When we get sick, many of us habitually use the time away from work and other obligations to do the same thing: watch movies. But old favorites and recent releases we'd missed our first chance to catch can only last us so long: now, with so much of the world either sick or at home trying not to get sick, a combination of isolation and uncertainty about the state of things pushes us to seek out more cinematically daring fare. To satisfy this demand, Los Angeles filmmaker Kate Lain has created a collection called "CABIN FEVER: Coping with COVID-19 playlist of online experimental films & videos," all of them free to watch online, begun "as an editable Google sheet on March 13 to gather some experimental films together based on moods one might be experiencing while being cooped up."
Since then, Lain writes, "the list has morphed some, with some great new categories being added to the mix." The most recent version of the spreadsheet, available in .XSLX and .PDF formats, includes such categories as "For when you need to laugh or smile," "For when you're stuck inside but want to be outside," "Animals," "Plants," "Nostalgia," and "Virus movies cuz why not." (One such movie, Tuzan Wu's Disease of Manifestation, appears at the top of the post.)
Within these and others appears the work of such filmmakers as Jan Švankmajer, Miranda July, Fernand Léger (previously featured here on Open Culture), Man Ray, Maya Deren, and Cindy Sherman. (Avant-garde enthusiasts may also rejoice at the sight of names like Hollis Frampton, James Benning, and Kenneth Anger.)
Inspired by Lain's collection, Hyperallergic's Dessane Lopez Cassell has "reached out to artists, filmmakers, and Hyperallergic contributors to assemble a list of what we’ve been sharing and encountering across our networks." Their selections include Afronauts, "a luminous short which renders the story of the Zambian Space Program" — at which we looked back earlier this month — "as a dreamlike work of speculative fiction"; Bassem Saad's Saint Rise, about the transportation of a statue of Saint Charbel ("now being heralded by conservative religious media as a healer of the Coronavirus," the filmmaker adds) to a high mountaintop in Faraya, Lebabanon; and Guy Maddin's The Green Fog (watch in full here and see the trailer below), described by critic Carman Tse as "a scene-by-scene recreation of Vertigo, made entirely of footage from other movies that take place in San Francisco."
"There’s an especially funny montage right at the climax of the movie that uses Chuck Norris clips," Tse notes, making The Green Fog a promising choice for those of us who need to lighten the mood of our isolation — and who also appreciate a high density of inter-cinematic reference. Hailing as he does from the notoriously wintry Canadian city of Winnipeg, Maddin himself surely knows a thing or two about how best to amuse oneself during long periods stuck indoors. Indeed, every artist growing up in circumstances of isolation, occasional or frequent, develops a strong appreciation and highly refined sense of artistic daring, one that unfailingly shows in their work when it debuts in the wider world. If we take this opportunity to expand the depth and breadth of our own viewing experiences, imagine how much more astute filmgoers we'll be after the pandemic passes.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.