Multiple SIDosis – perhaps the world’s greatest amateur film

[tcm-video url=http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/index/?o_cid=mediaroomlink&cid=208274]

I first saw Multiple SIDosis at a film festival about 7 years ago, and it has never really left the memory – it has restorative powers for anyone that has begun to lose a little faith in filmmaking that expresses a deep personal creative vision.  When you get to that mammoth threshold of film viewing (as I know many of our readers have), there may come a time when they all sort of blur together, and your mind scrambles to find a way to isolate the gifted filmmakers that you sense really used the medium to tell something different.  Let me introduce you to Sid Laverents, who celebrates his 100th birthday with the screening of his short-film masterpiece at UCLA this Thursday, August 7th.  He takes his honorific place with all the great lions and auteurs who managed to stamp a part of their personal obsessions onto an incredible body of film work.  His film is the first amateur film to be inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.   It’s a little late for a filmmaker long revered.  his films (a number of VHS tapes I ordered from Sid myself) sits on my shelf next to films from Godard, Marker, and Wells.  He is perhaps a titan in one of the most overlooked genres in film history.

I’ve tried to expose this film to as many film fans as people – so click on the link above and spread the word!  (Note: this is only an excerpt, at Sid’s publicist’s request – the full version is available on YouTube).  Watching Multiple SIDosis is like listening to The Langley School Music Project – it strips away the sheen generated by over-stuffed craft, which is to say the superficial and the spectacle.  In its place is simply raw love, spirit, and joy of the medium itself.  For a bunch of kids at Langley, this was pop music of their era – for Sid, it is the pure joy of making movies.  But that’s not to say there is a lack of craft in Multiple SIDosis.  On the contrary, when you realize it was made by a man, his wife, and a modified 16mm Bolex camera, you begin to shrink in your seat at the amazing technical execution of a clearly talented one man band.  In a cynical world, how rare is it to see such naked personal expression in any popular medium like this?  Sid’s only audience was perhaps himself, his wife, and a few friends – in the process, he made no calling card, no stepping stone, just an ingeniously creative masterpiece about his love of music (which is very much about keeping it alive in the same we have felt  about classic film), but told with the equal love of movie making.  Sid represents the avant garde mixed with the long history of personal home movie recording, then stirred quickly with some Ernie Kovacs.  But it helps to understand a little about Sid Laverents’s life to delve further, and the more you know of his life, the richer these films become (follow Multiple SIDosis with the Sid Saga, but I recommend multiple viewings, a wall chart, markers for a family tree, and room to dance).

Jake Austen, in his good overview of Sid’s filmmography (incomplete) calls Multiple SIDosis one of the best films ever made, and he may be right.  Many people have felt the same after seeing it.  What is undeniable is that if you ever get lost on the road of whatever it is that makes great films great (whether that’s Citizen Kane or La Jete), look to Sid’s work to remind you of some critical DNA: make it from the heart, be obsessed, and tell it in a way that only movies can do.  If I’m burned out at seeing another Hollywood film that makes my eyes bleed, I usally pop this film in and I’m quickly reminded what film can really do.  His movies should be required viewing for every person crazy enough to venture into filmmaking.  We might get a few more folks in the pantheon, and a lot less hacks.  Thank you Sid – and happy birthday.

Click on the link above to view a bit of Multiple SIDosis, and to learn more about Sid’s 100th birthday and festivities in LA this week, visit TCM’s Movies News.  Click here to read Dwight Swanson’s thoughtful words on Melinda Stone’s efforts to introduce Sid to the world.

8 Responses Multiple SIDosis – perhaps the world’s greatest amateur film
Posted By RHS : August 6, 2008 5:20 pm

And this has to do with Fred MacMurray how?

Posted By RHS : August 6, 2008 5:20 pm

And this has to do with Fred MacMurray how?

Posted By angryrobot : August 7, 2008 9:49 am

LOVE Fred MacMurray, really love him. But can he play 16 instruments simultaneously and optically manipulate them via reverse engineering of a bolex camera?? If it’s any consolation – Sid wears Micky Mouse ears…

Posted By angryrobot : August 7, 2008 9:49 am

LOVE Fred MacMurray, really love him. But can he play 16 instruments simultaneously and optically manipulate them via reverse engineering of a bolex camera?? If it’s any consolation – Sid wears Micky Mouse ears…

Posted By Gloria M. : August 7, 2008 8:45 pm

I have seen the “Sid Saga” and have to say that on the surface it might be a home movie autobiography played for laughs, scratch the surface and it is a saga of pain, sadness, confusion and self-denial. Why didn’t Sid’s marriages last? Was he too busy making his 8mm movies to pay any attention to his wives? This is naive art. Brilliant in its own right. Right up there with Cassavetes’ soul-searching psychodramas but much more entertaining and deceptively oblivious to the hard facts of life. Sid narrates his own pilgrim’s progress without irony – though it’s there in every frame – using crude drawings, dramatical re-enactments and his fondness for the odd detail. There are a LOT of odd details and it makes the “Sid Saga” a unique and wonderful celebration of the human condition. When it’s over, you have to ask yourself: this is the work of an amateur filmmaker???

Posted By Gloria M. : August 7, 2008 8:45 pm

I have seen the “Sid Saga” and have to say that on the surface it might be a home movie autobiography played for laughs, scratch the surface and it is a saga of pain, sadness, confusion and self-denial. Why didn’t Sid’s marriages last? Was he too busy making his 8mm movies to pay any attention to his wives? This is naive art. Brilliant in its own right. Right up there with Cassavetes’ soul-searching psychodramas but much more entertaining and deceptively oblivious to the hard facts of life. Sid narrates his own pilgrim’s progress without irony – though it’s there in every frame – using crude drawings, dramatical re-enactments and his fondness for the odd detail. There are a LOT of odd details and it makes the “Sid Saga” a unique and wonderful celebration of the human condition. When it’s over, you have to ask yourself: this is the work of an amateur filmmaker???

Posted By RHS : August 8, 2008 1:05 am

LOVE Fred MacMurray, really love him. But can he play 16 instruments simultaneously and optically manipulate them via reverse engineering of a bolex camera??

Well… not now.

Posted By RHS : August 8, 2008 1:05 am

LOVE Fred MacMurray, really love him. But can he play 16 instruments simultaneously and optically manipulate them via reverse engineering of a bolex camera??

Well… not now.

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