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Cinema 16 comes to Los Angeles: Lucky Dragons create an original score to five experimental films

July 22, 2010 | 10:44 am

Flyermolly1(2)The famed New York cinéaste Amos Vogel once opined that “if you don’t like an experimental film, watch it again.”

Such is the approach that Molly Surno, the legatee of Vogel’s Cinema 16 program takes to curation. Tonight marks the Los Angeles debut of the New York-based cine-club, featuring five avant-garde films scored by local art-rockers the Lucky Dragons.

Vogel’s cine-club ran from 1947 to 1963 and featured some of the first American showings of landmark films from Roman Polanski, Alain Resnais and John Cassavetes. Updating the template by adding original scores from some of Brooklyn’s most buzzed-about bands, including These Are Powers, Telepathe and Lemonade, the L.A.-raised Surno has steadily amassed a cult fan base, culminating with her decision to launch the first-ever L.A. showing at Culver City’s Royal/T.

The Lucky Dragons have been working with the films for the last six months, building an elaborate score to the hour-long program featuring Gary Beydler's “Hand Held Day,” Maya Deren's “Ritual in Transfigured Time,” Wallace Berman's “Aleph,” Thomas Korchil's “Sunset Blvd” and Emlen Etting's “Oramunde.”

In advance of the show, Pop & Hiss asked Surno a few questions about her favorite experimental films and why she decided to revive a film series that had been dormant for more 40 years.

What inspired you to revive Cinema 16?

After I graduated from college, I did lot of film programming. I was working with different film festivals and doing things that incorporated multimedia and various forms of art. Between Cinefamily and Cinespia at Hollywood Forever, Los Angeles has lots of magical and spontaneous expressions of film. But when I moved to Brooklyn five years ago, I noticed that despite its rich experimental and avant-garde history, there was little in that dimension.

So, in April of 2008, myself and a friend put on a one-night performance in a beautiful auditorium in Brooklyn, featuring music from a live New Orleans brass band and old experimental films. It was our first performance, and not only was I inspired by the harmony of the music and the films, but I was also inspired by watching my community flock to the program. It displayed the need and the hunger for people to experience film communally. From there, it just grew into its own thing. 

How did you go about discovering these films?

Lots of research. Maya Deren is the grandmother of experimental film, but a lot of these ones are more unusual. "Hand Held Day" is only available on 16 mm film and is almost impossible to find. This is a one-time event that you can't hear or see again. The Lucky Dragons have been working with the material for six months, and it will be immaculately and precisely scored.  

For someone who might not be as well-versed in experimental cinema, what films would you recommend?

Kenneth Anger is one of my favorites. I love the way he uses music in his experimental films -- he does it so well that I wouldn't use them for the program. There's nothing that can be improved. They're basically perfect. "Lucifer Rising" and "Rabbit's Moon" are always of endless inspiration. I'm also a huge man of claymation and stop-motion animation, particularly the Brothers Clay and Jan Seankamyer.

Experimental 16 takes place tonight at the Royal/T, 8910 Washington Blvd. Culver City, 8 p.m. $15 advance tickets, $18 at the door.