This compilation of experimental short films and videos by Enid Baxter Blader unfolds like the pages of a lost diary, with fleeting glimpses into an anonymous someone's memories and desires. A filmmaker, painter, and bluegrass musician, Enid Baxter Blader finds inspiration in ruminations on rural life, stormy weather of the emotional and environmental variety, majestic landscapes, and small town civility. DVD includes an essay by novelist and journalist, Ben Ehrenreich.
Catalog Number: MC-956
Type: Shorts Compilation
Genre: Art / Artist
Length: 55 minutes
DVD Region: All regions
TV System: NTSC
Label: Aurora Picture Show
This is a Microcinema Exclusive title.
Program MC-956 is available for wholesale from Microcinema DVD. Contact info[at]microcinema.com or call at +1-415-447-9750
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Films In Compilation
Film Is A Burning Place, A - Works by Enid Baxter Blader directed by
Art / Artist,
Secret Apocalyptic Love Diaries
The Revival of Lee Mackey (excerpt)
They Will Cure What Ails
Blind Town/DownHome Sublime
Lindbergh Road (excerpt)
Just a Second (excerpt)
Letter from the Girl (excerpt)
2009-08-25DVD Talk By Nick Hartel
"A Film is Burning Place" collects the works of Enid Baxter Blader, who is described on the case as a filmmaker, painter, and bluegrass musician. It collects the various short films (both in complete form and excerpts) of Blader and presents them in three specific groupings. I'll be very upfront, I have little idea of what to make of the more experimental content here, but what does stand out is the fascinating short documentary, Local 909er. It's such a powerful piece of filmmaking that it could have been the feature piece and everything else considered bonus content.
Local 909er isn't a standard documentary though, like many of Blader's works, it is filmed and assembled in a very unique fashion, consisting of varying film stocks as well as still photographs. Blader begins our journey at the Salton Sea and mud volcanoes that reside nearby. This area is part of Inland Empire, California or the 909 (the area code that serves the cities and communities featured here) and Blader shows us through still photos that this was once a thriving upstart community that quickly became abandoned when the environment did what it does best: the unexpected. As we watch footage taken by Blader of the amazing mud volcanoes she mentions everything is "under shaky ground." It's a theme that takes on multiple meanings over the course of the film's 25-minute runtime.
The heart of the story being told here lies in the surrounding areas. It is chilling to watch footage of Victoria Gardens, a corporate shopping mall designed to resemble 1950s downtown America. Blader films portions of the footage here in a fashion that resembles what you would expect from a 1950s home movie, but we are quickly reminded, visually, this is not 1950s America. Victoria Garden and other nearby chain stores like Wal-Mart and Target leave a wake of destruction in their path. Blader explains that when Target decides to build a superstore in an area, it's cheaper to abandon the old store and start anew. The result is a shell of a building that spreads its lonesome disease to other nearby business resulting in an area of dead buildings. The parallels between this modern upstart community and the Salton Sea become very apparent to all but the developers themselves.
Blader's own home and community in Upland is an ironic contrast to the manufactured luxury communities popping up in nearby Norco and Chino. Corporations seem to think these fancy homes and luxury amenities will recapture the 1950s spirit the same way Victoria Gardens is supposed to. However, Blader's simple description of her own community reveals its not how things look that makes them special, it's the people themselves who are the heart and soul of where we live.
I honestly can't heap enough praise on Blader's work on Local 909er. It is made from the heart, tells a story that I'd likely have never known, and sends a subtle message. Blader's narration never panders or preaches, it's honest and objective. The mix of varying experimental film styles gives the film a truly unique, rough, and real look. Out of all the pieces featured in this collection, this is the one that shows Blader has great talent.
I don't want to take away from the rest of the collection though, either, but as I stated previously, I don't really know what to make of most of it. Local 909er is presented with two other films Secret Apocalyptic Love Diaries and an excerpt from The Revival of Lee Mackey. The former is a collection of brief episodes examining human lives. It's filmed very roughly and like Local 909er (and the other pieces for that matter) doesn't pander or explain itself.
The second collection of shorts on the disc are present under the sub-heading CB Transmissions and Other Faith Healing Aids. These are very short, non-narrative pieces, half of which are excerpts, running under one-minute each. I didn't feel much connection to any of the material here. If nothing else, they show the range of Blader's filming and editing style, as well as her unique use of sound in many instances.
The final sub-heading, Burning Films, contains one short film, Lucille and an excerpt from Letter from the Girl. Lucille is an obvious homage/tribute to the infamous scene in Cool Hand Luke, where and unidentified blonde washes her car in front of the prisoners. In that film, Dragline (George Kennedy) dubs the woman Lucille, ironically calling her innocent, when its very obvious as to what her intentions were. The excerpt from Letter from the Girl feels like an homage to a 60s/70s thriller and while filmed very straightforward, highlights Blader's unique use of sound and music.
As a whole the complete collection is a little on the weak side, with the second set of short films just not making much of an impact. However, Local 909er is really the crowning achievement here and so good, it makes the disc worth checking out.
