Anthology Film Archives


January 20 – January 29

Alexander Hammid (born Alexandr Hackenschmied in Linz, Austria-Hungary, in 1907 and raised in Prague) is best known in avant-garde cinema circles for his collaborations with his then-partner Maya Deren, and above all for his role in making MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON (1943), which remains one of the most extraordinary and influential films in the history of American filmmaking. Hammid’s career, however, extends far beyond his partnership with Deren, and is in fact an astonishingly wide-ranging and accomplished body of work, spanning nearly half a century and touching on almost every genre and category of film imaginable.

This retrospective explores every chapter in his rich and constantly morphing career: the pioneering experimental films he made in Czechoslovakia before emigrating to the U.S. during the war; his collaborations with Deren; his work making political documentaries with the filmmaker Herbert Kline in the early years of WWII; the propagandistic films commissioned by the United States Office of War Information; the sponsored films about social behavior made for Affiliated Film Producers; his numerous collaborations with artists, dancers, and musicians; and the films that emerged from his partnership in the 1960s-70s with Francis Thompson, which were produced for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, the 1967 Montreal Expo, and for the inauguration of the National Air and Space Museum (1976’s TO FLY!, for which the pair helped develop the new IMAX 70mm film format). The series features several works preserved in Anthology’s collection, including a brand-new 16mm print of THE PRIVATE LIFE OF A CAT (1944).

“Because [Hammid’s vision] is a wonderful combination of formalist and humanist tendencies, it gives his work a terrible lyricism. He is incapable of sentimentality because of his terrific sense of form; and he is incapable of formalism because of a profoundly childlike love of things and tenderness. Consequently you get a terrifically high pitch of lyricism in its most out-of-the-world form…like the best of the fairy-tales, or like an unaccompanied improvisation on a flute. I speak of him because he never speaks much, having an almost purely visual mind.” –Maya Deren, letter to Herbert Passin, 1943

Special thanks to Julia Hammid; Carmel Curtis (Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive); Skip Elsheimer (A/V Geeks); Tina Harvey, Paul Gordon & Douglas Smalley (Library and Archives Canada); Martina Kudlácek; Giovanna Pugliese (NYPL); Jeffrey Schissler (SC Johnson); Katie Trainor (MoMA); Gerald Weber (Sixpack); and Todd Wiener & Steven Hill (UCLA Film & Television Archive).

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