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by Dan Nuxoll
March 10th, 2007

Every now and then there are moments when the folks at the Anthology Film Archives remind you how uniquely valuable they are. Friday night was just such an evening as Al Maysles and the good guys at the Maysles Institute came downtown to present a batch of rarely (or never) before seen clips from the Maysles overflowing archives. Seeing these short clips broken up is not as engrossing as watching a fully realized Maysles film, and I’ll admit that my mind wandered here and there during the two hour screening that featured excerpts from 12 different doc projects, plus a small selction of commercials and a clip from a strangely charming appearance they made on the original Late Night with David Letterman show. But the gems within this program…they are simply amazing. My personal favorite and definitely the crowd-pleasingest of the bunch was the simply extraordinary short promotional film “Salvador Dali’s Fantastic Dream.” Apparently Disney commissioned a painting by Dali in some madcap attempt to promote their Raquel Welch sci-fi spectacular Fantastic Voyage and also paid the Maysles to document his artistic process. If only corporations wasted money so creatively today. Dali’s portrait of Welch is silly pop-art, but watching the painter dash wildly about about Manhattan with his waxed moustahce and a gaggle of sycophantic reporters, searching for “inspiration” is unlike anything I have ever seen. That the short is narrated by in sardonic newsreel style brings it all together perfectly. Serendipitous moments of humanist camp trash that even a Bouvier Beale could never match.

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Rooftop Films is a New York based non-profit whose mission is to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.

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