144 Moody StreetBuilding 18Waltham, MA, United States (map)
A night of short films and discussion with legendary filmmaker Lynne Sachs featuring some of her works on/about/alongside women be they daughters, mentors, idols or friends.
Lynne Sachs will attend in person for a post-screening discussion.
FILM PROGRAM – Screening order subject to change
Photograph of Wind| 4 min | 16mm | b&w and color | silent | 2001 My daughter’s name is Maya. I’ve been told that the word maya means illusion in Hindu philosophy. As I watch her growing up, spinning like a top around me, I realize that her childhood is not something I can grasp but rather – like the wind – something I feel tenderly brushing across my cheek. Screened in 16mm.
Noa, Noa | 8 min | b&w and color | sound | 2006 by Lynne Sachs with Noa Street-Sachs Over the course of three years, Sachs collaborated with her daughter Noa (from 5 to 8 years old), criss-crossing the wooded landscapes of Brooklyn with camera and costumes in hand. Noa’s grand finale is her own rendition of the bluegrass classic “Crawdad Song”.
Same Stream Twice | 4 min | 16mm | b & w and color | silent | 2012 by Lynne Sachs with Maya Street-Sachs My daughter’s name is Maya. I’ve been told that the word maya means illusion in Hindu philosophy. In 2001, I photographed her at six years old, spinning like a top around me. Even then, I realized that her childhood was not something I could grasp but rather – like the wind – something I could feel tenderly brushing across my cheek. Eleven years later, I pull out my 16mm Bolex camera once again and she allows me to film her – different but somehow the same.
“And Then We Marched” | 3 min |S8mm | sound | 2017 Lynne shoots Super 8mm film of the Jan. 21 Women’s March in Washington, D.C. and intercuts this recent footage with archival material of early 20th Century Suffragists marching for the right to vote, 1960s antiwar activists and 1970s advocates for the Equal Rights Amendment. Lynne then talks about the experience of marching with her seven-year old neighbor who offers disarmingly insightful observations on the meaning of their shared actions.
Carolee, Barbara & Gunvor | 8 min | Super 8mm and 16mm film transferred to digital | 2018 Three renowned women artists discuss their passion for filmmaking. From 2015 to 2017, Lynne visited with Carolee Schneemann, Barbara Hammer and Gunvor Nelson, three multi-faceted artists who have embraced the moving image throughout their lives. From Carolee’s 18th Century house in the woods of Upstate New York to Barbara’s West Village studio to Gunvor’s childhood village in Sweden, Lynne shoots film with each woman in the place where she finds grounding and spark.
A Year in Notes and Numbers | 4 min | video | silent | 2018 A year’s worth of to-do lists confronts the unavoidable numbers that are part and parcel of an annual visit to the doctor. The quotidian and the corporeal mingle and mix. Family commitments, errands and artistic effusions trade places with the daunting reality of sugar, cholesterol, and bone.
A Month of Single Frames| 4 min | color | sound | 2019 In 1998, filmmaker Barbara Hammer had a one-month artist residency in Cape Cod. While there, she shot 16mm film, recorded sounds and kept a journal. In 2018, Barbara began her own process of dying by revisiting her personal archive. She gave all of her Duneshack materials to Lynne and invited her to make a film. “While editing the film, the words on the screen came to me in a dream. I was really trying to figure out a way to talk to the experience of solitude that Barbara had had, how to be there with her somehow through the time that we would all share together watching her and the film. My text is a confrontation with a somatic cinema that brings us all together in multiple spaces at once.”
Visit to Bernadette Mayer’s Childhood Home| 3 min | 16mm | b&w | sound | 2020 In July 1971, avant-garde writer and language poet Bernadette Mayer produced Memory, a multimedia project in which she shot one roll of 35mm film each day and kept a daily journal. In honor of the project’s compilation and release as a book, Lynne Sachs embarks on a study of the memory and language of place. Journeying to Mayer’s childhood home in the Ridgewood neighborhood of Queens, Sachs pays homage to Mayer in a collage of architecture, light, and rhythm.
Maya at 24| 4 min | 16mm | b&w | sound | 2021 with editing and animation by Rebecca Shapass music by Kevin T. Allen Lynne Sachs films her daughter Maya in 16mm black and white film, at ages 6, 16 and 24. At each iteration, Maya runs around her mother, in a circle – clockwise – as if propelling herself in the same direction as time, forward. Conscious of the strange simultaneous temporal landscape that only film can convey, we watch Maya in motion at each distinct age.
Total Running Time: 42 min.
Doors open at 6:30PM – Show at 7:00PM Seating is first-come, first served. Admission is free, however a $5-10 suggested donation is encouraged. Donations will be split between the guest artist and AgX. Donations help support future film programming at AgX.
Available on DAFilms: https://americas.dafilms.com/director/7984-lynne-sachs Drawn and Quartered The House of Science: a museum of false facts Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam States of UnBelonging Same Stream Twice Your Day is My Night And Then We Marched Carolee, Barbara & Gunvor The Washing Society A Month of Single Frames Film About a Father Who
Available on Fandor:https://www.fandor.com/category-movie/297/lynne-sachs/ Still Life With Woman and Four Objects Following the Object to Its Logical Beginning The Washing Society The House of Science: a museum of false facts Investigation of a Flame Noa, Noa The Small Ones Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam Atalanta: 32 Years Later States of UnBelonging A Biography of Lilith The Task of the Translator Sound of a Shadow The Last Happy Day Georgic for a Forgotten Planet Wind in Our Hair Drawn and Quartered Your Day is My Night Widow Work Tornado Same Stream Twice
Available on Ovid:https://www.ovid.tv/lynne-sachs A Biography of Lillith Investigation of a Flame The Last Happy Day Sermons and Sacred Pictures Starfish Aorta Colossus States of Unbelonging Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam Your Day is My Night Tip of My Tongue And Then We Marched A Year of Notes and Numbers
OVID in February Includes 32 Films with 10 Exclusive Streaming Premieres
Five French cinema classics, acclaimed Asian cinema, films by Charles Burnett and Shirley Clarke, and much more!
