OUT OF THIS WORLDby Lehman Weichselbaum
Back in town from the other coast was the guerilla auteur Mr. 8mm Anonymous, who in his street guise bears a colorful if patently spurious nom de camera that evokes a sacred structure casting long earthly shadows. The forum was the Meysles Cinema in Harlem. The subject was space and film. The films in question were all reels recovered from flea markets and curbside discards, all in the antiquated but evocative format of silent eight millimeters produced specifically for home living room consumption. The genre ranged freely from sci to sci fi.
Mr. 8mm's previous compilatory forays at Meysles included World War II propaganda aand blacks on film.
The string of short films included Melies' spear-chucking aliens, a couple of big-impact NASA launches, a homemade "War of the Worlds" by a precocious 60s high-schooler and of course Flash Gordon in the classic Buster Crabbe interpretation.
The extempraneous accompaniment of guitarist Ken Silverman and percussionist Andy O'Neill , who also brought in wood chimes and rain sticks, took the music track legacies of Leon Theremin and Selma, the town piano teacher moonlighting at the Elm Street Silent Movie Emporium, several orbits higher.
Typical for a Mr. 8mm exhibition, the evening had its share of self-revelatory moments. In the post-screening q & a, Mr. 8mm agreed that one of the space shot films had degenerated to a washed-out reddish tint, then commented, "I like decay," candidly adding mysophilia to his growing list of public fetishes.
Whether or not they fell inside the exhibitor's purpose, certain questions inevitably formed in the viewer's mind. For example, does the fantasmagoria of malevolent and (to earthly eyes) grotesque extraterrestrial creatures stepping off forbidding machines share some common imagination with the bouncy choreography of a real-life moonwalking marshmallow man, at least on the movie screen hearths of postwar American families?
Included in the small but elite audience was San Francisco filmmaker Gibbs Chapman, whose own no-budget futuristic opus "Mother Morter, Father Pestle" opened in Brooklyn the following night.
Capping the evening was the homemade chili served by another fellow filmmaker and onetime East Village Eye publisher Leonard Abrams, a meat and multi-veggie melange that could fit handily into an astronaut's meal tube, equally delicious at zero g's.
Every blue moon or so Mr. 8mm throws a show together of randomly found filmic objects that somehow coheres, and this was one of them. To this commentator, it achieved liftoff.