Staff Picks: Joseph Herrle

Joseph Herrle Staff Picks

Joseph Herrle, who as Associate Product Manager works each day with the Fandor marketing and engineering teams to make sense of the world, has an affinity for movies that veer into mystifying, experimental or downright unusual territory. He’s a curious, introspective fellow, a seeker of experiences that provoke and challenge (his educational background in aerospace engineering is a testament to this). Unsurprisingly, Joseph’s staff picks are a manifestation of his appreciation of the offbeat, though I should mention that he’s not as dark or somber as these films would have you believe.

In Joseph’s own words: “The first film I ever saw on Fandor gave me nightmares. The second taught me of the wonders of the Wüstenspringmaus. I was immediately sold on the company and agreed to an interview, driving cross-country to take up my current position a mere week later. Some of the films in Fandor’s library are informative, some are silly, some are about things that happen in the world, and some are about things that happen in our minds. My favorites fall into the later categories — stories that explore our understanding of ourselves and our world.

“The mind doesn’t obey the rules of time, substance, and permanence that the outside world does, and neither do these films. If you watch every film in this list, you’ll be done with them in less than an hour, but it will be some time before they are done with you. The journey may be jarring at times, even disjointed to the point of confusion and madness, but it is one worth taking.”

1. Psych-Burn (1968), directed by J.X. Williams

Psych-Burn directed by J.X. Williams

“To set the mood, here’s a bleeding skull to scream at you for three minutes. Psych-Burn is a haunting and indecipherable late-sixties project that, for me, was unlike anything I’d seen before. I love that director J.X. Williams put this short together in an attempt to shock a group of entertainment executives so thoroughly that they would scrap the entire project, thus sparing the world the horrors of a soulless hippie-centric variety show. Is the rhythm-destroying menace in Psych-Burn a statement about the execs, who the director refers to as ‘out-of-touch, pencil-pushing buffoons’?”

2. Ritual in Transfigured Time (1945), directed by Maya Deren

Ritual in Transfigured Time directed by Maya Deren

Maya Deren’s haunting, trance-inducing films are famously difficult to grapple with, but they are among the greatest avant-garde films ever produced. Ritual was my first Deren film, and a gateway into other avant-garde titles. Ritual‘s straight-forward narrative and elusive, dark themes make it an excellent starting point to dive into the world of experimental film. If you’re the wade-in-slowly type like I was, check out this excellent video and article on Deren or this piece on some other great female experimental filmmakers from our experts at Keyframe.”

3. Outer Space (1999), directed by Peter Tscherkassky

Outer Space directed by Peter Tscherkassky

“Warning: this film contains rapid strobe effects throughout its entire duration. Please skip this entry if you are sensitive to these effects. This is the most intense film I’ve ever seen, and genuinely has the potential to traumatize, so be forewarned. Outer Space‘s presentation of violence is more honest, visceral, and personal than anything I’ve seen in the mainstream. Some people are unmoved by the film, or distracted by its layered, strobing visual effects. I wonder if it simply has a different level of resonance for those who have been victims of violence.”

4. la mano (2005) and el valiente (2004), directed by Jim Finn

la mano and  el valiente directed by Jim Finn

“And now, two pitch-black short films from Jim Finn’s La Lotería series. Initially, I thought la mano was just a sarcastic jab at American culture, but consider carefully the wild turn it takes about halfway through. How can you take the scenes of tenderness seriously after the senseless and inexplicable violence that precedes it? If you grew up on old James Bond films like I did, el valiente is a little rough. This short features a series of Bond girls who are hunted and gunned down as Roger Moore looks on dispassionately. In the background, Ana Gabriel croons of the woes of loving an uncaring man while her audience cheers, applauds, and sings along. ‘I never suffered, I never cried. I was very happy, I lived very well, until I met you.’ That churning sensation in your gut is the realization that your childhood heroes were monsters.”

5. The Virgin Sacrifice (1970 ), directed by J.X. Williams

The Virgin Sacrifice directed by J.X. Williams

“Okay, enough with the darkness and gloom. Let’s go full-on camp, for a few minutes at least, before delving into a terror-trip of satanic hallucinations. The Virgin Sacrifice is another title from nightmare-enthusiast J.X. Williams. This ‘film’ is his despairing effort to cobble together something sensible from the remains of a production that suffered an unbelievable tally of misfortunes, culminating in the destruction of most of the source material in a fire. That effort was unsuccessful. The Virgin Sacrifice is a rudderless craft careening utterly out of control. It’s one hell of a ride.”

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