homemoovies part 2 and 3 by Rick Raxlen

Part 2

(includes almost 10 different kinds of home-moovies
and bits of poetic voice-over from a 1983 16mm 8 minute film
Autobiographical Juvenilia

Such as:
The children are green now.
I had a red boy & a green boy
Things, children used to be black and white
I was black and white.



Homie movies or ho- movies:

These are the films that people who belong to gangs
& live in ghettoes in the inner cities of the USA make.

NOT like West Side Story where the gangs dance
& film themselves on the fire escapes
late at nite in NYC.

My Dad did not have a movie camera
He took pix of peoples’ teeth, using xrays
He was avantgarde in a way…


TRAVEL- o-logs (travelogues)

These home moovies involved going somewhere by car, boat, or plane
and then making movies of the place with a loved one in the frame.
Sometimes the loved one fed pigeons or stood by a fountain. Time stood still.
Expensive hotels–a pan across a huge buffet of food. Free bathrobes.
Thick towels–thats what travel-log-home-movies showed us.
Also: shots of airport departure concords/concourses,
bus stations, mountains in the distance, taxis, old big buildings, statues, mountains again, lakes, trains, a loved one again, beaches, with a loved one or ones frolicking…
the fun times when people weren’t drowning or
locking family members in mental hospitals or
summer camps or jails — when they had enough money saved from working all
their lives to go somewhere Special for a week or two.
super-8 or regular 8 or 16mm.

I have done it. I admit to filming from bus windows…when my kids were little
in Florida I took super-8 of them playing in a swimming pool, then edited the footage intercut with some underwater stock shots of sharks and sting rays to give it some funny dramatic excitement…


Continuity-driven home-moovies

“Continuity” uses five syllables to express what “story”
does in two. Whenever a series of scenes has some sort of basic unity,
usually because it shows the progress of a certain activity, and if the scenes
appear in logical sequence, you have a natural story and natural continuity…”
(unknown author)

These movies are shot and edited by home-moovie buffs who have
read about how-to-make-good-home-movies in books…
We see a couple enter a beach chalet in street clothes, exit the chalet
in bathing costumes, then walk down the steps
leading to the beach, run into the water–we see
this from the beach side–then we cut to a shot from in the water
as they swim out to us.
This might be called Storymaking home moovies . An event
is staged. A fake fight or game, and it is broken down into shots
that can be edited together to look like a “sequence”.

(from unknown book, by unknown author)

“The individual movie scenes you shoot
are as intimately connected as Siamese twins
simply because they are attached and follow one another along to the end of
the reel.
This provides them with a marvelous talent for telling a story…”

“In many instances, all the action needed for a good film will be entirely
impromptu. In others, it may be necessary to have some scenes acted specially,
either because they add something that makes the movie more
interesting or to repeat a scene.”


Historic home movies….

These would likely be shot by famous people on cheap
movie cameras.
By accident or fate, the camera is pointed at an event… the Zapruder film (super-8)
of the Kennedy assination
Adolf frolicking with Eva Braun somewhere in the Alps…
Maybe Adolf didn’t take them but they were taken at home
and he was in them and so was Eva.
I think Robert Evans has some real home movies in his bio-pic
and we are used to seeing Hollywood stars swimming in their backyard pools–
filmed in kodakchrome super-8.
All of this predates YouTube.


The Event-Driven Film Occasion

Most home moovies center around capturing
special events such as weddings, graduations, sporting events,
picnics, fishing trips. Civic ringdings also get documented on home movie cameras.
Friends and acquaintances have donated to my personal collection items such
as: The Queen’s Visit to Fredericton NB in 1948, military parades,
Labour Day celebrations,..and Xmas round the old tannenbaum tree.
My Uncle George Cohen, (not related to Leonard Cohen) the architype of a
home-movie buff of the 1950s variety, was on hand for all family events but was so excited by all the infinite possibilities that he single-handedly invented….



The core of the non-event event are family gatherings.
For 30 years I have been immersing myself in Uncle George’s
primo reels of b&w 16mm shot in the backyard of my
Russian-born grandpa and grandma…I catch a glimpse of my blind unknowable Aunt
Libba, sitting on grandpa’s back porch in Toronto, just off Bathurst Street.
Aunt Libba is a faint shadow of memory as is Uncle Lou.
There he is, Lou, on a sofa covered in a white bed sheet, waking up from a nap….
He wipes his face with his hand, stretches…Not really wipes,
but passes his hand over his face as if wiping sleep away–
you try it, one handed, starting at the top of your
forehead–then he stretches–maybe in total consuming 100 frames of 16mm.

