Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 7:30pm
René Clair's The Crazy Ray + Robert Frank's C’est vrai

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

The Crazy Ray (aka Paris qui dort)
René Clair, 16mm, 1925, 62 mins

C’est vrai (aka One Hour)
Robert Frank, video, 1990, 60 mins

René Clair’s first feature, The Crazy Ray is a science-fiction comedy about a mad inventor who develops a powerful paralyzing device. When activated, it brings Paris to a standstill, frozen in time. The only people spared the effects of the instrument—the film’s hero, working atop the Eiffel Tower, as well as an airplane pilot and his four passengers—soon discover that all of the city and its riches are now theirs to enjoy. Drawing on the legacy of Méliès and the surrealistic potential of the trick film, The Crazy Ray also provides a canny metaphor for the mechanism of cinema itself: a machine that produces a beam of light with the power to stop time. “It is this power,” Annette Michelson observed, “this hold on temporality embedded within the apparatus, which produces a shock or thrill as, with each motion of the ray's ‘lever,’ we rehearse the discovery of 1895 that we are the privileged beneficiaries of modernity's gift, ‘the philosophical toy,’ that object of science fiction which ministers to our abiding infantile fantasy of omnipotence.”

Shot around The Bowery and East Village in one take over a single hour (from 3:45pm to 4:45pm on July 26, 1990), Robert Frank’s C’est vrai can be seen as another city film that upends conventional practices of cinematic time. But whereas The Crazy Ray explores the power of the film frame to break the world into discrete moments, C’est vrai is characterized by the constant flow of video's signal, and a concomitant letting-go to contingency and happenstance. In his role as protagonist-director, Frank hardly comes across as omnipotent; rather, he appears dragged along by the inexorable logic of a highly scheduled shoot, at times unable to take in everything as it unfolds around him, running against the clock to capture what seem to be scripted scenarios with downtown figures like Willoughby Sharp, Bill Rice, Taylor Mead, and especially Peter Orlovsky, who becomes the tape’s central character by its second half. “How much of Frank’s apparently random drift is precisely plotted, how many seeming chance encounters are staged and intricately coordinated, and how much of what we see and hear is extemporaneous?” Jonathan Rosenbaum asked of C’est vrai. “The volatile, unstable mixtures of chance and control can never be entirely sorted out.”

Tickets - $7, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.

The film and video of Robert Frank is distributed by The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.