later on he’s complaining that they need to resume shooting, as they will lose the sun in 40 minutes. Scorsese replies that he can’t control the sun. Another personal highlight comes in the form of Ballhaus standing on the set and holding up a light meter, his posture robotic and gait lethargic.
Later on, talking with Jonas, Marty recalls his time at NYU prompting his first-ever trip to the Village, despite the fact that it was only “six blocks away,” seeing work by “Stan VanDerBeek, Bruce Conner…Brakhage films.” His enthusiasm is infectious; “The images were just so alive […] It was a re-invention of how to speak.” And most surprising to me: “Seeing the Brakhage films while doing Goodfellas, it was refreshing.”
If you need more Mekas, right now you can rent Lost Lost Lost and Walden to support Anthology Film Archives (as a token of thanks for sharing this one for free), and pick up The Walden Book from Re:Voir (don’t forget to use the Ultra Dogme Patreon code for 30% off!).
After the success of the Bruce Baillie-Chick Strand digital screening, Fracto decided to offer another streaming program, this time a double bill of Sandra Davis and Chick Strand, A Preponderance of Evidence (1999) and Soft Fiction (1979). Unfortunately I did not manage to watch either one in time to write something about them here, but I’m told they are unmissable and they are only available to watch until Thursday the 21st, so I will be watching them for the first time with you all! Enjoy.
|Notes on an American Film Director at Work: Martin Scorsese
|A Preponderance of Evidence