Fall 2002

All films shown in 16mm unless otherwise noted.


September 24 + 25

“A leading figure in the American avant-garde cinema of the 1950s and 1960s, and a pioneer of video in the 1970s, Shirley Clarke brought a distinctive aesthetic—the ‘choreography of images’—to her work.” — (Electronic Arts Intermix)

Shirley Clarke was born in New York in 1925. Starting out as a dancer, her first films were dance films, such as Dance in the Sun (1953), and In Paris Parks (1954), a lyrical look at gesture and movement in a public landscape. In 1959, she made one of the best and most widely viewed examples of abstract expressionist cinema, Bridges-Go-Round.

Her films of the early 1960s—The Connection (1962) and The Cool World (1963)—are landmarks of the American New Wave movement. Utilizing a New York version of Italian neo-realism, Clarke’s work remains the best expression of marginal life in that era. Portrait of Jason (1967) was one of the first films to look at a gay protagonist in an open and sympathetic (and completely unromantic) manner.

In the early 1970s Clarke pioneered live and taped video performance, installation, and documentation with a collaborative group of artists and technicians called the Videospace Troupe. Her cutting-edge work in this field was an important source of inspiration and experimentation for much of the video art and experimental television work that followed in the United States. In 1975 she was appointed professor of film at the University of California, Los Angeles; her subsequent film and video work included 24 Frames per Second (1977), Mysterium (1979), Tongues (1983), and Ornette, Made in America (1986).

The jazzlike structure of Ornette: Made In America—combining old and new footage, intercut dramatic sequences, and electronically processed video interludes—is as complex and exciting as Ornette Coleman himself. Clarke and Coleman worked together exploring his ideas about music, artistic creation, and life. The film follows Ornette through different stages of his career, with footage dating from 1968–83, documenting jazz performances in Morocco, Nigeria, Berkeley, and Fort Worth. This rich and poetic portrait includes commentary from the likes of William S. Burroughs and Buckminster Fuller. Shirley Clarke died September 23, 1997.

(1985; color/sound, 80 min.)


October 1 + 2

Film, like any photographic or recording medium, captures what has once been present. This entails an inherent reference to mortality: subjects alive on screen may no longer be living, and the finite limit of their lives is always present, presented. Filmmakers have often used this paradoxical relationship to the past to investigate and commemorate the lives that they represent. In Memoriam brings together the works of five artists who explore the elegiac form from a number of perspectives, ranging from expressive and poetic to diaristic and observational.

Ip Yuk-Yiu’s Notes Before the Revolution creates parallel documents of the filmmaker’s father and the tumultuous political changes in Hong Kong from 1996 through 1998; Gunvor Nelson’s Time Being is a short, impressionistic portrait of Nelson’s mother and their relationship; Mark LaPore’s The Five Bad Elements is a “filmic Pandora’s Box full of my version of ‘trouble’ (death, loss, cultural imperialism) as well as the trouble with representation as incomplete understanding”; Emily Died is culled from Anne Robertson’s ongoing film diary, and deals with the impact of the death of Robertson’s three-year-old niece; in Figure/Ground (The Snowman), Phil Solomon pushes the photochemical process to its limit to create a swirling landscape of color and memory.

Time Being by Gunvor Nelson
(1991; black & white/silent, 8 min.)

The Five Bad Elements by Mark LaPore
(1997; black & white/sound, 27 min.)

Emily Died (Reel 80 of Five Year Diary) by Anne Robertson
(1998; color/sound, 26 min.)

Figure/Ground (The Snowman) by Phil Solomon
(1995; color/sound, 8 min.)


October 16 + 17

Filmmaker in attendance both nights

“Hutton’s approach to filmmaking seems a very long way from Hollywood moviemaking—not only in his choice of imagery and his meditative pacing, but in his commitment to black and white and silence (few film’s feel as silent as Hutton’s)—and even from much of critical cinema. But Hutton is part of a distinguished and generally undervalued tradition of filmmakers who use the motion picture camera to record the familar world in such a way as to reveal its sensual beauty and to appeal to the viewer’s desire for visual subtlety, a tradition that in the United States includes such filmmakers as Ralph Steiner, Rudy Burkhardt, Nathaniel Dorsky, Larry Gottheim, and Andrew Noren. And his work seems to have had a positive impact on at least one commercially successful filmmaker, documentarian Ken Burns: ‘He [Hutton] has been a powerful influence on me and dozens of others.’ ”

— Scott MacDonald, A Critical Cinema 3: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers

“For the most part people don’t allow themselves the time or the circumstances to get into a relationship with the world that provides freedom to actually look at things. There’s always an overriding design or mission behind their negotiation with life. I think if you have the occasion to step away from agendas, whether it’s through circumstance or out of some kind of emotional necessity, then you’re often struck by the incredible epiphanies of nature. These are often subtle things, right at the edge of most people’s sensibilities. My films try to record and to offer some of these experiences.”

— Peter Hutton

October 16

New York Near Sleep For Saskia
(1972; 10 min.)

Images of Asian Music (A Diary From Life 1973-1974)
(1973–74; 29 min.)

