BROADCAST NATIONALLY ON NET IN 1968 - WATCH IN FULL ON YOUTUBE
"Well, you wanted to know what, uh, what my life was like... this is part of it." That line, spoken by William Finley, comes in the intro to the short mokumentary film, Zelenka, in which Finley portrays the fictional famed composer of the title. Anyone who has seen Finley in Brian De Palma's Sisters might recognize a bit of an echo when, in De Palma's film, Finley looks into the eyes of a helplessly drugged up character and tells her, "You wanted to know our secrets... fine... we will share them with you."
According to William Henderson, who posted the 23-minute film to YouTube in 2016 (Susan Finley shared it on Facebook yesterday, which was William Finley's birthday), "Bob Rosen and I made this film in 1967 with the able assistance of RT Miller." (In the film itself, "RT Miller" is credited as "Arthur Miller".) Henderson adds that Zelenka "was broadcast nationally on NET in 1968. It was inspired by a student film I had made at Iowa, The Sculptor, starring my old friend Jon Lipsky."
Zelenka, then, appeared on NET in between De Palma's Murder a la Mod and Finley's participation in Dionysus In '69. In 1970, De Palma incorporated a semi-mokumentary series of his own into the narrative of Hi, Mom! In De Palma's film, Robert De Niro's Jon initially watches the black-and-white documentary series on "N.I.T." (for "National Intellectual Television," a clear parody of "NET," or "National Educational Television"), before he enters the picture himself and becomes part of the documentary. Surely De Palma had been aware that his friend, Bill Finley, had made Zelenka, and had seen it on NET two years before filming Hi, Mom!.
There are also echoes to come in De Palma's casting of Finley as Winslow Leach, the composer whose cantata is cannibalized for the production of pop songs in Phantom Of The Paradise. In Zelenka, Finley plays, in Susan Finley's words, a "notorious Czech avant-garde composer who comes to America to make his fame & fortune." His initial rock song, "Splashdown," is released on 45 on the Karma Records label. Much of the humor in Zelenka comes from watching this self-serious composer create avante-garde rock and pop songs of mind-boggling bizarre quality. At one point, he sets out to create a piece with notes and sounds that can only be heard by dogs, in an attempt to show that music is everywhere, even in the sounds that we as humans cannot hear. Nevertheless, upon listening, the dogs remain amusingly silent and non-plussed.
Watch the movie in-full below. I've included more frame captures below, as well.