Films by Saul Levine
Saul Levine in person!
Saturday, May 2, 8 pm, $7-10
The Nightingale Cinema, 1084 N Milwaukee, Chicago, IL
“Saul Levine is the foremost dissenting filmmaker in America. With about 35 years of consistent production behind him, and no signs of fatigue, he can show us the shape of a life passionately and uncompromisingly devoted to filmmaking. His works are high-energy messages of friendship, records of sexual love and political activism, radiated by humor, prophetic anger, loneliness and even though rarely, representing repose.” — P. Adams Sitney (**)
“A friend of mine who worked for Yale’s AV department showed me three films that changed my life. Maya Deren’s AT LAND, CHOREOGRAPHY FOR THE CAMERA, and Viking Eggling’s SYMPHONIE DIAGONAL. From Deren’s films I saw that cinemas ability to represent figures in time and space poetically could be a paradigm of consciousness; Eggling showed me that nonfigurative shapes could evolve and change musically. I saw that I could use film to understand the world around me directly. I could also use editing to make relationships between what I was seeing in front of the camera and what was going on in my mind. I stopped making editing decisions based on story and started making them based on shape, memory and association.” -Saul Levine (*)
The program title KALEIDOSCOPIC VISIONS was inspired by P. Adams Sitney’s description of Saul’s unique style of shooting and cutting as “…fused with the kaleidoscopic fury of memory…”. The program selects films by Saul Levine from 1973 to 2011. The films represent roughly three of Saul’s major formal approaches to the small gauge formats of Regular 8mm (presented as a digital transfers and a 16mm blow up) and Super 8mm (presented in Super 8mm and 16mm blow ups).
The first part of the program, ON THE SPOT (1973) and NEARSIGHT (1977-78), showcase Saul’s early rigorous in-camera work that directly responds to his subjects. Saul uses single frame shooting, repetitious movement, and variations in exposure to create “nonfigurative shapes that evolve and change musically” (*). These two films differentiate themselves from structuralist films of that era by their personal and intuitive sense. In Saul’s films we feel through his camerawork an emotionally raw response to the world that allows the viewer to “hitch a ride” into the author’s “state of mind” or “level of consciousness” (***).
The middle of the program, BOPPING THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA BLUE and A FEW TUNES GOING OUT: GROOVE TO GROOVE, represent two films from Saul’s innovative body of Super 8mm Sound work that uses splicing to layer sounds over images from varied places or moments. Saul’s frame by frame cutting technique challenges the apparatus of the projector to represent records of “real time”. It exploits the difference in time and space of twenty six frames between the projected image and the projector’s sound head. By doing this he creates experiences of coinciding events within a single moment- multiple thoughts, memories, personal, political, local or global. Both from the series A FEW TUNES GOING OUT, the second film GROOVE TO GROOVE, shows Saul editing with this single frame and two frame method.
A comedic break, AS IS IS, is a personal and insightful portrait of the struggles of owning a pet chameleon.
The last portion of the program shows Saul’s recent experimentations of recording light with the Super 8mm camera in his working series titled: LIGHT LICKS:BY THE WATERS OF BABYLON. JAMMING reflects on a 2004 demonstration at the National Republican Convention in New York while I WANT TO PAINT IT BLACK is “inspired by the absence of a contemporary Jewish community” (**) in Prague. Both films show the rich visual records Saul captures by spilling light into the frame beyond the camera’s aperture (see the still below)
ON THE SPOT
1973, 28.5 min, Regular 8mm to Digital Video
Shot on a farm in Friendsville, Pennsylvania where Saul lived in a trailer with Dan Barnett; shot from the same spot over the course of several Fall weeks, a single frame study of the movements of people and livestock (horses, cows, sheep, etc); clouds sun and moon constructs of stasis and change.
1977-78, 2min, Regular 8mm to 16mm
An erotic portrayal of poet and filmmaker Nancy Frumkin from Saul’s Four Portraits series. Nearsight places the camera between two lovers using single frame shooting to create an intensity that estimates the sensation of their desire. -IC
BOPPING THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA BLUE
(1978-79), 7 mins, Super 8mm Sound
“A portrait of disc jockey Mai Cramer, filmmaker Dan Barnett, and Levine himself. The film cuts between Cramer talking, Barnett working and touring China and Levine engaged in the routines of his life. Incorporated into the portrait are shots of an astronaut floating in space, clouds passing and Chinese women performing their daily exercise. As vast space and clouds float by, the film mixes daily routines, foreign locales and the expanse of the universe in a work of cinematic music and dance.” – Marjorie Keller
A FEW TUNES GOING OUT: GROOVE TO GROOVE
(1978-1982), 12 mins, Super 8mm Sound
w/ MAI CRAMER & JESSE GREEN BLUES BAND
“[GROOVE TO GROOVE] continues this kind of portraiture, concentrating on Mai Cramer and Levine, and develops the ‘bi-lingual’ paradigm of film and music. The phantasmagoria of splices becomes the lexicon for Levine’s improvisational study of making film, music and jokes.” – Marjorie Keller
AS IS IS
(1991), 3.5 mins, Super 8mm Sound to Digital Video
Kerry Laitela delivers an elegiac account of the passions and struggles of a female chameleon. -SL
LIGHT LICKS: BY THE WATERS OF BABYLON: JAMMING
(2004), 21.5 mins, Super 8mm to 16mm film
LIGHT LICKS are a series of films, which are made frame by frame often by flooding the camera with enough light to spill beyond the gate into the frame left unexposed. LIGHT LICKS are ecstatic flicker films inspired by jazz and mystic visionary practice. BY THE WATERS OF BABYLON is a sub series within the LIGHT LICKS, inspired by Psalm 137, a meditation on the experience of forced exile. JAMMING Includes footage of the 5,000,000 people demonstrating at the 2004 National Republican Convention in New York, and a wedding in Salem, MA.
LIGHT LICKS: BY THE WATERS OF BABYLON:
I WANT TO PAINT IT BLACK
(2011), 12 mins, Super 8mm to 16mm film
I spent the week of thanksgiving 2010 in Prague; I had never been to Europe before and as a Jew born in the 2nd World War, I had a strong association of central Europe with the Holocaust. I found Prague to be an extremely charming and beautiful city, an architectural palimpsest as it hadn’t been bombed. In this LIGHT LICK I responded to the city in the present tense but kept being drawn into its past. The grave of Rabbi Judah Lowe the alleged maker of the Golem alleged descendent of King David and certainly one of the great Jewish scholars and mystics of his time, the absence of a contemporary Jewish community and the wonderful statues bridges and buildings led me to make this dark Gothic reflection of 21st century Prague.
*still from LIGHT LICKS:BY THE WATERS OF BABYLON:JAMMING
Saul Levine, born in New Haven Connecticut, is a maker and advocate of avant-garde film and more recently video. He is currently a professor at MassArt where he has taught for over 30 years and programmed the longstanding MassArt Film Society. His work has been screened nationally and worldwide, most recently in Ontario, MOMA (NYC), Lima and Prague. He is based in Boston and hardly leaves town.
For More Information:
(***) Movement as Meaning by Daniel Barnett
Filed under: 16mm, artist in attendance, documentary, experimental, film, painting, Super 8mm, Uncategorized, video