The “Circumstantial Pleasures” of a Four Star podcast

Ahead of the final Rooftop Cinema of the summer on August 27, Hanna Kohn, Lewis Peterson, and Grant Phipps chat about the experimental animations of Lewis Klahr.

Ahead of the final Rooftop Cinema of the summer on August 27, Hanna Kohn, Lewis Peterson, and Grant Phipps chat about the experimental animations of Lewis Klahr.

Header Photo: Grant Phipps, Hanna Kohn, and Lewis Peterson (left to right) pose for a masked photo (taken by Kohn) before the recording of this very podcast at Four Star Video Rental (459 W Gilman St).

It’s been a tumultuous year to say the least, and this is actually the first audio segment we’re producing in over a year now. Since the pandemic curtailed plans for recurring segments, such as the one you’re about to hear, gathering indoors together to record anything like a roundtable discussion has been challenging, and, honestly ill-advised. And it still appears to be that way as CDC guidelines and venues adapt to this new variant of the coronavirus, a subject we’ve also been reporting on at Tone Madison in recent weeks.

We’re still figuring out how to approach this particular podcast going forward, but are glad to bring this one to you now. In the meantime, we all want to thank you for your patience, and for supporting all that we do.

A little while ago, we tried to take advantage of a brief window of opportunity to safely meet up to discuss an upcoming outdoor film event on the evening of Friday, August 27, at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, for the final Rooftop Cinema of the summer. They’re presenting an animated anthology film by Lewis Klahr called Circumstantial Pleasures (2020).

Two of the original team behind the Four Star Video podcasts that they produced between 2015 and 2016 are Hanna Kohn and Lewis Peterson. (Lewis also serves as operations manager at Four Star currently.) They both joined me after hours at the Four Star Video Rental location on Gilman St to talk about the series of short films that make up the anthology of Circumstantial Pleasures.

If you’re not already a Tone Madison Sustainer, please consider signing up at one of our 4 tier levels, or making a one-time tax-deductible donation at It will really help us continue producing timely journalism and arts commentary that matters.

And now, on with the show. A full transcript follows.

Grant Phipps: Hi, my name is Grant Phipps. I’m the film editor at Tone Madison, and this is the Four Star Video (Rental) podcast. We’ve reviving this after about a year and four months after the last one. We had a discussion about pandemic viewing, but this one we’re actually going to be discussing an event that’s taking place in Madison on August 27th—that’s a Friday—at Rooftop Cinema. Screening that date is this animated anthology film by Lewis Klahr; it’s called Circumstantial Pleasures (2020). It first appeared on MUBI, which is kind of an art-house streaming service, back in mid-July, which is where I first viewed it. But, to provide some background on Lewis Klahr, I borrowed from a Wexner Center [at Ohio State] description that was available when he did a presentation last year.

 J. Hoberman calls [Klahr] “the reigning proponent of cut and paste” for his acclaimed collage animations. He’s best known for his seductive and piercing examinations of mid-century materials and music. And Circumstantial Pleasures is a feature-length collection of six short films that see his focus swerve toward more contemporary materials and issues. Exit the lush worlds of melancholy and romance; enter the emptied-out landscapes of asphalt, shipping containers, and vape pods. Set to remarkable music by experimentalists David Rosenboom and Tom Recchion—and featuring a wailing wallop of a late-period song by Scott Walker—Circumstantial Pleasures captures and crystalizes the unease, ugliness, and inhumanity of contemporary life. Rather than restating the things we know, Klahr’s provocative new film uniquely illuminates the gritty emotional and physical textures of what it’s like to be alive right now.

Joining me for this particular podcast is…

Lewis Peterson:  Lewis Peterson, I’m co-owner of Four Star Video Rental.

Hanna Kohn: And I’m Hanna Kohn, and I’m happy to be here.

GP: Well, you’re also a Tone contributor. [laughs]

HK: I am a Tone contributor. Thank you, yeah.