OVID.tv is proud to announce its February slate of thirty-two (32) streaming releases, including ten (10) exclusively streaming on OVID.
OVID’s February slate celebrates Black History Month with eight classic films exploring the Black experience at home and abroad. These include the 1948 documentary STRANGE VICTORY (branded communist propaganda at the time of its release), COME BACK, AFRICA, and Charles Burnett’s memorable slice of life drama MY BROTHER’S WEDDING.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, OVID is proud to premiere five classic French films in February. The fun begins with three films by the French filmmaker and screenwriter Marc Allégret: the swooning 1955 melodrama SCHOOL FOR LOVE (starring a young Brigitte Bardot), the 1955 D.H. Lawrence adaptation LADY CHATTERLY’S LOVER, and the delightfully fluffy 1953 farce JULIETTA.
A week later, OVID offers up two seldom-seen films by Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, central figure of the French New Wave, author, actor, and co-founder of Cahiers du Cinéma: the racy 1960 film A GAME FOR SIX LOVERS (featuring music by Serge Gainsbourg) and the 1961 political thriller LA DENONCIATION (THE IMMORAL MOMENT).
Other titles in OVID’s February slate include Shirley Clarke’s Beat classic THE CONNECTION, the delightful Hong Kong genre farce VAMPIRE CLEANUP DEPARTMENT, Ilan Ziv’s eye-opening EXILE, A MYTH UNEARTHED, and five more indelible short films by OVID favorite Lynne Sachs.
Details on all films coming to OVID in February are below.
Wednesday, February 9
And Then We Marched Directed by Lynne Sachs, Documentary Short, 2017 US Filmmaker Lynne Sachs shoots Super 8mm film of the first Women’s March in 2017 in Washington, D.C. and intercuts this recent footage with archival material of early 20th Century Suffragists marching for the right to vote, 1960s antiwar activists and 1970s advocates for the Equal Rights Amendment.
A Biography of Lilith Directed by Lynne Sachs, Documentary Short, 1997 US In a lively mix of narrative, collage and memoir, A Biography of Lilith updates the creation myth by telling the story of the first woman. Lilith’s betrayal by Adam in Eden and subsequent vow of revenge is recast as a modern tale with a present-day Lilith musing on a life that has included giving up a baby for adoption and working as a bar dancer. Interweaving mystical texts from Jewish folklore with interviews, music and poetry, director Lynne Sachs reclaims this cabalistic parable to frame her own role as mother.
Tip of My Tongue Directed by Lynne Sachs, Documentary, 2017 US To celebrate her 50th birthday, filmmaker Lynne Sachs gathers together other people, men and women who have lived through precisely the same years but come from places like Iran or Cuba or Australia or the Lower East Side, not Memphis, Tennessee where Sachs grew up. She invites 12 fellow New Yorkers – born across several continents in the 1960s – to spend a weekend with her making a movie. Together they discuss some of the most salient, strange, and revealing moments of their lives in a brash, self-reflexive examination of the way in which uncontrollable events outside our own domestic universe impact who we are. (Anthology Film Archives Calendar).
A Month of Single Frames (for Barbara Hammer) Directed by Lynne Sachs, Documentary Short, 2019 US In 1998, experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer took part in a one-month residency at a Cape Cod dune shack without running water or electricity, where she shot film, recorded sound and kept a journal. In 2018 she gave all of this material to Lynne Sachs and invited her to make a film with it.
A Year in Notes and Numbers Directed by Lynne Sachs, Documentary Short, 2017 US A year’s worth of to-do lists confronts the unavoidable numbers that are part and parcel of an annual visit to the doctor. The quotidian and the corporeal mingle and mix. Family commitments, errands and artistic effusions trade places with the daunting reality of sugar, cholesterol, and bone.
Working alone and with various collaborators over the course of 35 years, Lynne Sachs has developed a body of work deeply invested in a range of interwoven personal and ethical subjects. Using all types of media, from 8mm and 16mm film to HD files, her rigorous explorations in sound and image investigate ideas of family, mythology, portraiture, political resistance, feminism, war, and the quotidian. A poet, educator, collage artist, and filmmaker based in Brooklyn, Sachs has received a Guggenheim Fellowship in the Creative Arts (2014), among many other awards. In January 2021, the Museum of the Moving Image organized a major retrospective of her film work. Here, two recent shorts accompany her latest feature, Film About a Father Who . . ., each reflecting features of the artist’s family.
Lynne Sachs has collaborated numerous times with other filmmakers, writers, and performers in her fertile pursuit of a very personal cinematic language. Made with writer Anne Lesley Selcer, and grounded in a domestic sphere during the COVID-19 pandemic, the new short Girl Is Presence features Sachs’s own daughter Noa carefully sifting through and rearranging curious objects while Selcer recites lines from her poem Sun Cycle. (2020, 4 minutes)
Over a period of 35 years between 1984 and 2019, Lynne Sachs recorded 8mm and 16mm film, analogue videotape, and digital images of her father, Ira Sachs Sr., a bon vivant and pioneering businessman from Park City, Utah. Ostensibly a documentary portrait of a parent, Film About a Father Who . . . reveals as much, or more, about patriarchal silences and omissions than about the subject himself, who remains enigmatic throughout. “My father has always chosen the alternative path in life, a path that has brought unpredictable adventures, nine children with six different women, brushes with the police, and a life-long interest in trying to do some good in the world.” It is also a film about the complex dynamics that conspire to create a family. (2020, 74 minutes)
Silently accumulated handwritten to-do lists and notes to herself become evidence of the filmmaker’s relationship with family, friends, and herself over a limited period of time. These fragments of text and direction on scraps of paper and yellow Post-it notes form an abstract storytelling device—like a personal poem or storyboard for an experimental film. (2016, 4 minutes)
http://www.kinorebelde.com/lynne-sachs-complete-filmography/ Kino Rebelde has created a retrospective that traces a delicate line connecting intimacy, power relations, violence, memory, migration, desire, love, and war in Lynne’s films. By looking at each of these works, we can see a director facing her own fears and contradictions, as well as her sense of friendship and motherhood. Moving from idea to emotion and back again, our retrospective takes us on a journey through Sachs’ life as a filmmaker, beginning in 1986 and moving all the way to the present.
