Resurrected footage lets filmmaker breathe life into Frisco eccentrics

BY RAHNE PISTOR

When filmmaker David Sherman was married at an occult temple in Northern California, little did he know that the experience would provide him a portal into the lives of arcane figureheads of the radical San Francisco art scene of the '50s and '60s.

Upon befriending Loreon Vigne, owner of the temple, Sherman learned that her husband Dion had been an active filmmaker in San Francisco involved with many groundbreaking and risk-taking filmmakers of the day.

Dion lost a long battle with a heroin addiction in 1970. He died in obscurity, leaving a wealth of unedited footage of better-known San Francisco eccentrics with whom he had been acquainted.

Thousands of feet of unedited, unreleased footage including scenes of Beat poets Christopher MacLaine and Allen Ginsberg, experimental film gurus Jordan Belson and John and James Whitney, Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey and occult filmmaker Kenneth Anger lie out of public view, stored away with Loreon's memories of her husband.

Before Sherman and his bride left Isis Oasis, Loreon unexpectedly offered up four boxes of Dion's unused reel-to-reel film footage along with a 456-page manuscript, allowing Sherman a unique clairvoyance into eccentric San Francisco of the '50s and '60s.

Sherman patched his favorite selections from the footage together and sprinkled in narration from Dion's manuscript.

To Re-edit the World was born, breathing life into dissolved memories.

In To Re-edit the World, Sherman strings together Dion's footage in a manner as sporadic and disorderly as it was filmed.

Though the film brings the viewer face to face with rare historical footage, don't expect a history lesson from Sherman. Produced in pure art film style, the energy of twisted visuals outweighs any need for plot and structure.

The film hops quickly, spastically from various disconnected scenes setting a mood of chaotic energy rather than relaying details of historical fact or biography.

A jazz party shows wildman Beat poet Christopher MacLaine swigging from a gallon jug of whiskey labeled "death" in bold black letters. The viewer finds out little of MacLaine other than that he lived in an apartment with no door, only a window to climb through, and that he died a premature death.

We see Vigne's fondness for light play, and grainy hand-painted scenes, including a bright red microsecond snippet of Allen Ginsberg. Vigne's footage radiates turbulence in shaky footage of the streets of San Francisco set to the score of loud, chaotic jazz.

Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey is shown emerging from a shiny black hearse. Lavey and his family are later shown mingling and socializing in a sedate suburban picnic atmosphere, at a gathering for lovers of large exotic cats.

Hollywood Babylon author and esoteric filmmaker Kenneth Anger is also shown hanging out at the event.

A recording of a supper party, attended by the Vignes and John and James Whitney, lets the viewer eavesdrop on a conversation about "spiral of time" animation, a technique created by John Whitney and made popular by Alfred Hitchcock in the 1958 film Vertigo.

To Re-edit the World fades out by showing a before-and-after dissolution sequence of the infamous "black house" in San Francisco. The former headquarters of the Church of Satan, dubbed "the black stain in a pink and gold neighborhood" by critics, was demolished in October last year, four years after the death of LaVey. The image seems symbolic of ephemeral radical subcultural movements and the manner in which they are often gobbled up and co-opted, with their progenitors left obscured.

To Re-edit the World screens locally at Documental, a film series of documentaries and experimental films, which begins at 7 p.m. Saturday, September 28th, at Midnight Special Bookstore, 1318 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica. Admission is free. (See "Special Events" on page 24 for a list of other films screening at Documental.)

Information, (310) 393-2923.


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