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Monthly Archives: May 2013

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The Ray Carney-Mark Rappaport saga carries on.  Following the attempted mediation by several of Carney’s sympathetic former students, who spoke with Professor Carney regarding this, with some false hopes of a resolution which went apparently nowhere, the situation today remains as it was:  Carney remains incommunicado, in possession of Mark’s materials, and thus far has suffered no consequences from Boston University owing to his behavior, which includes, transparently, as seen in the items shown below,  previously published, perjury in a legal setting, not to mention a seemingly endless series of falsehoods and lies regarding what he has, what he has done, and so on.   While stating he has emails which show Rappaport having “gifted” him these materials, bizarrely claiming “the high ground” and moral rectitude, Carney has never produced these emails.

Recently Mark sent me a kind of announcement/letter on the matter.  I print it here.

HOW DOTH HE DISSEMBLE? LET ME COUNT THE WAYS…

To those who’ve come to this story late, let me bring you up to speed. In 2005, when I moved to Paris, Ray Carney, tenured professor at Boston University, eagerly offered to take digital videos and extra prints of my movies and keep them for me at Boston University until the time I would need them back. He now claims they were “a gift” to him, given to him forever and ever—although I can’t imagine for what reason I or anyone else would do that—but that’s his story. He refuses to return the films I wrote, directed, edited, and produced, films which he had nothing whatever to do with, which he does not have the rights to, and can’t do anything with, and claims they’re now his. His actions, which I’ve made public, for some reason that I don’t understand, now seem to focus not on his atrocious behavior but on how much money he spent taking “care” of these objects. For some reason that I also don’t get, no reporter has ever held his feet to the fire regarding various improvised figures he says he spent or the inventive strategies that he keeps coming up with—different ones for each interview—and lets him get away with these fantasy figures and fabrications he keeps throwing out there.

Here are his feet. Here’s the fire.

1. So far, no reporter has questioned him (isn’t that what they’re supposed to do?) on these sworn, perjurious statements regarding the inventory of items I entrusted to him. These statements were made under oath.

This one from July 13, 2012

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 Then there’s this sworn statement from August  27, 2012

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Now, really! Would you buy a used car from this guy? After this shabby performance, would you believe anything he said? Ever? And if you were a reporter, why wouldn’t you pursue this in an interview?

As for the “careful visual inspection by a trained inspector” (Carney himself, I presume), you don’t inspect a digital master or any other video by eye. You have to play it on a very expensive lab-quality, studio-quality machine that Carney doesn’t have access to.

2) Carney makes himself available, through a friend of his, for an interview in Artinfo

 http://es.artinfo.com/news/story/862468/filmmaker-mark-rappaport-fights-to-regain-possession-of-his

 in which he claims he was willing to return my materials to me but he needed $27,000 to send the stuff to me in France!. I never wanted or asked him to send the stuff  to me in France. I had given him my credit card number so he could FedEx it to a friend in NY on my account and, then, much later told him to deposit the stuff at my lawyer’s office in Boston, the same city where Carney teaches. So, it seems he did not need the $27,000 he asked for shipping costs, after all. He just thought it might be a good idea to have $27,000.

He has still not returned my stuff to me.

3) In an interview with the Boston Globe,

http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/style/2013/04/06/battle-over-film-archives-puts-boston-university-professor-ray-carney-uncomfortable-spotlight/ICdyD6WjGuP52JEVKr3z3O/story.html

he claims to have spent $40,000 (!!!!!) “restoring and preserving” my materials. First of all, you don’t restore videos. Nor do you restore films. You can clean films, you can remove scratches— and that’s very cheap— but you don’t “restore” them. You restore negatives, Mr. Carney. Secondly, how much does a tenured professor make? $100,000 a year? $125,000 a year, before taxes? $40,000 of his own money???? $14,000 more than is the average annual income of most Americans??? If you believe that someone would spend that kind of money “restoring and preserving” materials by, in his own words, an “obscure” filmmaker, who gave him “trash,”

https://cinemaelectronica.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/chained-relations-8-carney-comes-in-from-the-cold/

there’s a bridge I’d like to sell you real cheap. He says in his deposition, the one in which he perjured himself, that he has a special place where he keeps many other such “gifts.” In other words, whatever Taj Mahal he claims to have built for me alone, had been already built. Not that I believe that story, either. And assuming he did spend some money building a garage where he also keeps films, what does that have to do with me? You let a friend stay at your house for a few months. He does major renovations and then stiffs you with the bill for renovations you never asked for. Are you responsible for that?

