Los Angeles Filmforum on Sunday presents “Dangerous Ideas: Political Conceptual Work in Los Angeles 1974-1981.” Part of the ongoing Pacific Standard Time series “Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles 1945-1980,” it's another selection of the works of auteurs at the margins of the industry clamoring for a more challenging and raw cinematic mode than that offered by Hollywood.
The program at MOCA includes Possibilities of Activity Part One: The Argument (Dennis Phillips and Anthony Forma, 1975), The Broken Rule (Ericka Beckman, 1979), Vicarious Thrills (Roberta Friedman and Grahame Weinbren, 1979) and Opposing Views (Tom Leeser, 1980).
The Broken Rule is an enigmatic critique of the education system and its attendant sexism. Beckman's style, more concerned with visual information than with traditional narrative, recalls the early cinematic experiments of dadaists and surrealists like Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp. As such, her film reads as a sort of Marxist allegory, disclosing her ideological narrative in disjunctive, anxiety-ridden sequences.
Vicarious Thrills, also running with the politics of sex and gender, opens on a shot of a camera projecting pornography on a wall as a cameraman and a woman suggestively manipulate the lens. Foregrounding the labor and materials involved in filmmaking, the film frustrates the viewer's voyeurism by forcing his/her awareness of its manufacture.
Opposing Views adopts as its pretext the polarized design of Cold War rhetoric, manipulating a clip from the 1959 Nixon-Khrushchev “kitchen debate,” using the narrative convention of shot-countershot, cutting between tacky spectator and sports action shots and the debate to point out the harebrained competition.
In The Argument, shots of the countryside shift gradually to urban industrial ruin as working Americans, through voice-over, express their disaffection with the wage slavery assigned to them by consumer capitalism. The film sounds their collective discontent through individual voices, each growing increasingly muffled and clipped with the descent into the confines of urbanized space.
Primitive and ingenious, these films convincingly make the case that L.A.'s avant-garde and minority film output — often made by those who raged against the machine even as they worked inside it — has played a crucial political role within emancipatory and progressive culture.
DANGEROUS IDEAS: POLITICAL CONCEPTUAL WORK IN LOS ANGELES 1974-1981 | Ahmanson Auditorium, Museum of Contemporary Art, 250 S. Grand Ave., dwntwn. | Sun., Jan. 8, 3 p.m. | Free, but resv. required: (213) 621-1736 or firstname.lastname@example.org