GP: So, as I talked about before we started officially recording here, talking about this in a linear fashion, kinda compartmentalizing each short film is gonna be difficult to do. Although, maybe you could with the final one, the titular short with the Scott Walker track. But, yeah, my introduction to Klahr was actually back in late 2016 when I was attending a Cinematheque presentation of Sixty Six (2015), which was his last anthology collection of these weird cutout animation collages. And I think it was a series of twelve of them. So this is the same thing, but cut in half, essentially [at 6 short films]. At the time, I compared it to Jodie Mack, who some listeners may be familiar with, because she tinkers with a similar style of rhythmic cutout or stop-motion animation. Her Dusty Stacks Of Mom: Poster Project was one of the highlights of the film festival the year it premiered. I want to say 2015 or so. So, I remember liking Sixty Six when I saw it, but this film, taken as a whole, didn’t resonate with me as much. It kinda felt like the two book-ending films [“Capitalist Roaders” and “Circumstantial Pleasures”] were a bit more developed than everything else, and the rest was just sort of mildly reinforcing those two and padding it out to feature-length. I don’t know how you feel. Maybe you feel entirely differently.

LP:  I guess I would slightly agree, slightly disagree. It’s about an hour run-time, and the two sections you mentioned were probably about 40 minutes of it. So, just by virtue of that, they just take up more space and had more time to develop into something resembling a narrative. Although, obviously, it was very up to interpretation.

GP: Had you seen anything by Klahr previously?

LP: No, to be totally honest, I don’t think I had even heard of him before I heard this program was happening.

GP: Oh. [laughs]

HK:  Yeah, me neither. This is the first work of his that I’ve seen. And I would say very loosely, it’s a narrative film. It has some sort of—definitely texturally, color-wise, shooting style—all the different components he laces through the narratives makes it feel cohesive. But other than that, it kinda felt like someone who was playing a film that was cut up into portions with like the red-ish title cards, right?

GP: Yeah, intertitles.

HK: Right. It felt like “This is ending, and now something else is beginning.” Those breaks in-between felt very “This is done now. We’re moving onto something else.” Meeting it where I was, in terms of watching it and not knowing what to expect, I feel like—not gonna lie, it was pretty taxing to watch. But I haven’t really challenged myself with watching a lot of things in that style in a pretty long time. So, it felt kinda good to flex that brain muscle. I guess I wanted to comment that it’s a cool opportunity for collective viewing that it’s going to be available to watch with others. I think that’s a cool thing. It’s also just a unique opportunity, so—

GP: Yeah, I wonder if me viewing it in my room at like 8 o’clock at night was not the proper experience.

HK: When did you watch it, Lewis? I’m just curious about time of day and where.

LP: [laughs] I also watched it in my room. Well, ’cause I have my computer set up to my TV, so I at least had a little bit of a bigger screen. It was mid-afternoon on my day off this past Monday, actually.

HK: I watched it, literally, like first thing in the morning. It felt like I was dreaming it right into my frontal cortex or something. I didn’t even drink coffee, which I do every morning, before I watched it. Which felt insane.

GP: It’s pretty intense morning viewing.

HK: I knew it was going to be intense off the bat, so I really challenged myself. But just as a little anecdotal thing, I kind of wish I was able to watch it in a big format. I like watching experimental films in that way, because it’s just funny and kinda fun to be with other people watching it. Sometimes it can get a little challenging, and everyone’s shuffling in their seats. It’s, I don’t know, an opportunity for just zoning out with a bunch of other people and watching something that you’ve never ever seen before.

GP: Well, this sort of cinema is ideal for Rooftop, because you don’t have to follow along with characters and dialogue. It’s kind of free-flowing.

HK: Yeah, absolutely.

GP: To say that cutout animation is “free-flowing” seems like an oxymoron somehow, but— [laughs]

HK: I can imagine people stepping in and out of the space, you know, and going to do what they’re doing. Grab a drink, what have you. It [reminds me] of the film festival a couple years ago. I can’t really remember what the experimental short selection was called, but people were just walking out really angrily. And it was so fun. I was like, “Well, I feel weird for sitting here, too. Everyone’s feeling weird right now. That’s kinda the point.” Some people were just reaching that saturation point and were walking out. Had this not been for viewing for us to discuss, I might’ve walked out of this film, to be honest. But it feels good to be on the other side. I didn’t love it, I guess I have to say.

