Reel 23

Milestone, Flicker Alley, Oscilloscope, Cinema Guild...they're all here.
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neuro
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#1 Post by neuro » Mon Jul 31, 2006 12:46 am

A mission statement, from their website:
After one look at this planet any visitor from outer space would say "I want to see the manager."

- William S. Burroughs


A division of Filmfreak Distributie, REEL 23 is a new, pan-European DVD label that sets out to explore freely the twilight between fact and fiction.

REEL 23 believes that the truth, far from being a holy grail, has become and overrated commodity. We affectionately support the battle against objectivity. For truth is in the eye of the beholder.

Here's the plan: We offer a platform for ideas of independent minds and distrubing opinions. A series of copious DVDs creating new syntaxes and dismantling misconceptions, bringing the darker side of postmodern society into the open.

You are invited to read and watch. To cut them up, mix and stir. It doesn't have to be pretty.


*****

Okay, so that's all a bit pretentious, but their releases have piqued my interest - to date, Jonathan Weiss' adaptation of J.G. Ballard's short story The Atrocity Exhibition (which features a commentary by Ballard; I've just ordered it and will post my thoughts shortly), Mark Kneale's William Gibson doc No Maps for These Territories, Cyrus Frisch's Vergeef Me, Mika Taanila's Aika & Aine, and, what will probably give them the widest exposure, David Cronenberg's early films Stereo and Crimes of the Future.

Plus, their packaging and website both look excellent.
Last edited by neuro on Mon Jul 31, 2006 1:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

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HerrSchreck
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#2 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Jul 31, 2006 12:51 am

Interesting, the comment from Uncle Bill being a sort of company theme.

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colinr0380
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#3 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Aug 04, 2006 11:39 am

Tim Lucas reviewed The Atrocity Exhibition for Sight & Sound (August 2006, page 98), here's some selected highlights from his review:
Made over a nearly ten year period on a modest, undisclosed budget, The Atrocity Exhibition has had a release pattern almost as oblique as the chapters in Ballard's controversial, non-narrative novel. It debuted as a work in progress at the 1998 Rotterdam film festival, later resurfaced at the 1999 Slamdance festival with a running time of 103 minutes, then was voluntarily cut to 90 minutes as Weiss searched for a distributor that never rode to his rescue. Completely bypassing theatrical release, it has now become the elegantly packaged first release of Reel 23, a subsidiary of the Dutch DVD label Filmfreak Distributie. In the process, it has been restored to its original running time, despite an alarming 80 minute time listing on its sleeve.

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dadaistnun
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#4 Post by dadaistnun » Fri Aug 04, 2006 11:44 am

The entire review is on the S&S website.

Murasaki53
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#5 Post by Murasaki53 » Sat Aug 19, 2006 5:11 am

I haven't seen a thread on this so thought that I would start one. I recently acquired this DVD and was very impressed. Jonathan Weiss's attempt to film this most avant-garde of Ballard's novels is certainly worth seeing. But the highlight for me is a quite remarkable and thoroughly absorbing audio commentary provided by Ballard himself which actually turns out to be more about the novel than the film. I've always been a bit suspicious of both experimental writing and film-making but when you listen to Ballard explain what he was trying to do it makes me feel that he should have been given the Nobel Prize for literature.

Weiss impresses me too. He is there with Ballard, unobtrusively prompting him in just the right ways and does not seem unduly concerned that his movie is not the main focus of discussion. In fact, the juxtaposition of Weiss's imagery with Ballard's extemporizing might be the best way to experience this DVD.

There are reviews and specs here:

http://www.bfi.org.uk/sightandsound/review/3348

http://www.dvdtimes.co.uk/content.php?contentid=61648

There are subtitles in French, Dutch, German & Spanish but I haven't checked to see whether these extend to the Commentaries.

