“I Was Married to a Mermaid” is an excerpt from a longer, yet-to-be-published work entitled Brother Cobweb. Co-directed by Alfred Eaker and J. Ross Eaker. Featuring Alfred Eaker, James Mannan, and Vanessa Blake.
This film is available for 366 Weird Movie readers to preview for a short time.
La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura (trans: Nostalgia for a Distant Future Utopia) takes its title from a work by Italian avant garde composer Luigi Nono. This film was made while Alfred Eaker was a student at the John Herron School of Art. Al invited me to co-direct this short piece from his screenplay. Subsequent editorial embellishments were supplied by J. Ross Eaker, who also served as cinematographer. The story of Paul and Vincent’s combative relationship is well worn cinematic territory, the usual focus being on Vincent’s impulsive, self destructive behavior. Our decision was to examine their aesthetic and spiritual struggles, with a focus on Paul’s equally self destructive ego and immorality. Much of the dialogue is taken directly from their personal correspondence. Historicity and realism are eschewed and the approach is impressionistic; Brechtian if you will. This was a budgetary move to be certain, but allowed the text and themes domination over the mis-en-scene. What results is an examination of the art and essence of two flawed men whose influence dominated the following century and beyond. An aphorism used by Nono speaks to our intentions: Caminantes, no hay caminos, hay que caminar (Travellers, there are no roads, there is just traveling.) –James Mannan
Requiem For The Relentless Fathers (2012) is a short film I made for theology graduate school. “First and Second Samuel” was a class taught by Dr. Marti Steussy. Among Steussy’s assignments was an artistic presentation from the text.
Embedded theology oversimplifies the Samuel narrative: Samuel, the Judge of Israel, is the protagonist. Saul, the first King, disobeys God, and is therefore the antagonist. God consequently replaces Saul with the hero David, whom God loves. Even as a child I had issues with that elementary assessment. Regardless of what my Sunday school teachers taught, I found myself sympathizing with the antagonist. Perhaps it is in my nature. After all, I never could manage to find sympathy for any of the characters in Richard Wagner’s symbolist opera “Parsifal” except the alleged villainKlingsor. Still, having had a class with Dr. Steussy previously, I rightly concluded that she would supply fresh insight into the narrative.
Dr. Steussy discarded tradition. She inspired us to go directly and honestly to the text without preconceived notions. After knocking the dust off my Bible, I did exactly that. At the end of the semester a few fellow students, upon seeing the film, pointed out that they would not have been open to my interpretation if they had seen it at the beginning of the semester.
Since Requiem is a short, many details are naturally left out. The film is what the title says: It is a requiem for three complex, relentless fathers in an authentically strange Biblical narrative. Samuel and Saul are the primary focus. However, we tried to depict even the secondary character of David as embodying more than meets the eye in his initial introduction. (Perhaps someday, we will be able to do a follow-up film of the Davidic character). The historicity of Samuel was not our concern, which is why we placed it in a relatively contemporary setting.
Dr. Steussy proposed a question—“Why is it important how we judge Saul?”—followed by an answer—“It is important because it reflects how we are apt to judge one other.” Of equal importance is an honest approach to the text as an un-hallowed narrative, stripped of our over-familiarity. I found the story of Saul to be a fresh and surprising chronicle; often bizarre, adverse, and morally questionable.
The cast includes James Mannan as Samuel/God, myself as Saul, Robert Webster as David, Jordan Wheatley as Michal, Nate Saylor as Jonathan, Robbin Panet as the woman of Endor, and Jennifer Ring as the Evil Spirit of God. Director of photography: Robin Panet. Assistant Directors: Robbin Panet and James Mannan. Sets: John Claeyse. Music courtesy of Tahra Records. The script was inspired by 1 Samuel and the Samuel commentaries of Dr. Marti Steussy and Dr. David M. Gunn.
Along with a number of other collaborative short films (including 9), Requiem For The Relentless Fathers will be available on 366 Weird Movies DVD label in late 2014.
