I was asked to assist movie marquee and electrical signage expert and Grand Lake Theater in house sign man Greg King with some work on the roof sign at the Grand Lake recently. Greg needed a little rigging and bosun’s chair assistance. I haven’t taken on a new service job in ten years, but how could I refuse working on one of the greatest classic signs in the country? If you are paying attention, you will notice that there is no neon on this sign. That’s right, it is all incandescent bulbs. Before neon became the primary lighting source for signage in the 1930’s, all illuminated signage was comprised of incandescents, light bulbs. Hats off to Allen Michaan the theaters owner for going way out of his way to make sure the Grand Lake Theater stays open, despite how hard it is to support such a business these day. Thanks also for his determination to see that the fabulous roof sign is re-illuminated. It’ll take Greg and I a while yet to complete the work – scheduling is difficult. Look for a re-opening of the theater very soon. Hopefully not too long after that, the roof sign will be back on and glowing….
Blurring Man is an hilarious, well-made and very human movie. It’s quite difficult to categorize. It’s an adventure story for sure. It is a thoughtful cross cultural exploration – the story of a free spirited man living in the moment, pores wide open, ready for anything. It is also a lighthearted parody of an extremely popular Yanqui cultural phenomenon. It surely is a Very Large Post Hippie Festival in the Remote Desert that is fabulous, ridiculous, positive, exploitive, empowering, silly, hypocritical and life changing in equal measure.
In Blurring Man, an hispanic day laborer hooks up with some colorful L. A. characters and is spirited off to this uniquely American festival. This unlikely journey is paralleled throughout the movie by the dangerous adventures of the protagonist escaping war torn El Salvador – risking life and limb to eventually cross the border into the open opportunity available, or at least advertised, for him in Estados Unidos. The juxtaposition of these two Campbellian journeys is what makes the tale.
– There is the initial shock and astonishment and often unbridaled joy at the incredible large scale art – and:
– The hedonistic yet playful social structure, and the seemingly pure (and well advertised) non commercial nature of the event opens eyes.
– Very intense and genuine human interactions with random people along the way are common.
– Sensual episodes, potentially threatening stable relationships back home, occur more than at your average swingers conclave.
– There are the occasional instances of unsolicited psychotropic episodes.
– Then there is a point of overwhelming strangeness that begins to alienate a bit.
– Assault by nature in the guise of a massive overwhelming dust storm, can almost be guaranteed.
– Many who attend eventually (until they retreat into their well appointed recreational vehicles) reach a point of exhaustion and stress due to the extreme nature of the experience.
– There are the penultimate and then the ultimate performance/rituals, fully embracing the hedonistic primordial nature of these communal spasms involving powerful archetypes and fire.
– The participants finally head for home, some energized, some ecstatic, some defeated and disollusioned, all exhausted and all with a lot to think about. Quite the experience!
Elmer inhabits these arctypal involvements just as so many other attendees do, the difference being his viewpoint and strong identification with his cultural experience as an El Salvadoran.
Elmer is ultimately very much himself after the journey, with a better understanding of the nature and culture of his new Country.
There are thematically divergent and often humorous interludes throughout the movie, including one where the owners of the event threaten the filmmaker for daring to tread on their trademarks and “intellectual property”. Very funny.
I saw the first draft of the movie when filmmaker Matt Boman showed it to me a year and a half ago at my retrospective art show in Oakland. That earlier version of the film was funny, whimsical and good-natured and had considerably less material critical of the event than the finished version (which you can access through this post). Matt evidently got a cease and desist and was expected to abandon his film which he had been working on for several years. The threat compelled this young, and clever filmmaker to develop a singular and I think brilliant tactic in order to finish and present his film with less chance of existential legal repercussions for his movie.
Well, this Very Large Post Hippie Festival in the Remote Desert has been winning for decades. So let’s hope they’re good natured enough to let a young, enthusiastic and brilliant filmmaker show his take on their thing without facing unpleasant and poor sportsman like repercussions.
I’m going to guess it would’ve probably been better for that organization to have let Matt run with that original, less critical version. You’ll see what I mean when you watch the movie!