Oddball Films and guest curator Landon Bates bring you Inside the Cosmic Mind - Sci-Fi in July, seven 16mm films that squint past our planet and consider the cosmos. But peering so deeply into the celestial ether will inevitably make us turn the telescope on ourselves--a theme inspired and illustrated by our first film, Cosmic Zoom (1968), the classic NFB short in which the camera zooms ever outward, pausing on the edge of the universe--where our vast galaxy is but a speck among others—before diving back to Earth and into the “inner space” of a boy paddling a boat on a river, ending up inside a proton of a carbon atom within a DNA molecule. And so our screening proceeds from here in two parts: outer space films, with astronauts and aliens; and inner space ones, cerebral journeys through space and the mind. We blast off with that honorary astronaut Orson Welles as our galactic guide, in Who’s Out There (1975), a documentary that ponders the greater population of the universe and the likelihood (or mathematical probability) of extraterrestrial company. The question of that film’s title is then answered by the visitors of It Came from Outer Space (1953), a staple of the sci-fi thriller genre, directed by Jack Arnold (we’ll see an excerpt). Then, in Spaceborne (1977), a film consisting of footage shot during actual NASA missions, we’ll luxuriate in the elegant, near-balletic images of astronauts floating in zero gravity and our Earth receding in the black distance—sights made all the more moving by the soundtrack’s ethereal synth music. The quality and grandeur of this film’s images justifiably bring to mind 2001. We move forward and inward, into the dystopic future of Chris Marker’s landmark La Jetee (1963), a film made up of pristine still photographs, and set largely in the mind of its central character, who traverses time and memory. This is one of the great philosophical sci-fi films, and its tragic lyricism gives way to the optical apocalypse of our next film, Omega (1970), a shattering and transcendent vision of The End, in which three silhouetted figures sit serenely on a hill and accept their cosmic destiny.
Venue: Oddball Films, 275 Capp Street San Francisco
Admission: $10.00 Limited Seating RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 558-8117
Who’s Out There (Color, 1975)
This NASA-sponsored documentary, hosted and narrated by Orson Welles, explores progressive scientific views about the possibility (or mathematical probability) of extra terrestrial life in the universe. A panel of eminent astronomers, including Carl Sagan, discusses the hypothetical circumstances of contact with such extra terrestrial others. At the beginning of the film, Welles talks briefly about his notorious CBS War of the Worlds broadcast, which many listeners of the program mistook for an actual news report. Several of these listeners speak about the experience.
Cosmic Zoom (Color, 1968, Eva Szasz)
The film starts with an aerial image of a boy rowing a boat on the Ottawa River. The movement then freezes and view slowly zooms out, revealing more of the landscape all the time. The continuous zoom-out takes the viewer on a journey from Earth, past the Moon, the planets of the Solar System, the Milky Way and out into the far reaches of the known universe. The process is then reversed, and the view zooms back through space to Earth, returning to the boy on the boat. It then zooms in to the back of the boy's hand, where a mosquito is resting. It zooms into the insect's proboscis and on into the microscopic world, concluding at nucleolus level. It then zooms back out to the original view of the boy on the boat.
After a global holocaust, humanity's hopes for survival hinge on time-travel experiments conducted upon a man whose dreams reveal a clarion recall of a defining moment in his childhood when he witnessed a murder and a woman’s face. The narrative, revealed through a montage of still images creates a tight loop of incident in which the protagonist simultaneously realizes his past, present, and future. More a human story than sci-fi, densely layered and deeply effecting, “La Jetee” is evolutionary and enigmatic cinema at it’s most sublime.
In this eye-popping vision of a film an alien ship lands on earth. Its occupant holds people hostage while the ship is being repaired. Townspeople debate amongst each other on what will become of the space ship while angry mob is after the ship. Someone finds a way to hold them off until the ship can leave. Is this mysterious group a force for good or evil?
An optical poem by West Coast experimental filmmaker Donald Fox, this is a dazzling, highly original non-narrative, exhilaratingly beautiful film. OMEGA deals with the end of mankind on earth, prophesying man's liberation from his earthly bounds to roam the universe at will. By sending an energy ray to the sun and harnessing its solar power, man is able to make an evolutionary leap. The film can be used to explore the outer limits of the concepts of death, evolution the afterlife, and the future of mankind. Phew! A source film that over 40 years later still inspires.