Classic European and American ‘Underground’ Shorts


This is what DVDs were invented for: a dizzyingly fecund, two-disc compilation of 25 classic shorts from the salad days of European and American “underground” cinema, all reaped from the private collection of late L.A. programmer Raymond Rohauer. This is the furrowed soil from which sprang the next fourscore years of expressionistic personal film, so come at the films however you may—as the hard-to-find landmark works by seminal artists, as an infinitely ponderable showcase of extinct cultural history (here you’ll see what the streets, cafés, and forests of the pre-war decades were like for real), or as a time capsule of charming aesthetic innocence. (Passé avant-gardes are always childlike.) Accompanied in each case by a straight-shooting explanatory text by the Voice‘s own Elliott Stein, the package includes four films by Man Ray, two by Jean Epstein, Duchamp’s Anemic Cinema (1926), Léger’s Ballet Mécanique (1924), Orson Welles’s student film–ish Hearts of Age (1934), Watson and Webber’s Lot in Sodom (1933), Dimitri Kirsanoff’s Ménilmontant (1926), Germaine Dulac’s Artaud-written surrealism La Coquille et le Clergyman (1926), Eisenstein and Alexandrov’s Parisian–art deco Romance Sentimentale (1930), Slavko Vorkapich and Robert Florey’s
The Life and Death of 9413, a Hollywood Extra
(1928), et cetera, et cetera. Among the treasures that were new to me: Even—As You and I (1937), a smart-assed ditty by cinematographer Roger Barlow, Hollywood loiterer LeRoy Robbins, and gay activist Harry Hay, who play themselves making a film to win a Pete Smith Specialty contest and ending up with a perfectly awful riposte to Un Chien Andalou. The films come as well with new soundtracks by Donald Sosin, Paul Mercer, Larry Marotta, and the Atlanta acid jazz quartet dp