3) While being interviewed for Indiewire

http://www.indiewire.com/article/how-filmmaker-mark-rappaport-lost-his-movies-and-what-he-can-do-get-them-back

Carney lets on that he would return my stuff to me for $10,000 to cover his legal expenses. This time it’s not $27,000 or $40,000 but a more modest $10,000. I think it’s sort of unethical to use an interviewer as a go-between—maybe that’s just me— but Carney, even though he talks about ethics with a capital “E” ad nauseum, doesn’t let them get in the way of his own actions. He floated it past the interviewer in order to make himself look like a very reasonable, accommodating guy. The interviewer bought it hook, line and sinker. When I responded, through the interviewer, that I would pay him $7,000, which was my final counter-offer when he initially demanded $27,000 in ransom money for returning my work to me, the owner and creator, Carney called the offer “just another veiled (or not-so-veiled) set of threats.” HUH? Do I not speak English as well as I think I do? What is the threat here, “veiled or not-so-veiled”???? In other words, saying he would return my work for $10,000 was just a public relations ploy, to make himself look good. He floated a trial balloon, for publication only, that he wasn’t in the least bit serious about acting on.

4) through 84) Despite Carney’s endless blather about “restoring” and “preserving” that which cannot be either restored or preserved, when I asked him for video masters of several of my films in 2010, this is what he wrote

January 21, 2010

Rest assured that I will do ANY AND EVERYTHING to help you. And no money necessary (except for shipping)!!! DON’T WORRY!

(Capital letters and exclamation points his, not mine.)

January 30, 2010

Again my apologies. I was out of town for about a week and only received your message about a week ago….. and I’ve been totally crazy busy every day of the week I’ve been back (publishing crises, what else is new?), but I did retreive all of the stuff, brought it home, and have it here now, and shall go through it today (Sat) or tomorrow (Sunday) and locate Postcards and Garfield, assuming they are in the stuff you sent, which I have no reason to doubt… As soon as I paw through the boxes, I can mail the two things to you.+

And this from February 1, 2010

You almost stumped the stars today, the stars of fate, I mean; but I think I came up with everything you need. I done me darnedest! Some of those suckers sure were hiding from me underneath stacks of VHS tapes or other rubble! Here’s what I came up with. In every case, it was the best I could do. I looked hard and long! Went though the material twice in fact! You’re lucky I’m giving you a steep discount on my usual hourly rate!!! (Zero dollars an hour just for you, my friend!)

I always looked for a Beta SP Master in NTSC and (even though you didn’t say to do it), just in case, tried to find a BetaSP PAL version of the same thing if it was there, which I am also including in each case I could find one.

 

In other words, he had not even opened the boxes, did not know what was in them, and even subtly suggests that the things I ask him for might not be there. They were all there. In fact, the boxes had not been opened  5 years after he got the materials. When he was, in August 2012, forced to deliver a complete inventory to the courts, after he swore that he gave away and/or destroyed much of my material, he goes through the materials FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER and—guess what?—it’s all there, everything I itemized. How do I know that it’s the very first time ever (well, second time—he rummaged around in the boxes in 2010 to give me back films I asked for)? In a email dated August 27, 2012 he writes that he was

 spending something like forty or fifty hours doing this inventory to fulfill the court order.

In other words, he never knew what was in those boxes which contained all the materials that he so carefully “restored and preserved.” I would also question the “40 or 50 hours,” but that’s the standard Carney hyperbole, suggesting how difficult everything is and how manfully he overcomes every obstacle.

85) through 100) And here’s the real kicker, the photo of the materials which the court demanded he place in his lawyer’s office.

 Rappaport's materials in Carney's lawyer's office.

