Ed Halter

  • Left: George Barber, Schweppes Ad, 1993, still from a color video, 4 minutes. Right: George Barber, Tilt, 1983, still from a color video, 5 minutes.
    film March 20, 2009

    Starting from Scratch

    IT’S FITTING THAT the first video artist released on Lux’s DVD label would be George Barber, whose early efforts screened widely on home televisions. Barber became known in the mid-1980s through his participation in Britain’s short-lived but influential Scratch Video movement, which transformed appropriated images from popular film and television through fast edits, vivid graphics, audio samples, and industrial-synth beats; he distributed his colleagues’ work beyond both galleries and broadcast TV via a VHS tape called The Greatest Hits of Scratch Video, sold in record shops.

    Several of Barber’s

  • George and Mike Kuchar, The Naked and the Nude, 1957, stills from a color film in 8 mm (16-mm blowup), 36 minutes.
    film March 10, 2009

    Brothers Keepers

    CLOWN PRINCES of the American avant-garde, George and Mike Kuchar invaded the nascent New York underground film scene in 1964 thanks to a screening at Ken and Flo Jacobs’s downtown loft. The Bronx-raised twins were only twenty-one, but they’d been making films for almost a decade: miniature melodramas shot in lurid color on spaghetti-thin 8 mm. In recent years, Anthology Film Archives has worked to restore the extant prints of their youthful efforts, blowing them up to 16 mm for preservation. The earliest surviving complete movie from their teen years contains all the voluptuous madness and

  • Gustav Deutsch, Film ist. a girl & a gun, 2009, stills from a black-and-white and color film, 93 minutes.
    film February 19, 2009

    Footage Fetish

    FILM/SPEAKS/MANY/LANGUAGES (1995), an early one-minute piece by Gustav Deutsch made from bits of a Bollywood musical, might at first seem to merely advertise a multicultural message typical to its era: that cinema has always been a global phenomenon. But its construction says more. Deutsch embeds the words of the title as near-subliminal flashes, and the original footage has been reprinted to display not only the entire frame, with dust and scratches intact, but the optical sound track and sprocket holes as well, reminiscent of George Landow’s structural loop Film in Which There Appear Edge

  • Left: Bruce Baillie, Castro Street, 1966, still from a black-and-white and color film in 16 mm, 10 minutes. Right: Filmmaker Bruce Baillie with artist Bruce Conner in July 2001. Photo: Abraham Ravett.
    film January 27, 2009

    All His Life

    A METAPHYSICAL POET of film’s postwar avant-garde, Bruce Baillie fuses inner and outer space through a sensuous manipulation of photographic surfaces. In Castro Street (1966), images of chuffing trains peel off from physical reality like shed skins, remarried in carefully fluid superimpositions, and set to a soundscape that combines machine noises with natural murmurs. Juxtaposing rich 16-mm color stock with high-contrast black-and-white lends a ghostly air to the massive engines, occasionally punctuated by makeshift iris mattes created by Baillie’s hands cupping his camera’s lens. He achieves

  • Jean-Luc Godard, Made in USA, 1966, still from a color film in 35 mm, 90 minutes. Paula Nelson (Anna Karina).
    film January 09, 2009

    French Braid

    “ONE GOES TO the latest Godard prepared to see something both achieved and chaotic, ‘work in progress’ which resists easy admiration,” Susan Sontag wrote in 1968. Uneasy chaos certainly typifies Made in USA, a 1966 feature by the director that—ironically enough for its titular claim—has heretofore been rarely screened stateside. Made as a side project to Two or Three Things I Know About Her (1967), in response to his producer’s need for a quick cash influx, Made in USA doesn’t share its sister film’s essay structure, but rather continues Godard’s ongoing disintegration of cinematic narrative,

  • Wang Bing, Fengming: A Chinese Memoir, 2007, stills from a color video, 186 minutes. Left: He Fengming. Right: He Fengming with her husband and child.
    film December 05, 2008

    Speak, Memory

    WANG BING HAS a predilection for the documentary as an epic form. His film Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (2003) spends over nine hours with laborers at a declining mining concern in northeastern China, and his latest project, Crude Oil (2008), a visit inside the everyday grind of workers on an Inner Mongolian oil field, clocks in at a daunting fourteen hours. These video monuments, which he has presented both theatrically and as installations, speak to the colossal scale required to envision even a fragment of China’s millennia-deep history, its imperial geography, or its billion-plus people.


  • Left: Cover of The Total Film-Maker (1971) by Jerry Lewis. Right: Jerry Lewis, The Bellboy, 1960, still from a black-and-white film in 35 mm, 72 minutes.
    film November 19, 2008

    Comic Genius

    TO UNDERSTAND JERRY LEWIS the performer, simply rewatch a handful of his sixty-odd films, from the self-described “handsome man and a monkey” comedies made with Dean Martin in the 1950s, through the movies Lewis directed at the height of his gooney powers like The Bellboy (1960), The Nutty Professor (1963), and The Family Jewels (1965), up to his late-career revival via the angsty slapstick of Hardly Working (1980) and Cracking Up (1983), and the disturbingly unfunny reflexivity of his performance in Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy (1982). But to understand Lewis the thinker—the theorist,

  • Jennifer Reeves, When It Was Blue, 2008, still from a color and black-and-white film in 16 mm, 67 minutes.
    film October 27, 2008

    Outward Bound

    WHEN IT WAS BLUE (2008), Jennifer Reeves’s new 16-mm film performance with live musical accompaniment, will be presented at the Kitchen in New York this week, marking the culmination of a work that took more than four years for the artist to create. Its scale is appropriately epic: With a running time of just over an hour, the piece consists of two films projected one atop the other on a single screen, each reel containing a constant stream of images captured from the landscapes of Canada, the United States, Central America, Iceland, and New Zealand, frequently optically printed into high-contrast

  • James Benning, RR, 2007, still from a color film in 16 mm, 112 minutes.
    film October 01, 2008

    View Finder

    “AVANT-GARDES HAVE ONLY ONE TIME; and the best thing that can happen to them is to have enlivened their time without outliving it.” Guy Debord throws down this critique near the end of his last film, In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni (1978), a 100-minute Niagara of images stolen from cinema and magazines, détourned into illustrative counterpoint for an anti-masscult philippic interwoven with autobiographical self-reflection. Debord’s films have long been banished to a shadow economy of bootlegs, but now In girum resurfaces at the New York Film Festival’s “Views from the Avant-Garde” sidebar