Don't let his being Historically Significant Experimental Film Guy put you off of Standish Lawder. True, he was all about earnest avant-garde interrogations of meaning and of the senses, once, when that was (sort of) popular. But he also had a sense of humor at the time, and still does, thank god.
Actually, where short movies are concerned, Lawder was ahead of the so-silly-it's-genius curve. While his Corridor, from 1970, is a 20-minute trip, or/and an endurance test, or/and possibly a seizure prompter, Color Film, a three-minute visual pun from 1972, reportedly was the result of Lawder getting bored with projecting abstractions and finding it more interesting to watch colored film strips snaking through the projector itself. (One momentary boogie-slither of red, yellow, and black actually resembles a coral snake.)
Maybe his best known work is 1969's Necrology, a deadpan wordless scroll of camera-facing souls ascending a Grand Central Station escalator, scored to a dusky Sibelius symphony that's somehow rendered comically ominous without being ruined, and paying off in a funny order-of-appearance credits list, including such figures as "Student of the Arts" and "Manufacturer of Plastic Novelties" and "Man Whose Wife Doesn't Understand Him." Tonight Lawder presents these and others in a sure-to-be-lively Exploratorium retrospective.
Necrology and More: Films of Standish Lawder, with the filmmaker in person, November 13 at the Exploratorium, Pier 15, S.F. $5-$10. Call (415) 528-4444 or visit exploratorium.edu.