Making the world safe for filmgoers since 2002.
Back in the day, and I’m speaking here of the day(s) before the instant gratification of streaming, Blu-Ray, or even, gasp, a VHS cassette, one of the finest ways to consume Disney’s FANTASIA was at a midnight show. Psychedelia a a cultural phenomenon may have been entering its ironic phase, but it was still a potent force for those nighthawks huddled together in collective appreciation the mind-blowing exhibition, tens of feet, ahem, high, of ameobi battling paramecium, and of the damned rising from their crypts unencumbered by the spoken word. That the air was redolent of something else of a mind-altering nature served only to enhance the experience. The combination of late hour and heavy smoke created a unique experience that tickled the subconscious and even the id itself.
Nowadays, with smoking banned in theaters, and viewing becoming more and more a solitary exercise of staring down at a phone, much has been lost in general about the power of film, and about viewing FANTASIA in particular. It is with that in mind that I share an event that rocked my world, and can rock yours, too, when it repeats during the repeats during the always hyperbolically iconoclastic Another Hole in the Head Film Festival, now underway through December 15. AHITH brought back The Firmament to once again work their techno-wonder with a film stripped down to its visual essentials. Their rendering of FANTASIA RE-SCORE, edited to remove the sequences of narration and replacing the classical music soundtrack with a live performance of their techno-trance-pop score, recreated that ci-mentioned experience of the old midnight shows without copying them. It may even have improved on them. The effect is primal and futuristic, and somehow that’s not a mutually exclusive proposition.
Leopold Stokowski, bathed in vivid reds and yellows, becomes the Old Testament God, producing creation out of abstraction. Flowers no long waltz, but rather spin to ancient rhythms before drifting over the edge of eternity. Hippos and crocodiles, breaking the rules of nature in their ballet of desire and antagonism, are fueled with an unexpectedly playful eroticism, while Mickey’s magical apprenticeship gone spectacularly wrong becomes a thing of horror where the rules of nature play a malevolent trick on a Holy Fool. It is the world turned upside-down, and then inside out as synapses fire in response to images that are by turn oneiric and atavistic as spectres rising from their tombs seem accompanied by a whoosh of cold air as the music pulsates.