"Thank God for film archivist Dennis Nyback. If not for his encyclopedic knowledge of rare films and his tenacity for acquiring them, we would never have the privilege to view some astounding works of cinema." Kim Morgan


Dennis Nyback takes his films around the world. Find out how to book a show, what programs are available, how to arrange for custom programming, and just about anything you would like to know about Dennis Nyback.

Things I Didn’t Know About Myself

A year or so ago working on my CV I went  looking online for information about Bad Bugs Bunny screenings in England in 1996.  I was living in New York at the time and  had rented the program to a British theater booker.  After shipping off the films every now and then I would get a check.  I was never sure just where the program was shown. I didn’t find much information about the screenings but  was  very surprised when  I found that the screenings had inspired a book to be written that I had never heard of.  I suppose that was because the author never bothered to contact me, and also because my name was misspelled.  That book  was Reading the Rabbit .

This morning I decided to see how things were going at the youtube site Portlandwas .  It contains the youtubes created for the Portland That Was project in 2006.  There I found a youtube added a few months ago that I knew had been posted but somehow had never looked at.  I was not alone in that, it having been viewed only 45 times so far.

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Watching that I noticed in the suggestions to the right that another neglected youtube, this one with 145 views, had my name on it:

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That was a trailer for my show The Dark Side of Dr. Seuss that was created by the clever people at the Loft Cinema in Tucson for my show last year.

Modern technology makes personal insight easier all the time as long as you can keep up with it.

 

Sauna Party!

 

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On the morning of March 10 I awoke for my first full day in Finland.  Being turned around in time my computer told me it was seven o’clock in the evening on the West Coast and here  I was waiting for the breakfast room to open. I was also turned around in weather. In Portland it might as well have been Spring.  Here it was the the middle of Winter. Walking into the very nice breakfast room with its three story ceiling decorated to resemble a castle in a silent movie I saw newspapers on the piano.  No International Herald Tribune there.  In fact nothing in the English language.  I asked for the Trib at the front desk.  Nope, it would take a walk to the train station to get one.  If it were summer, or even spring, I would have done it.  Here it was winter, it was dark, and there was snow and ice everywhere.  The fact I had not changed any money and only had a few Euros in coins found in my suitcase from last fall sealed the deal. I piled bacon, black sausage, bread, cold cuts, tiny frankfurters, and cheese on a plate. A small pot to put coffee in would have made it perfect.  Instead I took a single cup of coffee with me. It it had been better coffee I would have resented that.  In the elevator I had to put the coffee on the floor in order to use my keycard to let the pushing of the of the floor button take to effect. In my room I got the NY Times on line and dug into my victuals. Outside my window a red and gold flag was being blown at a right angle to its pole.  Occasionally it would reverse direction and blow the other way.  If this were Wrigley Field it would be a day for long balls and a score in double digits.

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I had tried to make my room as homey as possible with my suitcase empty and all clothes hung up or in a cupboard.  I couldn’t figure out how to turn off the flat screen TV so I unplugged it. I somehow managed to get to three in the afternoon without stepping a foot outside.  I finally girded my loins and went out to face the world.  I walked to to the Klubi where the festival office was to get my badge and whatever.  There I was directed to go to the guest office which was back past the Grand Hotel Tammer at a place called Plevna.  I walked past the the Hotel and  turned the wrong way. I was then  perplexed that I didn’t cross a body of water before finding where I was supposed to arrive at.  I cursed the tourist map.  I then realized it was my mistake, not the map’s, and reversed course.  Sure enough, I passed the hotel, crossed the river, and found Plevna and got my badge and bag of various things.One of those things was an explanation of Plevna. It was part an old cotton mill which had been established by Scotsman James Finlayson in 1820.

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Wow, that made me think of the great actor James Finlayson who had famously played the home owner in the Christmas tree selling fight with Laurel and Hardy in the film Big Business (1929) and in many, many others.

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Another of the things in the bag was an announcement that around the corner it was happy hour at the Fest Art center. I went there and had a glass of red wine while looking at Harun Farocki films. On the second floor of the center were photos and needle point art by Leena Saraste. The photos were from Beirut Lebanon in the 80’s showing scenes of both destruction and beauty. The needle point work included a thrirty foot long timeline history of photography. One stand alone piece was “The Medium Is the Message” in the medium of needle point. I loved it all.

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I went back to the hotel. In the bag were cash vouchers that would pay for meals. I planned to leave at 6:00 and have dinner before my show The Effect of Dada and Surrealism at 8:00. I decided to research Dada and Surrealism to make sure there would be no screwed up facts in my talk. That work took me to 7:00. I went to the theater and had a sandwich and a beer before the show. I then introduced the show and I hope did a good job. After that the fun started.

