"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.

A Day When No One Was Hurt

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April 14

My last day in Manchester would be busy. I had a noon show scheduled at Bolton University in the nearby town of Bolton. I had an 8:00 show at the Lass O’Gowrie Pub. For the Bolton show John rented a car. We were to leave at 10:00am. I got up at 7:45 and spent an hour and a half at Starbucks but being generally bummed about Fiona and her fractured breastbone I didn’t write anything. I just read the news on line. When I got back to the house at 9:30 there was a small Ford van parked in front of the house that writing all over it announcing it was an affordable rental car. Inside the house John was signing documents with the rental car company man who had delivered the car. I took a shower and put on a necktie.

We left shortly after 10:00. First we had to go to the post office where John sent out some packages. Our next stop would be the Green Room to collect the projector. Oops, we had to go back home for John to pick up an email that had instructions for us once we got to Bolton. We then went to the Green Room. It was well past 10:30 when we were finally on the way out of town. John gave me several sheets of papers with maps to the campus.

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Getting to the city of Bolton was easy. We just followed signs. Once there finding the University was harder. The city streets didn’t seem to have much signage. After driving around a while John called Jason, the tech guy at the college. He gave directions to John that still didn’t help. John called back and put me on the line. I found we were darned close. We were to park near a big metal thing that I had noticed and described to Jason. He told me it was an old Steam Hammer. It took us three trips around the block before we finally found the entry to lot. We passed it previously because it had a gate. Jason said if we told the attendant what were doing we would be let in. Sure enough, that worked. We finally parked at 20 till 12:00. I went to look at the Steam Hammer. It was a very cool thing that looked like a king size, maybe 25 feet tall, Gutenberg press. The plaque said with a 1917 Nasmyth and Wilson steam hammer that was the last still making wrought iron in the old puddling process when it it was retired in 1975.

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We walked into what I would have called a Student Union building. It had a cafeteria in it among other things. John found Jason and they went to the van with a cart to get the stuff. We then took an elevator up a couple of flights and went into a theatrical room. It had a screen at the front and dozens of spot lights and stuff hanging from light bars across the ceiling. 70 seats were set up. I found a rolling table to put the projector on. John got patched into the house audio system with Jason’s help. We were ready to roll at noon. That is one of the great things about 16mm, its ability to be portable and fast to set up. The waiting crowd came in and filled up most of the seats. A woman with black curly hair with a sort of Susan Sontag flash of gray at the crown introduced herself to me. She looked like my old friend from Seattle Donna McAlister. Her name was Chaz. She had arranged all the students who showed up.

Originally they had wanted half of Subversive Animation and Half of Effect of Dada. I said that if we started on time we could fit in half of subversive and all of Dada. Chaz gave me a short introduction and we got rolling. We also fit it into the 2 hour slot. Most of the crowd stayed for the extra time and also the Q and A. It was a good group that asked good questions, but none that broke any new ground.

While I broke down the equipment John got directions from Jason on how we could get back to the freeway. Those directions worked.  They took us by church that had what looked like dozens of spiked spires and then to the freeway that got us back to Manchester by 3:00.

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John drove to the Imperial War Museum.

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He had previously mentioned I should see it. It was tricky to get to. It was a big shiny metal building, easy to see from a mile away, but on a spit of a body of water. We finally had to ask a woman stopped at a light with two kids in car seats in the back. She gave us very good directions that she repeated just to make sure we got them right. That got us to the place. There the parking attendant waived the four pound fee for parking in the close lot when John said we were only staying for half an hour. Inside we found the museum itself was free. The only charge was for watching stuff in the movie theater.

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It was a nice enough museum. It had a lot of stuff mostly covering war in the 20th Century. I was hoping there’d be stuff on the crusades. We spent about an hour there. We then drove to the Lass O’Gowrie and set up the projector for the show that evening. We used the JVC lens that Mark Bodner had loaned us to make the picture bigger. John taped it to the base lens. We then drove home. John said the little Ford truck with its diesel engine got great mileage. At home we only stayed for a little over an hour. John had the idea we could eat at a curry joint before going to the pub. That didn’t figure in my anathema to hot, as in spicy hot, food. Instead we went to Lass O’Gowrie where I had a steak and ale pie with chips. Oooh, it was tasty. It was a not an individual pie, like a chicken pot pie, but a slice of a big pie. It really tasted good and didn’t need the extra gravy.

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The small room almost filled up for the show. Marian Hewitt came from the North West Film Archive. She said that Mark Bodner couldn’t make it. The projector worked fine and films ran smoothly. It was the Effect of Dada show.  As usual the crowd loved W.C. Fields, The Marx Brothers, Bing Crosby, Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Dick Powell, Ruby and especially Busby Berkeley, all featured in the show.   Everyone had a good time and no one was injured. It was a good last show for the month and almost two weeks of showing films in Finland, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and England.

