Decodings

A movie historian resurrects a long-dead experimental filmmaker, and a long-departed era of San Francisco

Decodings In 1997, local experimental filmmaker David Sherman got married at a pagan church and retreat in Geyserville called Isis Oasis. Chatting with the woman who ran the place, Sherman discovered that she was the widow of a long-forgotten San Francisco filmmaker named Dion Vigne, who'd died of a heroin overdose in the '70s. When the newlyweds departed, Ms. Vigne presented them with a gift: four boxes of Vigne's films, audio recordings, and manuscripts from the 1950s and '60s.

As a programmer, curator, and film historian, Sherman was familiar with that era of S.F. cinema. "I had the knowledge to decode something that could be lost," he explains. "If it had fallen into someone else's hands, they would have seen something completely different." As a moviemaker, Sherman imagined a way to resurrect Vigne's work and times. To Re-edit the World, his half-hour video mined from Vigne's footage, is both a tribute to the late artist and an elegy for a departed San Francisco. "If Vertigo is about the Scottie character's attempt to re-create the past, so was this film, through a dead filmmaker," Sherman says. "There is value to a multiplicity of artistic experiences, and there's a certain sadness in the film about how San Francisco has changed as a bastion of that activity."

A slew of cameos by such outré and Beat pioneers as Kenneth Anger, Jordan Belson, Allen Ginsberg, and Anton LaVey adds to Re-edit's trippiness quotient. "All of these people had certain intense muses, chemical or magical," Sherman says. "In trying to reach a certain intensity, there's always the risk of dropping off. Many artists could easily end up like Dion, addicted and an outcast. I was hoping to vindicate that process through him." The Other Cinema at ATA, 992 Valencia (at 21st Street), presents the world premiere of To Re-edit the World this Saturday, March 16, at 8:30 p.m.

Cosmic Ray Whether you call it experimental, avant-garde, or underground, the local art film landscape is as lively as it's ever been. S.F. Cinematheque and Canyon Cinema are in talks to move into the Ninth Street Media Arts Consortium building, which the Film Arts Foundation, Frameline, and several other organizations are currently remodeling in anticipation of July occupancy. Canyon's Dominic Angerame imagines a "united front of experimental cinema," with collaborations and an even greater emphasis on avant-garde work in the Asian American, Latino, and Jewish film festivals, among others.

The screening scene is plenty hot right now. SFMOMA toasts the Cinematheque's recent 40th anniversary with five programs of vintage films showing Thursday through Sunday, March 14-17. The upcoming S.F. International Film Festival will make room for two experimental programs, including an April 20 salute to Canyon's 35th anniversary as a distribution co-op for independent filmmakers. "Canyon Cinema's Village of Visionaries," as it's dubbed, will feature the premiere of Kenneth Anger's The Man We Want to Hang (about occult master Aleister Crowley) and To Re-Edit the World. Come April, Angerame will launch a "Cinema Salon" of film, talk, and music on Wednesday evenings at Bannam Place in North Beach. No beret jokes, please.

Friday the 13th The Chroniclenamed Mick LaSalle its lead movie critic, with Edward Guthmann and Carla Meyer assigned to write features and fill in with the occasional review. ... American Zoetrope plans to get Jack Kerouac's On the Road on the road (finally), but without Francis Ford Coppola at the wheel. Joel Schumacher will direct, so expect more than a hint of the homoerotic side of the Kerouac-Neal Cassady relationship -- unless Leonardo DiCaprio signs on. ... The likable, locally filmed indie feature Mission (Reel World, Aug. 15, 2001) makes its S.F. theatrical debut Wednesday, March 20, launching a week's run at the Four Star.

 
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