Girl on Film

June 11th, 2005 · 5 Comments · Artists

Image still from Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera, 1926

I usually don’t jump on the meme bandwagon, but my cousin and friend Micah has hit me with the film baton, and in doing so brought up a memory of going to the movies with my family at age 11 to see Space Camp. What can I say: it’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy.

Total number of films I own on DVD and video:
Three, not counting the handful of art videos and DVDs by other artists that we own. Mostly, we rely heavily on Netflix and Murray’s library purchasing budget at school. He’s developed quite a nice catalog over there, which we borrow from liberally.

The big three at home?
1) The Cinematic Orchestra, Man With a Movie Camera, (2003). The excellent jazz/dance band, The Cinematic Orchestra, has written the perfect score to the 1929 Dziga Vertov classic silent film, a must-own for cinephiles.

2) We bought Blade Runner (1982), a longtime influence, in the cheap-y bin at a chain bookstore after a blog conversation with Michael from CultureSpace last fall made us want to see it again. This also counts as the last film I bought.

3) True Stories (1986) is one of our favorite-ever films. It’s a wild romp for the fabulously innovative David Byrne (on a related note, check out the new Radio, and it’s about Texas: what’s not to like? Filmed in and around our hometown of Dallas during our childhood in the early 80s, it’s like a trip back in time for us.

The fantastical fashion show filmed in NorthPark Mall is a nostalgic tour de force: I got my saddle-oxfords at that kiddy shoe store that John Goodman walks past. Incidentally, Raymond D. Nasher, of the new Nasher Sculpture Center, was responsible for developing NorthPark, one of the first enclosed malls in the United States. Before the Nasher Center opened, much of his sculpture collection was housed at the mall. In fact, you can see a David Smith, Anthony Caro, and Alexander Calder as Byrne and John Goodman walk through the mall during the “Shopping is a Feeling” scene.

Last film I watched: We watched La Strada: Special Edition last night. Here’s a deep, dark confession: I’m not too much of a Fellini fan, that’s more Murray’s territory. I can say this though, the film was much improved by watching the last half hour on x4 speed. We could still read the subtitles, and it sped up the whole train-wreck of a love triangle.

Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me (in no particular order): Because this is hard to narrow down, my answer is not so much of a top-five list, but a personal valentine to a few films I love. Funny how three of them are Texas movies, set someplace I know intimately, familiar as my grandmother’s everyday apron.

1) True Stories, of course.

2) And Hands on a Hard Body (1998), a documentary about an annual contest of endurance at a Longview, TX car dealership. We lived in Austin when this small film broke records by showing at the Dobie for over a year. It’s a funny, profound life lesson; an example of how to accept defeat and triumph with grace. It’s one of the few films that has ever made me slide off my theater seat from the sustained effort of laughing, and yet, paradoxically, it also never fails to make me cry.

3) The Apostle (1997) is another Texas film, with an excellent performance by Robert Duvall as a Pentecostal minister full of doubt, and later, full of stained redemption. As a nuanced character study, it’s dead-on and unflinching, and captures a type of personality I’ve only run across in that part of the world.

4) Northfork (2003) is the most current of my five films. Set in Montana, the Texas of the northwest, this beautiful film is about a small town on the verge of being flooded by the construction of a new dam. The impending doom brings a measure of magic realism that turns everything on its head, and leaves the town and its inhabitants skidding through time and nostalgia, hope and loss.

5) Finally, Harold and Maude (1971): My sister and I must have watched the cleaned-up televised version, taped on VHS off Channel 11, a hundred times as pre-teens. Something about the elegant, elderly and wild-at-heart Maude was deeply reassuring and inspiring to me. When I finally saw the uncut version, I was surprised to find that it isn’t even that racy. I’ll answer the last question here; if you could be any character portrayed in a movie, who would it be?: I’d have to say the gorgeous, irrepressible, long-lived, and passionate Maude.

Tag, you’re it: Michael, David, Gregg, and Outer Life.

Category: Artists

5 Comments so far ↓

  • John

    Speaking of “True Stories”, I found a companion book to the film at the Printers Row Book Fair in Chicago yesterday. It’s a transcript/screenplay of the film with additional text and images that (I think) aren’t in the film. The best part of the book are the color photographs of the film itself that, like others, are slightly different from the actual film because they need to be staged for the still camera’s lighting rather than the movie camera’s…at least that’s my guess. Anyways, I bought it with the intention of giving to a friend who LOVES the film, but it’s pretty great in and of itself that I might have to keep it…or at least read it before giving it to him. David Byrne calls it “A book for people who usually like to watch TV. And for people who don’t.”
    And while I can’t really say my top five (I tend to go a while before watching the same film again), I know “Paris, Texas” would be in there…more of a road movie than a Texas movie, but one that probably captures the essence of the US better than any homegrown director.

  • Amy

    You’ve given me inspiration for a few more to add to my Netflix queue.
    I loved the scene in True Stories with sort of eery and beautiful music and it looks like some sort of strange ballet is going on outside by some gas pumps at night and it’s someone being tested for drunk driving.
    I lived in Grapevine TX for 6 months when my husband started flying for American. I got my private pilots license at Meacham Field in Fort Worth and spent many happy hours flying over North Texas.

  • gregg

    megan and murray
    thanks for the challenge-
    i’ll let you know when i post my comments on film.
    really liked your movie choices

  • Micah

    Where’d y’all go?
    Hey, we finally got a chance to watch Paris, Texas. Really liked it. One of those interestingly-done movies that just carves out space around and between characters and lets you draw out so much from what’s unspoken and implied. The layers of meaning sort of gradually unfurl, and the full meaning of it all doesn’t become clear until the end.
    After the movie ended and its effect percolated through my mind for an hour so, something occurred to me. At the end of the movie, I think Travis was headed to Paris, Texas (although that’s probably obvious to those used to watching a lot more subtle stuff, like Fellini and whatnot!).
    Not without its flaws, however. For example, throughout the course of her monologue Kinski couldn’t seem to decide on an accent! That kinda bugged me. It should have been understated and poignant, but without being able to inhabit her character, it was just kinda stagey.

  • Meg

    John — that book sounds GREAT! You should definitely keep it for yourself : ) And Paris, Texas is one of my favorites as well. I really vacillated over adding some Wenders to my line-up, but I’d just blogged on him, so I thought I’d give some other films a chance to shine.
    Amy — True Stories captures Texas so well! My favorite scene, one that I replay in my head constantly, is the one where the gang of kids is marching and singing through a new house construction site in the middle of nowhere. “I AM the king of the world! I am the boss of the boys and girls!”
    My dad works for American, so I know Grapevine and surrounds pretty well, although I grew up in Dallas proper. It’s great fly-over country : )
    Gregg — thanks, and I’m looking forward to your turn with the baton!
    Micah — glad you finally watched it; it’s such a scenic film. The penultimate road movie. We’ve got the ultimate road movie headed our way right now. Yup, we’re finally gonna see Easy Rider.

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