I know those boxes. The Samsung box on the left was the box that the DVD player I bought came in. The box underneath it is the box my Sony DVD player came in (to replace the Samsung player which died exactly after the warranty expired). In short, these items that he so preciously cared for, restored and preserved, built a special palace for, even though he hadn’t the vaguest idea what was in the boxes, and is hanging onto with such tenacity, were in the same darn boxes I sent him seven years earlier. Now, I ask you—can anyone believe a single word this man says? Does he ever tell the truth? And why, you ask, does the university he works for permit him to get away with these whoppers? Isn’t he, as a tenured professor, also a representative of the school’s integrity?  Don’t they have an ethics code that has been repeatedly violated? But I guess that doesn’t apply to tenured professors, only to poorly paid, non-tenured adjuncts, lecturers, and janitors.

You have to wonder what the upside is for Carney, holding onto this material. He didn’t make my films, he doesn’t have the rights to them, he doesn’t even know the formats the digital masters are on, and even if he did, he doesn’t have the equipment to use them. At this point, I suspect that he doesn’t even want the materials and, if those unopened boxes are any indication, never did. They’ve been nothing but a burden to him and haven’t done his reputation any good, either. The longer this continues, the more his reputation is damaged. All he has to do is give everything back. But he won’t give them up. Because he has them and I don’t. Go figure! He keeps whining incessantly that it was “a gift” and he has a right to hang on ferociously to a gift he has no use for—“a gift” that he himself describes as “trash” by an “obscure filmmaker.”

Maybe my films will be digitized from the original negatives two years from now. Or three or four. It may take even longer than that. It may not happen until after I’m dead. America, after all, is not very sentimental about its living artists but gets very misty-eyed about dead ones. Carney, however, will have to live the rest of his life with the consequences of his actions. I don’t envy him. Even if everyone else thinks he’s wrong, he pretends not to care because, to paraphrase the Barry Goldwater campaign in 1964, in his heart he knows he’s right. So be it. His obit, assuming he warrants one, will not start off with “Inspirational Teacher, John Cassavetes Scholar,” the way it was meant to. I suspect it will read like “Ray Carney, The Man Who Walked off with the Bulk of Mark Rappaport’s Life’s Work.” I would write, if it were up to me, something a little more colorful—like “The Man Who Casually, Cavalierly, and Maliciously Hi-jacked a Major Portion of Rappaport’s Work Out of Narcissistic Spite.”

But you don’t have to worry about it, Mr. Carney. In your heart you know you’re right. Sweet dreams.

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At risk of a kind of over-kill, I asked Mark to send me the actual legal documents listing those items which Professor Carney holds, and I print below Rappaport’s initial claim, itemizing those things which he had shipped to Carney (and which, under penalty of perjury in his deposition for the court Carney claimed not to have).  Juxtaposing Carney’s sworn statement below, to his sworn statement above, made in a legal context, Professor Ray Carney, Ph.D, tenured at Boston University, is a self-convicted perjurer.  In light of his constantly shuffled statements regarding this case – the numbers, the money, the reasons  – along with his pious claims of virtue, Professor Carney shows himself to also be that classical American archetype, the Jimmy Swaggart sort of preacher snared in sin while exhorting others to virtue (and raking in money for it):  a con man.  That a man of this dubious moral and ethical example is left to teach raises questions exactly of the kind he has charged to Boston University about a form of corruption.   Had Professor Carney a modicum of honesty within himself, he’d return Rappaport’s materials with an apology, resign his teaching position, and seek out the psychiatric help he so clearly needs.  However, I wouldn’t make any bets on his doing so.

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movie-amourHaneke’s over the shoulder shots, in Amour

