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China Girls

China Girls

Releasing Human Energies (Toscano, 2012)

Programmer Genevieve Yue in Person!

The various faces of the “China girl”, sometimes called a “China doll” or “girl head”, have appeared in more films than any actress, though she is almost never seen, save for the fleeting glimpses an audience might catch at the end of a film reel. These images of a woman, positioned next to color swatches, have appeared on the leader of every commercial manufactured film since the late 1920s and continue in limited use today. The China girl image is instrumental in determining exposure, image density, and color balance, forming a kind of cinematic unconscious. Her essential but often overlooked role in film history has also made her a compelling subject for experimental filmmakers variously examining issues of celluloid materiality, the behind-the-scenes workings of the film industry, and the often marginal role of women. In some cases, the China girl is no less than the enigmatic icon of a vanishing medium.

A selection of films will be introduced by programmer Genevieve Yue. This program is co-sponsored by the Orphan Film Project.

This program is supported by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. Additional support generously provided by American Cinematheque. We also depend on our members, ticket buyers, and individual donors.

Film in Which There Appear Sprocket Holes, Edge Lettering, Dirt Particles, Etc.

Directed by Owen Land (formerly known as George Landow) (1965-66, 16mm, color, silent, 4 min.)

This film takes the view that certain defining characteristics of the medium, such as those mentioned in the title, are visually "worthy". For this reason it is especially recommended. -- G.L.

"The richest frame I have seen in any film when you take into consideration all movements lines the beautiful whites, and reds and blacks... The kinetic and visual experienced produced by Landow's film is even more difficult to describe... There is humour in it (the blink); there is clear Mozart -(Mondrian)- like sense of form..." -- Jonas Mekas, The Village Voice, July 1975.

Standard Gauge

Directed by Morgan Fisher (1984, 16mm, color, sound, 35 min)

"One long piece of 16, many short pieces of 35; found footage, not vivified by projection but presented as a succession of objects; partly an autobiography, partly a history of a technological artifact and the institution of which it is the foundation, the commercial motion picture industry." --M. F.

China Girls

Directed by Michelle Silva (2006, 16mm, color, sound, 3 min.)

A short composition of women posing for skin tone and color slates used in film leaders.

To the Happy Few

Directed by Thomas Draschan and Stella Friedrichs (2003, 16mm, color, sound, 5 min.)

“… a punchy, satirical ride that mixed food, sex, and violence in perverse Kuleshevian suggestions, all with great comedic timing. To the Happy Few is a found footage film, a kind of film pioneered by the Austrian avant-garde in the '80s and '90s, and a great example of film giving birth to itself in hybrid, mutated forms.” -- Genevieve Yue, Senses of Cinema


Directed by Timoleon Wilkins (1996, 16mm, color, sound, 8 min.)

“a meditation on his birth and death and that of film.” – San Francisco Cinematheque

ReleasingHumanEnergies small

Releasing Human Energies

Directed by Mark Toscano (2012, 16mm, color, sound, 5.5 min.)

A film about control. A refinement of energy for purposes of conserving resources, materials, impetus, potential, so they might all be narrowly channeled toward an unquestioned goal of maximum profit with minimum waste. Capitalism, in this example, as a process of understanding how to make use of someone as efficiently as possible to get the most out of them that is desired. Instructions for keeping people on task. – M.T.