A shot of the initial recording setup at Four Star Video Rental. Laptops, handwritten and printed notes, a few drinks, and DVDs litter the table. Photo by Grant Phipps.

GP: Well, we didn’t even discuss its thematic intentions. This whole thing, without listing the individual titles, is basically—it’s made between 2012 and—or, 2016 and 2019. Is that correct?

HK: Mmhm.

GP: I think it says 2012 somewhere for some reason. Not sure why. Maybe that’s when he started brainstorming this. All these [shorts] were made during the Trump era. And it all seems to be sort of tethered to that either directly or indirectly. I thought the second short [“Ramification Lesions (Microbial Stress)”] was particularly bad at trying to articulate what it was saying. ‘Cause it has these cutouts, either photographs or magazines, or what[ever] they’re from. But there’s Putin, Hillary Clinton, Kim Jung Un, Mark Zuckerberg, Trump, Robert Mueller, and Bernie Sanders, and they’re all just flickering off and on. And I was like, “What is the commentary here?” Like, I don’t understand what he’s trying to get at. At least with the first short, there’s this attempt at conveying the drudgery under capitalism, and you have shots of industrial areas and roadways. And then there’s Trump. It feels gross to even say his name, but— [laughs] He’s repeated or reinforced more, whereas the second short, especially paired with the kind of abrasive score, if you remember— it has the most abrasive score in terms of texture. I was like, “What’s the message here?” I didn’t quite pick up on it. But maybe I’m alone in that. Again, I don’t know.

LP: I don’t know if I even went as far as trying to discern a message. Maybe this is a little bit of my brain trying to impose something relatable on it, but I kinda felt like the whole thing was evocative of viewing or reading the news, where there’s all these very familiar figures and they’re doing things. You kinda have some inkling of what they’re doing, but really, you—

GP: So, you’re an outsider, maybe?

LP: Yeah, exactly. It’s like you never really understand fully what they’re doing. It’s only what you’re able to glean from the media or your own speculation. Especially in the one you were just mentioning, they’re kind of like subliminal. “There’s Jeff Bezos; there’s Mark Zuckerberg.”

GP: Oh, Jeff Bezos. I missed him, yeah. [laughs]

LP: He’s in there for like one second, and it’s like these people have incredible power over our lives, but do we know what they’re doing? Do they even really know what they’re doing?

GP: Well, Bezos is going to space. And mocking his employees.

HK: Yeah, and also Dylan Roof pops up, which is pretty scary. It does feel like— I agree with Lewis, the whole watching the news. But even more than that, up until recently, when I was at a hotel watching the news on TV; I hadn’t done that in a really long time. It’s more like just flicking through social media scrolling, whatever. A lot of the time recently I haven’t bothered to click through. Watching this without the context of Internet scrolling, it wouldn’t make as much sense. The speed in which images flash, it almost feels like you’re watching a slideshow or someone showing slides of their mind. Impressions of things they got from watching the news. But it’s so distant in a way that might be similar to something like an Internet scroll. With the color, texture, and light he chooses to use, it looks older. It has a sort of film quality of being—I don’t know what film he was using for it. I don’t know if that resonates with either of you in terms of the look of it.

LP: It seems like the main background was the inside of envelopes.

GP: It does look like you’re looking at zoomed-in sections, parts, or walls of a diorama, at times. ‘Cause it’s obviously shot, I guess, with paper materials and recycled materials; there’s plastics and paper mostly.

HK: It really seems like—the textures were very familiar. The faces of the people we were talking about, but also the cellophane window in the envelope. It’s so tiny. I think a lot of people will recognize that as what it is. It’s so innocuous, but a part of a lot of people’s lives if you get mail from something official-looking. It looks like that. It’s not mail from a friend or a loved one usually. In that same way, with those envelopes. When I see those envelopes, specifically with the cellophane window, which were used a lot in this film, I think about bills or something from the government or like someone trying to sell you something. And I think in that same way, I was thinking of those being a way to show a texture of intrusion. Just kind of like those faces that were shown, intruding into your psyche, ’cause they’re just very familiar. You see them; they leave an impression, but you didn’t really want them there to begin with.

