Saturday, November 13, 2010

Zeitgeist is the independent moviegoers' spot

Zeitgeist is the independents' independent film house. It is so off-the-beaten-track, you might never have seen it, certainly not unless you expressly set out to find it near the CBD and warehouse district, but on a street that's only part commercialized.

It took months for me to figure out where it was; what it was; and whether I was really interested. It seems as if that is essential to its MO. 

They only want you to come if you are 
really, purposefully, seeking it out.

And you certainly are not going to feel comfortable, sitting on hard-backed chairs, that is, unless you arrived early enough to sit on the couches in front. You must suffer for Art.

It has taken me until tonight to look up the meaning of the word zeitgeist: "spirit of the times," according to Wikipedia, source of all truth.

Almost every time I've been there, we were a small audience. Tonight, for "Hell on Wheels," a documentary about the beginnings of Austin's roller derby teams, there were probably 50 people, including quite a few Big Easy Roller Girls and the filmmakers. The only time I experienced the venue relatively full was during an avant-garde jazz concert during Mardi Gras.

Yet, Zeitgeist has been around 24 years and is celebrating its birthday with a benefit screening of a very obscure film, "Recoder il Film." I can't describe it, so must copy the Web page summary.

, an underground film from 1984 has developed to a somehow prophetic cult movie. With an unique engagement of exceptional players, who for the most part play themselves (FM Einheit of Einstürzende Neubauten, the true Christiane F. of the infamous Bahnhof Zoo, Genesis P-Orridge of Psychic TV and the American writer William S. Burroughs) and extraordinary music of the time, such as Soft Cell and Einstürzende Neubauten.

The film dramatizes the transcending innovation which punk brought to the fields of communication, like a perfect precursor for the cyberpunk genre….focuses on the sonic experiments of a disillusioned `noise-freak´ FM, played by FM Einheit (aka Mufti) of the `experimental, industrial´ music group Einstürzende Neubauten, who is experimenting with white-noise and infra-sound, recording the daily noises around him and mixing them in his home-studio. FM wants to know: “the connection between these dumb-faced and contented people, gorging themselves on one hamburger after another, and the monotonously happy muzak constantly oozing out of the speakers…” 

From his studio window FM watches the frantic movements of the streets. After having a dream in which FM sees his partner, Christiana(Christiane Felscherinow aka Christiane F.),walking in a post-apocalyptic landscape with a figure of an old man, dressed in shabby coat and trilby, and hearing the clipped tones of William S. Burroughs' voice from his own cut-up tape-recorder experiments, FM awakes and immediately begins to experiment in his studio with his recordings of fast-food restaurant (H.Burgers) Muzak, a form of audio valium. 

A second dream depicts FM entering a small shop; when the shopkeeper (William S. Burroughs) asks him what he wants FM replies “Nothing special”, and appearing uncertain of what he is doing or looking for, FM knocks over a box of electrical diodes. The shopkeeper, who has been carefully dismantling a cassette recorder, jumps up, strides over to FM and states: “You start from zero preconceptions – you want `nothing special´ – here it is.” 

The shopkeeper gives him the dismantled machine. While out walking and recording noises, FM enters an abandoned warehouse, inside he watches as a number of people drum repetitively on a various pieces of percussion. Small fires burn in a trashcans scattered throughout the buildings. As FM watches he is seen by the percussionists, who drag him into an inner chember. 

Here FM is seduced by the 
flashing lights of a Dream Machine, while Burroughs` voice asks “Is this machine recording?” Then the guru figure (credited as Hohepriester, and played by Genesis P-Orridge) questions FM`s presence in the building, asking if the tape player was being used to trigger a virus. FM explains his reason for recording, and Hohepriester tells FM “Information is guarded like a bank and we have to rob this bank." 

FM explains that he wants to utilize sound as a weapon. FM begins to use his tape experiments as a form of anti-muzak, replacing the artificially soothing muzak of H. Burger restaurants with his own tapes, which- instead of inspiring placid catatonic consumption – create nausea and violence among the restaurant´s patrons. The insurrection caused by FM´s anti-muzak and infra-sound tapes increases, leading to large-scale riots triggered off by punks holding tape-players blasting out FM´s tapes. In response to the growing defiance the Muzak Corporation coerce reluctant hit-man Jager (Bill Rice) to kill FM.   By donation.

View from Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.
Clearly, a must see. In addition, Zeigeist has an upcoming 4th annual Middle East Film Festival - I can't read the Arabic, but includes blockbusters like "Tehran Has No More Pomegranates," "To Shoot an Elephant," "Tea on the Axis of Evil," "Jerusalem Moment," and "Dancing Boys of Afghanistan." In addition to 55 films about Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Qatar, Syria, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, there'll be 10 nights of food, music, dance, visual art and visiting artists.
Monday, Nov. 15, guitarists Rob Cambre and Donald Miller will join Bhob Rainey on saxophone for The Death Posture.
Wednesday, Nov. 17,"Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy," will be presented by producer Mark Schuller and Associate Producer Gina Ulysse in conjunction with the American Anthropology Association Conference.

Pretty impressive for an all-volunteer organization, don't you think? Very intellectual, very bohemian, very cutting-edge and cultural.
If you can’t come, but would like to make a donation to help Zeitgeist continue it’s mission…please feel encouraged to do so!

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