Last Tuesday, a blank Facebook page for a mysterious organization calling itself Splice Microcinema suddenly activated and began posting. First came a couple of articles about the microcinema movement, an emergent revival of small and communal alternative film screenings. Then came the reveal—Splice is to be a new series dedicated to “underground classics, alternative American cinema, cool and quintessential foreign films, deep cuts from the cult section, the occasional experimental joint and other scrappy masterpieces from the fringes of film history.”
Screenings will be held in the backroom at Vino’s every Wednesday night (beginning April 9) at 7:30, will be presented on actual 16mm film prints and will kick off with a set of four early black and white films by Jean-Luc Godard. I reached out to the Splice team for further explanation—here’s our conversation:
Who are you?
We’re a non-profit run by a small collective of folks—an award-winning filmmaker, a film columnist for a beloved magazine, a film studies Ph.D., an un-pedigreed but dedicated film autodidact, and a local artist/musician—who are thrilled to see our town’s moviegoing culture grow and want to add a little yeast to the mix by starting a place to project small, (sometimes) obscure, alternative movies in small, alternative spaces.
Where did the idea of Splice come from?
The two co-founders started planning this in late 2011. Other projects and straight-up life made us put it on the backburner for a couple years, but it’s been sous-viding in our heads ever since.
But we’ve been moved to do this by, geez, everything: the history of alternative cinemas; the resurgence of microcinemas and our times hanging out in them in other cities; that kind of romantic mid-century idea of small Southern towns getting together at the local moviehouse; stories about the progressive film series at Arkansas Arts Center in the late-’70s/early-’80s and even the foreign/art movie Mondays at Vino’s in the late-’90s/early-’00s; Good Times Picture Show on AETN; all of our people who have talked for years about wanting something like this in Little Rock.
We come from D.I.Y./house show backgrounds and were finally like “screw it, let’s actually make this scrappy little idea happen and see how it goes.” So here we are. And we’re really, really taken aback by all the excitement and good will around it.
How will Splice be different? What kinds of programming can we expect?
We’re thinking of big ways to be small.
Little Rock is well-outfitted with big places to see big movies. It goes without saying that LRFF has been a total game-changer for the city’s film culture and a venue like Ron Robinson is such a huge gift for moviegoers—you’ll catch us there all the time. (Shouts out to RRT for making it possible to see “Sholay” and “Metropolis” on a big screen! And the Big Star movie next month!)
Ben Fry’s Second Friday Cinema series at the Old State House is essential; Dave Elswick’s monthly movies at Market Street Cinema are always dependably worth your time; our buddy Stan Jackson has been showing great stuff every Tuesday night at Vino’s for a while now, too. Great, old movies should be a public good and Little Rock’s poised to become a town that offers a chance to go see an old film in a space every night of the week.
But we’re staying true to our size, curating around our size limitations, and using it as a chance to bring world-class “deep cuts” of movies to Little Rock. We’re focusing on underground classics, alternative American cinema, cool and quintessential foreign movies, some experimental things, some off-the-radar cult things.
How is this possible? Where and how are you getting the prints?
Without going on a philosophical tear about it, we really think it’s important to show movies on the appropriate film stock whenever possible. That’s why we’re doing Godard on 16mm film and, in May, showing some movies on VHS.
When we first started reaching out to people about the plan, the idea caught fire and spread to other like-minded film series and programmers and archives across the country.
The prints for Godard month are coming from the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore, who have been unbelievably friendly and generous with us.
We have another, huge film archive that’s really enthusiastic about this happening in the deep South. We’re all absolutely beside ourselves about their involvement with our little thing, but don’t want to kiss and tell quite yet. It’s the stuff of dreams, though, and opens up our programming possibilities in a huge way.
How is this better than Netflix?
Film is an event, not a thing.
Netflix is great for discovering movies, but there’s no comparison between queuing up “Breathless” on a 12″ Dell and experiencing an original print in a dark room with other people as excited as you are to see it.
Godard says it best: “We look up at a movie screen, we look down at a television.”
You’re screening Godard films through April. Why celebrate a known Communist?
He’s also an alleged anti-semite! And he said “a woman is her ass.” He’s also a genius responsible for about 15 masterpieces in a ten-year period, as well as one of the 20th century’s greatest assholes on par with Picasso, and we love him.
We’ve had the good fortune of attending JLG retrospectives at places like Film Forum in NYC, and it’s always a huge event packed with people, lines outside the door. The young folks around here who have never seen “Breathless”: they should have a shot to see it like this. And plenty of Little Rock people who have seen it multiple times should have a chance to see it communally without having to leave Arkansas.
Great old movies should be a public good—that’s pretty pinko, too, I guess.
What kind of atmosphere are you going for here? Why “No snobbery”?
Cinematheques are an pretty inherently snobby thing, right? We want to crush that ASAP. This is open to everyone—art types, church folk, senior citizens, teenagers. If cinema is a church, we’re solidly of the “open hearts, open minds, open doors” persuasion.
Our programming is “no snobbery,” too. We ride for Alexandr Sokurov, and would love to watch “Russian Ark” on a big screen, but that’s wayyy too high-brow. For now, we want to keep the atmosphere and the movies fun and lively. And we’re going to be equally jacked to have drinks with old friends, new friends, and watch everything from Godard classics to pieces of 80s regional cult trash.