Matt Wolf and the Vintage Remixers
A quick look at five innovators who breathe new life into found footage and historic reels.
Matt Wolf’s Teenage is a brilliant mashup of eras and modes, as contemporary music is fused onto historic footage, inventive first-person narration and dramatic re-creation are mixed with a globally researched trove of archival fact. As far from a Ken Burns slide show as it can be, this work calls to mind other innovators who are (and have been) remixing archives into shiny new shapes. Like Wolf, the following filmmakers both impose their will on images of the past—many of them ephemeral—and in recontextualizing, breathe new life into them. Here, I offer a favorite film from each. (See also accompany article, “Teenage, the Movie and the Invention.”)
The creator of SXSW 2013 standout Our Nixon has an oeuvre packed with reworked histories and my favorite is she marries footage of NASA’s Voyager missions with personal histories (her own and Carl Sagan’s) in The Voyagers.
His uses of “found” footage are as varied as his entire body of work, but certainly dredging up the mundane daily lives of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Francisco Franco and Mao Tse Tung as he does in Human Remains offered an all-new take on the “horror” film.
Live-and-in-person is the best way to experience a Sam Green project these days, and his ability to match emotion-cueing music with powerfully original storytelling only improves with each new event (many built on the backs of previous). For a quick dose of Sam Green that offers insight into his uniquely gorgeous view of past and present, I recommend lot 63, grave c, which literally revisits the tragedy at Altamont in 1969.
With a catalogue of antic fiction/non-fiction hybrids, it’s hard to choose one, but with Spectres of the Spectrum, Baldwin issues forth with a special force indeed, announcing ‘Electromagnetism is life—and death’ before plunging forth into his apocalyptic found-footage sci-fi fantasia.
Her The Phantom of the Operator mines nearly ninety years of Bell and Western Electric’s “industrials” and advertisements to witty, wonderfully hypnotic effect in another first-person take on a topic of personal fascination.