Aluminum People

In the beginning, we created the wax paper and the foil; and the wax and the foil were without form and void; and darkness was on the face of the aluminum; and the Spirit of Glad said, "Let there be life!" and there was life. Behold! It is good!

Jonathan Demme Presents: Made in Texas

CinemaTexas Program Notes

Volume 21, Number 1

October 10, 1981

JONATHAN DEMME PRESENTS:  MADE IN TEXAS – NEW FILMS FROM AUSTIN

COLLECTIVE FOR LIVING CINEMA
52 White Street
New York City, New York

INVASION OF THE ALUMINUM PEOPLE
(30 minutes, Super 8, color [sic])
A film by David Boone with help from Gary Marchal.
Cast:  Gary Marchal, Heather Kruicshank, and the Aluminum People.

LEONARDO, JR
(7 minutes, 16mm, black and white)
A film by Lorrie Oshatz.  Cinematographer:  Richard Austin.  Score: Paul Ali, Lorrie Oshatz and Sara Austin.  Cast:  Paul Ali, Javier Garza, and Lorrie Oshatz.

THE DEATH OF JIM MORRISON
(12 minutes, 16mm, color and black and white)
A film by Tom Huckabee and Will Van Overbeek.  Directed, written and co-produced and edited by Tom Huckabee.  Co-produced and photographed by Will Van Overbeek.  Score:  The Doors, Nico.  Editing consultant:  Loren Bivens.  Cast:  Jeff Whittington, Sally Norvell, Phil Tolstead.

FAIR SISTERS
(7 minutes, 16mm, black and white)
A film by Missy Boswell, Edward Lowry and Louis Black with help from Steven Harding, Peter Bretz and Roberto Quiroga.  Cast:  Missy Boswell, Ann Laemmle, Kay Sloan, Nina Nichols, Barbara Hendrie, Tom O’Guinn, Steve Goodwin, David Rodowick, Bud Simons, Marion LaNasa, Phillip Born, Louis Black and Edward Lowry.

MASK OF SARNATH
(20 minutes, 16mm, black and white with a touch of red)
Written and directed by Neil Ruttenberg.  Produced by Neil Ruttenberg and Louis Black.  Music by Throbbing Gristle.  Director of cinematography:  Vince Hollister.  Executive producer:  Loren Bivens.  Associate producer and production design:  Kathy Redmond.  Assistant director:  Lorrie Oshatz.  Editors:  Vince Hollister and Joel Richardson.  Assistant editor:  Nina Nichols.  Camera:  Phillip Born and Don Darth.  Camera assistants:  Steve Harding and Henry Millar.  Sound:  Joel Richardson and Brian Hansen.  Sound assistants:  Craig Mitchel, Steve Harding and Jack Turlington.  Continuity:  Carlysle Vandervoort.  Gaffer:  David Rodowick.  Grips: Jack Turlington, Mark H. Caudill, Randy Franklin.  Art direction:  Brian Hansen.  Special effects:  Steve Harding and Brian Hansen.  Sound effects:  Joel Richardson.  Makeup:  Lorrie Oshatz and Lynn O’Regan.  Makeup effects design:  Rick Turner.  Makeup effects execution:  Rick Turner and Bud Simons.  Sound mix:  Peter Bretz.  Titles:  Nick Barbaro.  Drawings for Sacrifice Sequence by Rick Cruz.  Cast:  Nina Nichols, Raymond Lee, Larry Seaman, Madelynn Goldfein, Dan Puckett, Tom O’Guinn.

SPEED OF LIGHT
(30 minutes, 16mm, color)
A New Hands Production.  Directed by Brian Hansen.  Written by Paul Collum.  Producers:  Carlysle Vandervoort and Brian Hansen.  Executive Producers:  John Groven and Carla Leftwich.  Production supervisors:  Thomas Schatz and Bill Mackie.  Director of photography:  Vince Hollister.  Camera:  J. D. Rebstock.  Editor:  Lorrie Oshatz.  Music:  Radio Free Europe (courtesy MiG and Armageddon Records); ReVersible Cords (courtesy CoTex Records); Doris Day, “Que Sera Sera” (courtesy Columbia Records); Johnny Horton, “Sink the Bismarck” (courtesy Columbia Records).  Production manager and 1st Assistant director:  Carolyn Connerat.  Assistant camera:  Nick Barbaro.  Sound recordists:  Glen Claybrook, Chris Dietz and Carla Leftwich.  Sound and music editor:  Brian Hansen.  2nd Assistant directors:  Lorrie Oshatz and Neil Ruttenberg.  Continuity:  Lin Keller.  Wardrobe:  Cassi of Ragowitz.  Titles:  Brian Hansen.  Balloonist:  Randy Moon.  Sound Mix:  Texas Motion Picture Service, Paul Harrison, eng.  Images and sounds courtesy:  Paul Harvey News, NASA, NBC-TV, KCSW-FM, KVUE-TV, Ken Alada, Ricky Reich, Jeff Whittington, Louis Black, Ingrid Lucksted, University of Texas.

Program coordinated in Austin by Pamela Menteer and Louis Black for CinemaTexas and The Austin Chronicle.

But what can a poor boy do?  –Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

I’m in love with rock ‘n’ roll
And I’ll be out all night.         –Jonathan Richman

I have this vague memory of a scene from ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK, one of the seminal fifties rock ‘n’ roll films.  It has to do with the arrival in a small town of several extremely “hip” musicians who ask some locals for directions to a dance at a local gym.  In the course of the conversation, they occasionally slip into “cool” jargon but then very self-consciously repeat themselves in more accessible English;  they don’t want to dazzle the poor “squares” in the town and leave them too confused.  As they drive away, the townspeople turn to each other and reel off a few lines of dense rhythmic be-bop jive, the gist of which is that they had no idea what those “squares” from out-of-town were talking about.

