The most recent edition of the Views from the Avant-Garde section of the New York Film Festival featured the premiere of newly preserved works by two of contemporary experimental cinema’s most revered artists, Peggy Ahwesh and Joe Gibbons. Pioneers of small-gauge filmmaking since the 1970s, Ahwesh and Gibbons are both superior storytellers who don’t necessarily rely on actors or scripts to tell their inquisitive tales. The filmmakers are longtime friends, and their works have a certain sympathetic resonance. Blown-up to 16mm from Super 8, these crucial pieces have never looked or sounded better. Seen today, the films are as surprising, thoughtful, and darkly funny as they were back in the day.
All films in this program were preserved by Bard College with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation. Preservation undertaken by BB Optics. Thanks to Peggy Ahwesh, Joe Gibbons, and Vanessa Haroutunian.
1989, 20 min, Super 8mm-to-16mm blow-up.
“In MARTINA’S PLAYHOUSE everything is up for grabs. The little girl of the title oscillates from narrator to reader to performer and from the role of baby to that of mother. While the roles she adopts may be learned, they are not set, and she moves easily between them. Similarly, in…Ahwesh’s playhouse of encounters with friends, objects aren’t merely objects but shift between layers of meaning. Men are conspicuously absent, a ‘lack’ reversing the Lacanian/Freudian constructions of women as Ahwesh plays with other possibilities.” –Kathy Geritz
FROM ROMANCE TO RITUAL
1985, 20 min, Super 8mm-to-16mm blow-up.
“FROM ROMANCE TO RITUAL invokes and inverts the title of the 1920 book by Jessie L. Weston as it, like the book, draws connections between pagan history and ritual and mythology. In one scene, a very animated woman digs and scratches at the earth to give us a show-and-tell history of the megalithic site at Avebury. A bit tongue in cheek like playing around in the backyard (Prehistoric Sandbox 101) but not far from the truth in its reading of the erasure of matriarchal tendencies from traditional histories.” –P.A.
CONFIDENTIAL PART 2
1980, 26 min, Super 8mm-to-16mm blow-up.
“Overtly a portrait of the filmmaker confessing his remorse at the scandalous manner in which he gathered material for his near-classic SPYING, here an eerie interpersonal relationship is developed between the filmmaker and his camera which culminates in violence. The ‘sin’ as act of the imagination and its degenerative effect on the personality.” –Henry Hills
1977-78, 31.5 min, Super 8mm-to-16mm blow-up.
“Too controversial to describe in detail, this film reveals the underlying voyeuristic nature of the cinema-phile.” –Joe Gibbons
“An exercise in applied voyeurism – a hilariously perverse MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA – in which the filmmaker secretly observes his neighbors (and their pets) sunbathing, gardening, or gazing out of the window.” –J. Hoberman, VILLAGE VOICE
Total running time: ca. 105 min.