A blue-skinned man wearing a white clown suit and angel wings sketches obsessively, ignoring various supplicants who come before him. The bizarre symbolism actually makes sense if you know Alfred Eaker and Raymond Thunder-Sky.
ALFRED EAKER (INTERVIEWER): Alfred, what inspired you to interview yourself? Some might say a self-interview smacks of self indulgence, narcissism.
ALFRED EAKER: Perhaps. I am sure to many it is and God knows those tiresome labels are attached to artists all the time, as if it is totally unacceptable. Yet, to use a stereotypical but dead-on example: a business person cutting throats and screwing their way to a top level is commendable and rarely pointed out as being narcissistic. Still, all artists are, to a degree, narcissistic and you have to be to continue doing the art. I do not believe in fair weather artists. Like Bill Ross recently said when I interviewed him, “The world is not set up for artists and one has to be stubborn to continue doing it.” So perhaps it is not so self-indulgent. Actually, a badly misquoted but good-intentioned interview in a local paper from a couple of months back inspired this, proving that most interviewers, God love ’em, are hacks and since I know I am not a hack and can trust myself… Also, real simply, Glen Gould. Gould, one of the genuine freaks in music, interviewed himself, quite well I might add.
A.E. (I): Gould was the Canadian pianist who….
A.E. … Did a total whack job on Bach’s Goldberg Variations in 1955, yes. That was the first of his many transgressions, for which he will be long loved. The same goes for Stokowski’s Bach transcriptions. Someone once described his transcriptions as high cholesterol Bach and I do have high cholesterol.
A.E. (I): You have quite the love of music?
A.E.: From Mahler onto Cab Calloway, Julie London, David Bowie, Velvet Underground and the Statler Brothers.
A.E (I): I do not wish to get sidetracked in a lengthy music discourse. You tend to talk longer and more enthusiastically about music than you do either painting or film.
A.E.: That’s because I am not a musician at all, so yes I suppose I do.
A.E (I): Let’s talk about film. You are an indie filmmaker and you came to it rather late.
A.E.: I would rather talk painting first, but alright. Yes, I started my first film, Jesus and her Gospel of Yes in 2002 . I have been painting since the 1980’s.
A.E. (I): The films sprang from performance art.
A.E.: From my BlueMahler character in several performance pieces that began in the 80’s. Blue is an odd hybrid of identifications I have made in my life.
A.E. (I): You mean influences, not identifications.
We are pleased to debut James Mannan and Robbin Panet’s short film “Hallow’s Dance” on the web. Although there is a mild Halloween theme to the film, Hallow’s Dance should not be confused with a horror film. It is in fact a drama, with the only horror being moral horror at the treatment of Frank/Mom. Co-directed by Robbin Panet and James Mannan, it co-stars 366 scribe Alfred Eaker along with Jason Hignite, Chelsea Rogers, and Terry Dellinger. It contains very mild scenes of suggestive sexuality. The weird part is the short, experimental dream sequence which ends the film, which is shot in black and white with streaming beams of light, accompanied by a catchy organ tune. The short runs approximately 14 minutes.
At the producers’ request, this film will not be released to YouTube or other video hosting sites, and will be available here for one month only.
[Our license to display “Hallow’s Dance” has expired. We will inform you if this film is released, on DVD or otherwise, in the future.]
We are pleased to debut Alfred Eaker and Robbin Panet’s short film film “9” on the web. This is the movie they made for the 2009 48 Hour Film Festival. The rules of the contest festival are simple: every team has only 48 hours to complete the film, and each must incorporate three elements given by the festival : a character name, a line of dialogue, and a prop. Look for a character named “Professor Sherman Kane,” a ball, and the line “I’m not talking to you.”
Rather than making a straightforward short that looked like everyone else, “9” takes an experimental approach, becoming a sepia-hued exploration of domestic abuse through the generations, in a Western setting. The bizarre free-association poetry of John M. Bennet replaces traditional narration. It runs approximately seven and a half minutes.
[Our license to display “9” has expired. We will inform you if this film is released, on DVD or otherwise, in the future.]