New York Portrait I
(1978–79; 16 min.)

New York Portrait II
(1980–81; 16 min.)

Boston Fire
(1979; 8 min.)

October 17

Landscape (for Manon)
(1986–87; 18 min.)

New York Portrait III
(1990; 15 min.)

Lodz Symphony
(1991–93; 20 min.)

In Titan’s Goblet
(1991; 10 min.)

Study Of A River
(1996–97; 16 min.)

Looking at the Sea
(2001; 15 min.)

*All films black & white/silent

FUNNY HA HA by Andrew Bujalski

October 20

Filmmaker in attendance

Program presented in collaboration with Chris Chase and the Olympia Film Festival.

"What a breath of fresh air. I absolutely loved Andrew Bujalski’s Funny Ha Ha. It’s funny ha ha, but also funny peculiar, and funny like the tickle that makes you wince and brings a tear to your eye. The loose weave of experience–the shaggy, baggy randomness of young adult life and love--has never been captured more truly and convincingly on film. Never. Compared with Bujalski’s characters, the ones in most other movies look and act like robots on autopilot. Funny Ha Ha brilliantly and touchingly communicates the awkwardness, the hesitation, the doubts and uncertainties of our souls as we muddle our ways through life–inadvertently and unconsciously stepping on each others toes, changing our minds, hurting, then apologizing and healing, and then hurting ourselves or someone else one more time. What a deep, beautiful–and funny!–understanding of life. Move over, Harmony Korine. I hope to hear much much more from Andrew Bujalski in the future. Bravo!"

— Ray Carney, author of Cassavetes on Cassavetes

"Funny Ha Ha is the most refreshing and exciting debut feature from an American independent filmmaker to come along in years. Every nuance of every performance by the film’s amazing non-professional cast is captured with flawless, heart-stopping authenticity. An absolute gem by any standard, this is a film that sorely deserves a larger audience."

— Olympia Film Festival Program, 2002

(2002, color/sound, 90 min.)


November 5 + 6

“When Hollis Frampton died in March of 1984, he left behind him several hundred finished films, as well as many photographs and Xerox works and a distinguished body of writings on film and photography (much of it collected in Circles of Confusion, published in 1983 by the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York). Though he produced memorable work in all these media, Frampton remains most important as a filmmaker.

Frampton’s fine arts background is evident in the structures of his early films, which owe almost nothing to the history of commercial film (except that they imply a rejection of commercial codes) and a great deal to the tendency of many late 1960s painters, sculptors, and other artists to explore fundamentals by limiting the number of elements used in a work and using them in predetermined, systematic ways.”

— Scott MacDonald, A Critical Cinema: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers

“I wanted to make a film out of a relatively small number of simple elements, which would be of a piece, to see how much resonance I could generate among those elements . . . I did certainly want it to be a sound film and I didn’t see how I could do it without sound to build up the internal reverberation I wanted among the various parts of the film . . . but I wanted it to be—a very simple sound film, or a film that used sound ina way more simple and obvious than most sound films have—namely, in part as the most direct kind of sensation and presentation rather than as a directly parallel explication or echo or reminder of something that happens to be going on on the screen . . . As a general footnote, I should say that I think of my films in part as an effort to reconstruct the history of film as it ‘should have been.’”

— Hollis Frampton (on Surface Tension)

Surface Tension
(1968; color/sound, 10 min.)

(1969; color/silent, 22 min.)

Critical Mass
(1971; black & white/sound, 25.5 min.)

(1973; black & white/sound, 36 min.)


November 20 + 21

Filmmaker in attendance both nights

co-presented with Northwest Film Center

Jon Jost is one of the most prolific, independent, and radically political filmmakers in the United States. Tracing his political radicalization to the two years (1965-67) that he served in federal prison for draft resistance, Jost’s film work has charted the cultural landscape of the rural American west, Hollywood, and Los Angeles, and the financial and art centers of New York and San Francisco. In 1996—having completed 14 feature films and 20 shorts since 1963—Jost eschewed the economic hurdles of 16mm and 35mm filmmaking and turned to digital video. With the switch to video, Jost has explored themes and forms with a poetic resonance. The rewards of this choice in medium can be seen in these two programs, which Jost will present in person.

At Four Wall Cinema, Jost will show recent short videos, together with early film shorts. The program will be, in the filmmaker’s words, “loose, freewheeling, and informal.” About the works that may be shown, Jost writes: “13 Fragments is a portrait of a young woman, 1968, evasive of political responsibilities, done in an austere, clean but very low-budget manner; Canyon is a meditation on what one can and can’t show, and is directly in line with Muri Romani, of which we can show a representative slice. Dharma Do is a fragmentary exploration of facets of what can be done in DV, a casual bit of philosophical visual fun; Vera x 3: a kind of sadistic screen test of Portuguese dancer/performance artist Vera Mantero. Til Edvard is a small homage to Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, shot in Trondheim Norway; Tanti Auguri is a two-shot epiphany caught about 6 weeks ago on the streets of Rome. WaterSong #1 (or perhaps another one), just what the title says. I will have a reel of bits of Trinity, the 7-screen installation just finished, and other things as well in my bag.”

