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.
VISIT TO BERNADETTE MAYER’S CHILDHOOD HOME / VISITA À CASA DA INFÂNCIA DE BERNADETTE MAYER
30 DE JULHO DE 1971 (por bernadette mayer)
30 de Julho Quando você é mulher, você faz um ótimo disco e uma filha, cuja filha, as portas e a placa de armadura do busto de uma mulher e os cachos, morcegos negros, desastre iminente desgraça iminente interminável iminente uma reorganização do emprego das faculdades um pombo voa pela janela o assunto emoldura, veja, apenas, tanto, quem é você? como eu vim por você? Sou a raiva minha raiva é o sentido de perfurar você eu estou colocado dentro esta peça, este é um jogada, seu homenzinho boneco cai pequena mulher boneca se aproxima, fica ferida, você se levanta de novo um milagre, nós acasalamos, como dois relógios na mesma pulseira, à prova d’água espero. Coloque-os. Acerte-os algumas horas antes do meio-dia. Algumas horas antes do meio-dia. Com tinta, sua jogada, em um certo número de horas movem-se horas. Como você mencionou antes como uma reorganização daquele que foi mencionado antes, para aquele com quem minha presença fala, eu atiro nos homens lunares de uma vez e então tenho todo esse tempo sobrando para chupar o dedo. Eu preciso arrumar um relógio e começar a precisar dele. Não há duas maneiras de fazer isso é como mijar na versão mais analítica de todas as estrelas, é como respirar, respirar a fumaça da sua própria porra de marca. Então eu fumo o seu. Seu renegado, por que não admitir e me libertar. Eu odeio as peças de xadrez. Odeio todas as correções de poder exceto o poder que tenho para te mostrar algo.
JULY 30, 1971 (by bernadette mayer)
July 30 When you are a woman you make a great record & a daughter, whose daughter, the doors & the bust armor plate of a woman and curls, black bats, impending disaster impending doom unending impending a reorganization of the employment of faculties a pigeon flies by the window the subject frames, see, just, so, much who are you? how did I come by you? I’m anger my anger is sense drills into you I am set in this piece this is a move you little man doll fall down little woman doll moves closer, is wounded, you get up again a miracle, we mate, like two watch faces on the same wrist band, waterproof i hope. Set them. Set them back a few hours to noon. Back a few hours to noon. Inked, your move, in a certain number of hours moves hours. Like you mentioned before as a reorganization of the one who was mentioned before, to the one my presence here speaks to, I shoot the moon men all at once & then I’ve got all this time left to twiddle my thumbs. I’ve got to get a watch face & start needing it. There’s no two ways about it it’s like pissing on the most analytical version of all the stars, it’s like breathing, breathe the smoke of your own fucking brand. So I smoke yours. You renegade, why not admit it & set me free. I hate chess sets. I hate all power fixes except the power I have to show you something.
—translated by sean negus
LYNNE SACHS & PAOLO JAVIER
STARFISH AORTA COLOSSUS / COLOSSO DE AORTA ESTRELA DO MAR
10. (por paolo javier)
Não é mais hoje, mas eu admito ontem eu nunca pensei
Novamente lágrimas chamam à porta começam a cair na tábua dos vinte
Langor interno verde maravilha a emergência do poema
Vento estouro chegada é você
Apareça ante o espaço vazio
Nomeia Português a minha divindade praia vazia
Nessa praia vazia nos sentamos perto por nos aquecer
Viva krakooom praia vazia filhotes de foca brincam quando submerge o panda
Fundo do oecano lareira rodízio alienígena estrada horizonte largo
Ele vem chamando feito sinal de pá sobre a tundra iluminada
Eu sei ele talvez saiba movimentos de caneta intenção chicote sob aorta de estrela-do-mar
Furacão crescendo ou bagre cidade Português sublime
Nomeie Português a ressaca além qua divindade
Terror lamente volta pergunte por que o horizonte aorta colosso impede
10. (by paolo javier)
Today it is no longer cry but admit yesterday I never once thought it
Again tears call to the door begin to fall on the board of twenty
Green inside languor wonder emergency the poem
Wind sprint arrival are you
Appear before blank space
Name English mine divinity empty beach
On that empty beach we sit close to keep warm
Live krakooom empty beach seal pups play while panda submerge
Ocean bottom hearth buffet alien lane wide horizon
He comes calling like a shovel sign above sunlit tundra
I can will may know pen movement sling intention under starfish aorta
Hurricane crescendo or catfish city sublimate English
Name English tide return furtherance qua divinity
Terror lament volta inquire why horizon aorta colossus impeach
—translated by rodrigo bravo
LYNNE SACHS & LAURA HARRISON
ORANGE GLOW / BRILHO LARANJA
BRILHO LARANJA (por lynne sachs)
Um rosto desmoronando azulado fragmento edifício rochedo em luz fúcsia não é espaço, mas um traço um nado uma escova indivisível do olho que esculpe a visão alguma luz é lâmpada e alguma é sol dentro da gema, cada traço tão diferente um rosto em uma moldura se torna um melancólico e também uma casa de triângulo de caixa.
