Over 30 years ago, Jonathan Demme presented a special screening of two seminal Texas films in New York City. This year, during the Austin Film Festival, he is reprising that screening here in Austin.
AFF is honoring the director, producer, writer, and art collector with its Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking Award. Among his many other achievements, Demme has long presented and curated great, often neglected films, and the longtime Austin friend and film and music supporter will be hosting a number of special screenings at the festival, including this very special one.
It features two influential, classic Texas films from 1980: Brian Hansen's Speed of Light and David Boone's Invasion of the Aluminum People. These two films were the stand-out hits in a program titled "Jonathan Demme Presents Made in Texas – New Films from Austin" shown at the Collective for Living Cinema in New York City in 1981.
The program came about when I screened several Austin short films for Demme while he was in town visiting. The films excited him, so he arranged for them to be screened at the collective. He also showed them to a number of prominent filmmakers. If memory serves, Bernardo Bertolucci described Speed something along the lines of a cinematic symphony in red.
Two famed influential New York film critics weighed in on these films as well. In The SoHo News, Amy Taubin praised both films:
"Shot in murky black-and-white with a super-nervous, super aggressive, super-8 trigger finger, Invasion is a DEVOesque time machine collapsing '50s lobotomization on '70s ecological blight to breed a future race of broiler-foil mummies. Virgil, the hero follows a path through the nuclear age inferno that parallels Kevin McCarthy's in the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but Boone's blither disregard for linear continuity produces a more divinely 'spacey' comedy than Hollywood ever imagined."
But she was also impressed by Speed of Light for "Hansen's considered use of the wide-angle lens, his obliquely angled framing, and his low-key sound mix" and its resulting "chilling sense of impending doom." Meanwhile, the Village Voice's Carrie Rickey was equally effusive.
"D. Boone's Invasion of the Aluminum People, a 45-minute Super-8 extravaganza (possibly processed in a washing machine) … [is] a video/film/music jumpcut glaze by this tyro Godard who seems to be sired by Coca-Cola out of Don Siegel …. Quite impressive (and infinitely slicker) is Brian Hansen's and Carlisle Vandervoort's Speed of Light, a New Wave melodrama that's as good-looking as Written on the Wind."
These films were important, widely screened, and very influential. Unfortunately, both filmmakers died at tragically young ages. Hansen was house-sitting for David Byrne when he became ill with meningitis, slipped into a coma, and died on Dec. 27, 1987. David Boone died in 2001 at 47.
This is a rare chance to see these two great films. On a personal note, I will be co-introducing the program.
Demme will also be presenting a number of other films at AFF. Among these are Robert Downey Sr.'s Greaser's Palace which Paul Thomas Anderson will co-present on Sunday. Here's Demme's complete conference slate:
2013 Awards Luncheon
Presented by the Alice Kleberg Reynolds Foundation
Saturday, Oct. 26, 10:30am, The Austin Club
A Conversation With the 2013 Awardees
Saturday, Oct. 26, 2:15pm, InterContinental Stephen F. Austin, Ballroom
A Conversation With Jonathan Demme
Saturday, Oct. 26, 3:45pm, InterContinental Stephen F. Austin, Ballroom
Jonathan Demme Presents Enzo Avitabile Music Life
Sunday, Oct. 27, noon, Rollins Theatre at the Long Center
Out of the Vault: Jonathan Demme Presents The Invasion of the Aluminum People & Speed of Light
Sunday, Oct. 27, 2:15pm, Rollins Theatre
Out of the Vault: Jonathan Demme Presents Greaser's Palace
Sunday, Oct. 27, 5:30pm, Stateside at the Paramount
Out of the Vault: Jonathan Demme Presents Horses of God
Sunday, Oct. 27, 9pm, IMAX Theatre at the Bullock Texas State History Museum
Keep up with all our Austin Film Festival coverage at austinchronicle.com/austin-film-festival.
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