Part of Winter 1995
This screening presents three films drawn from an arcane by-way of film animation — the animated collage: Harry Smith’s Heaven and Earth Magic and Lewis Klahr’s The Pharaoh’s Belt (1993) & Downs Are Feminine (1994). Harry Smith, who died only a few years ago, came to film as an occultist and an alchemist. He was one of the first filmmakers to create films by painting directly on the stock, and also produced a small number of animated collage films, of which Heaven and Earth Magic — a rarely-screened 1950s classic — is the longest and most involved. Animating figures largely drawn from 19th century advertising and book illustration (as in the collages of Max Ernst, Jess and others), Smith describes a mystical journey using a proliferation of symbols, which are subjected to a rigorous, but by no means dry, program of combinations and permutations. Lewis Klahr is a young New York filmmaker who follows up on Smith’s work, using many of the same techniques, exploring a realm of representation which is both more personal and more comprehensible in narrative terms, and which utilizes more contemporary imagery (drawn from Life magazine and its cousins). Tom Gunning writes of The Pharaoh’s Belt: ‘In his most masterful film to date, Lewis Klahr provides a lesson in modern hieroglyphics, assembling collages of contemporary demons and divinities in the guise of advertising images culled from a consumer culture’s larger than life presentation of its products and the ecstasies they offer.’ Also on the program is one of Klahr’s most recent shorts, Downs Are Feminine.