Reels at the Pratt: 5 Must-See 16mm Films

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By Tom Warner

Time Piece PicLast month, the Windup Space in Station North hosted “Sights & Sounds from the Vaults,” an evening of experimental film classics culled from the 16mm film collection of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. The screening was the latest local film series to feature titles from the Pratt's outstanding collection of over 2,100 16mm films.

In an age of digital video, a new generation of cinephiles continues to discover the hidden treasures in Pratt's 16mm film archives—many of which are unavailable in any other format. So what is the crème of the crop? Following is my list of five must-see 16mm films from the Pratt.

Time Piece
(Directed by Jim Hensen, 1965, 9 minutes, color)
Muppets creator Jim Hensen directed and starred in this live-action short made during his early days as an experimental filmmaker. Filled with surreal dream sequences and good-natured humor, it documents a fantasy-filled day in the life of a young executive during the '60s Rat Race. Though nominated for a 1966 Oscar (Best Short Subject – Live Action), it remains unavailable in any other format.

Precious Images
(Directed by Chuck Workman, 1986, 8 minutes, b&w and color)
In this Academy Award-winning film (Best Short Film, Live Action, 1987) that's unavailable anywhere else, Chuck Workman presents the greatest scenes from 50 years of film in eight breakneck minutes of skillful editing. Watch it at Online Short Films.

Deafula PosterDeafula
(Directed by Peter Weschberg, 1975, 95 minutes, b&w)
was the world's only movie filmed entirely in "Sign-Scope" for the deaf and hearing-impaired. Director Peter Weschberg stars as Count Dracula in this long out-out-print horror film that is told entirely through sign-language. See Mike White's review and interview with producer Gary Holstrom in Cashiers du Cinemart.

(Directed by Claude Lelouche, 1976, 9 minutes, color)
Few films are as steeped in legend as this 9-minute adrenalin-fueled speed race by Claude Lelouche (Un Homme et Une Femme) that allegedly got him arrested the first time it was shown (for its numerous flagrant traffic violations!). Mounting a point-of-view camera on the front of the car, Lelouche takes viewers on a wild high-speed drive through the streets of Paris—all filmed without special effects, sped-up film or blocked-off streets. A favorite of the editors of Car & Driver magazine (“better than any chase ever filmed, because it’s real”), it is definitely NOT recommended for driver’s ed students.

De Duva
(Directed by George Coe and Anthony Lover, 1968, 15 minutes, b&w)
Nominated for an Oscar in 1969, this clever spoof of three Ingmar Bergman films (Wild Strawberries, The Seventh Seal, and The Silence) marked the first film role of Madeline Kahn. Speaking in mock Swedish with English subtitles, a retired physicist sits in an outhouse and recalls a traumatic garden party he attended as a youth. In a game of badminton rather than chess, Death loses his intended victim because of a hilarious obstacle—a dirty pigeon! Watch a clip below:

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