The Wind #1

Pour le mistral - Joris Ivens, 1965, 35mm


Coal Face - Alberto Cavalcanti [uncredited, for the GPO Film Unit], 1935, 35mm


Scholarship #2

2. Near the end of his life, impersonating himself just this once more, Marcel Duchamp said that he did not like to work; that he preferred living, breathing, to working. But living is something we never stop doing, whether we work or not. For the autobiographer in words, though, it doesn't feel that way. As I write these words, locked in a room, far from home, I feel that my life is all outside the door, even as I know that I'm in here, alive, and nothing is outside the door. Nevertheless I can hardly wait to take my life back, out, into everything. So, I don't write. To feel that one is not alive is sufficient reason for not doing anything.

3. Brancusi said that creation should be as easy as breathing; and his beautiful and perfect works attest to the depth and ease of his breath. But sometimes the breath comes hard, in choking spasms, and sometimes it is reduced to the merest sibilance. Creation is just as uneasy as breathing. With inspiration, we draw in breath. In the end, we expire. While the breath runs, we feel moved, mysteriously, to conspire, to share breath. Of all the arts, none responds more fully and intricately to the flow of the breath of life than does film, nor does any other give itself so freely to the sharing of breath, unless we take inspiration from Ovid and look to an Art of Love, in which closest of all conspiracies we conceive, and were conceived.

4. Film is much spoken of as a way to teach, and not enough as a way to learn. Much of what I have learned - both what I value and what I have not yet learned to value - I have learned from film, which is to say, from its makers. What we try to learn, all our lives, is how to live. The last time I saw my grandmother, she said to me: we just barely learn how to live, and then we're ready to die. Then she cried a little. I wanted to cry too, but I couldn't. I hadn't learned how.

--Hollis Frampton, "Mental Notes", Buffalo, March 1973, from On the Camera Arts and Consecutive Matters, ed. Bruce Jenkins, 2009, p. 255.



Poetic Justice - Hollis Frampton, 1972, 16mm


RECONCILE THESE ANTAGONISMS: The oestrus of a dry season in Rangoon, and a dilation of old brandy in Vienna. Pungent chicken cooked with own guts, and escargots with vin gris. Dried pyrethrum and rampant lilac. An inkblot on a knuckle, and a lapis cabochon. A repellent lotion, and a remant of ambergris. The faint whisper of a kerosene lantern, and the subaudible drone of a carbon filament. An insectile whine at twilight, and a streetcar rumbling at dawn. Susurrus of a racing pen, and a rustling of defended thighs. A forked, magenta tongue that hears, and a pierced, ivory ear that tastes. Diamond scales tiling a serpent's hood, and lozenges in a mullioned window. Its momentary posture, and a thesis of Hogarth's Analysis of Beauty. Its characteristic markings, and a keepsake lorgnette. A droplet of toxin, and a tear of distraction. Accidental stains in the margin of a page, and faint punctures near the ulnar nerve. Breath released in satisfaction at the anticipated expulsion of a precipitate, and breath indrawn in confusion at the unexpected miscarriage of a response. One who writes and one who reads.


COMPARE THESE COLORS: a powdery azure, brushed with scorched fat, and a cyanotic custard, scummed with diachronic yellow. They are identical ... but separated, at the alleged horizon, by a band of stale mist, within which, or beyond which, an escort of battle cruisers surrounds us on every side. The deck of our barge, big as a meadow, of the hue and texture of a baby, is punctuated by the prisoners' nondescript shelters. Somewhere beneath us, a thermonuclear device that may be armed and exploded by remote control is our only warden. Daily, at noon, our parcel of food descends by parachute; we rip and knot the tough cords and pastel silk into canopies, trapezes, parasols, and a burlesque of bridal finery. There has been no rain for thirty-six days. The stern rail is crusted with shit and vomit. Below the Plimsoll line, slowly, something pumps or throbs. We are becalmed.


The colony seems more distant, now, than the panopticon we were offered as an alternative. I have five friends, here; or, rather, there are that many personages with whom I have engaged in behavior that I, at least, do not consider hostile. None of them can talk. Two are confined, by a kind of stocks clamped around their strange heads, in barrels set flush with the deck. One has a skull shaped like a bowling pin, and drinks milk through a hose, and whistles: the other is a churning mouth, pointed at the zenith, crammed with hundreds of dirty molars, from which it dangles a weak, achondroplastic frame. The eyes are like those of a calf; it groans happily when a stew is poured into it. In order that they shall not drown, I siphon off their excreta. They do not object. Nearby, a pair of midget twins squats, sips tea, plays chess with men of chalk and jet, squeals and giggles. Brother and sister, they are otherwise identical; their immense, didactic genitals, and her breasts, tinted copies from Maillol, are the envy of us all. But their red umbrella, a careless display of the prerogatives of former wealth, has bred ineradicable distrust. Finally, a pudgy woman in middle life prowls incessantly, stumbling, cursing and slapping the cloud of greenbottles that follows her everywhere but dares not land. Her flesh and uniform look like varnished zinc; a soiled placard bears the legend: "The Filthy Nurse."

--Hollis Frampton, "Mind over Matter", Paris/San Francisco/Ponce, 1976-78, from On the Camera Arts and Consecutive Matters, ed. Bruce Jenkins, 2009, p.316, 318, 319.


Distance(s) #3

Black and White Trypps Number One - Ben Russell, 2005, 16mm


La natation par Jean Taris, champion de France - Jean Vigo, 1931, 35mm


Forests #4, or: St. George's Hill, 1649-50

We panted our way up the slippery sand-and-heather coated slope and surveyed the surrounding countryside. I expected a cluster of housing estates and pylons but I misread Andrew's triumphant expression. The view from the top was exactly the view the Diggers would have seen from the top of St. George's Hill. A panorama of virgin countryside; a windblown heath bisected by rough paths, a lake and rough woods extending to the horizon. You could hear cars and an occasional aircraft, but shut your ears and the scene was hallucinatory. Here we were, a mere hour and a quarter from London, confronted by one of the last sizeable stretches of unspoiled and unenclosed common land in England.

--Kevin Brownlow, Winstanley, Warts and All, UKA Press, 2009, p. 22-23.

There's always a pool of blood somewhere that we're walking in without knowing it... It's your blood that feeds the earth. It's you who fatten the servants of lies.

Winstanley - Kevin Brownlow & Andrew Mollo, 1975, 35mm


An aside, or: words

For better or worse, some words of mine about Frederick Wiseman's La danse: Le ballet de l'Opéra de Paris are up at The Auteurs.