Entrar no fogo. Entre a fumaça do oeste capturada no índice de qualidade do ar de um escuro 2 PM. Agora a poeira da hospitalidade hermética em seus pulmões fumaça em seus ouvidos.
Sim, eu posso ouvir o zumbido em seus ouvidos esfregado por esta imagem que você fez, não realmente São Francisco agora, mas é para mim, torna-se aquele lugar. Me manda lá. Sinta o calor. Nada vem através do nevoeiro, mas o calor, a crepitação da mato queimando sob os pés, o calor, a preocupação, e através de tudo isso uma linha se desenha cuspindo em movimento no líquido.
ORANGE GLOW (by lynne sachs)
A face crumbling blueness fragment building crag in fuchsia light is not space but a stroke a swim a brush indivisible from the eye that carves sight some light is bulb and some is sun inside the gem each stroke so different a face in a frame becomes a wistful and also a box triangle home.
Enter fire. Enter smoke from the West caught in the air quality index of a dark 2 PM now hermetic hospitality dust in your lungs smoke in your ears.
Yes, I can hear the ringing in your ears rubbed by this image you made, not really San Francisco now but is for me, becomes that place. Sends me there. Feel the heat. Nothing comes through the fog but the heat, the crackling of the burning brush underfoot, the heat, the worry, and through it all a line drawing itself spitting in motion in liquid.
—translated by sean negus
Lynne Sachs is a filmmaker and poet who grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and is currently living in Brooklyn, New York. Her moving image work ranges from short experimental films, to essay films to hybrid live performances. Lynne discovered her love of filmmaking while living in San Francisco where she worked closely with artists Craig Baldwin, Bruce Conner, Ernie Gehr, Barbara Hammer, Gunvor Nelson, and Trinh T. Min-ha. Between 1994 and 2006, she produced 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 subjective perceptions. Looking at the world from a feminist lens, she expresses intimacy by the way she uses her camera. Objects, places, reflections, faces, hands, all come so close to us in her 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 her work with every new project. With the making of “Every Fold Matters” (2015), and “The Washing Society” (2018), Lynne expanded her practice to include live performance. As of 2020, Lynne has made 37 films. The Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema, Festival International Nuevo Cine in Havana, China Women’s Film Festival and Sheffield Doc/ Fest have all presented retrospectives of her work. Tender Buttons Press published Lynne’s first book Year by Year Poems in 2019.
Bernadette Mayer is an avant-garde writer associated with the New York School of poets. The author of over 27 collections, including most recently Works and Days (2016), Eating The Colors Of A Lineup Of Words: The Early Books of Bernadette Mayer (2015) and The Helens of Troy (2013), she has received grants from The Guggenheim Foundation, Creative Capital, National Endowment for the Arts and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. From 1980-1984, she served as the director of the St. Mark’s Poetry Project, and has also edited and founded 0 to 9 journal and United Artists books and magazines. She has taught at the New School for Social Research, Naropa University, Long Island University, the College of Saint Rose, Miami University and at University of Pennsylvania as a Kelly Writers House Fellow.
