Barbara Rubin's Christmas on Earth and Curt McDowell's Pornagrafollies
Part of The CinErotic Film Fest
February 12 - 14 , 2010 at Eyedrum, Atlanta, GA

Christmas on Earth projection and live soundtrack mix by Andy Ditzler

Barbara Rubin filmed Christmas on Earth at age seventeen in New York, 1963. The title comes from a poem by Arthur Rimbaud, who like Rubin completed his major work while still a teenager. The film is ahead of its time in several ways: as an early example of double projection (two images superimposed on the screen); as an explicit, sexually charged work by a woman director; and in its incorporation of performance elements into the process of projecting the film.

Rubin made the film in June or July of 1963. She gathered a small group of friends in a New York apartment, and over the course of twenty-four hours made footage of their polymorphous erotic play, lovemaking, and painted bodies.

Christmas on Earth connects the sensuality of film with that of eros. The finished film consists of two thirty-minute reels. One, largely closeups of male and female genitalia and other body parts, is projected at full size on the screen, and a second, projected as a smaller image inside the outer image, consists of fuller views of the group members at play. This playful relationship between closeup and full view reflects the various sexual "inversions" onscreen.

Rubin suggested that colored gels be held and moved in front of the lenses during projection so that projectionist (or audience) can turn the black-and-white reels into color. Through becoming physically involved with the projection, the audience discovers an element of play and sensuality with film that is analogous to the polyamorous activities on the screen.

The soundtrack is provided by the projectionist. Rubin instructs that the sounds be "psychic tumult," which she provided in the 1960s via playing AM radio stations loudly - or occasionally via live accompaniment from her friends The Velvet Underground. Today, we can use past or present-day radio and sounds, which can add layers of irony, poignancy, urgency, and less classifiable, uncanny qualities to the film's long-ago images of psychedelic consciousness achieved through celebratory sensual delight.

Curt McDowell made Pornografollies in 1970 while a film student at the San Francisco Art Institute. There's almost no conventional eroticism here: instead, Pornografollies is about loosening up the body via the infantile hilarity and ridiculousness of being naked.

The film's thirty minutes breeze by with an almost comparable number of tiny vaudeville acts centered on the genitals or on simple nudity. The participants cheerfully disrobe to perform tasks from mundane to bizarre - none of which are explained and many of which will leave a distinct "what the fuck was that" impression on spectators. These follies are not conventionally humorous any more than the genitals on display are conventional porn.

Is this "porn" or folly? Maybe it's both. With its "Singing Twat" and its "Poop Chute Act," McDowell's film flies in the face of an age where indie filmmaking can act more corporate than Hollywood itself, where providing a "solid narrative" is an unquestioned necessity for artistic productivity. In this context, the deliberate pointlessness and non-productive goofiness of Pornografollies may be its most pleasingly kinky quality.

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