The University of Rochester OnFilm group organized a screening of short films by Karpo Godina and Davorin Marc. I was very pleased to notice that the group was still vibrant despite having a complete (or nearly complete) change of guard.
Anyway, the Dryden's new film programmer, Jurij Meden, did an excellent job giving context to each of the
five six films. Meden originates from Yugoslavia along with Godina, and he spent quite a while studying film in Marc's home country of Slovenia.
First up were two films from Karpo Godina. In the early 1970s he was interested in filming motion from a fixed camera position. His films of this era are fast-paced 8mm films. They screened Gratinirani Mozak Pupilije Ferkeverk (The gratinated brains of Pupilija Ferkeverk, Karpo Godina, Yugoslavia, 1970, 15 mins, Color, 35mm) first—a very odd film in which five people dance around abandoned natural salt evaporation ponds (I guess). (As a side note, I was scribbling notes into my Palm Pilot [Samsung Galaxy Player] but I couldn't transcribe fast enough so all I got was "Graduated brains of… P… Browned brains?" Thankfully, an obscure blog post led me to the complete title posted at The Northwest Film Forum; and that obscure blog has the translated title cards and scenes from this film.) Anyway, Meden said—I'm fairly certain this is the gist of his wild anecdote—the filmmaker and theater troupe Pupilije Ferkeverk went there and ingested a lot of drugs, filmed for a week, and had no recollection of the events save for the exposed film. It was produced by then-generous funding from the communist state, but was an indictment of the obedience-centric government, ultimately concluding that the only thing to do is to take LSD.
A year later, Godina produced 14441 kvadrat (About the Art of Love or a Film with 14441 Frames, Karpo Godina, Yugoslavia 1972, 11 min., 16mm). This time funded through the military, it was destined to be a propaganda film to glorify the army and military service. Godina was assigned an artificial rank to command a division of troops, alone, in a remote area. He made a rather humorous film centered on a folk song about having the men and women so close but never actually together. The centerpiece is the beautiful rolling hills with scattered soldiers running about in formations (and notably never using a weapon). Godina's recollection was that it was nothing like what they expected, so they destroyed all but one print which he personally smuggled out. However, Meden met with the army a few years back, and an aging officer told him revealed they kept the negatives—"we knew he was a national treasure!"
Davorin Marc was considerably different. He lives in a small fishing village and created over 200 films in his spare time. According to Meden, every single one is a completely different experimental style. Having little contact with the outside world, he thought what he was doing was entirely new and unique although worldwide, others had used similar techniques much earlier. First up was Ugrizni me. Ze enkrat (Bite Me. Once Already, Davorin Marc, Yugoslavia, 1978/80, 1:35 mins, Silent, Color, Super 8mm). It is a cameraless film where Marc bit the 8mm film stock. His unique biological imprint flutters by on the screen and it's actually quite fascinating.
Next was Ej klanje (Slaughter Ahoy, Davorin Marc, Yugoslavia, 1981, 16 mins @ 18 fps, Silent with separate sound on CD, Color, Super 8mm). In this, he uses several fixed-camera shots to show the slaughter (perhaps) and butchering of an animal (a pig, I surmised) as well as his own soundtrack. We watched the sole original copy which starts showing only the boots of a few people at the legs of a small table—the blood-slicked ground reveals ghostly reflections of people working at the table. A second shot reveals the splitting of the animal's head with a hatchet to retrieve its tongue and brain.
The official final film was Paura in città (1181 dni pozneje ali vonj po podganah) (Fear In The City (1181 Days Later or Smell of Rats), Davorin Marc, Yugoslavia, 1984, 21 mins, Color, Super 8mm transferred to 35mm). (I had managed to transcribe Parada on città? Fear of rats? which was enough to stumble on another Northwest Film Forum post.) It's split into two parts: the first being a sort-of "video diary" and the second a sort of "found footage." Both are filmed with a quick succession between starts and stops (presumably by the remote control you can see Marc holding in some shots) which gives the whole thing a fantastic frenetic pace with its quasi-timelapse technique, enhanced by Marc's staccato soundtrack. And since there was no footage to be found, Marc resorted to filming the television, sometimes adding motion to the quasi-timelapse technique. This was a 35mm restoration from the 8mm originals and it looked fantastic.
The unofficial final film was one Marc gave Meden recently. If I remember correctly, while "Fear In The City" was being restored, they sent samples of the 35mm stock to Marc to review. Marc sliced the film into strips the same width as 8mm film, creating Perf form me for Meden. As he noted, the projector will likely add sprocket holes and the film will be destroyed while playing, perhaps destroying the projector as well. As such, it was screened on a "less valuable" projector and the film just moved slowly through the projector, melting as it went through, and we never did arrive at a scene containing any images.
Interestingly, the American promise was always that filmmakers should leave their communist countries so they could make films without censorship. But as often happened, those who took the offer found there were no public funds like there were under communism so—just as both filmmakers more or less stopped in about 1991 when communism fell—immigrants also could not afford to make such artistic works. The heyday of the 1960s Black Wave political films followed by the Pink Wave of the early 1970s when the government changed were both generously state-funded.