GP: Okay, this is pretty deep actually.

HK: That was just something I was feeling when I was watching it. Things that are there that you do not want to be there.

GP: Well, we want Bernie [Sanders] to be there. [laughs]

HK: But I just mean things that you can’t control that are entering into your life in rapid succession. And you know, filtering through. You’re gonna get things delivered to your house whether you like it or not. And you’re gonna see these faces whether you have strong feelings about them or not; they’re just a part of the texture of watching TV or tapping into the news.

GP: So, yeah, you’re supposed to be confused and mildly repulsed by what you’re watching. Complementing what you said about potentially walking out on this if you hadn’t been viewing it at home first thing in morning.

HK: Right, right.

GP: You’d just go back to sleep. [laughs]

HK: I mean, yeah. [laughs] It feels good to watch someone do something and express themselves in this way, to see an expression that it does feel weird to just exist. And it is validation that someone else is feeling weird about it. I feel like a lot of conversations that I have with a lot of different people spin out in that way. Existing is difficult; there’s a lot of parts of being in a society.

GP: We live in a society.

HK:  Exactly. I mean I feel like that’s basically the thesis of this film, right? I was going to mention it when we were talking about those elements of the faces and cellophane envelopes—was the pills as well.

GP: Yeah, that made an impression.

HK: It made a strong impression just because it’s very evocative imagery. Seeing that, I automatically assumed that was part of his regimen, part of his life. I didn’t really look into any of those details about him talking about including that in the film, but I think it’s interesting. Some of the film plays as a trash diary. And that kinda plays like a consumption diary. Or maybe it’s commentary on not taking your medicine. Juul pods and excess is something—I wanted to mention the Juul pods. I remember seeing them on the sidewalk for the first time and being like, “What the heck is this?” Now I am around them sometimes, and I think some people might watch this and not know what that is. It’s pretty modern.

GP: Actually, I probably mistook the pods for something else when I was watching it for the first time. And it didn’t leave an impression, but I was scanning for something that resonates with me, or that I identify with. We’re talking more about the fourth short, “Virulent Capital?” There’s lots of shots of pills and pill casings, and those day-of-the-week cases…? Or is it just like, you take a gel cap, and you throw the foil and plastic away?

HK: I think it might be that. But I can’t remember exactly what was shown.

GP: In that short, I believe he shows heroin on a spoon that’s being ignited, right? With a lighter. Does that sound familiar?

LP: Yes, but I feel like I can’t absolutely confirm or deny.

GP: There’s so much in this, and that’s probably only a couple of seconds in that 10-minute short.

HK: It’s really dense. When you said that, I was thinking about how dense [it is] and if you were to try to explain this to someone who hadn’t seen it, what you might say, you know? Like we’re trying to do right now. With so many images, the lack of dialogue, a lack of context a lot of the time—you’re open to imagining these scenes playing out and relating them to yourself, it makes it something that. Often I feel like when I watch things like this that it’s something that you’ve dreamed. But I don’t know, as I said earlier, I didn’t love it, but it was a valuable experiment to watch this. I think I’d recommend it to others to watch it as well. It is a stimulating experience to just put yourself in this kinda dreamlike state, almost, watching someone express themselves and their feelings of maybe intrusion and neglect, and—

GP: Anxiety?

HK: Yeah, anxiety. [facetiously] The fun stuff of life.

A still from the titular short of Klahr’s anthology, “Circumstantial Pleasures.”

LP: Yeah, this is maybe backtracking a little bit. You mentioned the dialogue, and I think it was in the first section where there were all these things with comic book characters and the speech bubbles.

GP: That was predominant in Sixty Six, [Klahr’s] last anthology film.

LP: The thing that I noticed that I found interesting was, at the beginning the speech bubbles were basically cut so it was like literally in the middle of a sentence. So, it wasn’t anything intelligible, but by the end of it, it was like one word centered in the speech bubble. Now I don’t even remember what it said, but that was like something that I jotted down.

