Winter/Spring 2003

All films shown in 16mm unless otherwise noted.


February 4 + 5

Benefit show to help Four Wall Cinema Collective Kick-off the Winter/Spring 2003 Series

"Although Fini Straubinger has been deaf and blind throughout most of her 56 years, she decides to help others in the same situation. Werner Herzog’s documentary shows her confront the world around her: a flight in a small sports plane becomes a new physical experience; there are visits to the zoo and botanical gardens in Munich. Fini meets other blind and deaf people—"cases" more serious than her own. The individual episodes are separated by inserted texts written by Fini or Werner Herzog. These partly poetic texts also make the director’s intention clear: He tries to unravel or sense the personalities and tries to find images with which to portray the state of being unable to see or hear."

— Goethe Institute

(1971, color/sound [English subtitles], 81 min.)

Farewell Em Gee Film Library: Films from the Murray Glass Collection

February 18

With over 40 years in business The Murray Glass film collection has accumulated roughly 6,000 film titles. When asked by Nocturne editor Barbara Peterson How did Murray get into the business, he responded:

"I have been in the business of film rentals for approximately 40 years. It started as a hobby, collecting 16mm films. After I got out of the army, after W.W. II, I went back to my alma mater, C.C.N.Y, for some refresher courses in my major, chemistry.

My first rentals were actually accidental, in that I was taking a course at C.C.N.Y. on Motion Picture History. The instructor was none other than Hans Richter, the famous avant-garde film-maker (GHOSTS BEFORE BREAKFAST. RHYTHMUS 21, DREAMS THAT MONEY CAN BUY, etc.)

When we came to discussing Charlie Chaplin, I mentioned that I had a few of his films at home, and Richter told me to bring them into class, which I did. A few weeks later, I got a check in the first film rentals.

While taking Richter’s course, which was followed the next semester by a course on Documentary Film (also taught by Richter), I began going to the Museum of Modern Art on a regular basis, and I was hooked, I became a real film buff.

When I came to Los Angeles, I was working as a chemist, but I began collecting seriously, and in order to be able to afford purchases, I began renting in a small way, while buying films, which eventually grew to a collection now totaling some 6000 titles in all genres.

After a while, I discovered that I was making more from film rentals and sales as a sideline than I was from working as a chemist, and enjoying it I went into it full time."

IN THE STREET by James Agee, Helen Levitt, and Janice Loeb
(1948, 16mm black & white/silent, 16 min.)
Images of the life in the street in the Spanish Harlem (New York) during the Forties.

MANHATTA aka [New York, the Magnificent] and [The Smoke of New York]
by Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler
(1921, 16mm black & white/silent, 7 min.)
Sheeler (1883-1965) and Strand (1890-1976) had met in 1917, drawn by an interest in abstraction and photography, and a fascination for cityscape architecture. Sheeler had made at least two earlier films in the 1910s, and unlike Strand, painter Sheeler would continue to draw inspiration from the project in future years. Sheeler and Strand abandoned the vision of the city familiar to the man on the street for a reorientation of perspective that used composition and contradiction to create a new urban imagery based on angles, intersecting spaces in forms, shifting scale and human placement and abstractions of surface and volume - while avoiding trick photography. The combination of city and country, man and nature attempted to express New York City through its power and beauty, movement and excitement. The film’s concerns predate the better-known and similar endeavors of Ruttman and Vertov, although the shots tend to be more static. Manhatta was first released under the titles NEw York The Magnificent and Mannahatta, and was hailed in Paris.

—Brian Taves

(1931, 16mm black & white/silent, 11 min.)
"Jay Leyda (1910-1988) relied on photography jobs for Vanity Fair and Arts Weekly to finance his films, and had come to New York from Ohio only a year earlier to work with Ralph Steiner. The film was a lyrical look at a Bronx neighborhood before it becomes crowded with people and traffic, with hand-made signs and intertitles to convey the changes happening in the area. A Bronx Morning intended to reflect the influence of European city symphonies, but like its other American counterparts reworked and reformulated the ideas, partly because many of the American filmmakers were amateurs, with their efforts emerging out of very different artistic movements and modes of production. Unsuccessful in its time, Leyda subsequently disparaged his film as formal and lacking social engagement."

