Something hidden -- go and find it;
Go and look beyond the Ranges
Something lost behind the ranges:
Lost and waiting for you. Go!

-- from Guy Maddin's CAREFUL

Being a periodic meditation on some of the more obscure outlying regions of cinema;
regarding movies that are inadequately publicized and hence, easily overlooked --
and by cinema, it is meant in the larger sense of films/tv/DVD/internet --
that might be worthy of your interest, but perhaps has escaped your notice.


Friday, September 28, 2007


       Observant readers of this blog have no doubt noticed that I glob about each film shortly before it’s released in some form -- theatrically, on DVD, through the internet, pink-laser-projected directly into your brain, what-have-you. But some films never quite get an “official” release -- at least, not with any fanfare, nor through easily accessible channels. To get ahold of such a film, bootleg editions of the movie are often the only option; but unfortunately they often feature video transfers and mastering of questionable quality and disreputable origin. Less frequently, but more beneficially to the films’ creators, a work will be self-distributed. Such would seem to be the case with the surreptitious DVD release, some fifteen months ago, of WAX, or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees.

       Okay, so I’m now going to try and synopsize WAX for you, dear reader -- please note: I said try; I have serious doubts that I’ll actually succeed, but here goes. Jacob Maker, a weapons guidance-system designer and amateur bee-keeper, is investigating his own genealogy and discovers that his grandfather, James “Hive” Maker (also a bee-keeper), was a founding member of the Supernormal Picture Society of London -- a group of cinematographers who believed they could photograph the spirits of the dead. Meanwhile, Jacob has a blackout one day while tending his bees -- a fugue-state induced by the bees themselves, who insert a small crystal into his brain to broadcast images to him. These “images” cause Jacob to have some startling revelations concerning his work at the weapons center -- and how that work relates to the cinematic experiments of his grandfather, “Hive” Maker. If all this sounds alarmingly close to the rantings of that guy down the street who lives out of his shopping cart -- well, with good reason; it’s hard to interpret WAX as anything other than a first-person account (albeit fictional -- I think) of a full-on schizophrenic episode -- what makes WAX unique is that its representation of this dementia is completely uncompromising -- there is no “return to reality” for Jacob; indeed, there’s no real suggestion that what he’s experiencing is anything but “reality”. While WAX sometimes takes on the quality of a spoken diary with visual accompaniment, it nonetheless has a fairly sophisticated grammar bound up in these same visuals; something that only struck me on a recent re-viewing.

       WAX achieved a number of firsts when it was completed in 1991; it was the first independent feature film to have been edited on a digital non-linear system; it was also the first film to be broadcast on the internet -- reformatted as hypertext and and at the painfully inadequate frame-rate of 2fps; but first in that regard, all the same. As you can gather from the synopsis, WAX is in no way a conventional “movie”; it’s really more of a feature-length “video-art” piece than a narrative film. And while much of the computer graphics and even the quality of the videography itself seems “clunky” by today’s standards, what creator David Blair did with it still seems compelling; at least in stretches, here and there.

       WAX, or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees is available as a 2 DVD set (a conventional DVD and a DVD-rom) here, and also can in fact be viewed, in its entirety, online, at WAXWEB, the site Blair has set up to promote the film. This online version splits the film up into 43 shorter movies of approximately 2 minutes each; and each with its’ own hyperlinks and reference material. Not the most convenient way to watch an 85 minute film, but then again, WAX has little to do with expedience, and much to do with creating something unfettered by the concern of what people will make of it.

Next post -- 10/05/07


Rich said...

The clip is fascinating. I'm going to hunt this down and give it a shot...although I'm getting sick and tired of all these "surrealist installation art pseudo (or is it...) docs involving bees implanting psychic implants in the heads of people. (Isn't Jerry Seinfeld working on a new version of this???)

Paula said...

Wow. Wow! That's all I can say.

No, wait, there's also this: if you watch this movie and ULEE'S GOLD back-to-back, you've got a nice little bee-keeper movie festival.

grigorss said...

Yes Rich, Jerry is remaking this -- only in his version, all the bees get little TVs in their heads that continuously show them re-runs of SEINFELD -- thereby ensuring that every living creature on the planet has seen every episode of the show at least 3 times each...

I'm embarassed to admit that I have yet to see ULEE'S GOLD, despite the fact that 3 separate people (including yourself) have recommended it to me -- I'll fix that soon enough, though.