With the intention of allowing her work to cross boundaries, to interpret and to inquire into her distinctive mode of engaging with the camera as an apparatus for expression, we are delighted to present 37 films that comprise the complete filmmography, so far, of Lynne Sachs as visual artist and filmmaker. Regardless of the passage of time, these works continue to be extremely contemporary, coherent and radical in their artistic conception.
About Kino Rebelde
Kino Rebelde is a Sales and Festival Distribution Agency created by María Vera in early 2017. Its exclusively dedicated to promotion of non-fiction cinema, hybrid narratives and experimental.
Based on the creative distribution of few titles by year, Kino Rebelde established itself as a “boutique agency”, working on a specialized strategy for each film, within its own characteristics, market potential, niches and formal and alternative windows.
This company supports short, medium and long feature films, from any country, with linear or non-linear narratives. They can be in development or WIP, preferably in the editing stage.
The focus: author point of view, pulse of stories, chaos, risk, more questions, less answers, aesthetic and politic transgression, empathy, identities, desires and memory.
Kino Rebelde was born in Madrid, but as its films, this is a nomadic project. In the last years María has been living in Lisbon, Belgrade and Hanoi and she’ll keep moving around.
About María Vera
Festival Distributor and Sales Agent born in Argentina. Founder of Kino Rebelde, a company focused on creative distribution of non-fiction, experimental and hybrid narratives.
Her films have been selected and awarded in festivals as Berlinale, IFFR Rotterdam, IDFA, Visions Du Réel, New York FF, Hot Docs, Jeonju IFF, Sheffield Doc/Fest, Sarajevo FF, Doclisboa and Viennale, among others.
María has a background as producer of socio-political and human rights contents as well as a film curator.Envelope
Lynne Sachs (1961) is an American filmmaker and poet living in Brooklyn, New York. Her moving image work ranges from documentaries, to essay films, to experimental shorts, to hybrid live performances.
Working from a feminist perspective, Lynne weaves together social criticism with personal subjectivity. Her films embrace a radical use of archives, performance and intricate sound work. Between 2013 and 2020, she collaborated with renowned musician and sound artist Stephen Vitiello on five films.
Strongly committed to a dialogue between cinematic theory and practice, she searches for a rigorous play between image and sound, pushing the visual and aural textures in each new project.
Between 1994 and 2009, Lynne directed five essay films that took her to Vietnam, Bosnia, Israel, Italy and Germany – sites affected by international war – where she looked at the space between a community’s collective memory and her own perception.
Over the course of her career, she has worked closely with film artists Craig Baldwin, Bruce Conner, Ernie Gehr, Barbara Hammer, Chris Marker, Gunvor Nelson, and Trinh T. Min-ha.
A Year in Notes and Numbers (2017) is a 4 minute silent digital video work by the American experimental filmmaker Lynne Sachs, which consists of close-up shots of a few words from to-do lists and notes to self, mostly written on yellow ruled paper, with names, errands and artistic intentions written in various coloured inks, circled, crossed out, stained, creased, blotted: “Write Mom / to thank!”; “Vitamin D”; “FROGS”; “Make 2 shelves / Build 2 shelves”; “lightbulbs”. These lists are occasionally overlaid with medical terms and measurements: “Sodium / 138”; “Globulin / 2.6”; “eGFR / 86”. At one point a section from the production notes of what is probably one of Sachs’ other films is shown: “She observes herself / and others // learning”. The next shot: “Camera as extension of her body.” The next shot: “Fun of research.” We see the minutiae of a year in a life, the endless small tasks that demand to be completed, correspondence that needs to be written, plans and ideas for projects that might or might not be realised; we also see the medical quantification of the body which performs these tasks. There are personal reminders: “Write Barbara H” (Barbara Hammer, presumably); there are political reminders: “Get out the vote”. It ends with the word “Mom”, then the figure “125 LBS”, then a few seconds of swirling reds, yellows and greys.
A Year in Notes and Numbers relates to a strand in Sachs’ earlier work, which goes right back to one of her earliest films, Still Life with Woman and Four Objects (1986). These pieces are distinct from, but related to, the experimental documentaries about political history which Sachs has also made, and focus more closely on everyday life and its reproduction. In Still Life with Woman and Four Objects—a tribute to the anarchist and feminist Emma Goldman—a woman puts on a coat, peels and pits an avocado, suspends the stone above a glass of water to sprout it, eats a meal, and reads aloud a letter of Goldman’s. Food preparation, small acts of gardening, eating and anarcha-feminism all sit on the same level. This strand of Sachs’s work is perhaps best represented in a piece like Window Work (2000), a 9 minute sound video comprising of a single uninterrupted shot of a kitchen window in Baltimore, in which a women washes the windowpane, makes and drinks some tea, reads the newspaper. Two small frames within the larger image show miniature home-movies, which gesture towards personal memory and earlier media technologies: Super 8 film as the precursor to videotape. Window Work could be read as a kind of Jeanne Dielman (Chantal Akerman, 1975) in miniature; though where Chantal Akerman shows the drudgery and tedium of housework with an unflinching clarity, in Sachs’ film the accoutrements of domesticity are shown in shadow and used to evoke a dream-like atmosphere which encourages fantasy and reverie on the viewer’s part. Jeanne Dielman tries to make housework visible, or at least questions to what extent labour can be made visible through cinema, and in doing so, demands work from the viewer, who must pay attention, sitting through its lengthy run-time and long, slow takes. Sachs’ Window Work, on the other hand, is more playful with the concept of work—does the “work” in the title refer to the work of cleaning the window, in a fairly desultory fashion, or to the artwork we are watching? Is the work of this film a dreamwork?