He had worked with/for the Toronto Star when Hemingway worked there. Lister Sinclair
or Lester, on the radio, remembered my Uncle Lou whe he passed…
he loved horses, fast women, fast cars.
Then there was Huey and Barbara Raxlen. His children. They are not in the home movies.
Well there are a couple of shots of them…
Sometimes a glimpse of Aunt Ethel , their mother, Lou’s wife.
I only have an incomplete set of h-moovies
by Uncle George…who was teased not so gently for his opinions, for being
a soft drink distributor, by his brother-in-laws. Uncle George was married to Aunt Anne.

Some of the footage shows various relatives inserted into a
landscape at about 30 paces from the camera and then instructed to walk from left to right and then back again zigzagging slowly towards the cameraman until they are in big CLOSE-UP
for their last walk-by…


And the most evolved of all home-moovies are those that are scripted by Hollywood writers to appear in expensive features in which a scene is shown/shot that is supposed to be old home movies of the family or person sort of hamming it up….the graphics include lots of grain and dirt and overlays and the camera angles are weird and goofy and it all
looks sweet back then when the family was young and the kids were frolicky and bouncy and promise was in the air and hope hung on all things and this is contrasted with the creepy present day depression usually–
those good old movies of the good old days when people were simpler, kinder, more generous and understanding. Lots of swishy pans and jump cuts, out of focus shots wiggly jiggly shots convey a kind of unbridled joyat hand, and wouldn’t it be great if we lived back then when they didn’t clearcut forests or have atomic bombs…
when drug addiction didn’t exist and homeless people were looked after by friendly handouts from churches and social groups. When Kodachrome was king and hearts were soft and open…

(authors note: I said there were 10 types of home movies…maybe I will invent a couple
now and explain them later. One is disguised as “the making of the movie-home-movie;
this has become common on even the lowest budget shoot–someone shooting
with a home video camera,and editing together bloopers and funny outtakes.
A last one is the scripted home-moovie within the expensive Hollywood movie…
I’m getting to that..)

another kind is what is called a poem-movie. …here …watch this space later…part 3a
will include a couple) so then a couple more invented will make 10….)

in conclusion. part 2.
I made use of Uncle George’s footage in a kind of home movie in 1984–it had a voice-over poemtext to be included in pt.3. So I it was my footage and George’s footage,
which, when i look at it now, makes me into a home movie persona.

In the intervening 40 years it’s as if I too have entered the mirror held up to the past.
Before, I was looking and laughing at that world, or feeling sad, or charmed or excited.

Now I am one of them.

The tables I sit at have been turned to include me. I cannot escape.
Not that I want to.
Buried in amber, imbedded, held suspended for whatever time remains. Recently my
25 year old daughter Chloe showed her boyfriend a 1992 home-movie …she showed
it to him in the year 2008 and expressed the thought that she had entered that vintage world…

Rick Raxlen

Part 3


More bits from the voice -over
of Autobiographical Juvenilia .
Read by Rick Raxlen, Susy Raxlen and
Robert Kelly.

Man’s voice:

You look so kind Grandpa, gliding full-face past
the camera…
So what if you didn’t make a lot of money.
You were spiritual, non-materialistic.
Me too!

Robert: (deep voice)

Aunts & uncles grown stiff with inertia
coax the children to perform or
arc tangential to the camera.
They follow routes described by the setting sun.
Wearing flowery forties patterns,
un-maiden aunts linger under trees for sustenance…
their dresses are leaves and shadows.

Rick again:
The moving camera stops and starts.
Uncle George has invented

Robert again:
Foliage is part of this Noh play.
Grass, bushes, scrubs
enact with extended family.
It is an ethnographic tale of camoflage and sabotage.

If black and white kids have red and green kids,
what color will the offspring of the
red & green kids be?

Pressing the button, the film and I advance one frame.
Information is suspended, animated by pixies.


Nothing much happens…
Too much light…

Value judgements made deja.

Film lurches forward,
pulled by a clockwork mechanism.
A geared precise intermittent mechanism….

The blue child does not comprehend the
black and white people.

If black and white kids have blue and green kids
what color will the offspring of the blue and green
kids be?

(voice-over excerpts from AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL JUVENILIA,
1983,16mm,8 minutes)


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