GP: Actually, just thinking about that. Are the presence of people—well, cutouts—do they vanish as the anthology goes on? I’m trying to remember in the last film, “Circumstantial Pleasures,” which is the longest one, are there images of people in that? Or is it just industry and like machinations?

HK: I mean, I think there’s segmented parts of the body. That’s the— [showing a still from the short]

GP: Oh, you’re showing me. [laughs]

LP: The bitcoin cuff link. That was also something I think I was also—it seemed like it could have been from an article in Forbes or something like that.

HK: [showing another still from “Circumstantial Pleasures”] This is in that as well.

GP: Oh, okay. So there are figures.

LP: Professor X possibly?

GP: Or Storm?

LP: Looks more like Divine to me.

GP: [laughs] A hybrid of Storm and Divine.

LP: Yeah, there you go.

GP: You could bring everyone in. But with that short in particular, so as I came to it, I wasn’t aware of what—I just had seen that Scott Walker had done the music. Or [Klahr] had used the music of Scott Walker, so I wasn’t sure what era it was from. Which is kind of thrilling. “Ooo, I’m a fan of Scott Walker’s career and music. Is he going to just use a piece of music? Or several pieces of music?” Turns out, he’s using the longest piece that Scott Walker ever wrote, which is “SDSS14+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter),” about a court jester for Attila The Hun, oddly. So [Klahr] just basically does a series of animations as a “music video” to that piece. So, after it was over, I was wondering why he didn’t do that with other pieces from the Bish Bosch album that piece of music is from. Because that album came out in 2012, and it’s like a feature-length film in itself. And it made such an impression, because it has Walker’s increasingly wild, verbose lyricism. It seems kinda separate from the others. So I was just like, “Why didn’t he just do an anthology of modern Scott Walker songs? Or songs from Bish Bosch?”

HK: Being not very familiar with Scott Walker’s music previously, it felt very disjointed to have that part be the tail-end of the film. Just disjointed, absolutely.

GP: Well, the other pieces of music [in the anthology] are kind of minimalist or musique concrète-style. 

LP: Very droney.

GP: Where this is—Well, the Scott Walker piece is droney. But it’s also—the tone is a lot different, because it’s a piece that’s so driven by wordplay and the arrangement of language.

LP: I think the presence of words in the soundtrack where there weren’t any before kind of invites you to impose some sort of narrative of what’s being said in the lyrics of the song, and what’s on screen even if there isn’t really, literally, a narrative. Or the lyrics are somehow commenting on—

GP: Well, he’s not making a literal music video about the court jester for Attila The Hun, you know? From centuries ago. [laughs] It’s continuing the theme he had established with “Capitalist Roaders,” which is the first short film. As a standalone piece, along with “Circumstantial Pleasures,” [it] was my favorite, from memory. But I think Hanna, especially, is pulling from more evocative specific images, having seen it more recently than me.

HK: Yeah, like I said, I found, when I was watching it, it felt like a trash diary. That’s really an interesting way to show—

GP: Just have that on the program notes: “Trash Diary,” period.

HK: Something I think about a lot is the kind of creativeness of messes.

GP: The order in chaos?

HK: Yeah, and when you’re walking through your house and what you’re placing in random spots. And then when you go to clean it up, you’re like, “Oh, I put this next to that.” And retracing your mental state when you were doing certain activities. Papers ending up under other papers. You can see someone’s mental state in that way, in a very interesting way. It’s also like—it felt like you had a bird’s eye view of someone’s desk. A small section of someone’s huge workspace.

GP: I mentioned the diorama, which is similar to that, yeah.

HK: Yeah, it feels intimate. But it feels like someone who was a bit technical. ‘Cause I do feel like his trash is in this film. There’s no question in my mind. Stuff that entered into his life.

GP: One man’s trash is the same man’s treasure. Or something. [laughs]

HK: Exactly. I wonder if there were any materials that were sought out, or if any of the materials were found. I’m very curious to know if there was a method to including certain plastics or things. As we talked about before, with the pills or the Juul pods, it seems really obvious that they’re his. But maybe they’re not. And I’d like to entertain the idea that maybe they’re not.