In contrast to these earlier explorations of the everyday and domestic in Sachs’ oeuvre, A Year in Notes and Numbers is mundane on a different level. By showing names, tasks, numbers and stray thoughts completely devoid of any context, with no date or other clue as to what they mean, a year is condensed to a flurry of seemingly meaningless activity, combined with the equally decontextualised and slightly ominous medical statistics that appear intermittently on screen. Calcium: 9.6. Is this good or bad? Sinister or reassuring? What about Bilirubin 0.7? (According to Google, both of these figures are within the average range.) By reducing the representation of a body to written memoranda and biological measurements, this recent work by Sachs is somehow both more personal and more alienating than her earlier work dealing with similar topics. The body is reduced to a quantum of figures, abstracted into data, but not at the expensive of the person who that body is, who has family and friends to write to, lightbulbs to buy, DVDs to watch, interviews to listen to, films to make.
Unending Lightning (2015–ongoing) is a six-plus hour three-channel video installation by the Spanish artist Cristina Lucas which documents every aerial bombing over civilians since the development of manned flight. It visualises a database gathered by a large number of researchers and organisations, building on research begun in 2011, on the 75th anniversary of Guernica, arguably—thanks to Picasso—the most famous aerial bombing of civilians. Manned flight was made possible in 1903. By 1909, two people could fly in one aircraft. Aerial bombing began only two years later, in the 1911 Italo-Turkish war, a war over colonial control of Libya. Unending Lightning is an ongoing work, because it will only be complete when aerial bombing over civilians, including drone strikes, is a military strategy that has been abandoned. The central screen shows a map of the world with the locations of the bombings and the number of civilian casualties marked; the left screen shows the respective military forces responsible for dropping the bomb, the type of bomb dropped, the city bombed and the known number of casualties; the right screen shows archive and documentary videos and photography from the aftermath of the bombings. I saw it at Manifesta 12 in Palermo, where it was shown in the Casa del Mutilato, a hospital for wounded soldiers designed by the Rationalist (i.e. Fascist) architect Guiseppe Spatrisano in 1936: a large temple to fascism erected in honour of the Italian annexation of Ethiopia in the same year—a conflict which saw Italy using poison gas bombs on Red Cross hospitals. As Sven Lindqvist argued in A History of Bombing, in its first years aerial bombing was seen as a convenient and exciting answer to the question of how exactly European powers could exterminate entire populations without having to get their hands quite so dirty. The origin of this technology lies in colonial violence.
Unending Lightning is a magisterial work, one requiring a collaborative team of researchers and software engineers, the accumulation and maintenance of large amounts of historical data; it is open-ended and so almost unwatchable as a single piece, with a runtime which grows with each new drone strike in Afghanistan (almost 40 per day in September 2019 alone, according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism). The visual aesthetics of Unending Lightning resemble nothing more than a PowerPoint presentation: bullet-pointed information presented in Helvetica on grey-blue backgrounds, grainy historical photographs gradually improving in quality as the work moves closer to recent bombings and the video and photography technologies which captured the aftermaths develop. While watching it, the viewer sees the unceasing global conflicts which have unfolded over the last century and more. Near the beginning of the film there are a few moments where days go by in which no aerial bombings take place, but soon it is every day, all over the globe, often accompanied by the phrase “unknown numbers of civilians killed”. Even with the enormous amount of research undertaken for the work, we will never be able to truly know through quantification the amount of death unleashed on the world by the advent of bombing from the air.
What does Unending Lightning have to do with Lynne Sachs? At first glance perhaps very little. But they operate at different ends of the same recent aesthetic tendency, exploring quantification and its limitations. In Lucas’ work, we watch something unfold which feels like an unending depiction of death and destruction, mostly of women and children; what necessarily gets left out of the work, and as such is brought concertedly to mind when we view the piece, are the actual everyday lives of the people who were killed by these bombs dropped from the air. In Sachs’ recent work, on the other hand, the abstraction of a life from a record of its daily activities asks the viewer to fill in the gaps, to imagine or project something into the space that is left open between the unfinished errands and the medical figures we are presented with. In very different ways both artists are concerned with the everyday, the way that developments in technology can start to feel familiar, natural, normal, until all of a sudden they don’t, and they erupt into the sphere of domesticity, whether that’s through the collection and retention of biological data by private healthcare companies, or the firing of a missile from a remote-controlled drone.
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+ Also: I recently appeared on a podcast, PRISMS,
in Oslo, talking about the film diary, my thinking behind it, why I do it, how
I feel about it, etc. You can listen to that here if you’re interested. +
terminal usa, life in frogner, oedipus rex, mission: impossible –
fallout, vampyr, after hours
May 11. Wednesday. I have been
having stomach issues for the last few days that show no sign of abating. I’ll spare you the details,
gentle reader. I haven’t
been eating very much and I have been avoiding caffeine and alcohol, those
usual stalwarts, and I feel exhausted and run-down and fairly miserable. I
worked from home yesterday but think I need to show my face in the office
today, so I go in and have a few meetings, trying to ignore the waves of pain.