Paolo Javier was born in the Philippines and grew up in Las Piñas, Metro Manila; Katonah, Westchester; al-Ma‛adi , Cairo; and Surrey, Greater Vancouver. A featured artist in Queens International 18, he is the author/co-performer of the 2019 chapbook/cassette EP Maybe the Sweet Honey Pours (Nion Editions/Temporary Tapes), and O.B.B., a long comics poem forthcoming from Nightboat Books. Publisher’s Weekly calls his previous book, Court of the Dragon, “a linguistic time machine,” and is the inspiration for Lynne Sachs’ film Starfish Aorta Colossus.
Laura Harrison lives and works in Chicago. Her animations focus on marginalized, social outcasts with their own sub cultures. These fringe characters provide a focal point for her concerns with diaspora, trans humanism, gender and the loss of touch in an overwhelmingly visual world. Her films have shown at various festivals internationally including The New York Film Festival, Ottowa International Animation Festival, Japan Media Arts Festival, Boston International Film Festival, Florida Film Festival, GLAS, Animafest Zagreb, VOID and Melbourne International Animation Festival. Her work has garnered many prizes, most recently a Guggenheim and Best Animation at Mammoth Lakes Film Festival.
On Monday, September 28 from 7 to 9 PM EST, the renowned NYC Lower East Side literary gathering space KGB Bar will host my dear compatriot Paolo Javier and me in a two-person poetry reading and film screening. Of course, we both wish we were gathering together in the historic environment of the actual KGB Bar, but pandemic times as they are, this is not to happen. We accept the virtual world of Zoom, acknowledging the fact that in this particular cosmos, we can invite friends from around the country and world to join us. If you are in the midst of Yom Kippur that evening, please join us while you break your fast.
This will be my first poetry reading in pandemic times. I will be reading from my new (and first) collection Year by Year Poems (Tender Buttons Press) along with some recent writing fresh from our shared, daunting now. In addition to reading from my book, I will screen a couple of film-poem collaborations, including Starfish Aorta Colossus (made with Paolo Javier, 2015), Visit to Bernadette Mayer’s Childhood Home (2020), and Girl is Presence (made with poet Anne Lesley Selcer, 2020)
We are grateful to KGB poetry programmer Jason Schneiderman who invited us to do this reading more than eight months ago.
Introduction by Jason Schneiderman
So we’re a poetry series—we call ourselves Monday Night Poetry at KGB—and Lynne Sachs is a poet, so you’ll be hearing her poems—but inside of Lynne’s work is also a challenge to the boundaries that have been drawn around poetry, and if we think about poetry as something distinct from other genres (not from other media, but from other genres), that definition of poetry emerged in two significant moments for me. One is the early modern period (or the renaissance if you like) when the sonnet entered English, and words for spoken voice became poetry and words intended to be sung to a melody became song—“lyric” having a claim to both of these genres, hence our continued use of “song lyrics” and “lyric poetry.” And then second is Modernism, when during the roughly forty year period from 1890 to 1920, poetry, like some sort of giant octopus began to absorb everything written that wasn’t obviously something else, like a novel, or a cookbook, or a bomb making manual—even though it was Amiri Baraka’s poem on how to make bombs that got Dial-a-Poem shut down in the 1960s. Poetry’s genre boundaries have always struck me as useful, I like them very much, but I also see how they can constrict as well as instruct. And one of the trends I see in contemporary letters is a move away from genre specialization. Rachel Zucker on a podcast confirmed my memory that in the 00’s, it was not cool for a poet to do anything but poetry, but now poets are reaching out past our boundaries, with notable moments like Warsan Shire collaborating with Beyonce. So how lucky we are to have Lynne Sachs, who for decades has been working at the boundary between poetry and film, and who will be presenting her own work, which engages the questions of medium, genre, image, and text, giving us a powerful sense of what art may look like going forward.
Please welcome Lynne Sachs.
