the epitome of a lost masterpiece…
The surest answer is in the mysterious nature and singular dedication of its Australian born writer-director Don Levy (1932 – 1987). Originally a scientist (he held a rare Doctorate in Physical Chemistry) Levy supported himself prior to Herostratus by directing commercials and industrial films. Although he completed the principal photography between late 1962 and early ’64, the film was not released until 1967 because of the lengthy ordeals of post-production. Cutting the film, technically, on begged and borrowed equipment was one giant hurdle – and even that was dwarfed by the task of locating the soul of the finished work, of honoring its most truthful rhythm with a jeweler’s attention to each frame. It was too avant-garde to attract a ready backer, so Levy used his own money. He was briefly hospitalized for starvation while finishing it. By the time it emerged, matters of style and content that had been well ahead of the curve when he started were lost in the wave that was then carrying Blow-Up and Weekend to their garden-spots in Valhalla.
Levy taught at The California Institute of the Arts from 1970 until his death. He was a wonderful teacher – I was one of his students – and he cleverly drove us all mad by posing discussion questions like “What is Sanity?” (That led to three years of endless bickering in class, by my count.) Most of us had never seen Herostratus for the first years we knew him – there was no 16 mm print – but when we did (a gang of students contriving to borrow a pair of 35 mm projectors, one memorable weekend) our astonishment was indelible. We already cherished Don as a great mind, but his personal aura of privacy now became heroic – especially as he was so soft-spoken in relation to what he’d done, and so generous with each of us.
After a single showing at the Los Angeles Filmex in 1972, Universal Studios approached Levy about distributing Herostratus – but there was a catch. The film runs two hours and 23 minutes; they wanted him to cut about 25 minutes out. He refused. The pace of the film is its vertical challenge – especially in its climactic third – but this is so inseparable from the vision being embodied, so entirely in the character of what Levy is dramatizing, that it was a moral test of his character that he refused to tailor it.
And so it is now that his family, former students and CalArts colleagues are bringing this masterwork to light after decades of effort. They’ve made a DVD deal, and with the aid of the British Film Institute, used HD-CAM technology to restore the film’s original pristine color for a fresh premiere at REDCAT.
“HEROSTRATUS” 1967 directed by Don Levy
don’t miss “Herostratus” at Calart’s REDCAT theatre monday 3.1…
Greensburg, Pa.: Was there anything they should have done to prevent this tragedy with Tilikum?
Richard Ellis: Probably the whale that had killed somebody already should not have been part of a show.
Omaha, Neb.: Are there any specific theories as to what would make captive killer whales aggressive towards humans? (Aside from “they’re out of their natural environment and therefore act unnaturally.”)
RE: There are many animals that don’t do well in captivity, but killer whales have a long history of adapting. We just don’t know why Tilikum behaved the way he did.
Alexandria, Va.: Was there anything about the act of rubbing the whale that was different in some way than what he was used to? I understand that this whale has killed people before, many years ago. So he must be getting up there in years. Do some whales perhaps suffer dementia when they get old, as people (and dogs, for that matter) do?
RE: Tillicum drowned a person several years ago. Not easy to compare whales (killer whales are actually large dolphins) with people or dogs.
Sterling, Va.: I had heard on the radio that the whales were acting stressed during the show and that it caused the show to be stopped. Could that have been a factor to what led the whale to grab the trainer and pull her under?
RE: Could be, but until we can ask the whale, we’ll never know.
Corydon, Ind.: I notice that the media is using the term “killer whale” almost exclusively, but it had seemed to me that the term had been mostly replaced by “orca” in the popular press over the past 20 years. If this had been a story about a creature that had saved a boatload of people in a sinking life raft, would we be reading “orca” in the news stories instead. What is the accepted term for these creatures?
RE: They’re called “killers” in oceanarium shows because it makes them more appealing to the public. People want to see a dangerous animal subdued. Unfortunately, this time it didn’t work out to well.