GP [to LP]: Do you have any additional thoughts?

LP: I guess I have a laundry list of stuff that I was vaguely reminded of. Although, I mean—

GP: That’s most appropriate in talking about this, I think.

HK: [laughs] Go for it.

LP: Well, the other thing I wanted to say, before I do that, to build on what Hanna just said, is that I was basically not familiar with [Klahr] at all. And I looked him up, and honestly kind of surprised to learn that he’s 65 years old. To me, like I said before, it felt very contemporary. It felt like—obviously, 65-year-olds are probably scrolling just as much as anyone else in the world. Also, I guess this is the appropriate time to throw in: looking at his picture, he really looks like Tony Hawk to me.

The director himself (and Tony Hawk lookalike), Lewis Klahr. Photo courtesy of

HK: Oh-kay.

GP: [laughs] “Tony Hawk makes a trash diary.”

LP: Yeah, there you go. “The Tony Hawk of experimental film.”

HK: [looking at Klahr’s photo]  Oh, yeah. He does. Okay! All right.

LP laughs.

GP: In the header image for this, we’ll just Photoshop his head into the—

LP: Well, yeah, that Tony Hawk existential crisis meme where no one can recognize Tony Hawk.

GP: We’ll make it a collage header to tribute him.

LP: Okay, back to what I was about to say [about] the kind of the looping drone that was a soundtrack throughout most of the film. To me, the first thing that popped into my mind was Invocation Of My Demon Brother (1969), by Kenneth Anger. It’s very similar where it’s basically just the same five- or six-second loop playing in that film that was actually composed by Mick Jagger back in the day. So, that made me think of that. It was actually funny; they were working on the pipes upstairs in my building while I was watching this, so that was a little addition to the soundtrack that felt kind of appropriate. Other stuff I thought of: A Bread Factory, from a couple years ago (2018), [by] Patrick Wang. I can’t really articulate exactly why, but just something about the political sensibility is vaguely similar. I thought that at the very beginning of “Circumstantial Pleasures,” and then as it went on, I was like, “Oh, maybe not.” ‘Cause A Bread Factory is about a four-hour narrative film about an experimental theater in a small town that’s kind of being slowly defunded.

GP: And these are all available at Four Star, correct?

LP: Yes. Let’s see. Something that will be available at Four Star soon, or I think even by the time this is released—Ken Jacobs’ short films. There was just a set put out by Kino Lorber in collaboration with many other organizations, including MMoMA. I’m relatively new to Ken Jacobs as well, but then I felt kind of vindicated because at the end of the very first [short], it says “Thank you, Ken and Flo Jacobs.” So, clearly, they probably know each other. I think they’re both New York experimental film people in the same scene. Also, I saw that Michael Almereyda got a thank-you. I can’t say I ever thought of Michael Almereyda’s films at all, but maybe in retrospect, I can kind of draw similarities.

GP: That’s interesting. The last film I saw from him was Tesla (2020). He uses some interesting silent film rear-projection in that, but has he done any animation?

LP: Um, not to my knowledge. He does kind of use different—I feel like he liked to use videotape like in his Hamlet (2000) or Nadja (1994), the vampire one. Likes to film a TV that filmed somebody on VHS camera. I don’t know if that really amounts to any sort of connection with Lewis Klahr.

GP: Sort of collage style. Maybe not in the literal sense that this film, or anthology, is.

LP: What else do I have written down here? Oh, I just have a bunch of films that are affiliated with Scott Walker: Pola X (1999) or Childhood Of A Leader (2015). Scott Walker did the soundtracks for both of those, and then 30 Century Man (2006), the documentary about Scott Walker.

GP: Yeah, if you were taken with the music in the final short film, which leaves the biggest impression, the documentary on Scott Walker is pretty demystifying, and it’s really interesting on a musician and popular vocalist from the ’60s who kind of became a recluse to some extent and put out some very avant-garde music, I would say, starting even in the 1980s or maybe the ’70s with the final Walker Brothers album. But yeah, I just realized we didn’t talk about the weird addition of the live-action short, the two-minute tracking shot from the train.

