Inspired by her children’s ubiquitous ABC picture books, not to mention the traditions of avant-garde alphabetizing, experimental mainstay Lynne Sachs concocted Abecedarium: NYC, an exquisite online corpse of cinematic cartography.
All my life I’ve been working in the arts. I drew, took pictures and wrote poetry a lot as a kid. Later, when I was a teenager, I got very excited and disturbed by a number of issues—particularly the reinstatement of the draft and abortion rights. I realized, “There’s this part of me that cares about social and political situations; but, I’ll still need to keep this other part that is about my more private self, the part that wants to play with images and words, exploring the everyday.”
If I had to choose a single word to encapsulate Lynne Sachs’ cinema, it would be “searching.” Her work is marked by a mode of inquiry, of seeking out connections, of investigation. What is she looking for? Meaning, maybe. But more so, historical consciousness, an ethical way of being in the world, a politics of humanity. I’ve known her to get on a plane to move a film project forward, unsure what she will find when she lands or where the project is going. It seems every time we talk and check in, she’s been someplace else, at work on yet another project. She is indefatigable in her search, and she has been extraordinarily prolific.
Leave it to Jean-Luc Godard and Anne Marie Miéville to figure out how to use television to reveal the latent brilliance of a child. Created for French television during the radical days of the late 1970s , “France/tour/detour/deux enfant” (1978) is an intimate, provocative and quotidian video essay that uses avant-garde cinema’s techniques in a visual experiment that will change anyone’s perception of the developing mind of a human being. Tonight Lynne Sachs will discuss the way that “France/tour…” influenced her own work as she reflects on the presence of childhood in her twenty-year film career.
I will be in Memphis on Saturday, April 24 at 6 pm for a “Lynne Sachs Retrospective” at the On Location: Memphis Film Festival at the Malco Ridgeway Theater (5853 Ridgeway Center Parkway). One of the films, The Last Happy Day, began in Memphis with the story of my family’s Hungarian cousin Alexander Lenard. I would love it if you all could join me that evening.
New York University’s Kimmel Center will display Last Address, an exhibition eulogizing a generation of New York City artists who died of AIDS, by the New York-based brother and sister filmmakers Ira Sachs and Lynne Sachs, with designer Bernhard Blythe, Sofia Gallísa, and Andrei Alupului. The exhibition, comprising 13 translucent, color photographs (67 x 42 in.) will be installed on the exterior of the Kimmel Windows Gallery, located at La Guardia Place & West 3rd St. Last Address will open April 9 and remain on view through May 31, 2010.
Working since the mid-1980s, variously on lyrical formal shorts and long form experimental documentary, Lynne Sachs’ body of film and video work has explored the relationships between individual memory and experience in the context of large historical forces. Foregrounding personal history and autobiography, Sachs exalts the intimate gesture as perhaps the most heroic of poetic and political acts. With a keen grasp on cultural theory and media history, Sachs’s films avoid academicism in their celebration of life and mindful political engagement, presenting complex pictures of the world with lyrical grace and even joy.
How do you make a doc that’s not a doc? How do you make an experimental film that is not one? How and why do moving image experimenters and documentarians combine their genres? Howard Guttenplan’s Millennium Film Journal (Spring/Summer 2009, #51) deeply penetrates these questions and creative cross-fertilizations. Guest editors, Lucas Hilderbrand and Lynne Sachs have gathered innovators to fill 100 pages of insights. Jill Godmilow’s advice to abandon “truth claims, intimacy and satisfying forms” recalls genre-bending pioneer Luis Bunuel’s “I have always been on the side of those who seek the truth, but I part ways with them when they think they have found it.” Reading MFJ raises new questions. Richard Fung queries, “What kind of truths can be communicated better in documentary than in fiction – and vice versa?” This echoes Faulkner’s “Sometimes the best fiction is more true than journalism.” The essays provoke us to examine the motives and consequences of these media practitioners.