On Monday evening I met with filmmaker/projectionist/all around cool guy, Paul Shepherd, for an interview specifically pertaining to the circular celluloid tattoo on his arm. (No, we were not in prison.) Here's what happened . . .
J: Hi Paul, can you tell me about this tattoo? It looks like it reads as "Garnulf Rainer." What's that?
Paul: Does it really look like a "G"?
J: I’m guessing, but I can definitely read “Arnulf.”
J: What does it mean?
Paul: It’s the name of the film. But the film is the name of a person, a painter, Austrian, maybe German, I don’t remember. The film is by Peter Kubelka. It’s the film that changed my life. When I saw that, I knew experimental film was the area I had to be involved in.
J: Wow! I haven’t seen this film.
Paul: Really? It’s so amazing. They show it annually at Anthology.
J: Why should I see this movie?
Paul: Because I said so. Just kidding. I think that it’s the earliest flicker film that I know of, made in 1960. Flicker film is really important because . . .
J: But why have this on your arm?
Paul: It’s a constant reminder of where it all started for me. Flicker films are my favorite kinds of films. In two ways it’s my start: making flicker films & getting into experimental cinema.
J: That’s really cool. I think that the beginning, however it is defined, will be with us forever. Can you tell me more about Peter Kubelka? I know little about him except that he was one of the founders of the Invisible Cinema!
Paul: He’s an Austrian filmmaker, one of the founders of Anthology, friends with Jonas Mekas & Stan Brakhage. And I met him!
J: What was that like?
Paul: I was in London at the time. Mark Webber, who if you see an experimental film screening in London, he’ll have a part in organizing it . . . He got Peter Kubelka to come to the London Film Festival in 2001. (Paul plays with b/w cat lounging nearby.) He had four lectures, and I was awestruck. Afterward, I went up and introduced myself, and I asked for a copy of Arnulf Rainer, he gave me his email address, and then I contacted him for a print, and never got a reply. I still have the email address!
J: So the tattoo was after this meeting?
Paul: It was quite a bit after.
J: Did it hurt?
Paul: Uh-huh, quite a bit, I actually had to lie down to get it, because when I was sitting up, I had to stop every two minutes and take a breather, I was feeling light headed.
J: Because it really hurt?
Paul: It hurt, but really I’m not good with needles.
J: Peter Kubelka should appreciate this. :) Then what happened?
Paul: I got the tattoo in two separate sessions.
J: And the tattoo goes around the entire circumference of your arm?
(Paul shows me the tattoo, and it goes all the way around his arm like a ribbon.)
J: So where can I see this film, other than Anthology?
Paul: You could probably rent it from the Filmmakers Coop or the Donnell Library.
J: My heart is really loyal to Tony Conrad. What is different about this film?
Paul: I had not seen Tony Conrad's film until after I got the tattoo. Arnulf Rainer precedes The Flicker by 5 or 6 years.
J: Okay . . .
Paul: The Flicker is amazing in its own rite, but it’s very different than Arnulf Rainer. The Flicker is a scientific study of visual perception, the visual cortex, purely. Where as Arnulf Rainer is more of a play between sight and sound. The film disorients the connection you have between these two senses.
J: Do you have a message for Peter Kubelka?
Paul: Thank you.
J: Thank you, Paul.