Waiting for Hollis

In the 1960s and 1970s, an evening of “independent” cinema (for which read avant-garde, experimental, personal, New American Cinema, and so on and so forth) could be followed by conversation, drinks while sitting on somebody’s bedsit floor, a little dope, orgies, political demonstrations or maybe a flip through the latest John Barth novel. Now one returns to the PC and struggles with how to process the experience of Hollis Frampton‘s Hapax Legomena into what passes for a post.

Watching “independent” cinema now seems like a solitary activity. The idea that one would go and sit in a room full of people to watch these films, to treat them as a shared experience, also seems old-fashioned. It is Squally’s practice to see such things in the cinema. This is why your blogger only saw Zorns Lemma last Sunday, even though it first crossed our radar back when we were still ducking gym class. Still, we felt a little sheepish when discovering this morning that it had been on Ubuweb all along. If our curiosity had really been so seriously piqued, it could have been easily satisfied on the Internet.

There is still something to be said for a night at the pictures. There is the randomness of the event, the sense that the program has been put on just for you, that some unseen being has ordained tonight is the time the artwork and the spectator will commune. There is the pre-screening ritual of seeing what other types might be drawn out on a spring evening to watch these films. Sat before us was someone whose friend claimed was the only person watching Hollis Frampton movies on a Monday night, having been to watch a wrestling match in Philadelphia the night before. The films were introduced by one of Frampton’s colleagues Gerry O’Grady. He played recordings of the late filmmaker conducting an interview. Hearing the man’s voice provided quite a frisson; it felt like hearing a strange bird calling at dawn. Yet this morning we see that over at Ubuweb, there are not one, but two video interviews to be seen.

It’s all out there, if you want it. But the Internet may remove that sense of expectation that chasing down the high points of “independent” cinema used to involve. It makes study seem too easy–if everything is there in front of you, you might put off immersing yourself in it. You might think that what seems to be a hermetic art form–the artist laboring over their Steinbeck–has simply become more hermetic. Maybe it makes discovering something like (nostalgia) seem as unremarkable as discovering Two Girls, One Cup. Still, while we’re waiting for the tea to steep, here are three Frampton films from the Hapax Legomena collection.

(Nostalgia) (1971)
Ordinary Matter (1972)
Poetic Justice (1972)


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