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Galen Young
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#6 Post by Galen Young » Sat Aug 19, 2006 10:45 am

I love the film and this DVD of it. The commentary tracks are terrific, but the film alone is lovely for me as well. Makes me wish for more adaptations of Ballard's work that are of this caliber. Weiss is an entertaining interview subject himself. I have agree with about him about the retarded comments made by that website's reviewer:
"It's hard to justify Weiss's decision to stick so faithfully to the book, especially since so much has happened since the late sixties, and its cultural icons and motifs don't have the resonance they once did."

I almost pissed myself when I first read that line. Made me think of Gore Vidal's 'the United States of Amnesia' -- and the sad state of the educational system in our country today. Indeed, I was lucky enough to see Ballard at reading once, he was like the best professor I never had. Truly inspiring. Thankfully he writes books!

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colinr0380
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#7 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Aug 20, 2006 12:58 pm

Galen Young wrote:I love the film and this DVD of it. The commentary tracks are terrific, but the film alone is lovely for me as well. Makes me wish for more adaptations of Ballard's work that are of this caliber.
The BBC did a great hour long drama called Home. As well as Ballard it reminded me a little of the Mark Z. Danielewski novel House of Leaves with the house revealing previously unseen dimensions.

It is another reason I'd like to push for a Criterion release of Crash - Home would make a excellent supplement, especially if there was some sort of documentary on J.G. Ballard and his work to go with it.

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colinr0380
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#8 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Sep 15, 2006 9:16 pm

Having just watched the DVD I would only add to Galen Young's comments how impressed I was with the non-narrative yet thematically dense construction and the shock of the documentary footage against the created world of the film. The commentaries also gave me much more of an insight than I could have gotten by myself.

An essential film for anyone interested in adaptations of Ballard's work, and I would go as far as to say the best of the Ballard adaptations that I've seen.

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Galen Young
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#9 Post by Galen Young » Thu Nov 30, 2006 2:47 pm

I can across this cheap deal by accident the other day -- Reel23's disc set of Cronenberg's two early films Stereo and Crimes of the Future. It might be a double-dip for some (like me) who already have the Blue Underground disc -- I feel have to mention it just because of the magnificent production of DVD package itself -- another beautiful digipak with a folded mini-poster similar to the Atrocity Exhibition DVD. A lovely piece of art...

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colinr0380
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#10 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Nov 30, 2006 6:45 pm

Is there anything extra on the disc that makes upgrading necessary, or would you say I'd be ok just sticking with the Fast Company Blue Underground 2 disc edition?

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Galen Young
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#11 Post by Galen Young » Fri Dec 01, 2006 10:31 am

No, not really. The disc itself is bare bones, just the two films. The fold-out poster has a director's bio and a director's statement about the films culled from Cronenberg on Cronenberg. It's a beautiful presentation though, which is why I bought it at such a cheap price. The design reminds of the early days of REsearch magazine.

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colinr0380
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#12 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Dec 20, 2006 12:48 pm

That's good - I've got the Cronenberg on Cronenberg book so I'll stick with the Blue Underground disc. I agree with you about the packaging, I like the fold-out leaflet and it looks like it is the same for all the DVDs from the company. I got Aike & Aine (Time & Matter) at the same time as The Atrocity Exhibition and that has the same packaging and fold out leaflet.

I thought Time & Matter was interesting, and I especially liked the six minute short Optical Sound film where inkjet printers are set up to print different patterns that creates a sort of musical sound! It reminded me of those times waiting for documents to slowly print out a line at a time and finding myself drifting off to the rhythm of the sound the printer was making! I could see how many people could just find the piece incredibly irritating though!

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colinr0380
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Re: Reel 23

#13 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Aug 09, 2009 12:39 pm

Reel 23 seems to have been gone for a few years now, but I thought I would do a write up of one of their releases anyway: Time and Matter, the collection of films by Mika Taanila.

All of the five films seem concerned with visions of the future or experiments to progress technological advancement. However at the same time there seems to be a strange nostalgia about past visions of the future – over optimistic visions of the world of tomorrow from architects and artists and footage of experiments where the reason for performing them and their scientific purpose has been lost, leaving just strange images or obsolete relics behind.