And here’s some info on who we are and our poems: Paolo Javier was born in the Philippines and grew up in Las Piñas, Metro Manila; Katonah, New York; Cairo, Egypt; and Vancouver, British Columbia. After working as a freelance journalist and running an experimental theater company in Canada, he returned to New York City, where he lives with his family. From 2010 to 2014, Javier was poet laureate of Queens, New York. His collections of poetry include: The Feeling Is Actual (2011); 60 lv bo(e)mbs (2005); the time at the end of this writing (2004), recipient of a Small Press Traffic Book of the Year Award; and, Court of the Dragon (2015), which Publisher’s Weekly called “a linguistic time machine.”
When Lynne Sachs turned fifty, she dedicated herself to writing a poem for every year of her life, so far. Each of the fifty poems investigates the relationship between a singular event in Sachs’ life and the swirl of events beyond her domestic universe. Published by Tender Buttons Press, Year by Year Poems juxtaposes Sachs’ finished poems, which move from her birth in 1961 to her half-century marker in 2011, with her original handwritten first drafts. Paolo Javier wrote the introduction, and artist Abby Goldstein did the design. On Sept. 28 at KGB, Lynne will read poems from her book as well as new texts written very recently.
“Lynne Sachs wrote one of 2019’s best books of poetry. The graceful, diaristic poems … successfully distill events and themes in the poet’s life and simultaneously, magically, reflect larger movements of history and culture. Intimate and imagistic, the poems unfold a series of miniature stories with sensuous rhythms, telling visual detail, and gentle humor. This beautifully designed book includes facsimiles of many of the poetry’s initial drafts, which subtly illumine this artist’s creative process.” – 2019 Staff Pick, San Francisco Public Library “These poems are innovative. They invite us in, encouraging us to play along. They give us a structure to enter into our own retrospective lives, our own distillations of time, our own superimpositions of the newsworthy world onto our most intimate moments.” – Sharon Harrigan, Cleaver: Philadelphia’s International Literary Magazine
Please join us for STILL/MOVING, a two-part, immersive (and virtual, of course!) poetry and documentary workshop, hosted by renowned artists and longtime collaborators, Lynne Sachs and Paolo Javier!
In this workshop, participants will explore and expand intersections between still/moving images and written/spoken words. Lynne and Paolo will share insights and experiences they have in bridging poetry and cinema in their own work and show examples from their personal collaborations, including Starfish Aorta Colossus (2015, 5 min.). In this film, a stanza from Paolo’s poem of the same name (out of his book Court of the Dragon from the same year) activates nearly 25 years worth of rediscovered 8mm film from Lynne’s personal archives. The film centers both the resonances and ruptures between Paolo’s haunting words and Lynne’s cinematic journeys.
On Day 1, participants will gain insights into this process with examples of filmmakers and poets whose practices explore and encompass both images and texts. Discussion will include (but certainly not be limited to!): the activation of archival images, visualization of poetic texts, overlaying text on the moving image, live poetry and expanded cinema performance (facilitators will touch on the traditional Japanese benshi performers who live-narrated silent films and Walter Lew’s art of movietelling), poetic approaches to observational documentary, the “cine-essay,” and more.
On Day 2, participants will have the opportunity to work individually or in pairs to produce a short video piece that combines text with footage of their current environment. The session will culminate with a live Zoom screening/performance of work produced in the workshop, and participants will have the option to later showcase work at the Maysles Documentary Center Virtual Cinema.
Tuesday, May 26, between the two workshop sessions, participants will write a short poem and shoot a 60 to 90 second film on their own. We encourage you to send us your video file and your poem by 5 pm on this day. Participants will regroup on Wednesday, May 27th to workshop and share their creations.
So please join us in this multimedia investigation of the sounds, texts, media images, home movies, and sensory experiences that make up this moment of both heightened stillness and rapid motion, of test and of triumph.
