LA Filmforum presents Composite histories: The Films of Cathy Lee Crane


Filmmaker Cathy Lee Crane visits from Ithaca NY with the first North American survey of her work. The four films span a decade of the filmmaker’s preoccupation with telling lyrical stories in dialogue with their European predecessors. More than mere adaptations, these films combine both staged and archival material which simultaneously provoke and elide the friction between present and past. A self-avowed formalist, Crane’s conceptual concerns, rooted in the non-linear nature of history, are explored through the dynamic system of the frame and the cut. Through shooting on locations rife with historical, literary, or biographical valence, narrative density collides with the film’s own simple goals of telling one woman’s story. In fact, Crane insists on the near impossibility of doing anything simple when history is involved. These films constitute an experimental film practice as interrogation wherein the logic of linearity itself is subjected to doubt through a masterly use of both horizontal and vertical montage.

Sketches after Halle (1997, 16mm, 13:00) A collision of separate pasts, this film pieces together fragments of the director’s own images and text from the East German town of Halle with those produced by Bauhaus painter Lyonel Feininger in 1930. Winner Best Experimental Film – CSU Media Arts Festival (1998).

The Girl From Marseilles (2000, 16mm, 18:00) This fictional memoir gives voice to the woman who haunts Andre Breton’s 1927 Surrealist novel Nadja. Speaking from the sanitarium as World War II approaches, Nadja recounts her love affair with Breton while a matrix of archival and staged images of Paris construct the exquisite corpse of her memory. Winner Certificate of Merit / New Visions – San Francisco International Film Festival (2002)

Unoccupied Zone: The Impossible Life of Simone Weil (2006, DV, 45:00)
This portrait of French writer Simone Weil is not simply an account of her life, but rather the skein of her ideas. It stages the “spectral theatre” of her mind through a mise-en-scene whose rear screen projections of live-feed video and archival newsreels antagonize the spectacle of biographical re-enactment being played out before it. It seeks therefore to represent Weil’s own definition of a human life as “a composition on several planes.” Winner Best Narrative Film – UFVA Juried Screening (2006)

Adrift (2009, 16mm, 12:00) This poetic adaptation of the fountain of youth fable follows a woman who has come to Rome to die. On her journey through the city’s fountains, she encounters a young girl who taunts her with visions of lost innocence. Staged on locations from Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Roman films. Official Selection Madrid Experimental Week (2010)

Cathy Lee Crane has been making experimental narrative films on 16mm for over 15 years. She is the recipient of a 2009 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Film for her lyrical re-combinations of archival and staged material. In addition to numerous festival awards, her films are in the permanent collection at Forum des Images/Paris, have been broadcast on European television, and are distributed by Canyon Cinema and Lightcone. She has also collaborated on video and installation projects with Harun Farocki, Sarah Lewison, and Ann Carlson/Mary Ellen Strom. She is currently completing an experimental biography on Pier Paolo Pasolini with support from the New York State Council for the Arts.

This screening series is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional support generously provided by American Cinematheque.

Cost: Tickets: General $10, Students/seniors $6; free for Filmforum members Advance ticket purchase available through Brown Paper Tickets.

Los Angeles Filmforum is the city’s longest-running organization screening experimental and avant-garde film and video art, documentaries, and experimental animation. 2011 is our 36th year.
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About Author

Robin Menken

Robin Menken Robin Menken lives in Los Angeles. She was the Artistic Director of the Second City Workshops, taught at UC Berkeley, USC, Barcelona\'s Ateneu and the Esalin Institute. She was Roberto Rossellini\'s assistant, and worked with Yevgeny Vevteshenku, Glauber Rocha and Eugene Ionesco. She sold numerous screenplays and wrote the OBIE winning The FTA SHow (touring with Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Ben Vereen.) She was a programming consultant and Special Events co-ordinator for numerous film festivals, including the SF, Rio, Havana and N.Y Film Festivals. Her first news outlet was the historic East Village Other.

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