Feb 16: The quotidian tragicomedy of “Auteur: Ted Fendt” at Micro-Wave Cinema

Auteur Ted Fendt
A scene from 'Short Stay'

The micro-budget series’ first program of 2017 boasts three 35mm prints of Fendt’s most recent work including the 60-minute feature Short Stay

[Update: Due to a film shipping issue, this program, originally planned for Sun, Feb 12, at 7:00p has been rescheduled for Thurs, Feb 16, at 7:00p.]

Ted Fendt is a man of many hats. In addition to moonlighting as a projectionist, the New York University alumnus has garnered a reputation as a film critic and French-to-English media translator, recently editing a comprehensive text on the rigorous intellectual cinema of lesser-known avant-gardists Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet. Selections from the husband-wife team’s 1960s-1990s filmography will be exhibited every Sat this coming Apr as part of an UW-Cinematheque series. As a filmmaker himself in the crowded NY independent scene, Fendt has emerged as a distinguished talent this decade through a series of narrative shorts that explore the droll boundary between tedium and enlightenment. This Thurs, Feb 16, the Micro-Wave Cinema Series will begin its 2017 calendar in 4070 Vilas Hall with a pair of them: Broken Specs (2012) and Going Out (2015), in addition to his first feature-length movie, Short Stay (2016), which premiered precisely a year ago at the Berlin International Film Festival. Series curator Brandon Colvin will host a video Q&A with Fendt that will follow this FREE 35mm program.

Preceding the feature, the two shorts capture Fendt’s offbeat tonal sensibility, preference for grainy 16mm film stock, and utilization of non-actors (or his twenty-something friends playing themselves) as he favors a quasi-vérité aesthetic as seen in the French New Wave films of Éric Rohmer and Luc Moullet. Broken Specs squarely looks at a near-sighted guy named Mike (Mike Maccherone), who snaps his glasses in half, but attempts to go about his day normally while struggling to bring things (and people) into focus. Fendt’s simple but effective comedic premise seems like it’s straight out of a Seinfeld teleplay (see: “The Glasses”). As a spiritual counterpart to Specs, Going Out flips the focus to Liz (Elizabeth Soltan), who’s anticipating a Robocop movie date with Rob (Rob Fini) before their arrangement becomes unexpectedly upended.

Short Stay is a conscious evolution of the methodology employed in his earlier work and, coincidentally, a perfectly condensed thematic companion to the awkward, aimless protagonist of Cameron Worden’s The Idiot Faces Tomorrow (2015), which Micro-Wave Cinema also featured in the autumn of 2015. With each scene shot in a single take, Stay thoroughly portrays the laconic personality of Mike (Mike MacCherone, perhaps reprising his Specs role), who hails from Fendt’s suburban hometown of Haddonfield, New Jersey. Mike saunters in a loop between his mother’s house and the pizzeria where he works, only occasionally diverting his well-trodden course to feed a neighbor’s dog or attend a local hockey game. After a serendipitous encounter with an old friend, Mark (Mark Simmons), Mike is offered a rare job opportunity in Philadelphia that promises a relief from the sustained pitch of ennui. While Fendt has described his as a “cinema of faux-intensity” due to its structuring of various gags and subversion of the payoff, Short Stay‘s leisurely pacing aligns it with something more akin to a genuine character study.

  • The two narrative shorts and feature film in this “Auteur: Ted Fendt” program screen FREE Thurs, Feb 16, in 4070 Vilas Hall at 7:00p. A video Q&A with the director will follow. For more information on the Micro-Wave Cinema Series, visit their Facebook community page or Twitter feed.