Day 1: Monday, May 25th 4:00–7:00PM Day 2: Wednesday, May 27th 4:00–7:00PM
Lynne Sachs is a filmmaker and poet whose moving image work ranges from short experimental films, to essay films to hybrid live performances. Her approach to her art includes a very genuine, feminist voice. Lynne’s work can best be epitomized by her interests in intimacy, collaboration and space. Her films often include her poetry, making the audience aware of her unique, and probing curiosity about others. Intimacy is also expressed by the way she uses a camera. Textures, objects, places, reflections, faces, hands, all come so close to us in her films. Her work looks for truths in forgotten nooks and crannies, allowing her films to ‘talk nearby instead of talk about’ as feminist theorist Trinh T. Minh Ha would say. Lynne has made 35 films which have screened at the New York Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney. Lynne received a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship in the Creative Arts. Tender Buttons Press published her first book YEAR BY YEAR POEMS in 2019. FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO (2020) is her newest film which hads its world premiere as the opening night movie at Slamdance Film Festival followed by a New York City premiere at the Museum of Modern Art. Lynne lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Paolo Javier was born in the Philippines and grew up in Las Piñas, Metro Manila; Katonah, New York; Cairo, Egypt; and Vancouver, British Columbia. He earned his BFA from the University of British Columbia, working as a freelance journalist and running an experimental theater company before returning to New York City, where he still lives with his family. He earned an MFA and MAT from Bard College. Javier’s collections of poetry include The Feeling Is Actual (2011); 60 lv bo(e)mbs (2005); the time at the end of this writing (2004), recipient of a Small Press Traffic Book of the Year Award; and Court of the Dragon (2015), which Publisher’s Weekly called “a linguistic time machine.” He is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Queens Council on the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts. For more than ten years, he edited and published the experimental art and poetry journal 2nd Avenue Poetry. Paolo is the Program Director of Poets House and, from 2010 to 2014, was poet laureate of Queens, New York.
Likely the most accomplished experimental filmmaker to come from Tennessee, Memphis-native Lynne Sachs’ 30-year career has produced some of the most mesmerizing, contemplative observations on culture and communication ever committed to celluloid (and sometimes digital video.) Her work effortlessly infuses personal experiences into broader political/historical contexts, deploying a cinematic style that is uniquely her own while still evoking her collaborations and relationships with a veritable who’s who of avant garde cinema, including Bruce Conner, Chris Marker, Gunvor Nelson, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and George Kuchar. Currently based in New York, September 17th marks Sachs’ return to Tennessee for a sweeping retrospective of her films at the 28th installment of The Light & Sound Machine, sponsored by The Belcourt Theatre and Third Man Records.
STILL LIFE WITH WOMAN AND FOUR OBJECTS (4 min. B&W 16mm film, 1986)
A film portrait that falls somewhere between a painting and a prose poem, a look at a woman’s daily routines and thoughts via an exploration of her as a “character”. By interweaving threads of history and fiction, the film is also a tribute to a real woman – Emma Goldman.
FOLLOWING THE OBJECT TO ITS LOGICAL BEGINNING (9 min. color 16mm. 1987)
Like an animal in one of Eadweard Muybridge’s scientific photo experiments, five undramatic moments in a man’s life are observed by a woman. A study in visual obsession and a twist on the notion of the “gaze”. Presented at the Whitney Museum of American Art’s “American Century”, 2000.
DRAWN AND QUARTERED (4 min. color 16mm film, silent, 1986)
Optically printed images of a man and a woman fragmented by a film frame that is divided into four distinct sections. An experiment in form/content relationships that are peculiar to the medium.
INVESTIGATION OF A FLAME (16mm, 45 min. film. 2001)
An intimate, experimental portrait of the Catonsville Nine, a disparate band of Vietnam War peace activists who chose to break the law in a defiant, poetic act of civil disobedience. Produced with Daniel and Philip Berrigan and other members of the Catonsville 9.
PHOTOGRAPH OF WIND (4 min. 16mm film, 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. “Sachs suspends in time a single moment of her daughter.” Fred Camper, Chicago Reader. San Francisco Film Festival
NOA, NOA (8 min. b & w 16mm to digital transfer, 2006)
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”.