—Brian Taves

(1959, 16mm color/silent, 12 min.)
"... Brakhage’s treatment of the birth of his daughter. Here he unleashes the full power of his technique, so apt to become abstractly unintelligible when left to his own devices, on a specific subject. The result is a picture so forthright, so full of primitive wonder and love, so far beyond civilization in its acceptance that it becomes an experience like few in the history of the movies."

—Arthur Winsten, The New York Post

AU PAYS DES MAGES NOIR / With the country of the black magi by Jean Rouch
(1947, 16mm black & white/sound, 13 min.)
A successful native hippo hunt in Sorka, Niger is followed by a dancing orgy, in which several natives are carried away by trances during which they lose control of their actions. Not recommended for children.

—Em Gee Film Library catalogue

(b. 1917) Jean Rouch’s prolific film career began in French West Africa, where he worked as a civil engineer during World War II, supervising road and bridge construction. Previously, in Paris, he had attended the lectures of Marcel Mauss and Marcel Griaule. In 1946, traveling down the Niger River, Rouch shot his first film with a 16mm Bell and Howell camera, developing an original style after the tripod fell in the water. Later, he enlisted the help of Damoure, a Sorka friend, to film a hippopotamus hunt, and thus began a productive collaboration that has lasted almost four decades. Damoure took sound for Les Maitres Fous, was a central character in Jaguar, and worked with Rouch on many other films, as did several of Rouch’s long-standing African friends and co-workers.

TOTAL program running time: 59 min.


February 24
At the 26th Annual Portland International Film Festival
Northwest Film Center’s Guild Theatre

Tonight’s program marks what we hope to be the first in an ongoing collaboration with the Portland International Film Festival.

Shot in bedrooms, city streets and prison yards, these films use architecture and place as a backdrop for personal reflection and political comment. In THE FOURTH WATCH, Janie Geiser’s exquisitely controlled use of superimposition and exposure creates a haunting space where the glowing blue spectres from cinema’s past roam freely through the sunlit interiors of an old tin dollhouse. Shiho Kano’s ROCKING CHAIR creates a mood of solitude and anticipation with images of a domestic interior, and subtle shifts in exposure and natural light. Juxtaposing cityscape images and first-person voice over, NOTES BEFORE THE REVOLUTION creates parallel documents of the passing of his father and the historic changes in Hong Kong from 1996—1998. Produced in collaboration with the Balasz Bela Studios in Hungary, SWITCH CENTER by Ericka Beckman is a tribute to the Soviet architecture of the future; a document of the factory, in which she recreates the work of the past. Closing the program will be Harun Farocki’s video, I THOUGHT I WAS SEEING CONVICTS, compiled from surveillance footage shot at a prison in Corcoran, California.

The Fourth Watch by Janie Geiser
(US, 2000, color/sound, 9 min.)

Rocking Chair by Shiho Kano
(Japan, 2000, color/sound, 16 min.)

Notes Before the Revolution by Ip Yuk-Yiu
(Hong Kong, 1998, color/sound, 16 min.)

Switch Center by Ericka Beckman
(US/Hungary, 2002, color/sound, 10 min.)

I Thought I Was Seeing Convicts by Harun Farocki
(Germany, 2000, Beta video color/sound, 27 min.)


March 11 + 12

This program is underwritten in part by Randy Rapaport

Warren Sonbert (1947-1995) was an internationally recognized figure of the American Independent Cinema. Although he was primarily known for personal or diary filmmaking, Sonbert eschewed these categorizations. Always travelling and documenting, he developed an impressionistic style all his own. Through the work of The Estate Project for Artists with AIDS and Jon Gartenberg, all of Sonbert’s works, both completed and not, have been restored and archived.

March 11

The Cup and The Lip
(1986, color/sound, 20min.)
"THE CUP AND THE LIP is a regretful and perhaps sardonic essay on human frailty—and on the effort to stave off chaos by means of political and religious institutions, which carry their own dangers of social control and mental manipulation."

