Double Vision: Short Films
February 1, 2019
Lightbox Film Center
Philadelphia, PA, US
The opening program of Double Vision juxtaposes two films each by Jean Vigo and Ron Rice. À propos de Nice was Vigo’s first film, an enthusiastic and ambitious city symphony detailing Nice, which Vigo and wife Lydou moved to in late 1928. After meetings filmmakers Claude Autant-Lara and Germaine Dulac, who helped him get work as a cameraman on productions in Nice, Vigo energetically took to planning his own film, enlisting cinematographer Boris Kaufman to stay at their home and shoot the visually intricate and surprising sequences of architecture, animals and the lazy tourists lounging through the beachside city.
Senseless was Ron Rice’s second film, salvaged from footage shot on the way to a Mexican island meant to be the site of a utopian commune. As the hopeful participants in the community arrived, they realized the island had no access to water and the dream was dashed. Rice picked at the bones of his footage to produce a film with no clear protagonist, plot or thrust, but instead one that accurately portrays his own restless, rambling nature as a traveler without a clear destination.
Taris was Vigo’s second film, a commission for Gaumont’s Journal vivant (“Living Newspaper”) series of newsreels. The film lets swimming champion Jean Taris lead a demonstration of different strokes while Vigo cuts in creative cinematographic and editing flourishes, notably underwater sequences which anticipate the use of underwater shots in L’Atalante.
Ron Rice’s last finished film, Chumlum was deeply inspired by his friend Jack Smith’s films, especially Normal Love in which Rice had been involved with the production. Featuring Smith in front of the camera along with his actors Beverly Grant, Francis Francine and Gerard Malanga, Chumlum is alive with color and layered images, an orientalist burlesque which—like Smith’s films—is low on plot by heavy on gestural performance and theatricality. The film-arabesque is propelled by a loose, Eastern-inspired score by composer Angus MacLise, a nascent member of The Velvet Underground and Theatre of Eternal Music.
À propos de Nice, Jean Vigo, 1930, France, DCP, 25'
Senseless, Ron Rice, 1962, US, 16mm, 28'
Taris, Jean Vigo, 1931, France, DCP, 10'
Chumlum, Ron Rice, 1964, US, 16mm-to-35mm, 26'
Chumlum restored by Anthology Film Archives and The Film Foundation with funding provided by The George Lucas Family Foundation. Senseless preserved by Anthology Film Archives.