Fun with the Prelinger Archives

So I’ve been experimenting with film recently. I happened upon some YouTube videos that combined Creative Commons footage from the Prelinger Archives and music from artists like Boards of Canada. I liked the concept, and I soon began to explore the Archives myself. After fumbling with the editing process for several hours (iMovie kind of sucks in that way), I finally had a complete video. This got me excited, and over the next few weeks I made two more videos. Here they are, with way too much commentary:

Can – Mushroom

I’ve listened to Can’s album Tago Mago many, many times. I found a lot of great atomic footage right away in the Archives, so I decided to go with “Mushroom” as my first video. The lyrics, as is the case with most Can songs, are ambiguous and somewhat hard to decipher, but I’ve always felt that they were talking about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Damo Suzuki, the vocalist, was raised in post-WWII Japan, so it seems to make sense.

I primarily used footage from an old Civil Defense film called “Survival Under Atomic Attack.” There’s a clip I used towards the end where a father is washing his son’s hair as a precaution against radioactive dust. I followed the clip with some footage of Japanese civilians, which I believe was shot after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The junxtaposition of these images made me think of America needing to cleanse its soul after bombing the Japanese. It also provides a nice contrast between vain attempts at preventing harm during atomic attacks (using shampoo) versus the reality of an attack (Japanese civilians wounded in a hospital).

There was a point in “Survival Under Atomic Attack” where the narrator mentions that if the Japanese had been prepared for an Atomic attack like Americans, there would have been many lives saved in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This seemed akin to beating someone with a baseball bat, and then lecturing them on how they could have suffered less broken bones if they only took calcium supplements.

James Pants – KA$H

After the very serious subject of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I wanted to lighten things up a bit. I bought James Pants’ album Welcome during the start of the financial crisis/ bailout. Everytime Paulson would come on the news–veins bulging, voice cracking–I would laugh, thinking about the song “KA$H.” The lyrics are silly, but in a way they sum up the absurdities of American capitalism.

I found two films that ended up being perfect–one on the dangers of counterfiet money called “Doubtful Dollars” and one on the perils of communism called “Make Mine Freedom.” The former supplied some great shots of cash and the workings of the U.S. treasury, and the latter offered some great cartoons that illustrate the basic workings of capitalism. If I had to choose a favorite part it would be a tie between the grandpa/miner pulling up his matress to reveal a bunch of cash and the blueblood sitting on top of a pile of coins while the less fortunate members of the globe struggle.

The Magnetic Fields – Three-Way

Once upon a time I was chatting on gmail with a female friend. We both realized that another mutual female friend was online, so I proposed doing a three-way chat. It was fun for a while in a junior high kind of way but it quickly got annoying. I had been listening to the album Distortion a lot, and I had this song stuck in my head. When my girlfriend asked what I was doing, I yelled “three-way”! She got kind of upset, not so much at the fact that I was chatting with females but that I had referred to it as a “three-way.”

In the archives I found one of those classic commercials that would never be allowed to air these days. Then I spotted a film which attempted to recreate a “woman’s dream.” I think was meant to sell cars/home appliances, or at least support American consumerism. I decided to take my “three-way” chat experience and make a video about how advertising/consumerism has helped to shape the fantasies of men and women. The song “Three-Way” happens to be quite, for lack of better words, symmetrical, in that it is broken into three distinct parts by the shouting of “three-way” which also can be heard as “freeway.” So based out of all that, here’s the video.


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