EVERY FOLD MATTERS (10 min. excerpt from live performance and film, co-written and directed by Lizzie Olesker, 2015)
A live performance which explores the personal and social experience of doing laundry. Four performers weave together improvisation, written text, and dance in the inspiring environs of a public laundromat.
STARFISH AORTA COLOSSUS (4 min., 8mm to digital transfer, 2015)
NYC poet Paolo Javier invited Lynne to create a film that would speak to one of his poems from his newly published book Court of the Dragon (Nightboat Books). Sachs chose Stanza 10 from Javier’s poem “Starfish Aorta Colossus”. This film travels through 25 years of Lynne’s Regular 8 mm film archive — including footage of the A.I.D.S. Quilt from the late 1980s, an arduous drive from Tampa to San Francisco, and a journey into a very untouristic part of Puerto Rico. Throughout the process, Sachs explores the syntactical ruptures, the celebration of nouns and the haunting resonances of Javier’s poem. Created in collaboration with Sean Hanley.
See Review of this show here in the Nashville Scene:
The Light and Sound Machine is at it again, bringing Nashvillians some of the most interesting experimental cinema, current and historical, screening anywhere in the Southeast. On Thursday, Sept. 17, L&SM welcomes veteran filmmaker Lynne Sachs for a program of works spanning her 30-year career, beginning with her first released film and ending with her latest.
Sachs is probably best known as an experimental documentarian, and the centerpiece of this program is one of her most widely screened films, the 45-minute featurette Investigation of a Flame. This 2003 work examines the legacy of the Catonville Nine, the anti-war protesters who in 1968 walked into the local offices of the Catonville, Md., Selective Service, stole their Vietnam draft files, and lit them on fire using homemade napalm. The group, led by radical priests Philip and Daniel Berrigan, became symbols of a different kind of war resistance, and Sachs’ film interviews those members of the Nine still living, intercutting the new material with file footage for a multi-perspectival approach.
Sachs’ earliest works are more “traditional,” if by this we mean operating in the recognizable vernacular of American avant-garde film. So for most viewers, they will seem quite unusual indeed. For example, “Still Life With Woman and Four Objects” (1986), Sachs’ first film, adopts a feminist approach common during the 1980s: Instead of offering a portrait of a woman per se, we are given mere fragments, and the promised objects of the title are either withheld or depicted in such an oblique manner as to make it likely that we will miss them. The upshot being: Any filmic subject, such as “woman,” is inherently too complex to adequately depict with straightforward means.
Similarly, Sachs’ four-image “Drawn and Quartered” (also 1986), is partly a self-portrait, partly a portrait of a man (presumably Sachs’ partner Mark Street), and partly a study of a shifting environment. The split image results from Sachs having shot in 8mm, but not having split the film in half (as was customary with regular 8, before Super 8 cartridges). So one gets a doubled, inverted image. The two double images play off one another in terms of form, direction and color. Their relationship is partly planned, but not entirely within Sachs’ control.
Two of Sachs’ films from the past decade focus on the filmmaker’s children, capturing moments of innocence and discovery. 2001’s “Photograph of Wind” is a brief portrait of Sachs’ daughter Maya as she runs and whirls in a circle. The silent black-and-white film shows the little girl surrounded by the centripetal streaks of spinning grass and trees, the runner and the camera going in and out of phase with one another. “Noa, Noa,” from 2006, depicts the young girl of the title playing dress-up in the woods, acting like a queen of the forest and exhibiting an enviable sense of self. Black-and-white and silent, like “Photograph of Wind,” “Noa, Noa” ends with a surprising coda in color with sound. It’s as if Noa’s world suddenly bursts into a new dimension of life.
Sachs’ latest, “Starfish Aorta Colossus” (made with Sean Hanley), is based on a poem by Paolo Javier. An eerie, fractured meditation on loss, the poem is visualized with another foray into multiplied imagery. Although formally “Starfish” echoes “Drawn and Quartered,” the new film features striking footage of the AIDS quilt, as well as partial, disrupted portions of bodies and landscapes. The structural play that enlivened Sachs’ film from 30 years ago is now mournful, staggered. This speaks not only to Sachs’ inevitable maturity as an artist, but no doubt to her assessment of the three decades we have collectively traversed to arrive where we are now.