I send some emails. I look at a lot of documents. After a few hours of this I
decide I have been visible enough and I go home, where I immediately fall
asleep for an hour. I wake up feeling a little better. In the evening I have an
online safeguarding and boundaries training session, which is fine. After it’s over, Kate, Catherine and
Tara come over for Film Club. L returns from work just after they arrive. It’s my choice of viewing. Earlier
I spent some time trying to pick something but felt overwhelmed by both the
endless choice of films available and by my sense of cinematic fatigue, which
is still with me. I am not capable of watching a lengthy film this evening, so
I end up choosing Terminal USA (dir. Jon
Moritsugu, 1993).This is a
sixty minute made-for-TV schlockfest that was a focal point of one of the semi-regular
right-wing protests against taxpayer’s
money being used to fund public television in the US: conservatives were
disgusted that their constituents’
hard earned bucks were being spaffed away on garbage like this, which
was funded by PBS. In fact, when the film was submitted to PBS for
distribution, only two thirds of stations agreed to show it, because so many
programmers and audiences found it beyond the pale. Of course, all this only
adds to its allure for me, and I am delighted by Terminal
USA, which is an accomplished work of 90s slacker black humour, a
wholesale attack on the nuclear family and the idea of Asian-Americans as a
model minority. It’s
a combination of John Waters, Gregg Araki (who is thanked in the credits) and
Dennis Cooper, exploring and revelling in a wide array of social bugaboos: drug
abuse, male impotence, religious apocalypticism, teen pregnancy, pre-marital
sex, unseemly voyeurism from pimply pizza delivery boys, queer erotic fantasies
about musclar fascist skinheads stomping on your face, disrespect for the elder
generations, sexually ambiguous bleach-blond perverts dressed as vicars and
toting firearms, and the violation of the moral sanctity of cheerleaders. It is
cheap and gross and stupid and sloppily made, it looks and sounds kind of
half-assed and rushed, and the acting is so off-tempo and stoned that it feels
like everyone present inhabits their own separate universe. It unravels into a
complete shit-show, ending with the deus ex machina of a character being beamed
up to an alien spaceship. At one point some skinheads (one of whom is played by
Gregg Turkington) erect a burning cross in a family’s front yard, soundtracked by
classic DC hardcore band Void. It’s
a highly kitsch and camp punk film, which surely would have only been a source
of frustration, bafflement and disgust for the majority of people who happened
to catch it on TV in 1993. I really enjoy it. I’ve not seen anything else by
Jon Moritsugu, but I’m
very keen to check out more of his work, which includes delightful titles like Mod Fuck Explosion, Pig Death
Machine, Sleazy Rider and,
most winningly of all, Mommy Mommy Where’s
My Brain, a short which is described as half AC/DC, half Derrida. Terminal USA is a joy: totally uproarious
garbage. Well worth going out of your way to find a copy (I didn’t watch it there, but
apparently it’s now
available on the Criterion Collection, so you don’t even have to look too hard).
May 17. Tuesday. A warm day
which I mostly spend indoors. My new schedule dictates that I should normally
be at work today but, for reasons too boring to type out, I’m not. I have nothing pressing
to do, and so I spend the day mostly in a state of anxious uncertain tension,
trying to decide what to do with myself. I send some emails. I look out the window.
I don’t really
manage to concentrate on anything and feel the old muddy worry about
squandering my life start to bubble away. At midday, I walk to the bank down
the road and hand them the letter addressed to them which I found lying in the
street yesterday. My good deed done, I scurry back inside. I eat some asparagus
and a poached egg for lunch. L is marking. Mike sends me a link to the podcast about this diary that
we recorded yesterday; I’m not in the right state of mind to listen to myself
talk so I text Catherine and ask her to listen to it for me — she assures me
that I come across well in it: ‘thoughtful’. Good enough for me. I’ve been trying to avoid social
media recently because it’s
been making me depressed, or compounding my recent spell of depression, or
both, more so than usual anyway, but I sign in to share a link to the podcast,
and then I get sucked into a few more hours of dreary procrastination. It
clouds over outside and I feel a little better about being inside.
Mid-afternoon, I decide that I’ve
had enough of this state of mind and want to get on with something useful. I
watchLife in Frogner (dir. Anne
Haugsgjerd, 1986), which Mike has commissioned me to write about for PRISMS. This turns out to be perfectly suited to today’s mood of distraction and
despondency, and it makes me feel a little less isolated in my procrastination,
which is nice. It’s
a short film, 22 minutes or so, about Anne Haugsgjerd’s efforts to sit down and write
a script for a film about Frogner, the district of Oslo in which she lives. She
sits at a typewriter, drinks some coffee, smokes, gets up, tidies her desk,
sits back down, gets up again, cleans her windows, watches a woman sunbathing across
the street, watches some people walking dogs on the street, sits back down,
starts typing, stops typing, puts her head in her hands. This, I read, is
Haugsgjerd’s first film,
and I find this information very pleasing, satisfying in the familiar note of
understanding it strikes. What better way to announce your arrival as an artist
than by expressing your incapacity to create art? The doubts, the distractions,
the lack of focus and the false starts, the blinding whiteness of the blank
page, the struggle to just sit down and actually get on with it: surely the
universal experience of the artist-manqué. Obviously, I’m
sympathetic to this strategy of defeating the block by embracing the block,
partly because I used it to get my own first novel written, and it seems to
have worked well enough there. But Haugsgjerd’s exploration of her failure to move forwards in her
work also speaks to the aesthetic strategies I’ve employed in writing this
diary, and I feel gratified to have this part of myself reflected back at me. I
am always reluctant to describe things as ‘relatable’
— doing so is cheap and easy and doesn’t
say anything meaningful or interesting about the work, often merely serving to
express the critic’s
own narcissism — but I find Life in Frogner very
relatable, narcissist that I am. There are a few stylistic elements that remind
me of other films, of course — a couple of shots that make me think of Lynne
Sachs, a little hint of Varda in some of the meta-textual
humour of the film — but
the style feels very assured and clear, particularly considering it’s a debut. The tension explored
in the film between the observation of life and participation in it, the
impossibility of simply being a spectator, and the anxieties and regrets that
emerge from trying to mediate your whole life through an artistic practice: all
of these feel particularly sharp for me, and I am impressed with the openness
and vulnerability with which Haugsgjerd explores them.“Life is
everywhere, life is outside your window. Life is pulsating there as you’re trying to write about life. … You
should have lived that life instead of making film at all.” There’s a kind of wry, amusing edge
to the film, a playfulness which stops it from feeling too heavy-handed or
self-serious, which demonstrates an awareness that the writer struggling in
front of their typewriter is, ultimately, a comic figure. And this tone makes
the closing sentiment of the film, an expression of optimism in the face of
artistic doubt, even more resonant for me: “I am both shy and an
exhibitionist at the same time. That’s
the conflict in me, but I think it’s
about exposing yourself. I think if you do that you will always find someone
out there that will understand.” It’s
a risk, but there’ll
be someone who gets it. Comforting words. You can find Life
in Frogner on Vimeo. A
really lovely little film.
