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IDFA 2023 Fireworks

16 Worlds on 16: American Experimental

IDFA 2023: 16 Worlds on 16: American Experimental

Four experimental classics from the U.S. from the forties and fifties, most projected on 16mm: starting with Deren’s influential classic, via Anger’s debut and Clarke’s choreographed short, the program concludes with Frank and Leslie’s improvised classic.

poster IDFA 2023
Four experimental classics from the U.S. from the forties and fifties, most projected on 16mm: starting with Deren’s influential classic, via Anger’s debut and Clarke’s choreographed short, the program concludes with Frank and Leslie’s improvised classic.

Programme

  • Meshes of the Afternoon

    For her influential short avant-garde film Meshes of the Afternoon, the prominent experimental filmmaker Maya Deren collaborated with her then-husband, Alexander Hamid. The film is silent except for snippets of added sound, such as the ticking of a clock. In 1957, the Japanese composer Teiji Ito, Deren’s second husband, added an ambient, dreamy soundtrack to the film. The action centres around a woman (played by Deren) who repeatedly follows another woman, the latter of whom is dressed in black, is holding a flower and has a mirror for a face. Every time this mysterious presence disappears around the corner, Deren enters a house. The second time she goes inside, her first version is still there; the third time, there are three of her.

  • Fireworks

    “This flick is all I have to say about being 17, the United States Navy, American Christmas and the 4th of July,” said Kenneth Anger about his first short film from 1947. The underground filmmaker, who recently died at the age of 96, had already experimented a lot with his parents’ 16mm camera in his teens. The bizarre, disturbing dream images of violence, rape and homoerotic sadomasochism were still causing controversy ten years after their first public screening. A theatre operator’s conviction for showing this “obscene” film was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court of California, which declared Fireworks to be art. Kenneth Anger was at the forefront of queer cinema and became a source of inspiration for music video makers; his debut became a classic—both as an experiment and as a gay cult film.

  • A Moment in Love

    Before Shirley Clarke became one of the few women to join the New American Cinema, she was a gifted dancer and choreographer. She drew on this experience for her short films that celebrate “the dance of life.” This 1956 film A Moment in Love is an elegant pas de deux performed by two young lovers dancing in the wilderness of nature. They frolic among the rocks, in fields and lakes, and even through clouds. Their graceful movements reveal their love, doubts and fears. In their reflections in the water, we see them merge together—but we also see the first ripples in their romantic affair.

    The landscape that surrounds them shifts along with their moods: from natural idyll to the ruins of a deserted city. Clarke displays her skill by experimenting at various levels, using background projection, colouring effects, and other visual innovations. Her camera manipulates the dancers’ movements so effectively that they seem to be floating among the clouds in eternal, supernatural bliss: “I started choreographing the cameras as well as the dancers in the frame.” A lyrical and emotionally moving dance film.

  • Pull My Daisy

    New York, early morning: it’s going to be a strange day in this cluttered loft on the Lower East Side, home to railroad brakeman Milo and his wife, a painter. Their dinner guest, a bishop, has only just arrived when a bunch of beat poets turn up. In fact, it is Allen Ginsberg and some friends, all of whom appear as themselves in Robert Frank’s directorial debut, loosely based on a play by Jack Kerouac. They are soon bombarding the bishop with philosophical wisecracks and questions about the sanctity of baseball.

    Everything we hear actually comes from the mouth of Jack Kerouac himself—he improvised the voice-over to accompany the film, which was recorded without direct sound. Kerouac’s wry and ironic retelling blends with the bebop soundtrack, and once he gets going, he even treats us to some freewheeling beat poetry. The bishop’s mother seats herself at the organ and the poets join in with swinging jazz sounds. Confusion increasingly reigns supreme in this Beat Generation cult classic.

This is part of

Details

Length

68 min.

Part of

IDFA 2023

Documentary lovers, keep 9 through 19 November free in your calendar. The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam presents its 36th edition in cinemas throughout Amsterdam, including several special programmes in Eye.

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IDFA 2023 A Moment in Love
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