John would turn in the rental car after dropping me at Piccadilly Station at 4:45 in the morning. We drove to the house. I set the alarm, read some Old Curiosity Shop, and went to bed.

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DADA DADA DADA

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Hamburg, Germany  April 3, 2011

It being Sunday things were relaxed in Volker and Esther’s house. When I awoke no one was astir. I recalled a nearby Starbucks that should be a short walk away. There I could spend time on line posting a blog report. Since it had been such a nice day yesterday I went out without a cap or top coat leaving a note saying I would return at 10:00. I didn’t have a key to get back in. I had walked a block when it started to rain. Not sure just what direction I should go I asked a passerby. He didn’t speak English. He did understand “coffee.” He pointed in the exact opposite direction I intuitively thought was right. I went the way he pointed. It began raining harder. I walked to a business street. That wasn’t hopeful. I remembered the Starbucks as being at the edge of a park. A young guy was waiting for the light to change. He was eating the end of a loaf of bread peeking out from a paper bag. I asked him if he spoke English. I should add here, almost any German who is asked if they speak English, assuming they can, will reply “Just a little” or “Not very much.” This young man replied “Sure.” He didn’t think there was Starbucks anywhere near but suggested an upscale area a few blocks away. I walked there. It kept raining. By the time I got to the upscale area I was really soaked. I asked a passerby for Starbucks. I was assured there was none nearby. About then I realized I was lost. It began raining even harder. I had made a note that Volker and Esther’s house was on Heinrich Strasse, remembering it by associating it with Tommy Henrich former big league ballplayer 1927-1940 with the New York Yankees. A guy passing by on a bicycle directed me to Heinrich Strasse. On the corner there was a pastry shop. A bunch of people were inside buying stuff. I went in and got coffee and a donut. The donut was still warm and as good as a Krispy Kreme. The coffee was passable. The main attraction of the place were unlimited paper napkins so I could dry my sopping head.

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Volker let me into the house. He told me there was no Starbucks anywhere in the area.  I wonder where the one in my mind was?  We had breakfast of bread, cheese and salami with cafe au lait. I turned down a brown egg. After breakfast we took a walk. It had stopped raining and turned into a nice day. Looming over most German cities is a TV tower. The height of the tower would be a point of pride for each municipality. The one in the former East Berlin is a doozy. The one in Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city, is also a pip. It had restaurant at the top that revolved. That restaurant had gone out of business. We walked to the base of the Tower. There was a chain link fence around it, giving the whole thing a forlorn feeling. Signs were posted forbidding roller skating or skate boarding.

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Across the highway from the TV tower was a large park. It was a destination place for people. Inside were several contained parks including a Japanese garden. We stopped for ice cream. Esther and I got cones and Volker got a cup. Smart man he. I was giving my cone an ambitious lick and the ice cream went flying, landing in the dirt. I don’t think the guy who scooped it had mushed it properly down into the the cone. Since it was early in the season I am sure he will improve and avoid further tragedies.

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The park has a really impressive children’s area. Both Volker and Esther had played there as children and said it was unchanged. In the middle of it is a fiberglass mountain. It sort of resembles the Experience Music Project in Seattle, which is at the base of the Space Needle.  The park mountain  is hollow inside but I was assured no kids play inside as there is no ventilation and the stench from it being used as a public toilet is horrible. We walked back home through the business area of the neighborhood. A two block area was awash in Saturday night trash. It was a designated a “party area” and has been surrendered to loud bars and drunken revelry.

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Volker and Esther subscribe to a vegetables and cheese service. Every week a box arrives with an assortment of organic vegetables and interesting cheeses. There is vegetable service in Portland but it has no cheeses.  That is a German specific wrinkle, at l least for the time being.  For dinner they tossed a bunch of vegetables into a wok and made a curry. Over rice it was great. We lingered over dinner and had to take a taxi to Metropolis for my 7:00 show of The Effect of Dada. Another good crowd showed up which looked scattered inside the big auditorium. As usual, everyone loved the show.

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The 8:00 show continued the Dada and Surrealism theme with a Buster Keaton short and feature. The short was One Week. The feature was The Navigator. I was asked to introduce the show. I talked about how the surrealists loved Buster and didn’t love Charlie Chaplin. I think the Surrealists appreciated in Buster Keaton’s art that he always played a man interacting in a world seemingly one step removed from himself. Buster had an existential aura around him as though he was not so much taking part in reality or nature, but battling against it, sort of one man against the universe.  In One Week he builds a pre-fab house of which the disparate parts have been jumbled. The result is a crazy house. In the Navigator he is placed on a big completely abandoned and adrift ship. Both show his ability to persevere inside an insane reality.