At the producers’ request, this film will not be released to YouTube or other video hosting sites, and will be available here for one month only. UPDATE: Because this film was reviewed and linked from Rogue Cinema, we are leaving the film up for another week, until October 12, 2009.
“Alfred Eaker’s Fringe Cinema” is a column published on Thursdays covering truly independent cinema: the stuff that’s so far under the public radar it may as well be underground. The folks making these films may be starving artists today, but they may be recognized as geniuses tomorrow. We hope to look like geniuses ourselves by being the first to cover them.
July 31st -Aug 2nd, the 48 hr Film Festival came to Indianapolis, sponsored by the Big Car Art Gallery. Jim Walker of Big Car curated the event. 30 Indiana film making teams signed up to participate, including the Liberty or Death Team of James Mannan and Robin Panet.
Jim and Robin approached me about six weeks ago, inviting me to participate in this year’s 48 Hour Film Festival. Since I assisted in last year’s event with them to do Hallow’s Dance, I was a tad reluctant to do all this again. However, they shrewdly threw out a couple of temptations when they told me they wanted to do something surreal, which is my forte, along with inviting me to write and direct with Robin. Jim would be producing. If I recall correctly, my response was something akin to “Oh, alright, goddammit.”
For those who don’t know the set up of the festival, it goes like this: the teams go in on Friday night at 7:30 pm and draw a genre out of the hat. Jim drew Horror, which was apt as this is Jim and Robin’s forte. Then, everyone is given the same character name, his profession, a line of dialogue, and a prop.
The character name was Professor Sherman Kane, the prop was a ball and the line of dialogue was “I’m not talking to you”. Now the teams leave, write their script, shoot it, edit and turn it in by 7:30 pm on Sunday night. Showing of films: Wednesday and Thursday evening at the IMA.
I would imagine the whole idea for said festival came from Roger Corman. The story is well known among film aficionados. Corman had finished The Raven 48 hours ahead of schedule, with the actors, including Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson, still on contract for the remainder of the shooting schedule. That night Corman went home, wrote a script called The Terror, came back the next day and shot it within the 48 period. The problem with this story is that The Terror is indeed a terror to Continue reading REFLECTIONS ON THE 48 HOUR FILM FESTIVAL & THE “9” DIARY.→
Here in Minneapolis there’s a strange little show [you’ll have to forgive me for not remembering the name of it] that plays the public access stations every week or so. It features a host of young talent who frolic in front of a blue screen in various stages of undress while ancient video effects are laid over top of it all in a random fashion. It goes on for an hour, reaching ever dizzier heights of incomprehensible nonsense and leaving you puzzled as to what, if anything, you were meant to take away from the experience.
All of the above could rightly be said for this Alfred Eaker film as well, which the director describes on the IMDB as ‘a surreal, complex, modern, psychedelic film retelling the life of Christ as woman and leader of the Gospel of Yes.’ The main difference between the two is that Jesus runs slightly longer, around seventy three minutes before the lengthy credits roll.
Complex it is, indeed – there’s never a moment [credits included] in which Jesus has nothing going on. We get endless loopy dialogue, re-interpreting the Gospel with frequent pop culture references and commenting on the various ills of contemporary society all the while. Not that there’s time to soak any of it in, as the words pile up in ungainly multitude and start to sound like inarticulate mush after a while. It’s akin to a rambling political address. I know that there’s a point to all of it somewhere, but the manner in which it’s put across leaves me with no interest in finding out what it is.
If interpreting the dialogue is difficult on its own, then the accompanying visuals make the task doubly so. Jesus is populated by an endless parade of excruciatingly bad visual effects that could have originated from the plugin archives of any prosumer video editing application. Most of them involve people doing random things while other people, through the magic of digital process photography, do random things in front of them. There is some interesting artwork on display [all credited at the end], but you have to look closely to even see it through the multiple layers of visual obfuscation. There is also some not-so-interesting artwork, much of which could have been accomplished in MS Paint.