Robocup ‘99 (2000)

Robocup ‘99 is perhaps the most accessible film of the DVD, showcasing a sort of scientific version of Robot Wars in which Universities battle teams of robot players (in different leagues from four legged to humanoid, and from totally controlled by a master computer to autonomous and separate from the other players on their team). While the concepts behind this challenge are interesting – to develop robots that can react to new challenges on their own, and then work collaboratively towards a common goal, without having to be programmed with every possible possibility they might encounter – there is a slight air of scientists goofing around! There is the stated ambition, rather laughably suggested as correlating to the race to the Moon, that by 2050 a robot team will have been developed that will beat a human team in a game of football by FIFA rules. While this is suggested as having great implications for robotics and a leap forward similar to that of Deep Blue beating Gary Kasparov in chess, it also has a less noble ring of non-sporty nerds wanting to finally beat the jocks at literally their own game!

(Though it might have real world applications after all - with the prices football clubs seem to pay for players perhaps it would be quicker and cheaper to build your own. Sure it would turn football into something akin to Formula 1, but at least there wouldn’t be situations where players are found getting drunk and assaulting people in nightclubs, or having their orgy sex tapes revealed by the tabloids! Sure there would probably be a few homicidal rampages by haywire robots (leading to reams of tabloid speculation about “whether the machine gun and stabbing mechanisms were really necessary additions to a robot created for a ball game?”), but surely that would be a small price to pay to remove the overpriced and already malfunctioning human element from the game? ) However, the 2007 humanoid robot final does seem to be showing some movement towards that 2050 goal!

Perhaps this unintellectual approach to the tournament is more the fault of Taanila’s film, which treats the Robocup as a real, emotionally involving, competition. Or perhaps it is also the fault of the scientists getting too involved in their robots winning their tournament rather than learning anything in particular from the matches (there is a telling moment where one person in challenging a decision on the rules of the Robocup match that her team lost because of the colour of the pitch causing recognition problems for the robots both seems to be acting like a sore loser trying to challenge the ref, yet at the same time the reactions of everyone to her queries seems to suggest that the ‘game’ is taking precedence over the ‘science’). On the other hand, perhaps this shows the difficult relationship between science and art: between purely clinical and detached science and the increasing need to ‘involve the public’ in scientific matters by ‘sexing up’ their material and making robots play football in order to engage a wider audience?

Or perhaps it is just that football is kind of a common denominator that all the Universities taking part in the tournament, from Japan to Argentina, can understand the rules of and create their robots to play?

Anyway if you don’t want to know the results of the film's big final match, look away now:
SpoilerShow
The Iranian team win 3-1 against the Italians in the final of the Middle Size Robot League.Other results here. Iran came third the next year in Melbourne
Far more ‘fly on the wall’ handheld than the other documentaries on the disc the film also has a rather wearying computer voice handling the narration duties, though I suppose it could have been more difficult to follow than it turned out to be.

Here’s the official RoboCup site.

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The Future Is Not What It Used To Be (2002)

A profile of Finnish electronic musician/filmmaker/computer programmer Erkki Kurenniemi, this film takes us on a classical journey through his life and work, his interest in filmmaking leading to a fascination with electronic music. A lot of his work in that area seemed about capturing physical movement in sound form, such as in an extract from dance films and a version of Beckett using parts of the image that are revealed and hidden to create the music. As Kurenniemi, prone to philosophising, says near the beginning of the film, the distinction between ‘body’ and ‘soul’ is similar to that between ‘hardware’ and ‘software’. The creation of the various versions of the DIMI machine move from physical machines being programmed to reproduce complex combinations of sound – an early synthesiser – to types of machines that translate physical movements into sound, a slightly different way of programming and playing electronic music.