This scene has contributed vividly to one of my favorite fantasies.  Since many New Yorkers (as well as Easterners in general) are still as provincial (and proud of it) as Steinberg’s famous New Yorker cover would indicate, I really don’t think attitudes have changed that much since ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK.  This vision I sometimes get has to do with a carload of New Yorkers cruising through Austin, Texas about one o’clock some Sunday morning.  They are turning the dial on their FM radio in hopes of finding something that isn’t twangy gee-tars when all of a sudden they hit upon the Rev. Neil X’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Mass on KUT-FM.  This they can make no sense of.  Here is somebody in the middle of Texas playing Throbbing Gristle, the Sex Pistols, Cabaret Voltaire and Surgical Penis Clinic on the radio.  As the Residents have informed us, “Ignorance of your culture is not cool.”  The culture is alive and well.  The culture is striking back.

Shaking off images of dusty boots and wooden sidewalks, of urban cowboys and rampaging Armadillos, Texas filmmakers have over the years struck out on their own to create a rich, multi-faceted cinema that ranges from Larry Buchanan’s MARS NEEDS WOMEN to Tobe Hooper’s TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE to Eagle Pennell’s THE WHOLE SHOOTIN’ MATCH.  The films being presented tonight grew out of a cultural explosion birthed (according to most sources and opinions) by a Sex Pistols concert  in San Antonio, Texas in January, 1978.  A new wave scene sprouted from the central Texas soil and bands blossomed forth (The Huns, Standing Waves, Radio Fre [sic] Europe, Terminal Mind, the Big Boys, F-Systems, the Skunks, The Next), poster art was plastered all over town, street-zines appeared, and a community of filmmakers emerged.

Many of the filmmakers represented tonight have also belonged to new wave bands, inclucing Tom Huckabee (The Huns, the Re-Cords), Neil Ruttenberg (F-Systems, Radio Fre Europe), and Brian Hansen (Radio Fre Europe).  These people, however, had more in common than this new wave background.  If one characteristic can be said to dominate their work, it would be their love of film.  Many have been students at the Radio-Television-Film Department of the University of Texas at Austin and almost all the films were produced under the auspices of the Department in one way or another.  But there is something more:  these people are film-goers as well.  Consequently, these films are filled with homages and tributes, bits of plaigarism and affectionate gibes.  The common bond here is cinema; cinema as energy and as vision.

Each of these films has a different background and story, but fortunately they all speak eloquently for themselves.  The program came about late last spring with the Austin visit of director Jonathan Demme.  A local favorite, Demme’s work has a fanatical cult following among local film people (FAIR SISTERS is a direct homage to CAGED HEAT while SPEED OF LIGHT owes much to CRAZY MAMA).  Demme was interested enough in what was happening cinematically in Austin to sample for himself some locally produced films, and after screening them he was inspired to put the wheels in motion which led to this program.

INVASION OF THE ALUMINUM PEOPLE by David Boone celebrates fifties science fiction films, aluminum, and life in the modern world.  A science fiction mystery, of sorts.  The film can also [be] seen as an allegorical testimony for the Church of the Sub-Genius.

FAIR SISTERS, appropriately enough, is a tribute in many ways to Demme’s first film, CAGED HEAT.  The film by Louis Black, Missy Boswell, and Ed Lowry concerns the robbery of a high stakes poker game.

THE DEATH OF JIM MORRISON is an homage to the late great singer of The Doors.  It is an image-laden, almost surreal film which integrates actual events from Morrison’s life into a patterned structure held together by the song “When the Music’s Over.”  The film was gorgeously photographed by Will Van Overbeek and features a number of excellent performances, including that of Austin music critic Jeff Whittington in the title role.

LEONARDO, JR. is a loving tribute to the wonderful silent comedy work of Buster Keaton.  Writer, director, actor Lorrie Oshatz tastefully and affectionately creates a catalog of humorous situations with the style and the grace of the Master.

MASK OF SARNATH, a finalist for the 1980 Student Academy Awards, is structured as a standard entry in the horror film genre.  The theme of the film, “Evil Never Dies,” dominates the narrative backed by a hauntingly eerie soundtrack recorded especially for the film by Throbbing Gristle, a British punk / art / new wave rock group with a following on two continents.  Co-produced, written and directed by Neil Ruttenberg, the film was co-produced by Louis Black and photographed by Vince Hollister.

SPEED OF LIGHT won a Gold Star Award in the British Moviemaker Ten Best Competition, January 1981, and a Silver Venus Award in the Best Experimental Film Category at the Houston International Film Festival, April 1981.  Directed by Brian Hansen, the film also features a soundtrack by Radio Fre Europ, an Austin new wave / art rock / mechanical noise group of which he is a member.  The group has a small but devoted international following and has already released an album on a British label.  The film was written by Paul Cullum, photographed by Vince Hollister and edited by Lorrie Oshatz (if there is one thing Austin is, it’s a community).  SPEED is best described, in the words of its creators, as “a screaming red piece of time crash landing in the backwash of the American Gothic.”

Copyright 1981 by CinemaTexas, The Department of Radio-Televison-Film, The University of Texas at Austin.  All rights reserved.  Reasonable quotation to promote cinema studies in a non-profit setting is hereby permitted (appropriate credit for such usage will be appreciated).  Use for commercial purposes is expressly prohibited.

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