Bowie, Md.: Doesn’t the adjective “killer” say it all?
RE: They are called “killers” because they kill their normal prey: whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, penguins. The number of attacks on swimmers and diverts in the wild is zero.
Baltimore, Md.: It seems obvious that it is time to accept that orcas should not be kept in captivity but returned to the sea. The argument that people do not appreciate what they can’t interact with does not hold sway here, there are plenty of places in the world to see wild orca — you don’t have to train them to chase balls in order for people to appreciate what majestic animals — and efficient predators they are!
RE: I agree completely. But human beings have a long, ignoble tradition of keeping wild animals in captivity.
Washington, D.C.: What is the plan for the whale? Will he be released, killed, moved to another facility?
RE: I don’t know what they’re planning to do with the whale. They obviously can’t use it an a show any more…
Washington, D.C.: Would the whale have a good chance of surviving if released in the wild?
RE: If Tillicum was released into his original family group, he would probably survive.
Baltimore, Md.: You say killer whales do not attack humans, but do you think they could some how be trained to? If so, how long until the Navy starts awarding research contracts…
RE: I’ve never heard of any marine mammals being trained to kill people. I think the Navy has better (or worse) things to do than train killer whales to kill divers.
Woodbridge, Va.: I read once that they think killer whales and most of the dolphin family are actually aliens that crash landed into the ocean 10,000 years ago. Their spacecraft was destroyed so they had no choice but to live out their lives in our seas. Since there was an abundance of food, they thrived and expanded across most oceans. You think that’s true?
RE: No… Gotta go. Thanks for the interesting questions. Orcas in the wild live in family groups, so probably isolating one or two is not good for their mental health.
check out an online video interview with Richard Ellis…
congratulations Kathryn Bigelow and “THE HURT LOCKER” for taking home 6 gold masks from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts — BEST FILM, DIRECTOR, ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY, CINEMATOGRAPHY, EDITING, and SOUND…
“The Hurt Locker” won both the Producers and Directors Guild awards and looks to win the best picture Oscar which would make Bigelow the first woman director to do that — she’s only the fourth to be nominated…
they’re already here…
Aliens may be “staring us in the face” according to Lord Martin Rees president of the Royal Society and astronomer to the Queen of England, “the existence of extra terrestrial life may be beyond human understanding.” He made the remarks shortly after hosting the national science academy’s first conference on the possibility of alien life. “They could be staring us in the face and we just don’t recognize them. The problem is that we’re looking for something very much like us, assuming that they at least have something like the same mathematics and technology,” he said. “I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive. Just as a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum theory, it could be there as aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains.” Lord Rees used the conference in January, entitled The Detection of Extraterrestrial Life and the Consequences for Science and Society, to ask whether the discovery of aliens would cause terror or delight on earth. He told Prospect magazine that improved telescopes made the chance of finding extra-terrestrial life “better than ever”. But Dr. Frank Drake, the world’s leading “ET hunter”, told the conference that satellite TV and the “digital revolution” was making humanity invisible to aliens by cutting the transmission of TV and radio signals into space. At present, the Earth is surrounded by a 50 light year-wide “shell” of radiation from analogue TV, radio and radar transmissions. But although the signals have spread far enough to reach many nearby star systems, they are rapidly vanishing in the wake of digital technology, according to Dr. Drake. The scientist, who founded the Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence organization in the United States, said digital TV signals would look like noise to a race of observing aliens.
left to right: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama
and in related news — First Lady coifing…
the Plastic Ono Band has come together again — for a concert “We are Plastic Ono Band” tomorrow at Brooklyn Academy of Music pumping their new album “Between My Head And The Sky”…
the lineup includes Yoko and Sean, Yuka Honda, Cornelius and Haruomi Hosono, appearances by original Plastic people and guests like Kim and Thurston, Bette Midler, Scissor Sisters, and Clapton..!
tuesday’s show sold out, but there’s a dress rehearsal tonight — and they’re selling tickets… BAM!