Press Clippings

For the connoisseur

By Patricia Maunder
The Age – January 25, 2008

FOR some people, films are about seeing the latest blockbuster and eating super-sized buckets of popcorn at the multiplex. For serious film buffs, however, the pleasure is in obscure flicks seen in unusual places, ideally somewhere they can kick back with a drink and discuss that amazing tracking shot or the director’s first film.

Dean McInerney is one of the latter film fanciers, and for the past year he’s been sharing the love at his Time Capsules screenings.

Since February 2007, McInerney has been presenting rarely seen screen gems on Friday nights at the ABC bar and gallery in Collingwood (as well as a one-off session at the Natimuk Fringe in the Wimmera last November). His programming is the result of a few suggestions, but primarily it’s a one-man, not-for-profit labour of love involving serious research and long hours sourcing films, mainly through video-sharing websites but also from government archives such as ScreenSound.

McInerney’s motivation for Time Capsules stems from his interest in “finding out about the myriad film material that seems to disappear into ignominy, or simply doesn’t make its way here”.

“The inspiration for the name Time Capsules comes from my idea that every single film, even if it’s not so great, is a piece of history; it’s a snapshot of a certain time and values — or at least the history of the imagination.”

In this digital age, “even mediocre films won’t get lost”.

McInerney previously ran a 16-mm film society at great expense, but now only presents films in digital format. “We’re in a technological state of total recall.”

He has no strict programming rules, simply seeking to show films that have not been released in Australia or have had little exposure here, but which are of significant quality and interest. They are generally 20th-century films, but recent television documentaries pop up. They can be in English or not — as long as it’s good, it’s good enough for Time Capsules.

Films screening in the coming weeks are indicative of the eclectic nature of the program. Tonight’s offering is Bigger than Life, a 1956 drama directed by Nicholas Ray, who made Rebel without a Cause the previous year. Starring James Mason, it’s a rare example of American films from that era “making observations about society that would be considered troublesome to a conservative constituency”, says McInerney. It addresses the consumerism of postwar America, the potential tyranny of patriarchy, and drug-induced psychosis.

Next week there are two recent BBC documentaries about historic figures in experimental music: early 20th-century micro-tonal composer Harry Partch, and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s sonic experimenters, whose output included the pioneering electronic theme tune for Dr Who.

February kicks off with a favourite among exploitation-film buffs, Danger: Diabolik, a 1968 adaptation of a popular Italian comic.

The Reel thing

by Dylan Rainforth
The Age – September 21, 2008

Film enthusiast Irving Z. Gribbish ready to roll at another Splodge night at the Empress Hotel in Fitzroy North. PICTURE: ARSINEH HOUSPIAN
Film enthusiast Irving Z. Gribbish ready to roll at another Splodge night at the Empress Hotel in Fitzroy North. PICTURE: ARSINEH HOUSPIAN
Arsineh Houspian

Deafening pops and constant hiss come from the PA. “Two-bit punk bands keep messing with my sound system,” complains Irving Z. Gribbish (real name Alan Quirk) of the users of the band room at the Empress Hotel in Fitzroy North.

Gribbish is not a nom de rock and the middle-aged man with wire-frame glasses – not to mention his utility belt, bum-bag and flashlight ensemble – is no one’s idea of a star. But as the sole curator of Splodge – the 16mm-film evening held here on the first Monday of every month – this is most definitely his night and he gives it everything he’s got.

Splodge looks, sounds and perhaps – if the celluloid gets too hot – even smells like most people’s idea of an amateur film night. Two 16mm projectors sit precariously atop milk crate towers on a covered pool table. Wires run everywhere. A dinosaur-sized 1970s cassette-player deck is “just line amplification for the CD player.” Of course it is.

Up on screen – a sheet-and-wooden-rods affair – pirates are the theme of the night. An early cartoon of Felix the Cat on a treasure hunt, aided by a very un-PC golliwog. Next, a single Technicolor reel of an obscure German production of Sinbad’s adventures at sea. Which snaps. “A bad splice, unfortunately,” our host announces. “We’ll have to move on to the next film.”

When it’s suggested that the technical difficulties add to the charm of the evening, Gribbish shoots straight back, “But I’m trying to make it perfect!”

He’s deadly serious.

Gribbish speaks in terms of the social good, a higher cause even, when discussing his motivation for hunting down and screening these obscurities. He rescues from the waste bin of history films unfairly dismissed as “orphans, the juvenilia of the film world … What’s considered in general coinage to be beyond the pale.”

It’s a quest Gribbish has pursued at the Empress for 11 years now.

“It’s more important than people understand – at least in my head.”

At least a few other people would understand, if the scattering of independent film nights taking place across Melbourne in bars, galleries, warehouses and even living rooms is anything to judge by. But you have to know where to look.

Time Capsules happens every Friday night at ABC Gallery in Campbell Street, Collingwood. Look for the unmarked, iron-grille entrance off an unlit street near the commission flats. You’ll find it – a barn-scale art gallery and bar.

Dean McInerney stands on the bar, adjusting a data projector. McInerney curates a program loosely centred on European avant-garde tradition, but started out screening 16mm under the banner of Psychopomp Cinema back in 2004.

These days, however, like almost everyone except Gribbish, he’s made the switch to digital. DVDs, torrents, and peer-to-peer file-sharing have sparked a digital revolution among cinephiles, who can finally track down and see titles that previously were just rumour.

When I visit, McInerney screens a documentary he has had on Beta tape for years, but has only just found the means to digitally transfer. Leaping obsolete technological barriers to preserve and to screen what might otherwise be lost is a recurrent motif among these cinephiles. For McInerney it’s an archaeological impulse, celebrated in his choice of name, Time Capsules: “I just wanted to create a cinema space where all these lost films could be seen.”

There’s also a definite pedagogical urge shared by these amateur festival directors. “Like Socrates, my school is a pub,” Gribbish says. McInerney will usually give what he calls “a little blah blah” before a feature, introducing it and its director.

Adam Spellicy, the man behind Screen Sect (held at Bar Open on Brunswick Street every Monday night), also takes his educational duties seriously. He should, as he teaches film studies and some of the audience are likely to be his students.

Before Bar Open (and Pony before that) Spellicy and some of his friends used to meet informally to project films at each others’ homes. It’s a model familiar to Ronan MacEwan, whose roughly-every-third-week Goonlight Cinema – no doubt named after the bad wine that lubricates his video projector – alternates between a commercial warehouse and his living room. It’s an authentic film club though, complete with themed evenings.

Currently, MacEwan’s exploring “topographical themes like jungle, snow and city.” “We’re overground,” Macewan insists. Meaning you can find him on Facebook groups.

In the end, it’s not about how many people come to these nights. As Spellicy says, “If just one person ‘gets’ a film and loves it, that they otherwise wouldn’t have seen, that’s enough.  My work here is done.”


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