2001 A TASTE OF
AVANT GARDE

 

 

Presented by Jonas Mekas

The legendary chairman of Anthology Film Archives has programmed a three-part series chronicling the history of avant-garde cinema.

Program One:

Adventures of Jimmy, James Broughton, 1950 16mm b&w/so 11min.

A satiric version of the Hero Quest, about a naïve country boy's search for his ideal Love in the big city (San Francisco) with crazy frustrations at every turn. Broughton himself enacts the bewildered Jimmy. Photography by Frank Stauffacher; jazz score by Weldon Kees. "Hilarious and very witty. Mr. Broughton is an odd bird in the film aviary."-Manchester Guardian


A Study in Choreography for Camera, Maya Deren, 1945 16mm b&w/so 3min.

Made with Talley Beatty. A film dance so related to the camera that it can only exist in this film.

"The movement of the dancer creates a geography that never was. With a turn of the foot, Beatty makes neighbors of distant places."-M.D.


Eaux D'Artifice, Kenneth Anger, 1953 16mm color/so 13 min.

Concept, direction and editing by Kenneth Anger. Camera assistant: Thad Lovett. Music by Vivaldi. Filmed in Tivoli, Italy. Cast: Carmila Salvatorelli (Lady).

"Eaux D'Artifice, featuring a circus dwarf Anger met in Italy, owes its costume design to Anger's grandmother in whose costumes he as a boy loved dressing up. Anger calls the lady in the film 'a Firbank heroine in pursuit of a nightmoth' which allusion P. Adams Sitney traces to Ronald Firbank"s novel Valmouth 'where Niki-Esther at the time of her marriage, went in pursuit of a butterfly, dressed in her wedding gown and carrying her bouquet.'

"The film was shot in black and white and printed through a blue filter and the Lady's 'Fan of Exorcism' was hand-tinted by Anger. Of all his works, this is perhaps the most abstract; the rushing, flowing, trickling waters become interesting as shapes and rhythms."-Marilyn Singer, The American Federation of the Arts.


Rose Hobart, Joseph Cornell, 1939 16mm, tinted, silent (16FPS) sound on tape

"The box maker and collagist Joseph Cornell was intensely interested in cinema. He had a fine private collection of 16mm prints of comedies, newsreels, and trick films, which he eventually donated to the Anthology Film Archives. He also made films but rarely exhibited them. 'My filmaking never really got off the ground,' he said more than once. Despite this modest self-appraisal, Joseph Cornell was a superb and innovative film-maker. Rose Hobart is probably his first film. He edited it out of a print of EAST OF BORNEO and exhibited it for the first time at Julien Levy's gallery in 1937. Although he showed it very few times in public, it had immense influence on the young film-makers who saw it privately,including Stan Brakhage, Ken Jacobs, Jack Smith, and Larry Jordan."—Jonas Mekas

"Joseph Cornell's filmic masterpiece is a reedited collage of EAST OF BORNEO (1931) which starred Rose Hobart. The montage and introduction of a few fragments from a scientific documentary reverses the system of cause and effect , isolates Rose Hobart's expressions and gestures, and converts the conventional Hollywood jungle drama into a Surrealistic encounter of a beautiful, but nervous, heroine with a quixotic and malevolent natural environment. The film is to be projected at silent speed, which prolongs and emphasizes the gestures, and accompanied by a musical tape track. This film was originally projected through a deep blue glass which gave the effect of a tint. When Anthology Film Archives proposed making a color master Cornell said he preferred a purple tint."—P. Adams Sitney.


In the Street , Helen Levitt, 1952 16mm b&w silent, 18fps

Photographed by Helen Levitt, Janice Loeb, and James Agee. Music (on cassette) by Arthur Kleiner.

The focus of this urban documentary is the children of a neighborhood on Manhattan's Upper East Side. For them, the street is a playground , battleground, and theater. Still photographers Levitt, Loeb and Agee, who had previously worked together on The Quiet One (1949), have captured the feeling of street energy with a series of gestures-young children parade, wear masks, and fight; old women observe from their front stoops; and the young girls wait nervously on the steps for their dates. The photography is surprisingly candid, which is due in part to the use of angle viewers so that the photographers could remain unobtrusive. A cassette recording of Arthur Kleiner's music is available.


The Films of Harry Smith, Harry Smith 1939-46 23 min

"My cinematic excreta is of four varieties:--batiked abstractions made directly on film between 1939 and 1946; optically printed non-objective studies composed around 1950; semi-realistic animated collages made as part of my alchemical labors of 1957 to 1962; and chronologically superimposed photographs of actualities formed since the latter year. All these works have been organized in specific patterns derived from the interlocking beats of the respiration, the heart and the EEG Alpha component and should be observed together in order, or not at all, for they are valuable works , works that will live forever –they made me grey.

No. 1: Hand-drawn animation of dirty shapes—the history of the geologic period reduced to orgasm length.

No. 2: Batiked animation, etc., etc. The action takes place either inside the sun or in Zurich, Switzerland.

No. 3: Batiked animation made of dead squares, the most complex hand-drawn film imaginable.

No. 4: Black and white abstractions of dots and grillworks made in a single night.

No. 5: Color abstraction. Homage to Oscar Fischinger—a sequel to No.4.

No. 7: Optically printed Pythagoreanism in four movements supported on squares, circles, grillwork and triangles with and interlude concerning an experiment.