— David Sterritt

(1966, B&W/sound, 10min.)

Friendly Witness
(1989, color/sound, 22 min.)
"In FRIENDLY WITNESS, Sonbert returned, after 20 years, to sound... he deftly edits a swirling montage of images—suggestive of loves gained and love lost—to the tunes of four rock songs."

— Fred Camper

March 12

Carriage Trade
(1971, color/silent, 61 min.)
In CARRIAGE TRADE, Sonbert weaves together footage shot in Europe, Africa and Asia, with footage taken from his earlier films. A break away from his portraiture and diary based works, CARRIAGE TRADE is a meticulously crafted filmic postcard about travel, time, place and anthropological investigation.

Whiplash [completed by Jeff Scher]
(1995—97, color/sound, 20 min.)
"WHIPLASH is a compelling, multilayered portrayal of the filmmaker’s struggle to maintain equilibrium in his physical self, his perceptual reality, and the world of friends and family around him."

— Jon Gartenber

SANS SOLEIL by Chris Marker

March 25 + 26

"A leader of the Left Bank Group of French filmmakers in the Fifties and Sixties with Far from Siberia (1957) and Cuba Si! (1961), Chris Marker has been described as "the cinema’s first essayist", for works that are uniquely personal expressions of thought and concern. Japan, revolution, Hitchcock: all are treated in a montage that forms a complex system of references. Like Marker’s 1962 La Jetée, Sans Soleil deals with memory and time, deconstructing and reconstructing both in a lyrical cine-poem. [M]ost of The images are of modern-day Japan, and the African states of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau, where the Portuguese revolution germinated. The storyless story is of a free-lance cameraman who makes "memory protocols" of "the extreme poles of existence." A Japanese video-artist distorts these photographic recollections in a synthesizer. A filmmaker collates the material, creating out of it a musical composition of counterpoints, fugues and recurrent themes."

— Pacific Film Archive

Sans Soleil
(1982, color/sound, 100 min.)


April 5

Artist in attendence

This program is sponsored by Randy Rapaport & Duane Sorenson

"During the 1950s [Yvonne] Rainer trained with Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham, co-founding the Judson Dance Workshop in New York with Steve Paxton in 1962 and becoming an influential figure in U.S. modern Dance in the sixties and early seventies. In 1968 she began to integrate slides and short films into live performances, and her first feature film, Lives of Performers (1972), evolved directly from her performance work."

—Pam Cook

“Rainer has been increasingly at odds with the purism of the American avant garde, with its emphasis on the materiality of film at the expense of psychology, emotion, and politics. While sharing an antipathy to narrative born of a distrust of Hollywood’s grip on the audience’s hearts and minds, Rainer’s interest in human (and specifically power) relationships requires a degree of characterization, and this has prevented her from simply abandoning or rejecting narrative form. At the same time, her political roots in sixties collectivism and seventies feminism have fed an anarchic impulse to deconstruct classical Hollywood cinema in order to defuse its authority."

—B Ruby Rich

In After Many A Summer Dies The Swan: Hybrid (2002), Yvonne Rainer uses a series of literary excerpts concerned with the decline of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Vienna, and sets them against a dance commisioned from her by the Baryshnikov Dance Foundation in 2000. These elements are juxtaposed in order to highlight the current state of the avant-garde - a period of art-making with all its complex relations to a prolonged historical crisis.

—Rotterdam Film Festival

After Many A Summer Dies The Swan: Hybrid
(VHS, 31 min, 2002)

(16mm b/w silent, 10 min, 1969)

This program is presented in conjunction with the WORKS [1966-2003] project and Linda K. Johnson


April 8 + 9

"Curator, writer, and filmmaker Jonas Mekas is the godfather of American avant-garde filmmaking, or the New American Cinema, as he dubbed it in the late 1950’s. The founder of Anthology Film Archives, the Filmmakers’ Cooperative, and Film Culture magazine, Mekas helped shape the public image of avant-garde filmmaking in America, as well as profoundly influencing its self-identity."

