Anthology Film Archives


August 11 – August 17

“Curt was curt, cute, controversial, and not celibate. He was a barrel of laughs and a roller coaster ride to hell and back. Life for him was a fast track to fast times that included devilish detours into forbidden erogenous zones. He explored all those zones with a zealous zeal: painter, pornographer, poet of the plebeian and the perverse; you name it (or sing it since he also wrote songs) and it all rings true.” –George Kuchar

For two decades, Curt McDowell documented the bustling street trade and artistic communities of San Francisco in home-spun 16mm. Coming off like X-rated family films for that most libidinal of cities, his prolific output is at once fantastical, sincere, smitten, and hysterical, deceptively goading the boundaries of documentary film, hardcore porn, and camp spectacle. Working largely within his stalwart urban family, which included his actual sister, Melinda McDowell-Milks, Marion Eaton, and mentor/lover George Kuchar, McDowell’s free-wheeling output and personal conquests render in glowing celluloid a gay culture at its peak of sexual liberation, on the precipice of the AIDS crisis which would ultimately claim his life. Reflecting Jack Smith’s lush, DIY camp aesthetic, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s explosive melodrama, and Nan Goldin’s glimpses of countercultural bohemia, McDowell’s cinema transmutes all these influences into a body of work that’s outrageously entertaining and unique.

We’re overjoyed to present this extensive retrospective, which will showcase the Pacific Film Archive’s brand-new preservation of SPARKLE’S TAVERN and the fruits of the Academy Film Archive’s ambitious, years-long effort to restore McDowell’s short films – with more to come later in the year!

Co-presented by Participant Inc and MIX NYC, and in partnership with the Academy Film Archive. Special thanks to Bradford Nordeen; Stephen Kent Jusick (MIX NYC); Don May Jr. (Synapse Films); Mona Nagai (Pacific Film Archive); Mark Toscano (Academy Film Archive); and Video Data Bank.

LOADS OF CURT MCDOWELL is presented in connection with the exhibition, "THINGS: A Queer Legacy
of Graphic Art & Play," on display this summer at Participant Inc (  A film series related to the exhibition will be taking place at Anthology from August 11-18; click here for more details.

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