After two days of illuminating documentaries, shorts and feature films, Saturday at Dallas VideoFest 28 became a day of introspection as the festival turned its gaze inward towards the history of film making itself. Littered with special presentations, lengthy Q&A sessions and even a world premiere, today included local film exhibition history, a treatise on 3D and its long-forgotten gems, and the advancement of technical processes such as Technicolor. To say it’s a privilege to be a movie geek, witnessing such well-researched and educational films and speaker presentations, is an understatement.
First up, Jeremy Spracklen’s thesis dissertation entitled Cinema I and II: A History of the Movies In Dallas As Seen Through North Park’s Iconic Theater was the local favorite of the festival. Via Jeremy’s slide presentation, newspaper clippings and unearthed b-roll footage, it’s clear the movie theaters at North Park were more than a breeding ground for local film fanatics, but an essential cog in the evolution of film distribution, advanced “special” screenings, and the very manner in which theaters were built and run on a day-to-day basis. Beginning with the theater’s opening in 1965 until the day it was torn down in early 2001, Spracklen’s lean but heartfelt tribute to the theater is yet another prime example of how we fail to appreciate the glory and simple beauty in both old structures and the ghostly ways they flicker across our memories. Spacklen stated he hopes to further explore local movie mavens and formally publish his work.
Next, Bob Furmanek (archivist at 3-D Film Archive) presented excerpts from a variety of shorts, cartoons, ‘infomercials’ and movie trailers of long-lost 3D films — all of which are available on a Flicker Alley Blu-ray DVD entitled 3-D Rarities (with more than an hour of other pieces located there). His vast knowledge of 3D film history and the story alone that one of these films presented was bought for mere chump change at a Hollywood second-hand film prop shop, only emphasizes the woefully inadequate strategies we currently have established for film preservation in this country. One had to forcefully wipe the smile off my face after exiting this presentation.
Continuing the reflective mood of the day, former American Film Institute editor and Emmy award winning director Allan Holzman premiered his twelve year passion project entitled The Art of Directing (Hitchcock, Spielberg, Truffaut). Culled from the full length interviews done by each filmmaker at the AFI Institute in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Holzman weaves a melodic commentary from the filmmakers themselves as they discuss film making techniques, influences and their own shortcomings as storytellers. As m.c. (and all around local film guru) Bart Weiss stated before the film, he challenged all of his students to be at this screening and it’s hard to disagree. Seeing the clips from all three auteurs and their films, a rush of cinematic overload washes over the viewer. From Truffaut’s perfectly textured French New Wave classics and the faces of his young lovers to the humanist grandeur of Spielberg’s blockbusters and back to the icy calculation of Hitchcock’s tales of suspense, its a 105 minute film school lesson.
Finally, Austin film critic and website owner Harry Knowles (www.aintitcool.com) shared two episodes of his new PBS show Ain’t It Cool, featuring Wes Craven (RIP) and House of Cards creator Beau Willimon. Released in 30 minute versions, his show — which replicates and conveys the obvious boyish cinematic glee his website has revealed for over a decade now — has been picked up to air on 73 markets around the country and will feature different artists every week.
Just as ebullient as ever, his post-screening Q&A (with Ain’t It Cool director Brett Hart) veered from the enormously funny (i.e. his telling how he first met popular novelist Ernest Cline) to the poignant when he responded to my question about what he initially envisioned for Aint It Cool News some 20 years ago. Created when he was paralyzed and unsure of his physical health and future, he wanted to “pull back the curtain on Hollywood” and expose its journalistic fallacies, such as high profile “exclusive” movie set visits when they actually were on set over a year and a half ago. This ‘fan-boy’ pride fueled his passion then, and as his new TV show reveals, that still fuels him today.
Aint It Cool will air in Dallas on KERA, beginning November 7.
And with that rush of genre exposition, I called it a successfully self-reflexive day. Tomorrow, more fictional features. I promise.