Yes/No: The Cinema of Lynne Sachs
Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015 at Third Man Records, 623 Seventh Ave. S.
Third Man Records to feature experimental filmmaker Lynne Sachs by Joe Nolan
Knoxville-born Quentin Tarantino is argu- ably Tennessee’s most important contribution to popular film, but there’s another filmmaker whose personal, sometimes mesmerizing, body of work has made her the Volunteer State’s most visible ambassador to the world of ex- perimental film. Lynne Sachs is currently a New Yorker, but the Memphis-born director will be in Nashville for The Light and Sound Machine’s presentation of Yes/No: The Cinema of Lynne Sachs on Thursday, Sept. 17, aTt 8 p.m. in the Blue Room at Third Man Records. Sachs will be presenting a selection of films from her 30-year career followed by a Q&A event.
Sachs divides many of her movies into two categories: “Yes” films and “No” films. In film- maker and critic Kevin B. Lee’s short video essay, Yes and No Films, he interviews Sachs about the distinctions between the two:
“I have a group of films I’ve made called my Yes films and I have a group of films called my No films. The Yes films are films where absolutely anything goes… Then I have the No films—but, No is not bad. The No films have a really clear idea, and I’m like quite focused.”
Still Life with Woman and Four Objects (1986) is one of the Yes films Sachs will show on Thursday. It pictures a woman putting on a black-and-white-checkered houndstooth coat. She then takes an avocado from a pantry and peels it before balancing the pit on the top of a glass of water. She sits at a table eating a meal—a man stops briefly at the table. The last scene pictures the woman putting on the coat again, inter-cut with shots of her sitting on the bed, seeming to comment about the author of a letter.
That might sound like a rather random ar- rangement of events, and it is, and that’s part of the beauty of Sach’s “anything goes” Yes films.
But it’s not the content that makes Still Life notable, it’s the context Sachs creates around it that lashes these rituals and actions into a more dynamic whole: During the first coat shots, a voice-over sounds like it’s reading from a script, describing “scene one” and then “scene two,” while the coat shots repeat themselves— the lack of repetition in the ongoing voice-over tells the viewer that the shot has been cut that way on purpose. This makes the viewer aware of the script and the editing as well as the woman and her coat. The film was made in the late 1980s but it speaks directly to the French New Wave films of the 1960s with their mischievous love of techniques that pointed cinema back at itself, not allowing audiences to get lost in the illusion of a seamless narrative. The use of mismatched scenes and voice-overs seems specifically out of Jean-Luc Godard’s cinema and it’s no surprise that Sachs credits his Vivre Sa Vie as an influence here.
The poetic intimacies of nude images and naked interactions are the subject of the silent study of male and female forms, Drawn and Quartered (1986). I love the punning title here—the camera crawls around the “out- line” of necks and shoulders, along fingers and feet from the point of view of an artist’s hand drawing the figures. Sachs also divides her screen up into four quarters, nodding to male/female duality while also disorienting the viewer and turning the experience into a sensual confusion of androgynous play. Drawn is a No film that Sachs directed with strict limits she illuminates at the Fandor.com streaming film site:
“I shot a film on a roof with my boyfriend. Every frame was choreographed. Both of us took off our clothing and let the Bolex whirl and that was it. Pure and simple.”
Thursday’s screenings will also include Following the Object to Its Logical Beginning (1987), which is a companion piece to Still Life; Investigation of a Flame (2001), an experimental portrait of Vietnam War peace activists; Photograph of Wind (2001), Sachs’s meditation on passing time and her growing daughter, Maya; Noa, Noa (2006), Sach’s exploration of childhood play with her daughter, Noa. Sachs will also show selected scenes from Every Fold Matters (2015) and screen her newest work, Starfish Aorta Collosus (2015).