— Brian Frye

"[Paradise Not Yet Lost] is a letter to Oona; to serve her, some day, as a distant reminder of how the world around her looked during the third year of her life-–a period of which there will be only tiny fragments left in her memory-–and to provide her with a romantic’s guide to the essential values of life-–in a world of artificiality, commercialism, and bodily and spiritual poison."

—Jonas Mekas

"During the summer of 1966 I spent two months in Cassis, as a guest of Jerome Hill. I visited him briefly again in 1967, with P. Adams Sitney....Later, after Jerome died, I visited his Cassis home in 1974....Those were lonely summers for me, I thought a lot about home. That’s why this film, this elegy for Jerome is dedicated ’to the wind of Lithuania.’"

—Jonas Mekas

"[The] life of George Maciunas, his parents, his friends, from 1952 to 1978, various events of fluxus: meetings, meetings of friends ( Yoko Ono, Peter Moore, John Lennon, Andy Warhol, Almus Salcius, etc.) Images of his marriage and him at the hospital in Boston, three days before his death.... Meditation on Death and Nothing."

— Jonas Mekas

April 8

Paradise Not Yet Lost (aka Oona’s Third Year)
(1979, color/sound, 96 min.)

(1966, color/sound, 4 min.)

Street Songs.
(1966/83, B&W/sound, 10 min.)

April 9

Notes For Jerome
(1978, color/sound, 45 min.)

Zefiro Torna or Scenes From the Life of George Maciunas
(1992, color/sound, 34 min.)

(1966, color/sound, 4 min.)

Street Songs
(1966/83, B&W/sound, 10 min.)


April 18 + 19

Jill Godmilow in attendance both nights

Funded in part by a grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC)

"Taking as its subject the political and formal strategies of Harun Farocki’s 1969 film Inextinguishable Fire, What Farocki Taught is literally and stubbornly a remake—that is, a perfect replica, in color and in English, of Farocki’s astute, some would say crudely made film, produced in Germany at the height of the Vietnam War. In 1969, Farocki attempted to make "visible," and thus comprehensible, the physical properties of Napalm B, and to demonstrate the impossibility of resistance to its production and use. Because Farocki’s film was not distributed in the U.S. at the time of its making, What Farocki Taught was conceived as a gesture of film distribution, taking this small footnote to war—a barnacle stuck on the side of the mothballed vessel of Vietnam—flicking it forward past the recent, more sophisticated, and successful technologies of Panama and the Persian Gulf, to see if the "ping" of recognition and the radical potential of the documentary film project can be revived. Farocki’s film is radical in technique, taking up one of the hottest of political questions—the production of terror—and cooling it down to frank, rational substance through the strategy of underrepresentation, refusing the pornography of documentary "evidence" and replacing it with Brechtian reconstruction and demonstration."

— Jill Godmilow

What Farocki Taught by Jill Godmilow
(1998, color/sound, 30 min.)

Inextinguishable Fire by Harun Farocki
(1969, B&W/sound [English subtitles], 25 min)

LA COMMUNE by Peter Watkins

May 18
Whitsell Auditorium

Co-presented with Northwest Film Center

“Any new work by Peter Watkins is automatically an event, but nothing can compare with his vast, audacious, and exhilarating film about the revolutionary euphoria and civil war that engulfed Paris after the monarchy of Napoleon III collapsed. In 1871, in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War, common Parisians rose up against the National Assembly and forced it to flee to Versailles. The Paris Commune established itself as a populist government, its members devoted to various ideologies and leaders, but all committed to the insurgent regieme. Before their proposals for social reform could be effected, the communards were attacked by troops sent by the exiled assembly to suppress their revolt. The bloody struggle that lasted for more than a month, and the massacre that ended the utopian experiment, left a supurating wound on the body politic of France that still has not healed. (The revolts of May ’68 looked back to the Commune as an inspiration.) Shot in beautifully spare [16mm] black and white, and acted by a cast of fiercely committed non-professionals LA COMMUNE is at once a celebration and lament, history lesson and media critique.”

— Portland Alliance, May 2003

Special thanks to Peter Watkins, Ken Nolley, Pietro Ferrua and the Northwest Film Center for making this program possible.

View more programs in the Exhibition Program Archive