Flying back from my visit to the Jeonju festival, with 9 hours to burn up, I found Michael Haneke’s Amour among the films on tap to fill the little LCD screen in front of me, and having been encouraged by a few friends to see it, I flicked it on.   Admitting that the context was questionable, along with the visual quality of the screen, I took a deep breath, trying to set aside my a priori assumption I would not like it as I haven’t liked any other film of the very few I have seen of his, and figuring for sure it would be way too conventional in form for my tastes.  I was not disappointed in that regard.  In what seems his stripped down quasi-minimalist manner, Haneke is really a by-the-book rather, well, conventional, filmmaker.  He shuffles the deck a little, in this instance opening the film (contrary to what I think I recall from the critics who say it begins with a concert sequence) with the narrative’s last shot:  firemen break into a nice Parisian bourgeois apartment of an older kind, and find a man dead on his bed, self-gassed, flower petals arranged about his head.   This is presumably a wicked avant-gardism suggesting high art or something like that.  From there the story proceeds in rather clockwork manner as our heroine has a stroke, and her husband must then cope with the quick declension to follow – loss of memory, another stroke, a wheel-chair, helping at the toilet and changing diapers, stressing out, and rather predictably as Haneke presents it, finally doing a mercy-killing, followed with taping up the house and getting around to the film’s opening shot.   Winner of a Palme d’Or at Cannes, and swooned over by critics (including some who were previously hostile to Haneke’s signature épater les bourgeoisie audience and who cooed over the seeming shift to some hint of human compassion in this work), Amour is really a rather normal Euro-art-house film, tracing its lineage back to Antonioni, early Chantal Akerman, and carrying on through a long list of others who work in the same stripped down (but conventional) style, seen, say of late, in the so-called Berlin School.  And yet, despite the modesty (the dour perhaps non-lighting) it is still by-the-numbers industrial filmmaking:  there’s establishing shots, a cluster of conversation cross-cutting over-the-shoulder sequences, and strictly conventional film syntax.  Not one shot or sequence shows the least originality or shifts the cinematic language in any way.  Haneke’s tiny little narrative time shifts, or “it’s in his mind” sequences, have been worked almost since the beginning of cinema, and certainly to far richer and denser effect in the hands of Alain Resnais (Muriel) and many others.   That he is lauded for taking on the matter of getting old and dying is one thing – bravo, Michael, for taking on this non-commercial matter and not making a sappy soft-focus piece of syrupy sentimentality.  One thumb up for that.  Now – from someone you have cited as being an influence – here’s a kick in the butt to make a film that isn’t essentially conservative.

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The-MasterPhilip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix acting in The Master

Arriving back in Portland my friends happened to have obtained a copy of The Master, by Paul Thomas Anderson, one of America’s answers to the Euro-artfilm crowd (along with the Coens, Lynch, Payne, etc..)  I’d never seen one of his movies, though I’d seen some clips on the net of There Will Be Blood, and had decided not to see it owing to my usual aversion to Hollywood slick/false production values.  But, what the heck, this was for free and I needed to stay up late to get into the local clock.  Again, this film had arrived with ample critical hosannas, though there were those less pleased.  Like Haneke, Anderson is a practitioner of a kind of stripped-down conventional cinema syntax, though he fully utilizes the Hollywood gloss factory of sumptuous (and false) lighting, sets clean enough for Disney (here a scene in which a parade of  never-touched-by-dirt classic cars sit in polished splendor pretending to be the early 1950’s).  Similarly the clothes and all the rest are spotless and fraudulent.  Which for a film which is presumably about life is in deep error.  Also unlike Haneke, Anderson periodically opts for the artsy camera angle (artsy here only because these stick out like a sore thumb in the midst of the quite conventional balance of the film), ones which could have been lifted out of, oh, my Slow Moves (1983), or Rembrandt Laughing (1989) or All the Vermeers in New York (1990); little excursions into abstraction except that Andersen yanks them away rather quickly, and returns promptly to the well-coiffed theatrical talking heads.

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And those talking heads!  Joaquin Phoenix has been cited for his bravura performance, one which in my contrarian eye is a perfect example of actors acting and looking very much like they are acting.  Here Mr Phoenix adopts a kind of left-tilted mouth sneer which oscillates wildly, sometimes clearly a consciously forced matter, and sometimes evaporating away.  Likewise he sports an absurd body gesture, with his hands on his hips, arms akimbo, elbows leaning forward.  A bundle of transparent acting mannerisms which our critics seem to think is good “acting.”  I’d suggest they look at some Japanese films to see some good acting – say Kurasawa’s High and Low, or Taiwan’s Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Cafe Lumiere: in the former, done in extreme wide-screen, Kurasawa has tableaux of 10 actors or more on screen, each inwardly using their entire being to embody their character; in the latter, the father, without seeming to do anything (unlike a flailing American “method” trained actor would), silently contains his character’s explosive anger but makes it readable to the spectator through real acting.  Phoenix instead takes his bundle of mannerisms, and, in several terrible scenes, wildly flails about in one of the worst examples of the damage inflicted by Lee Strasberg’s famed acting studio.  Mr Hoffman opts for a more subdued performance, though it too is all too clearly “acting.”

