In theory, anyway, it was a cinemaphile's dream job--working for a Columbus company that archives and distributes silent movies. But for Tim Lanza, organizer of the Avant Garage Film Festival at the Cinematheque this week, there was one hitch: He had nowhere to watch the films he catalogued at the Douris Corporation (an early film buff's private collection that was once bequeathed to a pair of house cats, then ultimately sold to a California collector). "I just started projecting them in my backyard," he says. "Or projecting them in the kitchen." He'd invite friends over for the screenings. In 1995, he went public, renting out a drive-in theater, and, in lieu of an organist, invited a few of his favorite experimental guitarists to accompany the pictures. The result was the Avant Garage music and silent film festival.
This year's Avant Garage, at the Cinematheque, includes Ballet Mechanique, a 1924 film with dancing pots and pans by cubist painter Fernand Leger. In the temperance tale The Story of a Gin Bottle--which has no credits and is not listed in any film anthology Lanza's come across--a mustachioed man takes up residence in a bottle of spirits and lures young women to take a deadly drink. Another short feature, The Life and Death of a Hollywood Extra, was made for $96 in 1927 by two out-of-work Hollywood filmmakers. Also on the bill are the 1924 film Melimontant and Entr'Acte, a product of a Dadaist collaboration that included Marcel Duchamp, Erik Satie, and Man Ray. Musicians for the evening are Kent's Pointless Orchestra, Doug Gillard of Guided by Voices, Columbus noise guitarists Matt Newman and Larry Marrotta, and Columbus indie rock guitar band Koo Stark. It all happens Saturday, November 14 at 9 p.m. at the Cleveland Cinematheque, 11141 East Blvd., 216-421-7450.