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Narrow Gauge

"Things that we can't quite identify
hover around the image."
--Scott MacDonald

A rubber ball shoved in the mouth
occupies diminished space, solves
the dilemma of its being
round in a room full of angles.

Because it is red it becomes
the object of intense focus,
obliterates any question
we have of what lingers in limbs

crudely bound to the arms & legs
of a folding chair. Narrow-gauge's
affinity for dalliance
makes the horrible more so, corpse

dimly lit by projector bulb's
warmth, like the sun in Millay's poem
"Renascence" caving in on the
flattened soul, lifeless celluloid

erotic in camera, how
these reels become the shape of our
thinking. Hunched over the kitchen
table, slugging vodka, engaged

fruitlessly with a half-eaten
potato, Joe Gibbons launches
into broken accounts of his
unhappiness, chain-smoking &

giggling above the rush of free-
way traffic, soap opera's drone.
Narrow-gauge unthreads "what is length?"
more insistent than Wittgenstein,

hedonistic its paucity
of means, yet has both meter &
matter at hand, less to persuade
than to inhabit what's in mind.

"I couldn't give up movies for
lent," Martin Scorcese admits,
& narrow-gauge pragmatism
exploited by the Kuchars, Ken

Jacobs, Brakhage, Vivienne Dick
convinces us perversity's
sublime manifestation of
what festers in the soul, as

kissed into empty acts, patter
endlessly unspooling, the rush
more than mimetic, spellbinds un-
like folk-art, Schroeter's stills of Cal-

las--"total passion"--are simpler
than Finster's nervously rendered
"vision." "Shoot first & ask questions
later," Dorn quips of Brakhage's

momentum, 8mm
Songs 1-30 giving lie
to any notion of epic
& lyric being mutually

niche. Imagine the Songs shot in
35mm, the
"Quixote" of Baillie in 8,
buri, b�ren, beuren, beuron

onomastically parsed back
into "essential." If being
is dwelling, lyric & epic
might be preferences, paisley or

plaid, Landow's "Adjacent Yes, But
Simultaneous" unmeasured
in Renan's Introduction to
Underground Film, open to

question, film's charm not the obli-
teration of time but its re-
configuration. "Diary,"
Anne Robertson's 40+ hour

rallentando Super-8 mass
began with five rolls & the hope
of "a man in the world who's in
synchrony with me." Much of her

"seductive footage" was cut: "I
introduce the film by saying
'It's true, so, it's a trousseau': it
is the only gift I have for

the guy who will come along &
be my partner and say, 'What have
you been doing with the rest of
your life?'" Trinh T. Minh-ha's first 3

underground efforts were shot in
Super-8, Su Friedrich's "Hot Water"
(her first) & even Yvonne
Rainer's "Hand Movie." George Kuchar's

Village Voice 8mm
manifesto: "Who're we to ask
whether 8mm'll be
the avant-garde of the future

when only God & the Vati-
can know for sure?" Anne Robertson:
"The act of taking a picture
every day has kept me sane." With

xerography, Super-8 seems
luxurious, every Kinkos
filled with kooks making multiples
of paranoid manifestoes

yerkish rants, xenophobic 8
&� x 11s you'll
later encounter on subways,
duct taped to poles on what seem un-

zoned urban blocks, as if they were
posters for horrors no one has
yet imagined filmed, the human
mind being the ultimate zoom.