Anthology Film Archives


August 4 – August 17

Within the context of the art of film, the term “talking heads” has almost come to represent a dirty word, signifying a type of documentary filmmaking that, however informative and intelligent, is prosaic, artistically unimaginative, and resolutely un-cinematic. But one of the paradoxes of the medium is the existence of films that are profoundly cinematic despite rejecting almost everything we associate with the term. And there may be no clearer proof of this than the fact that filmmakers as varied as Jean Eustache, Shirley Clarke, Martin Scorsese, Andy Warhol, and Wang Bing, among many others, have constructed unforgettable films out of nothing more than the unvarnished testimony of a single individual. Whether their motivations are aesthetic or ethical (given the genre’s recurring preoccupation with war crimes and other atrocities), these filmmakers have chosen to focus on men and women whose eloquence and charisma, and the momentousness of the events they’ve experienced or witnessed, render their testimony so compelling that the usual documentary affectations would only serve as distractions. In doing so, they’ve demonstrated the immense, and paradoxically cinematic, power of the “talking head.”

Special thanks to Jacob Burckhardt, Rainer Frimmel, Christoph Hübner, Saul Levine, James Nares, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, Delphine Selles-Alvarez (Cultural Services of the French Embassy), Laurence Berbon (Tamasa), Lindsay Bosch (Video Data Bank), Brigitta Burger-Utzer & Ute Katschthaler (Sixpack Films), Kitty Cleary (MoMA), Dennis Doros & Amy Heller (Milestone Films), Jonathan Howell (New Yorker Films), Lihong Kong, Eric Liknaitzky (Contemporary Films), Mark McElhatten, Jonathan Miller & Livia Bloom (Icarus Films), Gary Palmucci (Kino Lorber), Anna Pfitzenmaier & Sandra Smarsch (Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv), and Michael Piaker (Sony Pictures Classics).

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