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Midnight Beacon Film Series

Even Dwarves Started Small

Now this is what a midnight film series ought to look like.

Midnight Beacon, a 10-week series beginning this Friday at downtown’s Market Arcade Film and Arts Center, will not include Rocky Horror. Or Plan 9 From Outer Space. Or Pink Flamingos. Or Eraserhead, the traditional midnight favorite that comes closest to fitting programmer Jake Mikler’s palette.

Instead, the series offers 10 films, well known to cineastes but rarely screened, that will benefit from viewing in that twilight zone of altered consciousness that comes when most of the world is asleep. Call it dream theater: movies that eschew rational perception to provoke an altered consciousness in the way that only cinema can, presented in a way that they can be collectively experienced.

The series opens with Even Dwarves Started Small (1970), the second feature by Werner Herzog, who says of it, “I saw the whole film like a continuous nightmare in front of my eyes.” Essentially plotless, it is set in an institution (an insane asylum?) populated entirely by dwarves, who rebel against their keepers and methodically destroy the place. I am bound to say that there are any number of people who both hate this film as well as admiring it. (It is one of Crispin Glover’s favorite movies.)

Herzog’s New German Cinema compatriot Rainer Werner Fassbinder directed the series’ second offering, In a Year of Thirteen Moons (1978), a film that I would not be surprised to hear was an inspiration for Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Volker Spengler stars as a drifter trying to come to grips with his life after undergoing a sex-change operation to impress an indifferent lover.

Other films include Michaelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point (1970); Panic in Needle Park (1971), starring Al Pacino as a Manhattan a drug addict in the role that brought him to the attention of Francis Ford Coppola for The Godfather; the Czech New Wave classic Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Jaromil Jires, 1970); Isabelle Adjani in Andrzej Zulawski’s 1981 alt-horror classic Possession (recently a hit revival at Manhattan’s Film Forum); Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), starring Warren Oates, James Taylor and Dennis Wilson as drivers in a cross-country race, written by Rudy Wurlitzer and directed by Monte Hellman; a different type of road movie, the Wim Wenders-inspired Radio On (1980), directed by Christopher Petit; Rock Hudson as a businessman who tries to buy a new life in John Frankenheimer’s 1966 Seconds (yes, sometimes cult movies come out of Hollywood!); and, from the same year, The Face of Another, Hiroshi Teshigahara’s follow-up to A Woman in the Dunes.

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