In June 2020, Luther Price (US), one of the most unique personalities prematurely left this world at the age of 58. His real name is unknown or at least unrevealed, Price purposely kept it secret “like a fairy-tale character would,” since his work is “rooted profoundly in the story of family and the traumatic events of his personal history.” Price's visceral work, in which pain, violence, eschatology, and transgression were singularly combined and transformed into healing acts, pure and moving, is the subject of this screening.
CINEMA PARENTHÈSE and iMAL show two of Price's early films in super 8: WARM BROTH and GREEN, made under the pseudonym Tom Rhoads. Both films, completed circa 1988, invites to an oppressive intensity, an alienated world of mindlessly repeated rituals and poses, and immerse the audience in the abyssal swimming-pool of family trauma – the decomposing body of a child, an unsettling nursery rhyme, an ice cream eaten by worms. With Price himself playing several roles, the films confront the audience to a succession of frames portraying creepy reinterpretations of the American dream and images of sex and death.
Price himself is an anomaly on many levels. He was gay but unwelcomed by the gay community, which reviled him for the alleged homophobic excesses of his film SODOM (1989). He invented alter-egos including the short-lived “Fag” and the more enduring “Tom Rhoads.” He has worked as a waiter, played in bands (he started a country band), and “committed suicide” in one of his performance pieces via a candy overdose. Much of his personal history is mysterious, in spite of his frequent use of himself and his family and their history via photos and home movies in his films. He was nearly killed (and was heavily scarred) in a shooting accident in Nicaragua in the mid-1980s. He worked in a disreputable format, appears in various guises in his own work from stylized, frozen-faced drag queen to naked performance artist to clown. And he occupied the same contested cultural space as artists like Karen Finley in being so controversial that his work has occasioned the immediate firing of programmers who have dared to show it. Increasingly revered as a filmmaker, he also made a strong impact in his sculpture, photography, and performance art.
Introduction by Daniel A. Swarthnas (Cinema Parenthèse)
1987-1988 | super 8 | color/b&w | sound | 36'00
Directed under the name Tom Rhodes.
”Tell me a secret / Hold me strong / Give me a kiss. It is with the sound of this litany sung by a doll that Rhodes (pseudonym of Luther PRICE) updates “the viscera of the pathos of the suburbs”. It is a ruthless movie, imbued with a sense of decay and horror. American beauties are vomiting on the screen. Floral wallpapers, wrapped candies of yellow cellophane, ice cream melting on bitumen: WARM BROTH is a little like the descent into hell in your grandparents’ house.”
1988 | super 8 | color/b&w | sound | 36'40
Directed under the name Tom Rhodes.
GREEN was inspired by the suicide of Price's mother’s sister Sally, occurred the day he was born. As he grew up, accordingly, he came to believe that he was the reincarnation of his own aunt. And like many a young adult, he imagined he would die early, at the age of 23, joining her just as he was joined to her spiritually since birth. Price describes the film in a preface:
”Filled with poison, all the veins infested … Question of time … The image of the ghost haunts my breath, gnaws my mind. I see her beautiful face and wonder if she was my mother. I loved her and she can see me. I thought she was really in me. I thought I was her. My life would end at twenty-three and we would be together. There would be no sadness. Everyone would know that she was coming for me. But I lived. I was not supposed to die at that time. It was his way of telling me to stop joining my mother. Now they are together and I am the ghost. 37 years old, there is something about this number. I will die then and I will remember this necklace of green emeralds at my mother’s funeral. And that’s when I’ll realize why I lived.
The images that haunt my memories roam the life next to me, brushing my breathing body, veiling my vision, slowing down my pace, devouring my thoughts. I am never alone. In fusion. I prevent myself from loneliness and all rest, living for two, becoming the other. Am I real?”
Cinema Parenthèse is a collective of writers, programmers and filmmakers that organizes experi-mental film screenings and dialogues in Brussels. Current members are Wendy Evan, Els van Riel, Nicky Hamlyn, Daniel A. Swarthnas and Arindam Sen.