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Cafe Cinema: Cinema of the Unusual Curated and Hosted by Maya and Noa Street-Sachs 2007 / MoMA P.S.1

Café Cinema: Cinema of the Unusual
Matinee Movies: Mystery, Magic, and Marigolds Curated and Hosted by Maya and Noa Street-Sachs

Café Cinema: Cinema of the Unusual makes its debut at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center with the film program Matinee Movies: Mystery, Magic, and Marigolds, curated by 12 year old and 10 year old Maya and Noa Street-Sachs, daughters of avant-garde filmmakers. Timed to coincide with Halloween, the curators have chosen a series of films from the Film-makers’ Cooperative archives that will wow, tickle, spook, and surprise a matinee audience of boys and girls who may or may not have encountered the splendor of the avant-garde cinema. The event will be held on Saturday, October 27 at 4:00 p.m.

Seven short films will be shown on 16mm film format: Gulls and Buoys (Robert Breer, 1972), a flipbook of fabulous drawings from nature; The Red Book (Janie Geiser, 1994), spectacular animated cut-outs of color and mysterious images; Little Red Riding Hood (Red Grooms, 1978), dramatic scenes of elaborate, colorful costumes; Earth Song of the Crickets (Stan Brakhage, 1999), a silent film of hand-painted abstraction with magical sparkles; Fragment of an Unidentified Horror Show (Danny Woodruff, 1993), a suspenseful masterpiece of eerie proportions; Evil of Dracula (Martha Colburn, 1998), an animated film of happy faces and long pointy teeth; Moshulu Holiday (George Kuchar, 1966), hilarious scenes of New York city life with a surprise ending!

In the true spirit of Halloween, children are encouraged to come in costume. Tricks and treats will be provided. The entire program will last approximately 48 minutes.

Café Cinema: Cinema of the Unusual is organized by M.M. Serra, Executive Director of the Film- makers’ Cooperative and produced by P.S.1 Public Programs. Following this extra special Halloween film program, the Café Cinema series will begin to explore different aspects of the New American Cinema (from 1960s onward), is inspired by a 1964 film program at the 55th Street Playhouse featuring Film- makers’ Cooperative members Ron Rice and Vernon Zimmerman. The series has adopted its name from the motto of the Playhouse – “America’s Only Cinema of the Unusual!” All of the films have been graciously provided by the Film-makers’ Cooperative.

Special thanks to GuS – Grown Up Soda, beverage sponsors of Café Cinema: Cinema of the Unusual This event is free with museum admission
Upcoming Café Cinema Events
December 1, 4 p.m. One Man Show with special guest filmmaker and video artist Jud Yalkut

Some Thoughts on my Friend Chris Marker

Chris Marker Makes a Special Guillaume cat cartoon for Maya & Noa Street-Sachs

Chris Marker Makes a Special Guillaume cat cartoon for Maya & Noa Street-Sachs

Some Thoughts on my friend Chris Marker

In San Francisco in  the mid-1980s, I saw Chris Marker’s “Sans Soleil”.  I witnessed his mode of daring, wandering filmmaking with a camera.  Alone, he traveled to Japan, Sweden and West Africa where he pondered revolution, shopping, family, and the gaze in a sweeping but intimate film essay that shook the thinking of more filmmakers than any film I know. Marker’s essay film blended an intense empathy with a global picaresque.  Simultaneously playful and engaged, the film presented me with the possibility of merging my interests in cultural theory, politics, history and poetry  — all aspects of my life I did not yet know how to bring together – into one artistic expression.  In graduate school at that time, I wrote an analysis of the film and then boldly, perhaps naively, sent it to Marker.  In a last minute note, I also asked him if he would like an assistant in his editing studio.

Several months later, his letter from Paris arrived with a slew of cat drawings along the margins.  In response to my request for a job, Marker cleverly explained that, unlike in the United States, French filmmakers could not afford assistants.  And, in response to my semiotic interpretation of his movie, he explained that his friend (and my hero) Roland Barthes would not have interpreted his film the way that I had.  Marker suggested that we continue this conversation in person, in San Francisco.  Not long afterward, I found myself driving Chris from his hotel in Berkeley, California to Cafe Trieste, one of the most famous cafes in North Beach.  There we slowly sipped our coffees in the last relic of 1960s hippy culture, talking about his films, his travels, and  my dream to be filmmaker.  As the afternoon came to a close, I politely pulled out my camera and asked him if I could take his picture.  “No, no, I never allow that.”  And then he turned and walked away, leaving me glum, embarrassed and convinced that my new friendship with Marker was now over.

Over the next two decades, Chris and I spoke on the phone periodically and I attended several of his rare public presentations. In 2007, Jon Miller, president of our mutual distributor Icarus Films, contacted me to see if I would be willing to assist Chris in the making of a new English version of his 1972 film “Viva la Baleine”, a passionate, collage-based essay film on the plight of the whales.  Of course, I was honored and immediately said yes.  For one whole year, Chris and I corresponded weekly as we re-wrote and updated the narration and I searched for a male and a female voice-over actor to read the two parts.  He renamed the new 2007 version of his film “Three Cheers for the Whale”. It is distributed  with other “bestiary” films he has made including “The Case of the Grinning Cat”.

After we had completed the film, I traveled to Paris with my daughters to talk with Chris about a wide range of things —  our collaboration, Stokely Carmichael (a Black activist in the American civil rights movement), Russian documentary, cats and tea.  Just before we left his home, he showed  me a scrapbook he’d been collecting for several years.  Chris had accumulated hundreds of pictures and articles on a young African-American politician who had just embarked on a campaign to become the next president of the United States.  Chris was convinced that this virtually unknown candidate could stand up to a historically racist United States of America and win.  I was doubtful.”  (Lynne Sachs)

More recently, he sent me this letter which I feel I can now share:


Chris Marker's Guillaume in Arles

Hi Lynne. Please don’t mention dates, it’s so depressing… Let’s say we met -some time ago. And a little earlier I had lunch with Robert Flaherty in Germany. Such are the dots along the strange line they call a life. A life that becomes more and more filled with daily tasks as time goes, which explains why I can’t consider any participation to any project, mines being already enough to keep me breathless. Tell that to your friend, with my warmest wishes.

I had recently a large exhibition in Arles, where Peter Blum, my New York galerist, acted as emcee. And guess who was there.. Show it to the girls, whom Guillaume and me fondly salute.
And here is another owl images he sent me recently.

On awaiting our child, a poem


To Mark: On awaiting our child

On a summer day,

Warmth on my skin,

Droplets of wetness dancing across my brow,

I walk from the vertebrae to the outer limbs

From Broadway to the Hudson.

Reeling from a shift in my body that neither of us can yet name.

In the crevices of a tomorrow mystery

Delight in the glow of the dark,

Feeling our way

The hold-on-for-dear-life-ness.

How do we explain the sensation of a shared thirst on a rainy day?

A twin hunger for joyous fear that lands on lips.

We spin around and around

Dizzily landing, hands grasping,

You as my anchor, my compass, my wings, together

We wait.


March 30, 2011