Have you ever seen movies as performance art? “Hurry, Hurry!” says the barker from Coney Island. Here’s a brief guide represented and defined by one Mr. Tom (Mr. 8MM) Church in his SAST (Short Attention Span Theater) anthology. The very idea that big-budget Hollywood movies in and of themselves, such as ‘Transformers’ have to take action/adventure (itself an immersion) and classify itself amongst the new 3-D distributables to gain extra eyes at the box office is, for this reviewer, no match to what Mr. Church plans to give his audience in ‘live-action’ reel (real) time immersion, complete with live (real time) music accompaniment from accordionist, Marni Rice, Friday and Saturday at Millennium Film Workshop courtesy of curator Mike Park.
I had the opportunity to view his latest ‘Stories for those with short attention spans and other film from San Francisco’s Marginal Cinema’ in the Columbia University Film Federation Lifetime screening room last May, right before commencement. It was, in fact one of the most interesting experiences in cinema I have ever had. Here’s why:
First off, Mr. Church works with 8MM (sometimes super 8) film exclusively. It itself a curiosity. Remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz where the 3-D projection that scared the bejeebus out of our 4 heroes said “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” Well, in Mr. Church’s case we are all egged on either knowingly or unknowingly to participate in live action behind the scene 8MM editing and root for Mr. Church’s completion as the film is pulled together or falls apart (those of you who can remember the volatility of the medium) during his screening. Think ‘Cinema Paradiso.’ Just view the process on the screen, watch and listen to Marni Rice the chanteuse’s live accordion accompaniment, and then turn around and look into the projection room. The Wizard, Mr. Church, stands behind the curtain, is the heart and soul and mouthpiece (interviewer on screen) is working his editing magic.
Marni Rice, the composer / accordionist picked this intimate, personal and nostalgic look at the bygone East Village not so much for its curiosity and archival value, but to help tell the story through her own extensitivity. At Mr. Church’s show at Columbia, I found her compositions to be not only endearing and but also ingenious in how it met with the cacophony of 8MM as edited in real-time by the man behind the curtain. Such a juxtaposition of when torch songs meet garage music adds to and enhances the immersive experience.
We caught up with Ms. Rice whose own performance compositions can also be heard at a Vera Beren curated music event, Small Beast, at The Delancey every other month on Mondays, and asked a few questions of what it’s like to reproduce the feel of Nickelodeons in Coney Island – a bygone era and why she thinks it works in the present day and the creative process for accompanying the 8MM films:
knotmove.com – Ms. Rice, How did you pick/ program your music pieces?
Marni Rice – Tom spoke to me about his film screening and asked if I would play live. Originally I was supposed to improvise for a 3 minute film, but just before opening he asked if I would improvise through the 25 or so minutes, so that’s what happened.
knotmove.com – Was the incidental music planned?
Marni Rice – Some of the themes were taken from existing compositions of mine, but I hadn’t seen any of the footage before. If we did the show again, I’m sure the music would be different.
knotmove.com – Do you get your uncanny innate sense of timing extending from absolute pitch?
Marni Rice – I’ve worked a lot with Dance companies improvising music to their movement so it’s the same process for me with film.
The sometimes elusive Mr. Church, who gives the appearance of a mild-mannered weary traveler, has bubbling under the surface the expressive angst of beat poet and narrator. He diplays this through his ‘performance’ off camera, in the screening room and through his interviewing technique as, what I like to call, a ‘mouthpiece to the disenfranchised.’
This show does not get around much so I highly recommend it for your viewing and visceral pleasure. You get the immediate, fresh performance (for only $5) and an entire evening of excellent cinema verite and musical art.
Finally, go out and support the performing arts. Vote to keep the budget and funding for arts and music in your community and school district.
This show is scheduled to take place on Friday Sept. 16 and Saturday September 17 at 8:00pm at Millennium Film Workshop Inc. is at 66 East 4th Street in the heart of the East Village
A mere $5 will get you up close