J. Hoberman

  • American Abstract Sensationalism

    The noiseless din that we have long known in dreams, booms at us in waking hours from newspaper headlines.
    —T.W. Adorno, Minima Moralia, 1951.

    THERE ARE SENSIBILITIES SO keyed to the routine textures of urban life that they hardly seem to be sensibilities at all. But, if they are invisible, it is only in the sense of sewer mains coursing beneath the Park Avenue of bourgeois critical awareness. I’m thinking of those (largely) self-taught, (mainly) proletarian expressionists—“primitives” who personalized yellow journalism and made abstract sensation into something as complicated as art.

    The term “

  • Gabor Body

    When we think of East European avant-garde filmmakers we usually think either of directors who have developed formally radical strategies (Miklos Jancso, Vera Chytilova) or of those whose subject matter expands the perimeter of the politically permissible. Despite the existence of “amateur” camera clubs, an underground or counter-cinema has not yet surfaced.

    There is, however, another sort of state subsidized avant-garde in Poland and, to a lesser degree, Hungary—although “experimental” would probably be a better word to categorize its more-scientific-than-expressive output. The Hungarian Gabor

  • Betzy Bromberg

    The most promising first show I’ve seen this season has been Betzy Bromberg’s at the Collective for Living Cinema. Bromberg’s three 15-minute films embody a sensibility somewhat akin to the anarcho-punk feminism of the super-8 filmmaker Vivienne Dick, though less angry and more fragmented. Petit Mal, 1978, is a raw, everything but-the-kitchen-sink movie: choppy street scenes, a girl clowning, subway sequences enlivened by artless overexposures and split screens. What holds it together is the strong and unobtrusive audio track, a melange of confessional rapping, nondescript mood music, and slyly

  • Ericka Beckman, Out of Hand

    ERICKA BECKMAN is one of the most accomplished of younger American filmmakers. The five super-8 films she has released since 1977 can be located at the “perceptual” edge of Poststructural Punk: they’re not an absolute rejection of ’70s formalism. Beckman’s work has affinities to certain films of George Landow and the trickier sections of Robert Nelson and William Wiley’s The Great Blondino, but basically she’s an idiosyncratic original, with a full-blown style that’s completely her own.

    Like primitive cartoons, Beckman’s enigmatic allegories are filled with nervous activity and comic violence,

  • Stuart Sherman

    The progenitors of the new psychodrama (a cooler, more behavioral mode than that of the ’40s and ’50s) are Yvonne Rainer and Vito Acconci, but there are other performance artists who have taken to acting out their fantasies before the camera. STUART SHERMAN has been making short silent films to accompany his “spectacles” for the last three years. Seldom longer than three or four minutes each, Sherman’s movies resemble his one-man shows in their suggestive, rebuslike juxtaposition of gestures and props. There’s the same deadpan whimsy, but a greater degree of imagistic freedom. In Flying, the

  • The 18th New York Film Festival

    THE BIASES OF THE New York Film Festival are too well known to need belaboring: an allegiance to key names, a creeping nostalgia for the French cinema of the ’30s coupled with a mounting aversion to the “difficult” films of the Duras-Straub-Jancso nexus, an intermittent interest in Eastern Europe, a nod toward the Third World and social documentary, a nose for rediscovery but none for the more interesting shorts of the international avant-garde, and one off-beat Hollywood entry.

    Jean-Luc Godard’s “comeback” aside, the best films of the 18th edition (Handicapped Love, a Swiss documentary on the

  • Jack Smith

    The inclusion of Jack Smith in the Times Square Show may be a tribute to his capacity for inspiring successive waves of New York artists, but the three performances he gave were proof of his ability to alienate even sympathetic audiences. From the underground filmmakers of the early ’60s through Warhol to the Playhouse of the Ridiculous and beyond into performance and punk, Smith has been a tangible influence. As a subterranean artistic force and an eccentric personality he is the closest thing we have to an American Alfred Jarry. Smith makes no distinction between his life and his art and his

  • Alfred Hitchcock

    The comically brief 3-D or stereo movie cycle was launched in late 1952 and peaked that summer. The craze was long over by the time Alfred Hitchcock finished his stereoscopic opus, Dial M For Murder, 1954, and the film was released flat. Belatedly, the original version has premiered at a lower Manhattan revival theater as part of a pre-holographic, film-as-installation 3D retrospective.

    Taken from a hit Broadway play, Dial M is a genteel thriller. Ex-Wimbledon champion Ray Milland decides to do away with Grace Kelly, his wealthy, unfaithful wife, and blackmails an old schoolmate, Anthony Dawson,

  • Ken Jacobs

    Ken Jacobs has worked in 3-D in one form or another (film, slide projection, shadow play) for over a decade. His current project, The Impossible, involves the stereo transformation of a 1905 chase film, Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son (the source for his 1969 “structural” feature as well). The Impossible’s first two chapters used phased double projections and polaroid glasses to simulate volume and depth; the two new chapters employ a technique derived from the Swiss “binocular” artist Alphons Schilling that induces a glasses-free 3-D through the rapid oscillation of two slightly differing images.