THIS MONTH at the SALON: April '09

KINETIC POETRY: Castro Street and Night Mail
in 16mm film
presented by Will Zavala

Cinema, like a poem spoken aloud, makes patterns over time. Rhythms of great complexity are formed by combinations of camera movement, movement within the frame, cutting between shots, and the soundtrack. Documentary utilizes these elements, and at times goes further to capture the rhythmic qualities of life itself. This month we’ll screen two films that chose that cinematic favorite—the moving train—to provide the meter for a kind of kinetic poetry.

Castro Street (1966) is Bruce Baillie’s document of an avenue in the Bay Area…but not in San Francisco. This Castro Street is across the Bay in the oil refinery town of Richmond, and the film follows the railway that run parallel to the street.
Lesser film poets might be satisfied to confine their attention to an easy beauty... In Castro Street, Baillie alchemically transforms an "ugly" space into a stunning one." (Scott MacDonald, The Garden in the Machine)

Night Mail (1936) is a poetic film, literally—W.H. Auden was hired to write the verses that conclude the film—about overnight postal delivery in Great Britain. That a mundane subject is made exhilarating attests to the artistic vision of the filmmakers (Basil Wright and Harry Watt, working on John Grierson's team) and to respect they had for the postal workers.

Both 16mm prints have been kindly provided by Hillman Library at the Univ. of Pittsburgh.

Castro Street (1966, 10 min.) Bruce Baillie
Night Mail (1936, 25 min.) Basil Wright and Harry Watt

Tuesday, April 7 6:30p

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