2009-07-01Pop Matters By Shaun Huston
A title at the end of Enid Baxter Blader’s “Local 909er” poses the question, “Does every neighborhood have to look the same?” After watching the works collected into A Film is a Burning Place, you may be similarly provoked to ask, “Does every film have to look the same?”
This compilation of short pieces and excerpts by Blader not only pushes boundaries between media – film, different types of video, still photography, sound and music – but also the edges of what is conventionally considered “good” moving imagery. Her short films and videos are full of occluded and out-of-focus views, oblique angles, and digital artifacts. In most narrative contexts, such devices, especially if used pervasively, would seem out of place, but here they raise questions related to perception, how we see in the world and how we use cameras to alter or augment our perceptions.
Film is a Burning Place organizes Blader’s works into three categories: “A Video is a Place”, “CB Transmissions and Other Faith Healing Aids”, and “Burning Films”.
Included in “A Video is a Place” is the aforementioned “Local 909er”, which is easily the most accessible piece in the collection. Blader uses a mix of sounds and images – photos, film, video, voiceover narration, a radio tuner – to sketch a historical geography of California’s Inland Empire. She pulls together a picture of a region defined by collisions between humans and nature. These collisions have created a home for both Frontier-types looking to escape conventional culture and those desiring a more domestic version of the American Dream.
She explores the corporate exploitation of the latter desire, and the implications of that exploitation for public space, freedom, and community. While Blader provides narration for the film, she remains matter-of-fact, allowing her critique to develop as much through her images as her voice. This piece is a beautiful, nuanced, and thoughtful look at place in contemporary America.
The first section also contains the four-part “Secret Apocalyptic Love Diaries”, which, next to “Local 909er”, is the other extended, complete work on Film is a Burning Place. Here, Blader juxtaposes black and white shots of extreme weather and flooding with more intimate images of people seemingly in love, falling out of love, or perhaps simply yearning to be in one or the other state of being. These shots are gauzy and desaturated, but flecked by red, green, and blue. Views are obscure and obscured.
In the opening episode, a woman, played by Blader, provides tense narration, seemingly involved in some kind of love triangle, but never appearing directly on camera. What to make of the scenes that constitute the “Secret Apocalyptic Love Diaries” will likely hinge on what you see as the relationships between the characters, and who they are, or want to be, to each other.
The idea, or at least suggestion, of people living in a natural world beyond their control runs throughout the selections in the compilation, including in the excerpts from “The Revival of Lee Mackey” that complete “A Video is a Place”, and the short works that make up “CB Transmissions and Other Faith Healing Aids”.
As its title implies, the second chapter to Film is a Burning Place is fragmentary, both within and between films. The first selection, “They Will Cure What Ails”, starts with a fuzzy long shot of birds in flight, cuts to an extreme, slow motion close-up of a woman’s eye, then moves to a long, high-angle shot of a car accident, a shot of Gordo Cooper (Dennis Quaid) in a space capsule from The Right Stuff (1983), and finally to a long distance view of fire on a flat plain before returning to the birds.
The films and videos in this part of the DVD, whether complete works or partial renderings, are all devoted to such particular and momentary perceptions of the world: a pixelating shot of corn stalks blowing in the wind, trees through a dirty windshield, a blue-toned waterlogged landscape, all appearing to be rooted in some thought to capture how the world looks from a particular viewpoint.
The final section, “Burning Films”, contains two pieces, both easily read as experiments in narrative. The first, “Lucille”, references
Cool Hand Luke
(1967) as it self-consciously plays with the conventions of soft core pornography. This slow motion short is devoted to a curvy woman, attired in a partially-sheer black slip dress, washing a motorcycle in a series of deliberately erotic poses. Despite, or maybe because of, the absurdity of the scene, she appears to own her ritual more than she appears to be on display.
In fact, when a presumptively heterosexual male does make an appearance, he appears severe, maybe angry, rather than aroused. Lucille (Michelle Maaske) returns his gaze with equal ferocity, resisting the role of passive sex object.
Film is a Burning Place ends with an excerpt from “Letter from the Girl, Mailed from the Gas Station”, a film that seems to be another exercise in genre play, drawing on B-picture tropes, and using “borrowed” sound to create an unsettling and surreal landscape.
The Microcinema DVD includes a short biography of Blader and an essay by Ben Ehrenreich printed on the inside cover, but no other extras. Of course, in the context of works such as these, maybe the thought is that less is more when it comes to elaboration . On a related note, the case holding my copy of the disc quotes a total running time of one 101-minutes, but the 55-minutes noted on the accompanying flier is more accurate.
It would be difficult to promise “satisfaction” from a collection like Film is a Burning Place. The works are highly individual, and operate in an aesthetic realm that is radically different from what many are likely to think of as “film”. At the same time, if part of the power of film lies in the ability to show people the world in ways they cannot and do not normally experience, then these short works by Enid Baxter Blader are exactly what they should be.
2009-05-21Gentle Ride Van
This compilation of experimental short films and videos by Enid Baxter Blader unfolds like the pages of a lost diary, with fleeting glimpses into an anonymous someone's memories and desires. A filmmaker, painter, and bluegrass musician, Enid Baxter Blader finds inspiration in ruminations on rural life, stormy weather of the emotional and environmental variety, majestic landscapes, and small town civility.
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