Afterwards, I write the above entry. L goes to Lincoln. It starts
raining. I engage in the shameful form of active time-wasting which has
recently absorbed my life: playing The Legend of
Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Switch that I’ve borrowed from Catherine.
This is partly to blame for the last week or so of my not really watching any
films, compounding the previous feeling of burnt out apathy. I haven’t played video games for a long
time, other than fairly infrequent occasional grubby bursts of Civilisation V,
which I think I’m
now well and truly done with. Immediately with Zelda I feel fully
immersed back into the atmosphere of sweaty compulsion and addiction. It is
kind of horrendous how effective it is at sucking up time: two, three hours can
pass without any sense of accomplishment or even pleasure. It’s weird and I feel very
ambivalent about it. Tonight I manage to restrain myself to playing for 90
minutes. Then I pull myself together and watch Oedipus
Rex(dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1967). I’ve not seen it before and I
watch it partly out of a stirring of the completionist urge towards PPP. I feel
like this is one of the few Pasolini films which I very rarely see anyone
saying very much about. Out of his other works it’s unsurprisingly closest to Medea in terms of style, employing a similar
visual salmagundi of elements lifted from various exoticised and appropriated
national folk cultures: like Medea, Oedipus Rex takes place in a past which can
actually be located both nowhere and nowhen, which is appropriate for a
reworking of a Greek myth which sits at the foundation of Western culture. That
said, the beginning and ending of the film are very clearly located in Italy:
the film begins with the birth of a child to a bourgeois woman who is having an
affair with a soldier in 1920s fascist Italy, and it ends with the child,
Oedipus, blind and destitute, being led around the industrialised post-war
Italian landscape, with a bunch of shots that feel more like Antonioni than
anything else I can remember seeing in Pasolini. It’s the middle section, the bulk
of the film, which takes up the riot of colour and costume and various musical
borrowings from cultural ethnographies that we also see in Medea. I think I like it a fair amount but probably
not as much as I like Medea. It’s actually quite a challenging
and uneven film and I feel more ambivalence about it than I usually do with
Pasolini, who, in all honesty, I am usually pretty uncritically positive about.
I don’t know if this
is really a success or not, but it’s
still worth watching. I think of a few other films while I’m watching it, neither of which
is very similar at all to Pasolini’s Oedipus Rex, but which perhaps can help situate my
experience of the film in a kind of Venn diagram: it’s somewhere between Buñuel’s Simon of the Desert and Piavoli’s Nostos:
The Return, maybe. I’m
very interested these days in reworkings and modernisations of Greek myth,
thanks to my efforts to work on The Bacchae, and I feel like
there is a lot here I find useful for that purpose. I don’t feel entirely satisfied when
it’s over, but I
think the problems I had with it — which, to be frank, have kind of dimmed in
the few days between watching it and writing this — are actually generative in
some way. One thing I particularly enjoy is the film’s total lack of interest in
continuity: when Oedipus is still a baby he is depicted by at least four
different children, who barely look alike at all, sometimes switched half-way
through a scene. I love this. Who cares what the baby looks like, that isn’t the point of this film, a
baby is a baby is a baby, this is a story of the universal psychological
conflict which affects everyone whether they want to accept it or not. I feel
like I should have more to say about Oedipus Rex,
maybe something which takes advantage of the very ready-to-hand psychoanalytic
engagements available to me, but I’m
going to stop there. If you’ve
read Freud and then you watch this it all feels pretty familiar and clear
anyway. I’m glad to have
gotten to it, but I don’t
know if I’ll be rushing
to watch it again any time soon.
May 21. Saturday. Will is
visiting. Last night we went to the Rutland, where we met Kate, Catherine and
L, who left us to go and watch Everything Everywhere
All At Once. Will and I did not go to see it, but kept drinking and
ended up having a long conversation with one of my ex-colleagues from the care
home who I ran into by chance. Afterwards, L, Will and I stay up until 2:30
watching music videos on YouTube. Today we are not moving very quickly. We go
get some croissants and coffee and sit outside for a bit. We go to Kollective
for lunch with Kate and Catherine, and then go for a drink at the Dorothy Pax,
next to the canal. Then we walk up the canal in the sun to Attercliffe, where
we go to St Mars of the Desert; a new experience for everyone. It’s nice. The weather is
pleasant. We spend the afternoon drinking and then get a taxi home. Kate and
Catherine rejoin us after a brief hiatus, and we order pizza from Napoli Centro
and then watch Mission: Impossible – Fallout (dir.
