Film Capsule 1964 - Groundbreaking Cinema Half a Century Later - Thur. Jan 9th - 8PM

Oddball Films presents Film Capsule 1964 - Groundbreaking Cinema Half a Century Later with a selection of some of the most fascinating, award-winning, visionary and mind-blowing shorts from 50 years ago.  This multi-genred program includes insightful documentaries, innovative animation and transformative avant-garde works, all made in 1964.  The Academy Award competition for best animated short was incredibly stiff that year and we have included three offbeat nominated masterpieces, including Eliot Noyes Jr.'s Clay, Origin of the Species, a fun, metamorphic claymation take on Darwin's Theory of Evolution.  Other nominees were: Carson Davidson's Help, My Snowman is Burning Down with a beatnik living in a bathtub and featuring music by the Gerry Mulligan Quartet and John Korty's deadpan Breaking the Habit, another beat-inspired short about the difficulty in quitting cigarettes.  Saul Bass' The Searching Eye, follows a boy who sees the history of man in a sand castle and the creation of the earth in a piece of rock.  Merce Cunningham documents the experimental choreographer, his imaginative interpretation of dance and theater as well as his collaborations with notable artists like Robert Rauschenberg and John Cage.  Paul Julian's animated adaptation of Maurice Ogden's poem The Hangman will haunt you with it's eerie depiction of a town forever lost to conformity.  Harold Becker paints a portrait of mid-60s Harlem and the unsung blues-master Blind Gary Davis.  Canadian experimental filmmaker Arthur Lipsett's Free-Fall is a pulsating, eye-popping montage of still and moving images.  Plus, footage of the 1964 World's Fair in color, a jet-setting pre-show and other surprises; it's a night of film and nostalgia 50 years in the making!   

Date: Thursday, January 9th, 2014 at 8:00pm
Venue: Oddball Films, 275 Capp Street San Francisco
Admission: $10.00 Limited Seating RSVP to or (415) 558-8117


Clay, Origin of the Species (B+W, 1964)
The Academy Award-nominated stop-motion film from Eliot Noyes offers a kinetic take on Darwin’s revolutionary work. Backed by a swinging jazz tune, clay takes form as everything from primordial ooze to carnivorous creatures, devouring, dividing, and dancing to the rhythm. It’s survival of the fittest, and this crowd-pleaser stands up.

Merce Cunningham/Image et technique/Merce Cunningham (B+W, 1964) 

A very rare 16mm print, this French-made poetic montage features excerpts of movement pioneer Merce Cunningham’s dance performances shot at the Théâtre de l’Est Parisien and Comédie de Bourges in June 1964. Cunningham, a major figure in 20th century dance collaborates here with life partner and composer John Cage with “found” material sets by Robert Rauschenberg. The film features dancers Raynal, Jackie, Etienne Becker, and Patrice O’Wyers.

The Searching Eye (Color, Saul and Elaine Bass, 1964)
A small boy takes a hypnagogic trip through nature in this visually stunning investigation of the mind’s eye. During a long, wandering hike, the boy sees the history of man in a sand castle and the creation of the earth in a piece of rock. Bass goes all out on this one, using exquisite timelapse cinematography and flawless composition. 

The Hangman (Color, Paul Julian, 1964)
Paul Julian, previously known as an animator for Warner Bros' Looney Tunes, directs this haunting adaptation of Maurice Ogden's poem of the same name.  A mysterious hangman comes to a small town, taking upon himself the responsibilities of town judge, jury, and executioner, but rather than questioning the stranger's arbitrary sentencing, the town's residents stay satisfied with their own well being, and look idly on as their community dwindles and their neighbors, one-by-one, face the noose-but might they too be beckoned by the hangman?  Surreal in its visual style with long shadows and sharp color contrasts, and made all the more unsettling by an eerie jazzy sort of score.

Free Fall (1964, B&W)
By the brilliant but troubled avant-garde filmmaker Arthur Lipsett (who committed suicide in 1986), Free Fall is, in the words of Lipsett himself, an “attempt to express in filmic terms an intensive flow of life – a vision of a world in the throes of creativity – the transformation of physical phenomena into psychological ones – a visual bubbling of picture and sound operating to create a new continuity of experience – a reality in seeing and hearing which would continually overwhelm the conscious state – penetration of outward appearances – suddenly the continuity is broken – it is as if all clocks ceased to tick – summoned by a big close-up or fragment of a diffuse nature – strange shapes shine forth from the abyss of timelessness.”

Help, My Snowman’s Burning Down (Color, 1964) 
This Academy award-nominated short (and winner of 14 international awards) by Carson Davidson stars Bob Larkin (later in the cult film Putney Swope) as a Beatnik who lives on a boat dock off Manhattan with only bathroom furnishings.  A visceral tapestry woven together by stop motion and surreal special effects, this film is an Oddball audience favorite.  With original jazz score by the Gerry Mulligan Quartet.

Breaking The Habit (1964, Color)
Directed by John Korty and produced by Henry Jacobs, this short anti-smoking film was nominated for an Oscar and features deadpan dialogue with a minimalist animation style.  In 1964, Korty opened a studio in Stinson Beach and made three feature films before focusing mainly on documentary filmmaking. In 1977 Korty won the Oscar (documentary) for Who Are the Debolts and Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids?, and his 1984 cult animated feature film Twice Upon A Time, produced by George Lucas, has recently seen a revival of interest. Note: Breaking the Habit is currently being restored by the Academy Film Archive.

Blind Gary Davis (1964, B&W)  
Directed by Harold Becker (who went on to direct The Onion Field and Taps among other films). 
An inside look into the music and lifestyle of one of music’s lesser-known masters, this short documentary focuses on the great country blues artist and reverend, Blind Gary Davis. Davis first recorded in 1935 and greatly influenced the folk movement of the 1960s. He is featured singing and talking about his career amidst the poverty of his Harlem neighborhood. Intimate and revealing, the film’s rich black and white tones compliment the dark tones and lyrics of Davis’s music. It is a sensitive and moving portrait that succeeds in making both social and personal statements.  

For the Early Birds:
Tempo Twelve (Color, 1964)
Delta Airlines promotional film with pre-Laugh In Arte Johnson as a comic jetsetter. 12 different swinging locations are highlighted, including SF, LA, Vegas, Dallas(?) Jamaica, Puerto Rico, New Orleans and Washington DC. Remember when jet travel was this glamorous? Neither do we.

About Oddball Films
Oddball films is the film component of Oddball Film+Video, a stock footage company providing offbeat and unusual film footage for feature films like Milk, documentaries like The Summer of Love, television programs like Mythbusters, clips for Boing Boing and web projects around the world.
Our films are almost exclusively drawn from our collection of over 50,000 16mm prints of animation, commercials, educational films, feature films, movie trailers, medical, industrial military, news out-takes and every genre in between. We’re actively working to present rarely screened genres of cinema as well as avant-garde and ethno-cultural documentaries, which expand the boundaries of cinema. Oddball Films is the largest film archive in Northern California and one of the most unusual private collections in the US. We invite you to join us in our weekly offerings of offbeat cinema.