José Antonio Maenza, a brilliant, ground-breaking filmmaker and fabulist from Aragon, is a vital yet almost unknown figure in Spanish independent cinema of the sixties. El lobby contra el cordero is his first film, made in Saragossa (1967-1968). This work brings up many of the ideas that were to accompany him in his short but intense career: revolution, sexuality, Marxism, Situationism, happening, performance, ritual, representation, collage... The film is part of the cycle “Alô, alô, món! Cinemes d’invenció en la generació del 68”, held in Barcelona (Filmoteca de Catalunya, Halfhouse, El Palomar), Valencia, Madrid and A Coruña.
The experimentation of Malena Szlam, involving a process of documentation in situ, brings the observed landscape into the space of moving image. In-camera editing lets loose the first views of woods, stars, fire and night-time landscapes, reproducing them vibrantly, preventing us from becoming habituated and allowing them to remain. On the basis of a direct link with the image, Pablo Mazzolo constructs formal paradigms, in which the kinetic image and sound constitute a single perceptive unit. His films move around the space between reality, dream and intuitive vision, coming together in an associative, sensorial experience that is different each time. ENVÍOS, by Jeannette Muñoz, is cinema that ceases to be cinema, to become a space that shows us what it was, what it is and what it could be. ENVÍOS is only possible at the small and singular scale. It is sequences, events, stories, fragments, moments, seconds. It has no object or subject, its components are heterogeneous, from differing sources and the result of different motivations. It speaks at once of the private and the public, was made with/or for one person and will be presented in a film theatre.
A selection of US experimental animation from the eighties. The films of Jane Aaron, Brady Lewis, Gary Schwartz and Al Jarnow play with the contrast between animation and real spaces, principally using pixelation techniques for playful and experimental purposes. Protovin and Backus’s City Scapes trilogy is a documentary portrait of observation of places in Manhattan, mixing photography and animation. The films form part of the collection of the Public Library of New York, a major focus of independent animation in the seventies and eighties.
Stan Brakhage, central figure in US avant-garde cinema, lived from the early sixties in Rollinsville, Colorado, with his wife and children, isolated in the mountains. There, he developed a highly personal and lyrical cinema, centred on his family: a series of autobiographical films that he entitled The Book of the Family. Tortured Dust was the end of this cycle. Filmed throughout three years in the eighties, at the heart of a household in crisis, it is his longest and most moving home movie. Using a hand-held camera, a rhythmic, intricate editing process and touches of psychodrama, the film portrays with insight and distance their everyday life. Through windows, mirrors, flashes of colour and chiaroscuro, Brakhage records his children leaving home, the lack of communication and the breakdown of his marriage.
Jonas Mekas described R. Bruce Elder, Canadian filmmaker and writer, as “the most important US filmmaker of the eighties”. His films centre on the relations between philosophy, science and poetry. Lamentations: A Monument to the Dead World. The Dream of the Last Historian is the first part of an epic monumental film that reflects on the despair of human consciousness in the postmodern world. It represents the paranoiac, transcendental mind of the poet (Elder), imagining himself as the last thinker of history. The film has a complex polyphonic structure: made up of thousands of shots, superpositions of images and texts, readings, narrations, photographs, dialogues and electronic music, it also applies poetic resources and an associative logic that seeks to change rational thought.
In Riddles of the Sphinx, a key work of the British cinema of the seventies, Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen use a new formal structure to analyse the way women were represented in the cinema. Based on the critical articles and research of the two filmmakers, the film returns constantly to women and the place of maternity in society, not as a visual image but as a theme for investigation. This content cannot be addressed by the aesthetic parameters established by traditional cinematographic practice, instead involving formal research in which, using multiple voices, Mulvey and Wollen seek to construct a different relation between the spectator and the female subject.
Robert Beavers personally controls every screening of his films, which are always an exception: in this session we present his latest film in a dialogue with Still Light and Sotiros, both of which are extraordinary to see. Beavers was 16 when he met Gregory Markopoulos, who was then, at 37, a prestigious filmmaker, who encouraged Beavers to leave school and start making films. Shortly after, they went together toEurope, where Beavers put together his research into the “philosophical majesty of the image”: “the spectator's power of perception, liberated by this order of the senses and not by dramatic empathy, begins to learn what composes film and its harmonies...” Beavers’s work is a prodigious meditation of extreme meticulousness, subtlety and emotion, on the processes and materials of film (cutting, light, emulsion, sound): the artisan and manual gestures (of gardening or music) harmonize with the gestures of editing, and extend and poetize the visibility of the smallest things.
The films of Anne Charlotte Robertson (1949-2012), mostly filmed in super-8, document the effects of her bipolar disorder, nervous breakdowns and internment in psychiatric centres. As she films her feelings and experiences with an intimate, direct, raw approach that is not without humour, the different layers of sound—particularly the filmmaker’s voice—generate an emotive, introspective and essayistic reflection on her life, narrated in Five Years Diary (1981-1997). After seeing her films, Jonas Mekas wrote her a letter: “I was so overwhelmed with what I saw. I don’t think it’s me who is a film diarist: it’s you! It’s you! I was very very moved and I couldn’t sleep thinking about it.” The session is complemented by a film by Carole Schneemann, one of her great influences, and the final ode that Saul Levine, her tutor at the Massachusetts College of Arts, made after her funeral.
US filmmaker, aviator and musician, Robert E. Fulton (1939-2002) died in a crash involving his own plane in Pennsylvania. He was an artist of unwonted complexity and depth. He worked as an aerial cameraman and director of photography on various documentaries, including those of his friend Robert Gardner. His enigmatic, labyrinthine films are full of a defiant poetics that gives rise to a metaphysical prose. Fulton was an acrobat and an agitator, mixing images and ideas to create unusual superpositions that convey a highly personal sense of lyricism. His cinema is that of the adventurer, revealing to us the dazzling landscape of a new world.
Programme: - Vineyard IV, 3 min - Swimming Stone, 14 min - Starlight, 1970, 5 min - Path of Cessation, 1974, 15 min - Aleph, 1982, silent, 17 min - Wilderness: A Country in the Mind, 1984, 20 min.
Paul Sharits developed a materialist, stroboscopic cinema based on the technique of flickering images and colours, denying the illusion of film and stressing the subjective perception of the spectator. Carl E. Brown, conversely, has explored the expressive nature of cinematographic material by reinventing procedures and tools. This session brings together two of their films that address the experience of various individuals with mental illnesses and the electroshock therapy they receive. Alternating monochrome stills and images of patients with epileptic attacks taken from a medical study of the activity of brain waves during convulsions, in Epileptic Seizure Comparison Paul Sharits presents the spectator with the experience of the electric shock of these disorders. Inspired by the book The Myth of Mental Illness by psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, in Full Moon Darkness Carl E. Brown juxtaposes expressionist views with Szasz’s accusation of his profession of abuse of power, and interviews with patients who “survived” his treatment.
Programme: - Epileptic Seizure Comparison (Paul Sharits, 1976, 30 min) - Full Moon Darkness (Carl E. Brown, 1985, 90 min)