No. 10: An exposition of Buddhism and the Kaballa in the form of a collage. The final scene the shows Aquaric mushrooms (not in No. 11) growing on the moon while the Hero and Heroing row by on a

 

Program Two:

A Movie, Bruce Conner, 1958, 16mm, b&w/so, 12min

"a montage of found materials from fact (newsreels) and fiction (old movies). Cliches and horrors make a rapid collage in which destruction and sex follow each other in images of pursuit and falling until finally a diver disappears through a hole in the bottom of the sea- the ultimate exit. The entire thing is prefaced by a girl from a shady movie lazily undressing. By the time A MOVIE is over she has retrospectivley becomes a Circe or Prime Mover."- Brian O'Doherty, N.Y. Times

"Using only found footage, Conner has created one of the most extraordinary films ever made. One begins by laughing at the juxtaposition of cowboys and Indians, elephants and tanks, but soon the metaphor of association becomes serious, as we realize we are witnessing the apocalypse." –Freude


Castro Street (1966), Bruce Baillie, color/b&w, 10min

"Inspired by a lesson from Eric Satie; a film in the form of a street—Castro Street sunning by the Standard Oil Refinery in Richmond, California…switch engines on one side and refinery tanks, stacks of buildings on the other—the street and film, ending at a red lumber company. All visual and sound elements from the street, progressing from the beginning to the end of the street, one side is black-and-white (secondary),

and one side is color—like male and female elements. The emergence of a long switch-engine shot (black-and-white solo) is to the film-maker the essential of consciousness. "—B.B.


Mothlight, Stan Brakhage, 1963, 16mm, color/si ,4min

Essence of lepidoptera re-created between two strips of clear mylar tape; an anima animation.

What a moth might see from birth to death if black were white and white were black.

"Brakhage made MOTHLIGHT without a camera. He just pasted mothwings and flowers on a clear strip of film and ran it through the printing machine."—Jonas Mekas

MOTHLIGHT is paradoxical preservation of pieces of dead moths in the eternal medium of light (which is life and draws the moth to death); so it flutters through its very disintergration. This abstract of flight captures matter's struggle to assume it's proper form; the death of the moth does not cancel its nature, which on the film strip asserts itself. MOTHLIGHT is on one level a parable of death and resurrection, but most really concerns the persistence of essential form, image, and motion of being."—Ken Kelman


Valse Triste, Bruce Conner, 1979, 16mm,b&w/so, 5min

"VALSE TRISTE is frankly and gracefully autobiographical of Conner's Kansas boyhood. Here, the period of the 1940s of his source materials parallels his own life experiences.

"A line of dark, wet cars files across a flooded road; a man and a boy ceremoniously burn leaves; a businessman at his desk turns to look over his shoulder to the photo of a locomotive on the wall behind him; a medium shot of an engineer in the cab of his locomotive; a shard of rock shears from a quarry wall and plunges into water…"—Anthony Reveaux

Nostalgic recreation of dreamland Kansas 1947 in Toto. Theme music from I LOVE A MYSTERY radio programs (Jack, Doc, and Reggie confront the enigmatic lines of railroad trains, sheep,black cars, woman exercising in an open field, grandma at the farm…) Meanwhile, 13-year-old boy confronts reality. Sibelius grows old in Finland and becomes a national monument.


Little Stabs of Happiness (1959-63), Ken Jacobs, 15min

Featuring Jack Smith

"Material was cut in as it came out of the camera, embarrassing moments intact. 100' rolls timed well with the music on old 78's. I was interested in immediacy, a sense of ease, and an art where suffering was acknowledged but not trivialized with dramatics. Whimsy was our achievement, as well as breaking out of step."—K.J.


Haircut, Andy Warhol, 1964, 20min

A haircut Warhol style.

Notes on the Circus, Jonas Mekas , 1966, 12min

(Included in full in Walden.)

"Ringling Bros., filmed in 1966, in three session (three-ring circus); colors, motions and memories of a circus. Edited in camera (an exercise in instantaneous structuring). Sound by Jim Kweskin's jug band (can also be watched silently). Dedicated to Kenneth Anger who provided the Ektachrome film stock, in one of my many dry periods."—J.M.


Program Three

Et Le Cochon Fut Ne (And the Pig Was Born), Julius Ziz, USA/France 2000 ,16mm, colour/b&w, 23min

"Made for the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris exposition VOILA (Summer 2000), from "found" footage taken from hundreds of unfinished films stored in Anthology's basement. A tour-de-force montage film with the spirit of Vigo and Bunuel hovering over it. Made before Godard's Ori gins of the 21st Century, Ziz's film provokes interesting comparisons. Both deal with images of the 20th century. But while Godard's film could be described as a poster, Ziz' film is a poem. I don't have to tell you which one I prefer…"—Jonas Mekas


Stom Sogo: 1997 3min.


Walrus (MOPH), Moira Tierney, 2001, 3 min (Filmed in Moscow)


Meditation 1 & Meditation II, Auguste Varkalis, 2001, 10min

Scratch and painting on film, mostly on found footage. Very light and fast, kind of Zen of cinema.


Peter Hutton, Film TBA


This Side of Paradise, Jonas Mekas, 2000, 30min

Filmed in 1969-1973, edited in 2000. Footage of Kennedy family in New York and Montauk.

"Astonishing, heartwarming." –Star Magazine, July 2001

"The images in this film, with a few exceptions, all come from the summers Caroline and John Jr. spent in Montauk, with their cousins Anthony and Tina Radziwill, in an old house Lee had rented from Andy Warhol, for a few summers. Andy himself spent many of his weekends there in one of the cottages, as did Peter Beard, whom the children had adopted almost like their older brother or a father they missed. These were summers of happiness, joy and continuous celebrations of life and friendships. These were days of Little Fragments of Paradise"—Jonas Mekas

 

Produced by Euphrosyne Bloom

Thanks to Roy Frumkes


Home