Christophere McQuarrie, 2018). L and I saw this in the cinema when
it came out; a 10am Sunday screening at Duke’s at Komedia in Brighton with a hangover, and it was
a really excellent experience. We choose to watch this I guess partly because
we’ve all seen
Tom Cruise’s recent
comments at Cannes being shared over and over: when asked why he feels the need
to do all the stunts that he does, he replies, smugly, that nobody asked Gene
Kelly why he danced. An incredible answer. I perhaps don’t really explore the depths of
my feelings about Tom Cruise very often, but I really am starting to believe
that he’s among the
greatest actors alive. He’s
not very versatile and he’s
certainly never complex, but he has heroically embraced his limitations and
understood his skills completely, and he’s never boring to watch, never mediocre or
half-assed. Tom Cruise is always giving everything to his work, and I always
enjoy watching him. The whole Scientology is whatever; I feel like we can move
past that — we all know about it, and it’s fucked up, but he’s still a completely eccentric genius, whose
strangeness only gets more intense the more actively he pretends that he’s in any way a remotely normal
person. The Mission: Impossible franchise
is some of his greatest work, and Fallout is
a hugely entertaining piece of cinematic exuberance. Henry Cavill, who I
generally think is hugely dull and tedious to watch, is perfectly cast here as
a bland evil CIA agent who becomes Cruise’s antagonist. In the big climactic helicopter chase
with which the film ends there are some great shots of Cavill just sitting
staring blankly into space as Cruise tries to crash another chopper into him:
the lack of any spark of intelligence or engagement with the world behind
Cavill’s eyes, the
deadened glaze of an animatronic plank of wood, are some of the funniest
moments in a film which is filled with hilarity. Another great moment is right
after Tom Cruise’s
emotional reconnection with his ex-wife, when we get to see Tom sprinting away
in the background, both arms pumping at full velocity. I would prefer if Simon
Pegg wasn’t in this film
but it’s quite useful
to have such an easy target for any irritation I feel with the film: all blame
for any lack in Mission: Impossible – Fallout can
be placed at Pegg’s
feet and then be forgotten about. It’s
a riot. Everyone in the room is shrieking and yelling, we’re all having a nice time, it’s genuinely thrilling and
exciting even though we’ve
all seen it before. Tom Cruise is a genius. I think I’ve got a long-read about him
bubbling away, so if anyone wants to commission that for a publication please
let me know and I can give you 20,000 words of hagiography in less than a week.
May 22. Sunday. Will is still
here. We go get a sausage sandwich from the café in Endcliffe Park and then walk to the coffee van in Bingham Park.
Will and I eat some cannoli on a bench. We come home and L and Will play video
games for a little while. Then we walk into town and go to Showroom, where we
see Vampyr (dir. Carl Theodore Dreyer,
1932). None of us have seen it before. I’m pretty sure I’ve not seen Dreyer’s Joan
of Arc but something in the back of my mind is telling me that
I watched it in a depressive funk in either 2017 or 2018, before I started the
diary. Which would make sense, and perhaps having seen it and then forgotten
everything about it is further justification for continuing this project, so I
can keep track of what I watch in my various fugue states. Anyway, I have high
hopes for Vampyr, although perhaps with a
slight wariness: I am aware that I often find 1930s films, even the greatest
films of the period, a bit of a tiresome slog, and I prepare myself to be a
little bored. And maybe I fade in and out of attention a little but for the
most part I’m pretty absorbed
by Vampyr, which is much stranger and more
uncanny than I’d
anticipated. As Will points out afterwards, we’ve all seen the vampire myth
explored on film a bajillion times, and there isn’t a huge amount here in terms
of plot that isn’t
very familiar, but with that taken for granted the viewer can focus their
attention elsewhere: the extremely intense and odd visual style. This is a
dream film, an unpleasant and jarring nightmare where images don’t always make sense in the way
you would expect. There are a fair amount of visual effects which, despite
being 90 years old don’t
actually feel dated or overly familiar but really add to the feeling of uncanny
nausea permeating the film. There are some shots filmed outside in a very very
soft focus which are extremely grainy and quite challenging to make out any
detail of the image and, rather than feeling like a kind of technical mishap,
these feel like the kind of half-remembered half-recognised experiences that
are otherwise only experienced in dreams. The use of doubling is particularly
weird and disconcerting. The influence of these elements is absolutely
transparent, particularly in the obvious surreal filmmakers like Buñuel and Lynch. Vampyr is not scary, exactly, but it is unnerving
and confusing and unpleasant; the plot, freely adapted from a Sheridan Le Fanu
text, is really just a canvas on which Dreyer and his cinematographers can
create some very striking visual compositions. It’s an odd film. I suppose I feel
a very clear divide during it between my deep and intense aesthetic enjoyment
in the style and the cultivated boredom I feel about watching a 1930s horror
film. But it’s good to see
it, particularly in a cinema. At home I wouldn’t give it the attention it
merits. I’m a little
relieved when it’s
over, and I probably would have liked it even more if I’d have a coffee before, but it
feels like a very worthwhile experience: getting to see what horror was like
before everyone had figured out what the genre should feel like. Apparently
there was a riot when it first screened, with the audience demanding their
money back because of how impenetrable it felt: clearly a sign of its
After Vampyr we go for a
beer at the Industry Tap and then walk home. I sit down and try to rattle off
as much of this diary as I can in one hour. Then I cook an asparagus risotto.
Afterwards we watch After Hours(dir. Martin Scorsese,
1985), which is a feel-bad yuppie nightmare film about a man
having a very unpleasant evening in New York. It’s really good, in many ways a
very uncharacteristic Scorsese picture, a mixture of noir, screwball comedy,
psychosexual thriller and existential horror film. There are clear homages to
throughout and there’s
also a really excellent moment that cites Kafka’s Before
the Law, recast as a struggle to gain admittance to a nightclub
playing Bad Brains. I read in Scorsese on Scorsese that
the both the ending of After Hours, in
which our bedraggled hero just ends up back at work the next morning, and the
Kafka allusions were ideas that came directly from Michael Powell’s response to a preview
screening at which the ending was fudged and unclear, and that Powell’s account of Kafka’s work really resonated with
Scorsese because he had recently had a frustrating bureaucratic experience
trying to get funding for The Last Temptation of
Christ. Which is exactly the kind of coincidental and relatively
meaningless trivia that I love. There’s
also a great moment where the protagonist spends a while looking at some
graffiti on a bathroom wall of a shark biting a man’s erection. It’s
a film about emasculation and sexual neuroses, but it’s also a film about the intense
lengths someone might go to in the hopes of encountering some kind of
spontaneity and novelty in their drab life. Really one of the great New York
films in the interplay we see between the unending potential of the city and
the almost inevitable frustration and disappointment that results in the
majority of the encounters we watch. It also feels a bit like a cocaine-addled downtown
remake of The Exterminating Angel, another
film about members of the bourgeoisie who just can’t quite make it home. It’s a fun watch; at times it
feels as though it’s
running the risk of getting bogged down and a little tiresome, but it has
enough jubilant variety that it stays interesting and strange, equal parts
hilarious and infuriating. Griffin Dunne, who I don’t really recognise from
anything else, is a surprisingly good lead, perfect for an increasingly sweaty
and abject man at the end of his tether. It’s the kind of film that makes you want to drink a
regrettable cup of terrible filter coffee at 2am, or, at least for me, is the
kind of film that — despite the horrible time everyone seems to be having —
makes me wish I lived somewhere with multiple all-night venues and an
atmosphere of there being an endless possibility for new forms of suffering
available to nocturnal wanderers. I don’t really know why I haven’t seen this before; in many
ways it’s an outlier
in the Scorsese back catalogue, but a genuine miserable pleasure regardless.