Far be it from me to say that Jesus, in spite of its obvious faults, is not a creative enterprise. Creativity is one thing its producers obviously have in spades. There’s no telling how many long days and sleepless nights went towards its realization, making it all the more a pity that something easier to appreciate didn’t result. There’s some good substantive meat to the rambling narrative [like commentary on drug abuse, abortion, and sexual dynamics], but you have to dig through piles of aesthetically repellent gunk to find any of it. I doubt that most, regardless of their artistic sensibilities, will have the patience for it.
Jesus and Her Gospel of Yes is undeniably weird and original to the max, but its crude brand of no-budget shot-on-video mayhem just wasn’t for me. While I didn’t enjoy it, I have to admire that Eaker was at least trying something new here – a rare thing in these days of utterly barren mass marketed entertainment. I have a feeling that the world would be a far better place if even a hundredth of a percent of the box office earnings from the latest Hollywood action debacle was to find its way into the pockets of the Eakers of the world.
Jesus and Her Gospel of Yes is currently available exclusively for download at DownloadHorror.com.
PLOT: “W” appears in a meteorite in the Arizona desert, steals the election for
the party of No, and becomes a tyrant opposed by liberal reporter BlueMahler.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: With half the characters distinguished by facepaint that makes them look like either World Wrestling Federation rejects or members of a failed 70s revival glam band, acting in front of shifting psychedelic computer-generated backdrops, this surrealist satire of George W. Bush’s presidency is definitely weird enough to make the list. The problem is that, as a polemic against the 43rd President of the United States, it comes with an expiration date. It’s too particular and too parochial, both in terms of subject matter and target audience, to earn a final place on a list of 366 representative weird movies.
COMMENTS: Because it is a vehemently partisan mockery of a former President, as opposed to a generic political satire, W the Movie is difficult to review. Your reaction may depend on your politics; the far left might applaud it as a hilarious send-up of a dangerous political hack, those on the right may be outraged (and personally insulted), or simply dismiss it as liberal piffle. Moderates and fence-sitters are unlikely to be swayed. All sides will recognize it as deliberately unfair; Bush’s foibles are exaggerated past the point of absurdity. W is cruel, crude and stupid, and at his most decisive when he demands his pancakes with “lots of syrup”; his foil, BlueMahler, is brave and righteous, and his only character flaw is neglecting his wife and son as he devotes his life to exposing the truth about the alien demagogue and his infernal war. W the Movie makes the work of Michael Moore (who himself makes as appearance as a ghostlike, babbling puppet) look fair and balanced. There’s a place in the film world for narrowly political art and clever character assassination, and in this sense the producers are to be commended for not fearing to enter the fray, take sides, and name names.
But, polarizing political content aside, there’s quite a bit to be admired in the low-budget production. It’s an excellent example of how a unique, almost mesmerizing visual style can be forged through CGI on the cheap, when artistic effect and atmosphere is placed above the fetish for strict realism. About 90% of the film was shot in front of a green-screen, and memorable virtual sets include W riding on a missile against a cloudscape (a la Dr. Strangelove), W worshipping at an altar of giant gold coins, and an amusing black and white parody sequence with W in Ford’s Theater. The effect is a bit like the old studio-bound pictures of the 30s and 40s, where the backgrounds were matte paintings, but modern technology combined with a hallucinogenic vision makes these brightly colored living mattes slip, morph and shift before the viewer’s eye. Therefore, the film is constantly interesting to the eye, even when the plot gets difficult to follow. Furthermore, Eaker does quite well in multiple roles, including both W and his nemesis BlueMahler. Actors cast in smaller roles range from adequate to distracting. The humor is also uneven, ranging from the highly effective (the Ford’s Theater scene) to the painfully embarrassing (the 9/11 tragedy is used as an excuse for cheap jokes about W’s pro-life stance and lack of geographical acumen). More genuine funny and fewer pointed potshots would have made it a happier movie experience. All in all, W‘s well worth checking out, but if you’re to the right of Obama politically, you may want to check your party of No pin at the door.