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IN THE CINÉMA CLUB OF… JON DIERINGER

Jon Dieringer is the founder and editor-in-chief of Screen Slate, which, since its inception in 2011, has evolved into a wide-ranging hub for repertory listings, film criticism, international festival coverage, and online screenings. He has programmed at venues including Anthology Film Archives and Brooklyn microcinema Spectacle, where he arranged hundreds of screenings between 2011-2015. As the Technical Director of Electronic Arts Intermix, he has preserved media artwork by artists like Barbara Hammer, Carolee Schneemann, and Nam June Paik. Dieringer’s own video work includes 24-Hour Weekend at Bernie’s, featured in the INCITE Journal of Experimental Media (read on for his take on the original film).

 

When we asked Dieringer to share five films he loves, he also described the feelings of moviegoing itself, from the infectious energy of a drive-in to the “crackling silence” of a film print.

 

KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, Ishiro Honda, 1963

The stretch between mid-March and July of last year was probably the longest I’d ever gone without attending a public film screening. Near the end of July, my girlfriend and I headed to the Mahoning Drive-In Theater, where we caught an event by Exhumed Films called SCHLOCK-O-RAMA IV. After four months without seeing a 35mm print in the company of motley strangers, the towering image of King Kong—flailing about like a marionette, tied to a dozen oversized helium balloons over Mount Fuji before tumbling to Earth and crashing into Godzilla—gave me life.

TWO-LANE BLACKTOP, Monte Hellman, 1971

I went to my first indoor 35mm screening last weekend. The Paris showed Two-Lane Blacktop to honor the late, great Monte Hellman. I hadn’t seen it since I was in high school, and it’s a lot sadder than I remembered (especially in light of my going home and reading the “Manson episode” section of Dennis Wilson’s Wikipedia page). One moment that stood out to me is when Laurie Bird, as “The Girl,” walks over to a pinball machine while quietly singing “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” This would cost a million dollars today, so you don’t really hear it in movies anymore. The other thing you hear during Two-Lane Blacktop are a lot of revving engines. So in the final drag strip scene, when the soundtrack cuts out, the warm, crackling “silence” of the optical film soundtrack has a tremendous presence before the final frame appears to burn in the gate. How a movie should be.

ARREBATO, Iván Zulueta, 1979

I spent a lot of time during the pandemic thinking about Iván Zulueta’s essential Spanish cult film, which conflates cinephilia with addiction and vampirism. Every time I had an encounter with film—at the drive-in, or catching an outdoor 16mm screening, or finding a stash of 8mm stag films at a thrift store in Jim Thorpe, PA—it was like this shock to the system as if my body was being restored. I programmed Arrebato a few years ago in a McLuhan-inspired horror film series at Anthology Film Archives called “The Medium is the Massacre,” and in the description I included this MM quote: “All new technologies bring on the cultural blues, just as the old ones evoke phantom pain after they have disappeared.” Losing access to communal film screenings felt a little bit like an amputation, in a way. Another film I thought about in this respect (and which I was also recently fortunate to view on 35mm at Mahoning) was Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond. There’s this machine called the Resonator that enlarges the subject’s pineal gland, which extends out of the subject’s forehead, feeling around like an antenna, giving them access to new sights and sensations. (It also makes them want to suck people’s brains out of their eye sockets.) Returning to the cinema sort of feels like having the Resonator turned back on.

EL DEPENDIENTE, Leonardo Favio, 1969

Singer, actor, and filmmaker Leonardo Favio is kind of like the Argentinian Serge Gainsbourg, but a much better and more prolific director. His most famous films are Nazareno Cruz y el Lobo, a folksy mountain dark fantasy film, and Crónica de un niño solo, which is very similar to Jean Vigo’s Zéro de conduite. But my favorite of his is this excruciatingly suffocating, sui generis anti-romance that is extraordinary in how it anticipates the tone of Eraserhead. It’s about a hardware store clerk in a provincial small town who dreams of murdering his boss and is obsessed with a woman who he spies lurking under the streetlights on his way home. Eventually he asks her on a date, and they have this series of nocturnal encounters in her courtyard under the auspices of her doting, manically overbearing mother and wayward brother. It has a stark chiaroscuro rife with vast, empty spaces, and eerie ellipses punctuated with disturbing, absurdist humor. Aside from its presumably coincidental but quite evident similarities to David Lynch’s masterpiece, there’s really nothing else like it, but of course it’s a phenomenal work in its own right that deserves much more attention. I programmed a tattered 35mm print in New York a few years ago, but you’re almost just as well off catching it on YouTube. A great film for days of anxiety, solitude, and feeling claustrophobic in the outdoors.

WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S, Ted Kotcheff, 1989

Ted Kotcheff, who directed First Blood, Wake in Fright, and Weekend at Bernie’s, is the fucking man. I’ve been wondering what post-pandemic party culture will be like. Everyone seems to think it’s going to be some great, cathartic Ewok dance, but I feel like people are going to do too much coke and ketamine and die while everyone else just keeps partying. This summer, remember to stay safe. Don’t be Bernie, be Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman.