Honoring Super 8's legacy History: The cheap, portable equipment once used for home movies actually has been bricks and mortar to avant-garde filmmaking. MOMA honors these films in a two-year exhibition

Inside Today: Film

May 08, 1998|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,SUN STAFF

Super-8 -- the film stock that captured thousands of home movies during the 1960s (not to mention the Zapruder film) -- has enjoyed something of a resurgence of late. The grainy, super-saturated look is a chic addition to music videos, television commercials and even feature films ("The Game," "U-Turn," "L.A. Confidential" and Joel Schumacher's upcoming "8 Millimeter" being a few recent examples).

What many filmgoers don't realize is that Super-8 films have a long and storied life in the avant-garde: The cheap portability of equipment you can buy at most flea markets, as well as the rich tonal values of the film, have long attracted filmmakers who make experimental, non-narrative films.

For its admirers (this critic among them), the distinctive aesthetic of Super-8 films -- highly personal, handmade, resourceful and expressive -- is something to be cherished, especially as Kodak phases out its line of Super-8 film stocks.

What a boon, then, that the Museum of Modern Art in New York City is honoring Super-8 and small-gauge filmmaking in "Big As Life: An American History of 8 mm Film," a two-year-long exhibition of films by more than 50 artists as diverse as Stan Brakhage, Vito Acconci, George and Mike Kuchar and Ken Jacobs.

Two upcoming programs will feature Baltimore artists. On Thursday, films by Melanie Berry will be shown; on May 28, the program will include films by Martha Colburn and former Baltimore-based artist tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE. All screenings begin at 6 p.m. and will continue through June 4. After a summer break, "Big as Life" will resume on Sept. 17.

Going 'Crazy'

The B-movie series at the Charles Theatre continues with "Gun Crazy" (1949), Joseph Lewis' lovers-on-the-lam classic that inspired "True Romance," "Natural Born Killers" and countless other imitators. Peggy Cummins plays a circus sharp-shooter who seduces John Dall into a life of crime.

It plays Saturday at 11: 30 a.m. and Monday at 7: 30 p.m. Tickets are $6 (seniors $4, weekends before 6 p.m. $4).

'Wild' life

Documentary maker Barbara Kopple insists that Woody Allen's acting background did not make him a less candid subject in "Wild Man Blues," which opens in Baltimore today.

"What he's used to is working with a script and actors. And what I'm used to is no script and people, letting life unfold. I put a wireless mike on him, so he wouldn't even know when we were filming. And also he was in a strange, strange place. It was 23 days and 18 different European cities and he was not in control. He was more anxious about paparazzi and fans and even more basic things like 'How am I going to do my laundry?' than about us."

Kopple, who won an Oscar in 1976 for "Harlan County, U.S.A.," about a strike at a Kentucky coal mine, is currently finishing "Generations," about the original Woodstock music festival and the 1994 version.

"It's been a big struggle, and I'm trying to get the money to finish it now," she says.

Then, Kopple intends to try her hand at fiction. She will adapt David Rabe's play "The Boom-Boom Room" into a film starring Patricia Arquette, and she would like to direct "Joe Glory," from her own script about the cultural community that sprang up in Peekskill, N.Y., after World War II and the tense relationship between the artists and the townsfolk.

"It's a love story set against the political backdrop of this riot that [actually] occurred," she says. "It's the story of a young World War II veteran returning home to find all the things he fought against in the war are happening in this town."

Pub Date: 5/08/98

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