Bruce Conner: The Art of Montage–Program I
Co-presented by the Center for Visual Culture and the Program in Film Studies at Bryn Mawr College.
Friday, September 23 + Saturday, September 24
To view the Saturday program, please click here.
Beginning with his groundbreaking found-footage masterpiece A MOVIE, the films of San-Francisco-based artist Bruce Conner (1933-2008) have marked a radical intervention into the language of filmmaking. Often referred to as the “father of found footage film” and the “father of MTV music videos,” Conner paired his trademark rapid-fire editing style with a broad spectrum of music from R&B, gospel, classical, pop and punk, to minimalist compositions. His pioneering body of work continues to exert a broad and lasting influence on both mainstream and avant-garde film culture.
This two-night program offers a near-comprehensive look at Conner’s films, including many recently-restored prints Please join us for this rare opportunity to experience the work of this innovative and provocative filmmaker.
The Friday screening is followed by a Q+A with film scholar Bruce Jenkins, a leading expert on Conner’s work, in conversation with Michelle Silva of the Conner Family Trust and Conner’s collaborator in the making of THREE SCREEN RAY. Saturday’s screening is followed by a keynote presentation by Bruce Jenkins on Conner’s life and work.
Special thanks to Bruce Jenkins and to Michelle Silva of the Conner Family Trust.
Friday, September 23 at 7:30pm
Followed by Q+A with Bruce Jenkins, in conversation with Michelle Silva
dir. Bruce Conner, US, 1961, 16mm, 4 mins, b/w
COSMIC RAY seems like a reckless collage of fast moving parts: comic strips, dancing girls, flashing lights. It is the dancing girl – hardly dressed, stripping or nude – which provides the leitmotiv for the film. Again and again she appears – sandwiched between soldiers, guns, and even death in the form of a skull positioned between her legs. And if the statement equates sex with destruction, the cataclysm is a brilliant one, like an exploding firecracker, and one which ends the world with a cosmic bang. Of course, the title also refers to musician Ray Charles whose art Conner visually transcribes onto film as a potent reality, tough and penetrating in its ability to affect some pretty basic animal instincts. But if such is the content of the film – that much of our behavior consists of bestiality – the work as a whole stands as insight rather than indictment. — Carl Belz, Film Culture
dir. Bruce Conner, US, 1958, 16mm, 12 mins, b/w
“… a montage of found materials from fact (newsreels) and fiction (old movies). Clichés and horrors make a rapid collage in which destruction and sex follow each other in images of pursuit and falling until finally a diver disappears through a hole in the bottom of the sea — the ultimate exit.” — Brian O’Doherty, The New York Times
THE WHITE ROSE
dir. Bruce Conner, US, 1967, 16mm, 7 mins, b/w
THE WHITE ROSE documents Beat generation artist Jay DeFeo’s painting of the same name, begun in 1957. When the unfinished painting was removed eight years later it weighed over 2300 pounds.
MARILYN TIMES FIVE
dir. Bruce Conner, US, 1968-73, 16mm, 13 mins, b/w
“A young woman, allegedly Marilyn Monroe, is seen with pitiless scrutiny in the arena of an old girlie film. The reiteration of five cycles rotates the commodity of her moon-pale body as her song repeats five times on the sound track… ‘I’m through with love.’” — Anthony Reveaux, monograph on Bruce Conner published by Film in the Cities
dir. Bruce Conner, US, 1964, 16mm, 4 mins, b/w
An ecstatic portrait of actress Vivian Kurtz with footage of a 1964 Conner exhibition and couches a humorous critique of the art market.
TEN SECOND FILM
dir. Bruce Conner, US, 1965, 16mm, 10 sec, b/w
Conner created a ten second scandal with this very short film, commissioned by the New York Film Festival as a “trailer” and promptly rejected for being simply “too fast.”
dir. Bruce Conner, US, 1966, 16mm, 5 mins, b/w
“The camera captures her movements in gestural, expressive light smears. Intercut rhythmically with strophes of black leader, she gyrates in graceful, stroboscopic accelerations. Conner’s editing is consummate as he alternates angles of her figure from different shots into a kinesthetic, flowing continuity.” — Anthony Reveaux. With music by Ed Cobb and dance and vocals by Toni Basil.
dir. Bruce Conner, US, 1981, 16mm, 5 mins, b/w
In his first collaboration with David Byrne and Brian Eno, Conner used footage from educational films to create a rhythmically austere image-track for music from their pioneering “sampling” album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981).
TAKE THE 5:10 TO DREAMLAND
dir. Bruce Conner, US, 1977, 16mm, 5 mins, color
An autobiographic chapter in Conner’s cinema with a mysterious, evocative soundtrack by Patrick Gleeson.
dir. Bruce Conner, US, 1979, 16mm, 5 mins, b/w
VALSE TRISTE is frankly and gracefully autobiographical of Conner’s Kansas boyhood. Here, his 1940s source material parallels his own life experiences.
HIS EYE ON THE SPARROW
dir. Bruce Conner, US, 2006, video, 4 mins, b/w and color
Conner distilled footage from his unfinished documentary on the gospel group The Soul Stirrers into a collage accompaniment to the group’s version of the classic spiritual “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”
dir. Bruce Conner, US, 2008, 16mm, 10 mins, color
At some point near the halfway mark in the film, a bridge from the world of nature to that of the man-made is gently placed down, in the form of several shots of a floral-print carpet that leads to images of a loft — wooden floors and furniture, and a giant stone cross seen through the panes of the room’s large windows. A nude woman emerges from a glass cabinet, as if reborn into a world of light. —GreenCine