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The driver showed up at 8:20 to take me to the sauna party. There were others in the van. We all drove a way out of town to a lodge beside a lake. The party had started at 7:00.  We arrived and joined the men who had got there on time.  Among them was Mikko Sorrela who had taken the daunting task to find and buy the four flights that had got me to Tampere. Twenty of us chatted while the women had their sauna. We were provided with beer,wine and snacks.  Eventually  it was our turn. There was a small room to strip and get a robe. Then it was briefly outside, drop the robes, and step into the sauna. It was the only really old fashioned one in the area. It heated a really big pile of stones with both fire heat and smoke. That had taken several hours. Then the smoke was cleared from the room and people could enter. The rocks would stay hot all night and could be used for sauna in the morning. By the time I got in all of the seats in the upper level were taken. That meant standing in the lower area where it was less hot. I eventually got an upper seat. Then I left and jumped in the lake. Well, jump is not really correct, but I did wade in and immersed. Then it was back to the sauna and back into the lake a second time. I told the group that later they should all watch the youtube of the 1929 film production number Turn on the Heat.  Then it was time to drink a beer. To make things perfect it started snowing.  The group that had come in the bus left around 11:00. I stayed to the last and left closer to midnight with a group in the van.

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Four Flights In One Day and One Night

 

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When I arrived on March 8, 2011, at noon, Portland International Airport  was practically deserted. There was no line at all at United Airlines. I checked through to Copenhagen the heavy bag with the film programs in it. There was no line at security. I used PDX WiFi to send some emails and catch up on news. That took me to boarding time.  I had an aisle seat.  The United Airlines inflight magazine was out of date and didn’t have current movies, just the line up for February. It did say there would be lunch or dinner on flights over three hours.  That would be us. That was a lie. Or maybe that was the case in Feburary but not in March. Food was for sale, but only using credit cards. I had apple juice both times the liquids cart came through. I did the inflight mag crossword. It was weird with half of it being black boxes. That meant very few cross clues to help when something was filled in. I had never seen a crossword puzzle like it. It was all about the Academy Awards. My mind was not sharp. It took me forever to remember Tom Hanks name. I got most of it done. Knowing about Emil Jannings and Janet Gaynor was a help.

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We arrived early at O’Hare. Trooping off the plane the first thing I came to was a life size Brachiosaurus. King size! It straddled the passage and was said to be a replica of the real thing at the Field Museum.  It made me think of the movie Bringing Up Baby.

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At the SAS counter I was told we would be fed on the plane. I sure hoped so. I didn’t buy any food. It was all crap at ball park prices.  A domestic beer would have been $8.25.   No free wifi in Chicago. An elevated train took me to the  international terminal. It was the most fun I had all day. Looking ahead on the track was like  being on a low thrill roller coaster. It even picked up good speed going downhill into a curve.

At Terminal 5 there was only one shop for candy and books and such. It wasn’t even in a store, but just strung out along the passageway. The flight boarded on time.  Down the passageway, and just outside the plane’s door, were free newspapers. I took a Chicago Tribune and a International Herald Tribune. I had an aisle seat in the middle section. Four big guys took the rest of the row. The all spoke Russian and looked like they belonged to a sport club.  Dinner was soon served. It was chicken with peas and roasted potatoes. Tasty. Also salad, roll, butter, crackers, cheese and a cheesecake dessert. In the pocket in front of me were head phones. Real over the ears kind, not ear buds like on some flights. I considered that an improvement. I watched most of Bruce Willis movie that featured Helen Mirren and John Malcovich. They were all retired CIA people forced back into action. Action was the right word. Not much thought. I also watched part of a thriller about a runaway train with Denzil Washington. It was ridiculous. I turned out my light and closed my eyes. It was uncomfortable. Eventually it was morning. For breakfast it was a sandwich, yogurt, orange juice and coffee.

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We arrived half an hour early. No line at passport control. My bag was the last one onto  the carousel. I got directions and found the Baltic Air counter. I again checked through the heavy bag. At Starbucks I ordered a huge Caffe Latte but they wouldn’t accept my good customer free drink post card.  Instead I bought a medium drip. That cost about half the DK I had found in my suitcase left from last year. The woman felt bad about my free card being refused so she threw in a free caramel waffle cookie. Gate A-2 was by itself. It was  sort of a cattle pen area. I was working on the Herald Tribune crossword and drinking coffee when we were told to leave. Everyone got in line outside. I went to the toilet, 150m away according to a sign, and found it down four flights of stairs. Back at the cattle pen I was told I had missed the bus to the plane but I was in luck as there would be another one. Why not? It was still over half an hour to flight time. A few more stragglers arrived who were lectured more harshly than I had been about how it was only luck that there would be another bus since they should have been there half an hour early. That bus took us far away to a turboprop plane parked on the tarmac. It was a medium size plane with a single aisle between double seats on each side. I was on the aisle in row 8. A youngish blond man wearing a blue sweater was at the window. The refreshment cart seemed to only have stuff for sale. They only accepted cash. Nearing Riga we passed over iced in water. There were open passages in the middle of the channel and in other places the ice was broken. The ride got a little bumpy approaching the airport. From the air the city looked cold and inhospitable.