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Not content with this acting, his mise-en-scene and costumes, Anderson also lathers on a nearly continuous track of music (Jonny Greenwood), alternating between rather artsy classical sounding stuff, jazz, and old pop and jazz tunes of the era (Ellington, Strayhorn, Berlin, etc.) .  He leans on this musical crutch as hard as any Hollywood block-buster does, and seemingly almost more so. (Note: Haneke’s film is absent music with the exception of the concert scene at the outset or when someone is actually playing music.)  Despite all this, Anderson’s film, for all its transparent effort to be “serious,” is seriously boring and an effort to sit all the way through.  The “story” is diffuse and meanders.  The content ends up being a head-scratcher, not because it is “deep,” but just the opposite, because it is shallow.   Of course a gaggle of critics perceive all these things as proof that it is a masterpiece of some sort.

That these films are lauded by critics, given awards, and accorded pages and pages of blather, points towards the general conservatism which has overtaken our society, almost globally.   Anything genuinely creative will be suffocated at birth, ignored or ridiculed should it survive, while cooky-cutter theatrical films like these will be celebrated.  One need only glance at the output of the current hot “art” event in NYC, Frieze, to get the gist of it – art is now a matter of the old end-game of imperial Rome, bread and circuses.  The tribe gathers, fashionably dressed in black, nibbling on 4-star chefs’ costly snacks, as the CO2 level tilts over 400ppm, our government shreds the Constitution before us, and the oligarchy which now runs the show sucks in all the wealth, strips the lower 90% of all economic and political power, and the stupified, glazed-eyed public lets itself be led to the gallows.

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Paul McCarthy“Art” of our times….

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DSC00257smThe Jeonju Hanok Village outside the hotel window

Jet-lagged from the journey from Portland to Seoul, I arrived in Jeonju for what is maybe my 5th or 6th visit – I forget and don’t want to look it up.  I was here in 2000, with their first issue, a spanking new eager young festival out to put this small provincial Korean city on the map.  I recall that one, charmed by what seemed a modest provincial university town, suffering an inferiority complex which found them constantly inquiring of me if all was going OK, were they good enough.  They were. (I had experienced the same thing in my first visit to the Yamagata Documentary festival in Japan, in 1989).  Now it is 14 years later, and Jeonju has exploded, along with most Korean cities, with the standard issue concrete residential highrises (Lotte, Samsung, Hyundai, or another cheobol name signifying the brand painted on the side, along with a number – capitalist workers housing akin to the old Soviet ones of the USSR and eastern Europe, though built a bit better), stretching out from view, snaking up the nearby valleys, a version of soulless Seoul stuck in the midst of rice paddies, industrialized agriculture, and rural factories.   The modest charms of 2000 have pretty much vanished.  Similarly the festival ballooned, now a much bigger affair which takes over the downtown area,  has its own building, and after some kind of palace coup a year or two ago, is run by other people, and seems a little less organized than before, though the ticketing policies seem draconian now.

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Follies:  in a little error of idiot festival politics, I let Jeonju program both my new films, a failure on my part to think ahead and realize I was squandering one of my glorious “world premiers” by letting them show both.  So 120 or so people, off in little Jeonju, will see my films, and a large number of festivals will hence decline to show either of them because it isn’t a fkn premiere, a matter that no one except film festival directors/organizers could give a shit about.  So they trade a good film for a virgin of  dubious qualities.  Real smart…   While I know the ropes of the festival game I guess I find it all pathetic and indicative of some kind of warped cultural BS that those running these things should give another think.  There are a handful of larger festivals that show films that have shown elsewhere, but not many.  Those that insist on world premiers and such are merely slitting their own wrists, assuring that they fulfill my cynical view that festivals are by and large an institutionalized system for screening of a lot of mostly rather bad films under the least ideal circumstances for seeing good ones.

