Monday, July 11, 2011

Oddball Films: American Trance

I was back at Oddball Films for this program featuring Peter Adair's documentary Holy Ghost People, a film I'd known about for years but never seen. It captures a Pentecostal service in Scrabble Creek, West Virginia in which worshippers fall into trances, speak in tongues & handle venomous snakes. I liked seeing whole families arriving for the service, everyone in their Sunday best. Teenage boys greet elder men with a kiss on the lips. Instead of a preacher there is a leader whose role is to rouse people to participation. His other message is that all men are God's creation & of the same blood. Even when events are at their wildest & people are dancing uncontrollably & throwing snakes to each other, Peter Adair never loses sight of his subjects' dignity. The film is shocking without being exploitive.

This was cannily preceded by Kenneth Anger's explicitly hallucinogenic Invocation of My Demon Brother, which looks like a bunch of outtakes from a hippie satanic ritual. Its jarring, noise-like electronic score is by Mick Jagger. The film broke twice, which was distressing because we were probably watching an original print. We also saw an ethnographic film of Lakota war dances. The exuberantly dressed performers & thumping music made me think of a Brazilian Carnival set to the Rite of Spring. One outfit employs a hubcap as a butt-covering tail which the dancer waggles proudly. Though the film dates from 1953, the yellows & reds of the costumes are still eye-popping.

Oddball Films Door PrizeThe program ended on a light note with a pair of cartoon mice performing celebrity impressions & battling a cat with the aid of hypnotizing rays. As if the evening wasn't already rewarding enough, I won the door prize, a picture book cataloging Clio award-winning TV & radio commercials of 1967.

§ American Trance: The Power of Possession
Oddball Films
Friday, July 8, 2011 at 8:30PM

I'm Feeling Scared (1980), Larry Klingman
Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969), Kenneth Anger
Holy Ghost People (1967), Peter Adair
War Dances (1953), University of Oaklahoma
The Mouse-merized Cat (1946), Warner Brothers

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