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The airport had most  of the usual stuff for sale, except there was more perfume and luxury goods for sale than in the US and no fast food franchises. At my gate I found an electrical outlet. It took the 220 volt 2 pin plug. I am glad I remembered the two Europe plugs I had gotten in the fall.  At boarding time there was no action at my gate. I un-plugged and packed up and checked the board in the main hall. My gate had been moved. I went there and got on the plane.  It was another turboprop the same as the previous one.

I was again in row 8 on the aisle. When the drink cart came by the woman next to me asked for water. I was going to ask for water too, but stopped when the stewardess asked her for four Euros. My Euros from last year were still in my checked bag.  The woman did seem to get some value for her money. In addition to the bottle of water was a cup of carrots. They were tiny, un-peeled, with shorn tops. Across the aisle from me was a young woman who looked like she was heading to a film festival. Or maybe she just dressed up to travel. Or maybe she always dressed that way. She had hair so black it looked blue where light reflected off it. It was wrapped up in a black turban kind of like Lana Turner wore in the movie The Postman Always Rings Twice.

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She was wearing tinted glasses with wide black ear bands. Some sort of sparkly material made an M on the widest part of the band. She was wearing a black long sleeved sweater with an leopard  print scarf. She had blue jeans with dark brown leather knee high boots. She had rings on most of her fingers, dark maroon finger nails, and a bunch of cut clear glass and rhinestone bracelets. In her lap was a white jacket with big shiny black buttons.

Nearing our landing the turbulence was extensive. I almost threw up. That would have been a  first for me. We got safely down and to the gate. Inside was a very modest airport. There was one baggage carousel. I got my bag and went outside. A young man was holding a film festival card.  I asked the group what they were doing at the festival  One was a young American, Yony Leiser, who had made the film William S. Burroughs: A Man Within.  A young blond woman and man of my age were there from the Riga Film Festival. Another young man was a journalist from Berlin.  We all got into the van. The young man driving the van said he would be doing a foreign exchange year in Vancouver, B.C. next year.  He then offered that the mountain in Paramount films was from Portland.  I wonder why I had never heard of that.  Of course it is Mt. Hood!

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Yony and I were the only ones to get off at Grand Hotel Tammer. I checked in and first thing in my room took a shower. I then dressed and left. At the front desk I got directions to the opening night party. It was “one kilometer” away and would include only two turns and one passageway to get there.

Even with the directions I had trouble finding the place. It wasn’t that cold but there was plenty of snow and ice to contend with.  I was practically on top of it  when I asked a young couple for directions.  They pointed it to me. There was a outside dining area, optimistic I’d say considering the climate, with a low fence and locked gate. I hopped over that. I could see the bar through the first door I came to but it was locked. A couple of people came out of a door up a short flight of stairs to my left. I went in that door and found myself in a big club. I worked from the back of the place to front to see if there was a place to get my badge. There I found a line of people waiting to get in. Two guys were checking Ids. One of them told me I had to check my coat and it would cost two Euros. I exited past the waiting crowd, went around the back and entered again the same way as the first time. The reason the one back door was open was so people could come outside to smoke. I dumped my coat at at an empty table. At the bar a woman  sized me up and asked if I was Mr. Nyback. She pronounced it NueBoch.  I was shocked she could recognize me from a tiny photo I had sent for my badge. I told her I was hungry. She got me two sandwiches and a beer. I was seated at a table when a woman came over to me. She told me the festival director Jukk-Pekka Laakso would like to talk to me. He soon arrived. He had another beer for me. Both my beers were  lagers and curiously were not full to the top of the pint glasses,  a full inch of the top. He was a pleasant guy. He said my Kill A Commie For Christ Program had sold more tickets than anything else in the festival. He said the entertainment that evening would be the Chinese dance artist Zhang Mengqin. She soon appeared, from a far door, dressed for the outdoors. She walked toward the crowd with a spot light on her. A recording of her talking voice accompanied her. She did a strip tease as she walked forward, eventually getting down to heavy white tights and a tight white shirt. I could then see it was not a spot light, but a projection of her talking face being projected on her. In back of her, high up near the ceiling, an English translation of her monologue was projected, which I was not in a position to read. When she had come forward  as far as she could she stopped and sat down on the floor. She then took out red lipstick, and pantomimed marking up her face. The projected video provided the red marks. She eventually took her shirt off in order to mark up her arms and shoulders. She was left wearing just the white tights and a bra. Her voice got more frantic. So did the projected red marking. There was what I took for a pause, but someone started clapping and I guess the show was over.  I enjoyed it, but probably would have got a lot more out it if I had understood what she was saying.  A Chinese dragon, such as in a Chinatown parade began dancing on stage.

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I left and walked back to the hotel. Halfway there I was stopped by a somewhat drunk man with a couple of others more so. They wanted directions to a pub. It took him a while to understand I was an American who had arrived that day and could not help. They were Brits. The snow and ice didn’t seem to bother them at all.

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