Friday, January 27, 2006


Whirligig (2006) by Brian L. Frye; video, color, sound, 2.5 minutes.

The T.J. Hooper engages in her favorite pastime: chasing a laser pointer in circles until exhausted.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

K-K-Kisses from K Records

K-K-Kisses from K Records (2006) by Brian L. Frye; video, color, sound, 9.5 minutes.

So, again with the December 2005 K Records record release party for Melanie Valera of Tender Forever at Art House in Olympia, Washington. Melanie and Calvin Johnson both performed. Included here is one song by each, and a touch of lively banter. As before, Melanie was difficult to capture on - um, microchip, I guess - because she spent most of her show dancing with the crowd. Only the lonely videographers complained. And a bobbling green balloon had to act as her stand-in.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Gum Arabic Explosion!

Gum Arabic Explosion! (2006) by Brian L. Frye; video, color, sound, 1 minute.

Soda pop + mentos = quite a spectacle. As explained by Mr. Spangler, the gum arabic in the Mentos turns the fizz into a whoosh. Now that's what I call seltzer!

Light Mill

Light Mill (2006) by Brian L. Frye; video, color, sound, 1 minute.

A brief demonstration of a "light mill" or Crookes's radiometer in operation, from a standstill to full-speed, then back off again. Mine's a bit chintzy, with a plastic base and crimped vanes. Still, I find it lovely. Few things are more charming than an elegant instrument with no practial use whatsoever.

It's So Hot...

It's So Hot (2005) by Brian L. Frye; video, color, sound, 3 minutes.

In December 2005, Carrie and I saw Melanie Valera of Tender Forever perform at Art House in Olympia, Washington. This is a video of her performing her song "Hot." Unfortunately, the room was a little dark. And the Vidster struggles with those low-light settings. Not to mention that Melanie likes to dance about the room, rather than stand in one spot. Which makes for a wonderful performance that's a little difficult to capture properly in video. A roundabout way of apologizing for an oft-murky image. But the sound is rather better than I'd expected. And I think the silhouetted dancers are actually rather nice at times!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Gurgling Cod

Gurgling Cod (2005) by Brian L. Frye; video, color, sound, 1 minute.

Carrie's mother is a great admirer of these old New England (and older yet!) pitchers made in the shape of a leaping cod. When you tilt them to pour, they talk back. Here you see the one Carrie got for Christmas. I found it immensely fascinating, and felt compelled to make a little movie demonstrating its peculiar qualities, as everyone else prepared for dessert.

The Letter

The Letter (2001) by Brian L. Frye; 16mm, b&w, sound, 11 minutes.

“My letter which had awakened me I found before me on my way; and as it had awakened me with its voice, so it guided me with its light that shone before me, and with its voice it encouraged my fear, and with its love it drew me on. I went forth…” Hymn of the Pearl (Hans Jonas, trans.)

An essay toward documenting the ineffable. I’m told that all philosophy springs from one question: why is there something, rather than nothing? These, perhaps, are fragments of one man’s answer to that question. He spoke to someone; I encountered his ghost and replied with this film. One might consider it a dialogue between a man of Faith and one who has merely tasted of the absurd, yet struggles to ingest it.

"[Frye] aims to blur the line between completed film and unfinished experiment -- many of his best pieces look like fragments or rushes. His work is relentlessly self-questioning, offering a subtle, ever shifting mix of open-endedness and structure. The Letter is composed of "visually interesting" shots, he says, from the outtakes he found for an unidentified documentary. And his film looks like outtakes, with pans around a cemetery and an unexplained bald man. Later a shot of worms moving against a mesh screen introduces a different kind of imagery and motion -- and as in most of Frye's best work, there's something creepy about the image and how little it explains. Watching Frye's films, the viewer often feels trapped in a box with only a few peepholes, each of which distorts the world in a different way." Fred Camper, "Cinema of Possibilities," Chicago Reader, June 28, 2002.

Transcript of narration:
I sort of snickered at a lot of people when they said they were called to . . . particularly the preachers, when they were called to another pasture. It seemed to me that it was always a bigger church and more money probably. I’d been sort of skeptical of that. After my call, I had a different view of it.

By the waters of Babylon there we sat us down and wept, when we remembered thee, O Zion. As for our harps we hanged them upon the willow trees. For they that had brought us to misery. . .

This reminds me of a statement that an old drunk that had been converted had to say. He said, yes, since I’m saved, I can do what I well please, do what I want to do. I can go out and get drunk as much as I want to do. Thank God, I don’t want to go out and get drunk anymore. It’s changed me. So, we are freed from the law by Jesus Christ. It doesn’t mean this gives you license to go out and commit mayhem, rape, murder, or whatever your carnal side would urge you to do. It doesn’t mean that at all. It means you’re free from the burden of the law.

Sunday Morning

Sunday Morning (2001) by Brian L. Frye; 16mm, b&w, silent, 2 minutes.

Greg Pierce of Orgone Cinema invited me and Bradley Eros to present a Robert Beck Memorial Cinema program at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I stayed at Greg and Alisa's house, and on the morning after the program, I shot this film of their daughters Merce and Orla in the backyard.

Oona's Veil

Oona's Veil (2000) by Brian L. Frye; 16mm, b&w, sound, 8 minutes.

Whispering Hope, or Grace and How to Get It.