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“A Year in Notes and Numbers” 4 min., digital, silent, 2017 by Lynne Sachs
A year’s worth of to-do lists confronts the unavoidable numbers that are part and parcel of an annual visit to the doctor. The quotidian and the corporeal mingle and mix. Family commitments, errands and artistic effusions trade places with the daunting reality of sugar, cholesterol, and bone.
Microscope Gallery presented a shared program with my husband Mark Stree. We called it “A Marriage of Remakes” which was reviewed by Screen Slate writer Chris Shields here:
“Personal and independent, experimental films represent the height of filmic subjectivity, maybe most notably expressed in the work of Stan Brakhage, who sought to recreate the physical act of seeing with his first person films. These works run the gamut from Brakhage’s physiological reconstructions of vision through a range of more poetic and metaphoric approaches, be they perceptual, emotional, historical or material. So the conceit of XY Chromosome Project’s presentation of Lynn Sachs & Mark Street: A Marriage of Remakes at Brooklyn’s Microscope Gallery represents a perspectival place of particular interest in that it itself is an attempt to give material form to intersubjectivity.
Sachs and Street have been a couple for nearly 30 years, and have both made works independently (Street’s 2016 documentary Oiltowns) and together (XY Chromosone Project 2007). The films on view at Microscope Gallery however, which lend the concept and name to A Marriage of Remakes, are somehow neither by one filmmaker or the other: they are remakes, reconstructions, reimaginings, re-realizations of each other’s work. Sachs and Street have each remade films by her or his partner, creating a new dimension in both their work, elucidating through the nature of the project both the translatable and the untranslatable.
In her 2012 16mm work, Same Stream Twice, Sachs films her and Street’s young daughter, Maya, moving in a circle. The camera stands at the center point tracing her circular trajectory. The image is high contrast black and white, grainy and evokes a stoic femininity reminiscent of Gunvor Nelson’s gorgeous and haunting 1969 film My Name is Oona—both are filled with strength and dignity, an almost pagan vision of female power. Street’s video, Boys To Men, is constructed largely around the same axis of movement and the same conceit, with the wheel of time turning as children, in this case boys, become adults. The short video however, is devoid of Sachs’ haunting photography and solemnity, instead taking place in any old park in Brooklyn. It seems more a video document than a poetic vision. From these two works, qualities which distinguish Sachs’ work from Street’s begin to become clear, the revelations moving in both directions—Sachs favors grainy 8 and 16mm film with even, or completely absent, soundtracks, while Street favors more documentary like images and isn’t afraid of jarring sound or colliding frames. What unifies them however is somewhat more nebulous. Is there a shared idea or approach, or is this experiment in “remaking” evidence that a relationship creates it’s own intersubjective perspective, where two independent visions meet? At the very least, Sachs and Street’s project is an intriguing and worthwhile attempt to give this phenomenon a unique expression and form of its own.” (Chris Shields, Screen Slate)
This is a piece I wrote last year and entered into a competition that I didn’t win. (Reading it back today, I’m not very surprised.) It’s just been sitting unread on my hard drive since then, and I have no particular interest in shopping it around for publication, or spending more time editing it in the hope of improving it very much. It’s different to the usual content of the film diary, in that it’s about short experimental films and that thing which is called artist’s moving image. But maybe you, my faithful subscribers, will enjoy reading some thoughts I had on these films; or you might just like to watch some short experimental films by Lynne Sachs, which I think are great. Maybe you will read this and disagree with what I have to say about the films. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Thank you for subscribing to the film diary. If you enjoy this little essay, please feel free to share it with anyone who might enjoy it.
A Year in Notes and Numbers (2017) is a 4 minute silent digital video work by the American experimental filmmaker Lynne Sachs, which consists of close-up shots of a few words from to-do lists and notes to self, mostly written on yellow ruled paper, with names, errands and artistic intentions written in various coloured inks, circled, crossed also see the medical quantification of the body which performs these tasks. There are personal reminders: “Write Barbara H” (Barbara Hammer, presumably); there are political reminders: “Get out the vote”. It ends with the word “Mom”, then the figure “125 LBS”, then a few seconds of swirling reds, yellows and greys.
The Joy of Filming a program of films by Lynne Sachs
In the spirit of classics like the The Joy of Cooking or The Joy of Sex, Lynne Sachs will present an interactive lecture in which she will share her own process (or recipe) for making films. From the very first moment, Lynne will begin a conversation with her AIFVF audience, learning from them (us?) about their (our?) own projects, dreams and experiences. She will then spontaneously live-curate a program of her own films that could include early works such as “Drawn & Quartered” (1986) or “House of Science” (1991) or extremely recent films such as “And Then We Marched” (2017) or “A Year of Notes and Numbers” (2018). The intention of this performative presentation is to engage so deeply with the festival community that an organic, collaborative program will emerge.