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So on Tuesday I showed The Narcissus Flowers of  Katsura-shima to an audience of 50-60, and got a look at the DCP of it and confirmed that the process only inflicts some damage on it (conversion from 29.97 fps to 24 fps). It was marginal damage, but visible and stupid, done only at the behest of Hollywood and its desire for a single uniform system for projection.  I am 100% sure the equipment here and any place that can show off computers could have as easily shown my original h.264 file and spared the motion quirks, color shifts and other crap the DCP conversion brought into play.  And spared me a $300 expense.  Put it this way: assuming the next audience is the same size, I had to pay about $2 per viewer to make their experience worse.  Ain’t that grand!

Even so, not having seen it for some time, and never having seen it on a good big screen projection, with good sound, I must say it is an impressive work – minimalist, beautiful, of measured (slow) pace, and intelligent – qualities which assure it will hardly be seen at all, and naturally I will never see a dime from it.  Which, after 50 years of doing this, draws from me some doubts – about the world I live in, about my sanity or at least my intelligence, about at this late date in my life persisting in this.  I recall a few years back seeing Raul Ruiz wandering the lounge space of the Rotterdam Film Festival looking inwardly lost, as if he were wondering the same thing I am: what’s the point? (Though Raul managed to make a decent living from what he did.)

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On May 1st I was present at the second screening of Coming to Terms here (hadn’t arrived for  first screening).  Packed house of 150 or so, which was a nice surprise, though as the film came up it was painful for me to see the damage inflicted in the DCP conversion: slow fades turned into digital waves of light jumps, all lateral movement (cars going by) now juddered in little jumps, even relatively slow human movements became jerky.  As I watched felt as if I’d been raped – another $300 to severely damage my film because the festival bought the Hollywood DCP con.  They will be getting a pretty harsh letter from me (and perhaps a request to pay for the stupid conversion they required though I told them before hand what it would do.)   Setting all that aside, and  some remaining sound tech matters, I was very happy with the film – certainly as good as anything I have ever done.   So coming full circle to Jeonju, where at a screening in 2006 my Yonsei teaching  job offer began and subsequently found me wondering if, after nearly 4 “dry years” of not making any new films when teaching  (I did edit previously shot ones) , I’d lost the creative moxie.   The two films here, made immediately after I quit in August 2011, seem to suggest the well is not yet dry.  Though I should hasten to state that it would be perfectly OK if it were dry – creative work is like that, and when the source runs out, it is fine.   I intensely dislike the critical view that  there is something wrong when an artist hangs it all up, or when, pursuing their work, it falters.  We get old.  We deplete our energies.  We curl up and die.  And that is as it is and as it ought to  be.

However, though I am happy to feel that this work can go on, I must say I am rather fed up with the other end of it: festivals, getting things shown.  And I think I will likely write an open letter to the festival and exhibition world, letting them know that while I continue to make films most likely, I won’t be sending in entry forms and jumping through all the hoops and idiocies required, and if they want to see my work, they can contact me.  Or perhaps I will post it on a private Vimeo channel and they can request to see it that way.  Meantime, given the nature of the cinema business these days,  in a few months – once I have the time to do so – I will be placing all my work on a Vimeo channel, to view for pay per the new Vimeo set-up.  However miniscule in the “real world” I do know there’s an audience for my work, and this will make it available for those who do wish to see it.

DSC01201smHeroic USSR-style sculpture of cinema-workers on Jeonju “Cinema Street.”

In another week and some I’ll head back to the USA, greeted more or less by a blank slate:  having called off the American essay film, and having screwed up the festival politics of a ticket to Europe, it appears wandering the west, or perhaps hunkering down to catch up a a large backlog of footage, fotos, and other things is in order until (and if) some screenings in the east draw me there, or an invitation for Narcissus Flowers, flies me to Japan (to stay a month).  Wait and see.  Though now that I think of it I did set in motion the wheels to shoot a feature in Port Angeles in September….  silly me!

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