Wednesday, October 23, 2013

10/23/13 Films of Ron Rice

THE FLOWER THIEF, 1960, 75 min

Rice twice collaborated with future Warhol star Taylor Mead, including Rice's first and best-known film, The Flower Thief (1960). Created in 1959 for less than $1,000, it used World War II aerial gunnery 16mm film cartridges donated to Rice by Hollywood producer Sam Katzman. In 1962, it was seen by a large New York audience as a selection of Amos Vogel's Cinema 16. Rice commented on his inventive approach:
In the old Hollywood movie days, studios would keep a man on the set who, when all other sources of ideas failed (writers, directors), was called upon to 'cook up' something for filming. He was called the Wild Man. The Flower Thief has been put together in memory of all the dead wild men who died unnoticed in the field of stunt.
In 2005, after muffled dialogue was restored by the Anthology Film Archives, Ed Halter reviewed the film for the Village Voice:
In Ron Rice's baggy-pantsed beatnik artifact The Flower Thief (1960), Warhol superstar in training Taylor Mead traipses with elfin glee through a lost San Francisco of smoke-stuffed North Beach cafés, oceanside fairgrounds and collapsed post-industrial ruins. Boinging along an improvised picaresque up and down the city's hills, Mead teases playground schoolkids, sniffs wildflowers, gets abducted by cowboys in the park, and has a tea party on a pile of rubble with a potbellied bathing beauty... For consummate subcult critic Parker Tyler, Rice's "dharma-bum films" work by discarding the distinctions between art and life. They "bear resemblance to the lunatic romps of the Marx Brothers, only now the actors are not in comic uniforms, as if the parody were part of real life, not a movie fiction." Today, Mead's Flower Thief uniform—tight hoodie, button-down shirt, three-stripe tennis shoes, and beat-up jeans—can be seen on many an L-train habitué, en route to neo-Bowery facsimilies of post-war cafés, and so the parody has been reversed; such are our own meticulous restorations of the fantasies of other people's youth.

CHUMLUM, 1964, 23 mins.
Rice also worked with underground filmmaker Jack Smith, who appears in Queen of Sheba Meets the Atom Man with Taylor Mead, and in Chumlum. Rice was inspired to make Chumlum while working with Smith on the props for Smith's Normal Love. Chumlum also stars Mario Montez, who appeared in both of Smith's films, as well as several of Andy Warhol's films. Warhol superstar Gerard Malanga also has a role in Chumlum.
Rice's films can still be rented from the Filmmaker's Cooperative. His work paved the way for other experimental filmmakers of the 1960s, including the Kuchar brothers. All but forgotten today, Rice was a major figure of the New American Cinema, and his deeply personal, anarchic films are the work of a true cinematic visionary.

Rice was 29 when he died of Pneumonia in Mexico in 1964.