A Song Dissolved in the Dawn: Films by Phil Solomon, program 1

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Phil Solomon (1954-2019) was an immensely passionate, inspiring, and kind-hearted figure to so many who encountered him and his work.  He inhabited this world as a generous friend, dedicated teacher and mentor, and as an artist of profound talent and feeling, whose films have inspired countless over the decades.  Los Angeles Filmforum has hosted Phil Solomon on a few occasions over the years, and he was always one of our favorite guests, presenting programs of great personality and memorable, lingering emotionality.  So although it is with great sadness that we now present a memorial program for our departed friend, we know that Phil would be so pleased at the thought of his beautiful work continuing to inspire new viewers.

Phil was a remarkable film artist, melding a varied and multi-layered engagement with history, culture, and lived experience with a rich sensitivity to the expressive and metaphorical possibilities of the moving image.  His activation of the photographic image - both its surface and the pictures it contains - reflects a deep empathy for both our culture at large and for the individual viewer, comprising an intimate cinema full of resonances and revelations.

Perhaps most famously, Phil mastered a variety of personal techniques to chemically manipulate analog film materials which he would then rephotograph on his optical printer, yielding astonishingly beautiful, meaningful, rematerialized images of exceptional and visceral poetry.  In later years, he took an unexpected turn into machinima through the creation of complex emotional collages from video games such as Grand Theft Auto, producing a startling body of works that tapped into Phil’s love and intuition for the latent poetic power of the vividly cinematic.

This program focuses on what might be considered the more intimate, inward-looking side of Phil’s work.  These are films that come from very personal places, which nevertheless bloom into more universal and empathic experiences shared with us through Phil’s nuanced command of montage, mood, and manipulation of the photographic image.  Including his widely beloved breakthrough films The Exquisite Hour and Remains to be Seen, this program will also feature some lesser-seen rarities such as The Lateness of the Hour, What’s Out Tonight is Lost, and the delicate and little-known As if We.  It will be an evening of genuine cinematic poetry as we celebrate the life and work of a very special artist and friend.

Program and notes by Mark Toscano.  Individual film notes by Phil Solomon unless noted.  Prints courtesy of the Academy Film Archive and the Phil Solomon Collection at the Academy.  Many thanks to Eve Heller and Mark McElhatten, and much love to Phil.

Tickets: $10 general; $6 students (with ID)/seniors; free for Filmforum Members. Available in advance from Brown Paper Tickets at https://philsolomon1.bpt.me or at the door.


- Nocturne (1980/89, 16mm, bw, silent 24fps, 8m)
Finding similarities in the pulses and shapes between my own experiments in night photography, lightning storms, and night bombing in World War II, I constructed the war at home.

- As if We (1980, 16mm, color, silent 18fps, 11m)
Restored print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive
Musing on the past and the present, on roads not taken and the road I was already on. For Jeanine Hayden and her son Jeff, wherever you are.

- What’s Out Tonight is Lost (1983, 16mm, color, silent 18fps, 8.5m)
Restored print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive
“Adopting its title from a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, WHAT’S OUT TONIGHT IS LOST is an elegaic film sifting through the unrecoverable. The film is a reflecting pool where vision breaks up. The home we recognize is swallowed in the brume, the light barely penetrates; and the yellow school bus steals us away, delivering us into new clouds, embracing fear. The film has a surface of cracked porcelain and intaglio: the allergic childhood skin of cracks and bruises. This is a film of transubstantiations, the discorporation of human forms into embers. Air looms and blossoms into solidity and nearness … I hear it breathing…” (Mark McElhatten)

- Remains to be Seen (1989/94, 16mm, color, sound, 17.5m)
Using chemical and optical treatments to coat the film with a limpid membrane of swimming crystals, coagulating into silver recall, then dissolving somewhere between the Operating Theatre, The Waterfall, and the Great Plains.

- The Exquisite Hour (1989/94, 16mm, color, sound, 14m)
Partly a lullaby for the dying, partly a lament at the dusk of cinema. Based on the song by Reynaldo Hahn and Paul Verlaine.

- The Snowman (1995, 16mm, color, sound, 8m)
A meditation on memory, burial and decay - a belated kaddish for my father.

- The Lateness of the Hour (1999, 16mm, color, silent 24fps, 10m)
Restored print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive
A little Nachtmusik… breathing in the cool night airs, breathing out a children’s song; then whispering a prayer for a night of easeful sleep. My blue attempt at a sequel to Rose Hobart.


Echo Park Film Center - Los Angeles, United States


Sunday, October 20, 2019 - 19:30



Sunday, October 20, 2019 - 19:30
  • 1200 N. Alvarado Street
    90026   Los Angeles, California
    United States
    34° 4' 41.2932" N, 118° 15' 46.3104" W