At the Northwest Film Center, Jost will present the digital video feature 6 Easy Pieces.

“6 Easy Pieces is a casual, but very formal, diaristic essay, which simulataneous explores the wide-ranging possibilities of DV (digital video), while sketching glimpses of our world as seen through the prism of the author’s mind. A kind of primer for DV, it wanders from the foyer of the Cinemateca Portuguese, to the canals of Venice to Bernini’s colonnade before St. Peter’s in Rome, the Alfama in Lisbon, several young girls conversing in a Roman swimming pool, onto speculations on avant-garde performance art and the use of symmetry in music and Baroque religious architecture. An ‘accidental’ film, as DV allows, which materialized out of shooting from 1997–2000.”

— Jon Jost

November 20

13 Fragments and 3 Narratives from Life
(1968; 16mm, color/sound, 20 min.)

(1967; 16mm, B/W, 22 min.)

Dharma Do
(2001; DV, color/sound, 17 min.)

Vera x 3
(2001; DV, color/sound, 7 min.)

Til Edvard
(2001; DV, color/sound, 5 min.)

Tanti Auguri
(2002; DV, color/sound, 4.5 min.)

WaterSong #1
(2000; DV color/sound, 14 min.)

November 21
Northwest Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium

6 Easy Pieces
(Italy/Portugal, 1997–2000; DV, color/sound, 68 min.)

Big Film Series by Lee Krist

December 11, 2002

Filmmaker in attendance w/ live musical accompaniment

Premiere of recently hand processed 35mm color films and a few old favorites from the Big Film series, a collection of hand cranked film portraits recorded and projected in person with early motion picture film apparatuses.

Lee Krist has been avidly making films since the tender age of sixteen. In the past couple of years he has been working on the Big Film series. A collection of 35mm hand processed film portraits, shot and screened using an early motion picture hand cranked camera and projector. In these performative film screenings, Lee Krist operates his projector among the audience rather than anonymously from an isolated projection booth, creating an intimate screening experience reminiscent of the dawn of cinema. Traditionally these screenings are silent, although recent screenings have had live musical accompaniment. Lee Krist has presented Big @@Films at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Cinematheque, and at Mix the NY Gay and Lesbian Experimental Film Festival.

Violin accompaniment by Moe Bowstern

Four Wall Cinema at the PDX Film Festival:

December 12 - 15
screenings at Cinema 21 (616 NW 21st Avenue)

Brazen Hymns by DB Griffith
(2001, 35mm, color/sound; 40 min.)
“A genuine rarity—a 40-minute experimental film in 35 millimeter and Dolby Sound—this intriguing and arresting opus by D.B. Griffith shifts between ‘straight’ documentary and drama, as five allegorical, autodidactic outsiders emerge from landscapes and industrial sites in Chicago and Gary, each traveling a little further into the film’s wasted terrain. Shuttling back and forth between color and black-and-white stock, the film constitutes a kind of grim historical narrative, with an effective score by Josh Abrams that sometimes seems to emerge from sound effects.”

— Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

In Order Not to Be Here by Deborah Stratman
(2002, color/sound; 33 min.)
“Stratman’s film employs the codes of surveillance footage—black-and-white images shot from a helicopter at night, for example—to question notions of personal safety next to the frightening facts of an increasingly omniscient, panoptic government. The filmmaker deftly mobilizes our fears as the vulnerable inhabitants of peaceful homes that attract thieves and crazed ax murderers, while at the same time prompting worries about encroachments on civil liberties. Early in the film, Stratman illuminates the doors and windows of houses on a quiet street at night using only the fuzzy round halo of a flashlight—it’s a beautiful sequence, and all the more effective in its contradictory impact. Similarly, the shots from the helicopter, showing what could be read as police activity on the ground, pique the viewer’s by-now almost weary desire for spectacle, while once again prompting contrary feelings of empathy for whoever is being pursued, along with aesthetic pleasure in the shot’s stark beauty.”

— Holly Willis, LA Weekly

You Can Drive the Big Rigs by Leighton Pierce
(1989, color/sound; 15 min.)
“Leighton Pierce has been making films since 1979, tucked off in the American hinterlands of Iowa, displaced on the cultural map to an imagined blank wasteland, the fabled and terrible Midwest. Recently he has emerged (along with a few other long-term filmmakers, Nathaniel Dorsky and Peter Hutton) into the spotlight, with screenings in NY, lavish press, a little renown . . . The silence which previously surrounded him doubtless had to do with geography, being far out of the cultural loop of New York, LA, or San Francisco. What the hell is in Iowa? Corn and pigs. And doubtless also to do with the tides of fashion, be they of the arts world or academia: Pierce’s work simply doesn’t fit tidily into any of the theoretical or faddish slots of the past decade or two, and coming from Iowa surely made things twice as hard for him to get a hearing from the cultural commissars out East or West, not to mention farther flung shores.”

— Jon Jost

View more programs in the Exhibition Program Archive