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08 APRIL 2013

Les Blank and his Documentary Films

"One of the great living documentary makers of the modern day, Les Blank joins BYOD. After fifty years making incredible docs that showcase the human spirit through art, struggle and humor, Les Blank has a wealth of knowledge to share with Ondi and Vlad.

Mr. Blank takes us through his early days and his decision to pick up the camera, his jump to film making and dealing with subjects on the outside of society, to dealing with artists to find the human spirit. He spares few details along the way and let's us in on his life–threatening filming Herzog, from the jungle of South America on 'Burden of Dreams,' to filming the director famously eating his own shoe. Mr. Blank is still a brilliant artist and illuminating guide through the history of doc making."

(TheLip.tv)

"An American Treasure and Living Legend Les Blank and his Documentary Films", Episode 14 : BYOD: Bring Your Own Doc, Hosted By Ondi Timoner and Vladimir Radovanov for TheLip.tv.

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CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
11 MAY 2011

Sadie Benning's Fisher Price PXL-2000 confessions

"Eighteen–year–old Sadie Benning recorded thoughts and images, from 1989–92, of her nascent lesbianism with the help of a Fisher Price Pixelvision camera. Portrays the space of Sadie's bedroom, scrawled notes, and defiant expressions which mark her confessional, in–your–face style."

(Duke University Libraries)

Sadie Benning (1990). 'If Every Girl Had a Diary', video (black and white, sound), 8 min. Purchase. © 2011 Sadie Benning. Courtesy Video Data Bank

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TAGS

1990adolescent sexuality • audio cassette • authorship • B&W • black and whitecamerachronicle • coming out • confession • despair • diarydocumentary filmfeelingsfemale sexuality • Fischer-Price PXL-2000 camera • Fisher Price • gay and lesbian • gender • gender issues • girlidentity • If Every Girl Had a Diary • innocenceintimate livesisolationlesbian • lesbian identity • nascent sexuality • outpouringsoutsiderpersonal • pixelvision camera • queerqueer cinema • queer experience • revelatory • rough quality • Sadie Benning • self-shotssexual orientation • social prejudice • tapeteen • teenage • teenage diary • videoVideo Data Bank

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
21 MARCH 2011

Returning to Michael Powell's Peeping Tom after 15 years

"Peeping Tom has been widely celebrated as one of the great films about looking, about consumption, about cinema, about art, about the artist, about the relation between the artist, the artwork and the audience, about the relation between looking and pleasure, looking and desire, looking and death, and so on. All very familiar stuff from Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis and film studies (the film's tailor–made for film studies – bring in some Freud here, some Bataille and de Sade there, add a little Lacan and Virillio, etc). The aggressive and violating camera, as Scorsese put it. And this is partly the problem with Peeping Tom. Like the films of Peter Greenaway or David Cronenberg, Peeping Tom is more like an academic essay about voyeurism and scopophilia, a join–the–dots lecture on the pleasures, risks and dangers of art. Plus, Peeping Tom employs the most stereotypical, cliched thriller/ murder mystery plot you can imagine: a young man, a loner, a misfit, introspective, morbid, an outsider figure, abused as a child, etc etc etc, who murders sexualized women (prostitutes and actresses), and is befriended by an innocent he cannot bring himself to corrupt or kill.

Powell attacks the subject of voyeurism and murder aggressively in the opening scenes: the close–ups on cameras, projectors and eyes, the mirrors and reflections, exaggerated sounds (the rattle of a projector, a dripping tap, a heartbeat, whispered voiceover), and his love of visual rhymes and puns (eyes, drinks, sticks and tripods). You can see Powell having a ball in orchestrating his elaborate camera moves, his erotic, sleazy mise–en–abyme, his film–within–a–film tropes (Powell playing the murderer's father and torturer in home movies which he shot himself), the multiple reflections, mirrors, lenses, cameras, projections and screens (every shot in Peeping Tom seems to have been lit by a raking, unfiltered, unflattering horizontal light). It's not that Powell isn't at the top of his game in Peeping Tom – in its way, Peeping Tom is every bit as inventive as Powell's best work – it's that the plot, the characters, the situations are so cheesy, predictable, and shallow.

Despite all this, though, Peeping Tom does have bite and a nastiness which age hasn't dimmed. Peeping Tom also still feels 'contemporary' in its psychoanalytic treatment of a serial killer plot which draws on prostitution, cinema, acting, and pornography. And the conceit of having a murder in the opening shots which's replayed a moment later over the credits is a tour–de–force (one of the film's best cinematic ideas, this says everything necessary, and economically, in the first five minutes)."

(Jeremy Robinson)

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TAGS

1960abuseaggressionartartistartworkaudienceBritish directorBritish film directorcameracinemaclicheclose-upconsumptionDavid Cronenbergdeathdesire • Emeric Pressburger • erotic • essayfilmfilm studies • film-within-a-film • Freudian • Georges Bataille • innocenceintrospectionJacques Lacan • join-the-dots • Leo Marks • loner • looking • Marquis de Sade • Martin ScorseseMichael Powellmirrormise-en-abymemisfitmorbidmurdermurder mysteryoutsider • Paul Virilio • Peeping Tom (film) • Peter Greenawaypleasurepornographyprojectorprostitutionpsychoanalysis • pun • reflectionscopophilia • scoptophilia • serial killer • sexualised • sleazy • stereotypethrillerUKviolation • visual rhyme • voyeurism

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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