This is another film about art and science co-existing, or of trying to find the art inherent in science. One of the most interesting aspects of the film itself is that it is a biography looking back on a life but that life was concerned with futuristic developments, so there is an interesting contrast between 60s and 70s futurism and modern life where technology has moved on but is not as visible any more. The punched tape and electronic music have given way to digital cameras and hard disk storage, less futuristic seeming on first glance, but far more advanced.

The later aspects of the film focus on the Kurrenemi’s use of technology as a way of recording the present for the future and the different 'feelings' between photo, video and audio captures of an event. There is also the rather strange notion that by collecting every mundane detail of a life in diary form, down to receipts, that a life can be recreated (I’m not sure if I would agree that simply taking everything a person says and does and what they buy really gets to the essence of a person’s existence and consciousness, though I’m sure the data will be useful for governments and corporations to create a profile of a person’s tastes and proclivities!)

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Futuro – A New Stance For Tomorrow (1998)

A film on the creation and marketing of the Futuro House, again another example of ‘dated futurism’. There was a lot of talk in the film about problems in exhibiting and marketing the house properly and it was interesting to wonder about why houses are built in a certain uniform boxy shape rather than in circles or ovals, but I suppose if you are looking to store items or create spaces for kitchen units etc it would be more practical to maximise the available space with straight walls and uncurved surfaces. Also I guess by the way everyone in the film is stooped over, if you are taller than average height you’ll be constantly banging your head on parts of the structure! There is also the amusing sequence where a cat is put inside the house (because a cat always finds the best place to curl up) and goes crazy trying to find a corner to sit in! So architecture could be considered to be as much psychologically influenced as art or commerce based.

After the house itself proved to be an impractical commercial prospect it gets used for more arty, esoteric purposes: porn magazines do sexy Barbarella-style photo shoots in it; Christo wraps it up; Warhol visits, and so on. It literally becomes a UFO in its purpose because that is what people made of it, not a house but a curiosity that it would be interesting to visit and briefly look inside.

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A Physical Ring

A real curiosity in that this film is found footage of a vibrating ring seemingly responding to the rotation of a machine inside the circle. According to the notes it is just described as “A Physical Ring. Finland. 1940s”. What is the experiment about? Is it about rotation causing fluctuations inside the Earth, say the rotation of the core and its affects on surface features such as tides? Or is it just something of no significance whatsoever? Either way the ring moving back and forth, restarted a couple of times at different speeds, along with the electronic music layered over the top creates a rather hypnotic effect even before we reach the epilepsy-inducing flash frames until the film burns in-camera.

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Optical Sound (2005)

The highlight of the disc would have to be this music video created by defunct dot matrix printers! I described above how it could be a love it or hate it piece but I really liked the intricate editing of the video and repurposing of ‘useless’ or superceded technology into something artistically relevant.

The commentary by the artists [The User] over this highlights a number of interesting themes, such as reversing the usual use of printers by typing in, or programming, illegible characters and laying them out in a particular way so that when they are printed they create not a finished document but a particular sound. I guess, not being musical myself, that it is similar to how any musical instrument is ‘programmed’, but just more emphasised in the way that this was not the originally intended purpose for the equipment.

In fact that is one of the stated intentions of the piece, to take equipment intended for a practical, non-artistic purpose and showing that it too can be used to create something interesting. The commentary states that it is also sort of the background noise to office life – instead of workers toiling in other ‘aggressively industrial’ environments such as cotton mills (which I hear had similarly hypnotic and mechanical routines that could lull workers into making disastrous mistakes) people now mostly tend machines that keep the information society going, and similarly work at the pace that is dictated by the machine.

It’s a wonderful piece and will certainly make my Shorts List if we do another one of those. (Mistabishi’s recent “Printer Jam” is sort of the dance music version of a similar concept) I’m trying to decide whether it might even make it onto my 2000s list as well.

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Overall the Reel 23 set is a nice package. It looks as if Futuro has been released separately since along with a book on the house and Taanila’s earlier film Thank You For The Music (all about Muzak) is not on the disc but there are commentaries on Optical Sound and Future Is Not What It Used To Be, which are fascinating additions in themselves.

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