LP: Oh yeah, the “High Rise.”

GP: Such a weird addition to this anthology of animation. I thought the imagery sort of worked, but I just questioned why it was ultimately needed when everything else sort of reinforced each other. And this was—it seemed outlying, and it was only a couple of minutes. Was it filmed in Asia?

LP: I think it was in Beijing.

HK: It seemed like something I would do when I was like 13. You know, you have a camcorder, and you can just film out the window. It’s cool. I think it’s interesting. Actually, I’m lying. I did that when I was probably, like, 20-ish. I remember filming outside a Megabus. It feels cool, like this is really capturing a moment. But it’s kinda one of those things that looks really cool to you, and meaningful, but other people not so much. Definitely has a specific time and place and setting.

GP: Well, it does break up the—I wouldn’t even call it the “monotony,” but it’s just the format. It’s sort of a prelude to this kind of sweeping epic that you hear [in “Circumstantial Pleasures.”] So maybe that was his intention to sort of lead into the Scott Walker composition in his grand statement.

LP: Well, Grant, I might be reading into it too much, but I somehow connected that back to the first one [“Capitalist Roaders”] where it had the drums of oil, and it was kind of alluding to global commerce somehow. And then he’s like, “I’m on a train in Beijing.” And it’s called “High Rise,” and he’s filming all these high-rise buildings. Now there’s all this development in this Communist country that’s a global superpower. I don’t know. That could be complete bullshit that I’m just imposing on it. That’s kind of what this film invites, though.

A still from Klahr’s “Capitalist Roaders” in Circumstantial Pleasures.

GP: [laughs]  The title of “High Rise” also recalls the novel by—

LP: J.G. Ballard?

GP: Yeah, the Ballard novel, which was turned into a film in the last decade with—is it Tom Hiddleston?

LP: Yeah, Tom Hiddleston and then Jeremy Irons is in there. And a few other notable people.

GP: But that’s not direct, I’m sure. “High Rise,” the title, is just meant to be literal. It’s not—but because it’s in there, you may be thinking about that dystopian environment and universe that Ballad has by considering “High Rise.” At least, for me. Well, if you like Scott Walker, his music is quite dystopian, especially in the later years, and the piece you hear is probably the most dystopian of all of his soundscapes. Is there anything else we should address as sort of a preface to watching this? Or maybe an afterthought for those who have seen this?

[Everyone nervously laughs]

LP: I guess I’ll just reiterate what I just said. Because it’s not really that—It’s a little bit abstract, that you can impose—You bring yourself to it. That’s maybe what I would say as a summation.

GP: I think, if you’re interested in seeing this, it’s probably worth seeing just to hear “Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter” in a public space with other people. Because I have not had the pleasure of that. I think that would be interesting, just, not only to see people’s responses to the film’s progression but the progression of that piece of music.

HK: Yeah, I think it’s something that’s a little bit out of the ordinary if you’re not sitting at home just watching experimental film after experimental film.

GP: It’s the antidote to Space Jam: A New Legacy. [laughs]  All right, well thanks for joining us, for joining me on this re-re-return of the Four Star Video (Rental) podcast. Hopefully, another one will be in the works soon. But I guess public health regulations will determine that. But, yes, thank you.

HK: Thank you!

LP: [Thanks.]

GP: Once again, thank you for listening to this Tone Madison podcast, on the subject of Rooftop Cinema’s final event of the summer, a screening of the experimental animated anthology film, called Circumstantial Pleasures. More information on the film and the event can be found [here] and at the MMoCA website.

If you appreciated this conversation, please share it with a friend and consider signing up as a Tone Madison sustainer or by making a one-time tax deductible donation at However you are able to help during this time is greatly appreciated.

This segment was once again produced by me, Grant Phipps, along with Hanna Kohn, and Lewis Peterson. Editing was graciously done by Sarah Jennings Evans. For this edition of a Tone Madison podcast, this is Grant Phipps signing off. Thank you.

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