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We took the S-Bahn home.

Cardamon Donuts

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Bing Crosby in The Big Broadcast (1932)

In my haste  the previous evening to depart the Effect of Dada And Surrealism screening and get to the Sauna Party I left my top coat and hat in the office up stairs above the Tullikamarinaukio theater.  At a reasonable hour the next morning the phone in my room rang.  It was reception downstairs saying my coat  and hat had been delivered.  What a well run festival this is!  After breakfast I spent the rest of morning working on yesterday’s report which I posted at 11:20.  Ten minutes later I was at Plevna where I did a radio interview.  The nice young fellow had been to the Dada screening so everything was to the point.  I am not sure if I mentioned that at the screening there was a sound problem at the beginning.  In fact at first there was no sound.  I did my best to fill in  the lost soundtrack to The Big Broadcast which included singing the Bing Crosby and Kate Smith parts. They found the sound after that and I was able to get to the party.   In the interview the young man asked me to again sing the Bing Crosby part.  Well, you do what you can do when publicity calls.

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Pyynikki Observation Tower  Tampere, Finland

After the interview it was a short walk to the staging area at the Vaino Linna Square for the day’s outing.  The internationals guests, which included me, traveled in two vans to the 1929 Observation tower.   I wonder what it is about observation towers and Finns?  There is another excellent observation tower in Astoria, Oregon, which has always had a large Finnish population.

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The Astoria Column

The Tampere Observation Tower looks down on not just the city but also the Pyhajarvi and Nasijarvi lakes.  We all trooped up the stairs to the top where we found abundant views and fresh air.  Also sideways  snow.  It was very invigorating.  I needed some invigorating after the gala events of the previous evening. Another thing I left out of yesterdays report was that after the Sauna Party we went to a taven for more revelry, not the best idea all things considered.

At the Tower cafe we had refreshments.  I had hot chocolate.  We all had donuts, of which the cafe is famous for.  The donuts were flavored with cardamon. I am sure they don’t offer that flavor at Voodoo Donuts.

Back at the hotel I took a nap and didn’t get up again until 5:00pm.  My plan was to do research to improve my talk before The Age of Oil and then get dinner at 6:00.   As usual the research took longer than I figured.  Oh, have I mentioned that all my Google search answers here are in Finnish?  Yes, Google watches out for you when you travel to make sure you know where you are.  I have to say that Yahoo search, which has answers more grounded in my reality, is not as good as Google.  By the time I was ready to leave my only option for dining was the Italian restaurant in the hotel.  I expected to find it near empty like so many hotel dining rooms in the USA seem to be. Nope, it was full up and I was turned away.  I got to the screening an hour early.  There they told me about the Festival party at City Hall.  That was just a short walk across the river.

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I don’t think the current situation here is optimum for appreciating the beauty of Tampere.  It must be beautiful in the spring.  It must be beautiful covered with fresh snow.  Right now the roads are all clear and dirty snow is left in the undisturbed areas.  I was still impressed with the beauty of the main town square and City Hall.  When I got to the party all the wine had  been drunk and there wasn’t much left of the food.  I put mixed nuts in my pocket for later.  Walking back across the bridge I was impressed with the  four giant statues of athletic men that guard the portals.  They might have been an inspiration to Tom of Finland.

It was another nice crowd for my show.  I gave the introduction and then went out looking for dinner.  I went back to the Italian restaurant in the hotel.  Any place that packed ought to be good.  I was seated and given a menu.  Since I had been living on breakfast, sandwiches, and beer, for the last two days, I decided to get the full meal special.  It would take the rest of my meal vouchers, which I was sure would be worth it.  It would be tomato soup, roast pork, risotto, and chocolate cake for dessert.  After the soup portion I waited.  Then I waited and waited.  After what I considered a more than reasonable to wait I tried to catch the eye of a waitress.  A half hour later I did.  I asked if my order had been lost.  Apparently it had been.  The roast pork soon arrived and was excellent.  It was also on the house.  it was too late for the cake.

I went back to the Tullikamarinaukio theater to watch William S. Burroughs A Man Within.  I enjoyed what I saw but then realized I had little interest in the subject. I realize this marks me as a near Philistine, but I would probably more enjoy a documentary about Edgar Rice Burroughs than William S. Burroughs.

I had been told there would be some sort of party starting at 10:00.  I went out and asked about it.  It wouldn’t start until after the screening.   Things couldn’t be more clearer.  It was time to go to the hotel and get some rest and prepare for another busy day.  The outing tomorrow was to be taken to a contemporary Indian art exhibition and then for a walk on the ice of lake Nasijarvi.

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