Apr 29, 2013

black mariah films review

I meant to post on the blog last month about Austin's ongoing series/final project Black Mariah films but got sidetracked and never did. The most recent program was this past Sunday, so I wanted to put in a plug and encourage people to check them out. Unlike last months' screening—the mesmerizing Spirit of the Beehive, paired with a short called Bees and Spiders from the Museum of Natural History…which suited the dreary rainy night perfectly—Sunday's program consisted of curated short films, organized around the theme of drugged state/altered consciousness. In a diverse lineup that began with Buster Keaton field and stream antics (The Balloonatic) and ended with a surreal advertisement for a tranquilizer entitled The Relaxed Wife, there were many different iterations on the affects of drugs on the body (which is always a fun ride). Along with the classic Nicotine Princess from 1909, there was a truly bizarre Betty Boop short in which the animated Betty draws laughing gas that then spreads to the "real world," and my favorite film on the program, The Mystery of the Leaping Fish. This latter film, starring Douglas Fairbanks and co-written by Todd Browning and D.W. Griffith, followed the misadventures of a drug-addicted detective "Coke Ennyday," who took down his Chinatown foes (there is a white slavery plot, naturally) by blowing Cocaine into their faces. I never knew this film existed, but its incredible use of Fairbanks' kinetic energy and outrageous costume design made it unforgettable. The diversity of these films made for a compelling program, and a very different experience than last month's screening. The beautiful Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center in the L.E.S.—where they host the screenings—is inauspicious and intimate; the creak of the screening room chairs and sight of the single projector add to the low-key cineclub ambiance that gives the series its interesting quality. I recommend everyone check out https://www.facebook.com/BlackMariahFilm

to see what Austin and his colleagues are up to—the screenings (I've been to the 8 o'clock ones) varied in traffic, but both times were (different, but) interesting and laidback experiences. They also have free wine and PBR, which no one in the audience takes enough advantage of. I've attached the program notes from Sunday's screening so you can get a sense what they do (sorry for the poor quality, my scanner hates me)


Madeline Ostdick

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