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Bart Weiss: Notes from El Paso

by Bart Weiss 15 Aug 2011 12:28 PM

Guest blogger Bart Weiss recounts his experience at El Paso’s Plaza Classic Film Festival.


Guest blogger Bart Weiss is the Artistic Director of VideoFest.

I took the weekend off from VideoFest programming to visit the Plaza Classic Film Festival in El Paso. This unique fest is not interested in the latest indi fodder, but in preserving the cinematic masterpieces projected on a really big screen, from actual prints, in a beautifully restored movie theater. These days, seeing the classics in a big theater is rare – film repertory is mostly gone. And while we love that we can see the history of cinema delivered to our door via computer or TV, it’s not the same. Plus, in El Paso, the experience is topped off with an organist playing a magnificently restored organ.

It harkens back to a cinematic experience that is before my time, but that’s the way it was when I was at Plaza Classic for its last weekend. I got to see Rebel Without A Cause, A Clockwork Orange, Monterey Pop, Young Mr. Lincoln, Elevator to the Gallows, The Last Waltz, Swing Time and Ran, along with a few panels.

Like many good things, this is spirited by a passionate driven soul who loves film and gets so much excitement in bringing this experience to EL Paso. His name is Charles Horack. So next August, if you love the experience of seeing a classic film in the theater, head to El Paso and have a great time. I did.

Also, on a sad note experimental animator Robert Breer passed away a few days ago.  I have loved his films since the 70s.  Breer used the technique of rotoscoping (which was used for films like Snow White) in which you would film an actress moving, then project the frames one at a time and draw the character of the smooth motion. These days you can do that very easily on a computer, but that is another story. Breer took this idea and turned it on itself by projecting on to 3×5 cards and instead of drawing finely detailed frames, he drew lines that looked like children’s drawing. So his films looked like your neighbor’s refrigerator gallery characters with natural  movement. They were truly beautify experiences to see projected on film, and the good news is you can still see something resembling them online.