I know of only one film-record of Oona Chaplin (nee O'Neill), this screen-test made for a film in which she was cast and never appeared, having met and married Charlie Chaplin before shooting commenced. Some say that Chaplin himself directed her; history says otherwise. To hell with history. Hers was quite possibly the briefest film career ever. But then again, brevity is no obstacle to greatness.

I rephotographed the original screentest, doing 20 frame (as I recall...) lap dissolves from one from to the next. The idea was lifted wholesale from David Rimmer, though I've never seen the film(s?) in which he used the technique. Sailboat, I think, for one. I liked the brief transition from still to motion in Chris Marker's La Jetee, and wanted to extend it somehow. Anyway, I didn't like the result at first, as the image shifted a lot. So I made a duplicate negative and did some damage to it to obscure the hiccups. Ultimately, it was exposed to chemicals, buried, and left on the fire escape for a year. What remained I untangled, spliced together into something approaching a continuous strip of film, and had printed. The result became the master positive. The sound consists of a beat-up 78 of a song called "Whispering Hope," played at 33 rpm.

Unfortunately, this film seems particularly unsuitable to transmission over the internet. My apologies for the poor image quality.

"As I now beheld the robe, it seemed to me suddenly to become a mirror-image of myself: myself entire I saw in it, and it entire I saw in myself, that we were two in seperateness, and yet one again in the sameness of our forms..." The Hymn of the Pearl (Hans Jonas, trans.).

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Robert Beck is Alive & Well and Living in NYC

Robert Beck is Alive and Well and Living in NYC (2002) by Brian Frye and Lee Ellickson; 16mm, b&w, sound, 3 minutes.

"Vitam cum morte mutavit!"

Robert Beck was an American soldier from Chicago who served in the First World War. Struck deaf and dumb by shellshock, Beck was sent to an English sanitarium to convalesce. At some point, the patients attended a movie. Beck began to laugh, and was suddenly cured of his affliction. He became the patron saint of New York’s Robert Beck Memorial Cinema, dedicated to films which recall the marvelous. On September 26, 2000, Stuart Sherman, the great performance artist and filmmaker, presented several of his films, interspersed with “perfilmances,” in which he re-enacted the passion of Robert Beck. This film is a record of that “spectacle,” shot by Lee Ellickson, and accompanied by Maria Callas. Stuart Sherman died on September 14, 2001 in San Francisco. This may have been his last New York performance.


Nadja (2001) by Brian L. Frye; 16mm, color, silent, 3 minutes.

Brakhage called her the muse, perhaps because she appears only to those who hold a filmstrip in their own hands. But here she visits - if only momentarily - all those who care to see her.

"Let us speak plainly: The marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful; indeed, nothing but the marvelous is beautiful." -- Andre Breton.

The Eels of Chicago

The Eels of Chicago (2000) by Brian L. Frye; 16mm, b&w, silent, 2 minutes.

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, Moira Tierney asked for films about snakes. This is as close as I came.

The Anatomy of Melancholy

The Anatomy of Melancholy (1999) by Brian L. Frye; 16mm, b&w, sound, 11 minutes.

"Huddled figures mouth fragments of dialogue, apparently rehearsing for a play, until images that seemed stilted and static become powerfully iconic, almost frightening." -- Fred Camper, Chicago Reader.

Sometime in the 1960s, a chiropractor from Kansas City made a short film called A Portrait of Fear. The film consisted of several tableau shots of amateur actors standing in a field at night reciting painfully overwrought dialogue, apparently lit by the headlights of a car. I assume the cinematographer used an Auricon, as the sound was recorded directly on the B&W reversal original. In 1998, he sold me the outtakes, strung together just like you see them.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Across the Rappahannock

Across the Rappahannock
(2002) by Brian L. Frye; 16mm, color, silent, 11 min.

On December 12, 1863, General Ambrose Burnside’s Army of the Potomac engaged General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in the town of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Before Burnside’s army could enter the town, Union engineers were forced to lay pontoon bridges across the Rappahannock River under withering fire. Close combat through the streets of Fredericksburg and multiple assaults on the Confederate army entrenched in the heights behind the town resulted in heavy Federal casualties, which forced an eventual withdrawal.

In November, 2001, I attended a small and relatively informal reenactment of the battle of Fredericksburg. About a hundred men and women did their best to illustrate the actions of the thousands of young men who offered their lives a century earlier. An air of absurd theater suffused the entire event, which provided the ground for its peculiar truth. Everyone played their part exceedingly honestly and well, and left something on the film I was myself surprised to find there.


Lachrymae (2000) by Brian L. Frye; 16mm, color, silent, 3 minutes.

"... and yet of that living breathing throng, not one will be encased in a material frame. A company of ghosts, playing to spectral music. So may the luminous larvae of the Elysian fields have rehearsed earth's well beloved scenes to the exiled senses of Pluto's Queen." -- W.K.L. Dickson.

Fireflies dancing at dusk in the Marble Cemetary across the street from Anthology Film Archives in the East Village, New York City.

"Brian Frye's Lachrymae is a film poem in which the light of fireflies functions as a tiny miracle." -- Fred Camper.

Introduction to the Waste-Book

Waste-Book (also blotter), n. ~ A bookkeeping record, typically a bound volume, detailing in rough form each day's receipts and expenditures in order of their occurrence.

So, this weblog collects films and videos documenting what I see, or how I saw it. Some are already "completed," others might be someday. And the rest are just a record of what was.

"Waste-book method highly recommended. A note made of every phrase, every expression. Wealth can also be acquired through saving up truths in pennyworths." -- Georg Lichtenberg.