Dream States: The avant-garde of the 1940s and 1950s


“Dream States: The avant-garde of the 1940s and 1950s” Sunday October 9, 2011, 7:30pm, Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90028. Curators Adam Hyman and Mark Toscano in person

Los Angeles Filmforum launches It’s film screening series “Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles, 1945-1980” on October 9th with “Dream States: The Avant-garde of the 1940s and 1950s”.  The series will feature over 24 shows between now and May 2012. Alternative Projections is Filmforum’s exploration of the community of filmmakers, artists, curators and programmers who contributed to the creation and presentation of experimental film and video in Southern California in the postwar era. Film series curated by Adam Hyman and Mark Toscano, with additional contributions by David James, Christine Panushka, Terry Cannon, Ben Caldwell, Stephanie Sapienza, and more.

A dorm near USC. A flat above the Sunset Strip. A garage in the San Fernando Valley. A stage in Pasadena. These are the places where the filmmaking artists of Los Angeles found ways to express their creativity in the years after World War II.

The American Avant-Garde film started coming into its own in Los Angeles during and after World War II.  At first influenced by several key films from Europe, particularly Jean Cocteau’s Blood of a Poet, along with influences from psychoanalysis and surrealism, the filmmakers often invoked dream states and elements of Surrealism.   We start our series with the classic Maya Deren film, Meshes of the Afternoon, generally considered the seminal American Avant-Garde film, made on North Kings Road above the Sunset Strip. A pair of other canonical films also were crafted here, Kenneth Anger’s Fireworks and Man Ray’s Juliet.  And Alfred Hitchcock asked Salvador Dali to craft a surreal sequence for the film Spellbound.  But beyond these lay a further range of works, not as well known, but equally daring.

Films to be Screened:
“Meshes of the Afternoon”
Directed  by Maya Deren (1943, 16mm, b/w, 14min.)

“Juliet” (ca.1940, 16mm, silent, 3.5min.)
Directed by Man Ray

‘Spellbound”, Salvador Dali directed sequence (1945, 3 min.)
Directed by   Salvador Dali and Alfred Hitchcock

“Fireworks” (1947, 16mm or 35mm, b/w, sound, 15min.) Directed by Kenneth Anger
Restored print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive
Preservation Funded by The Film Foundation

“Fireworks” comes from that beautiful night from which emerge all the true works. It touches the quick of the soul and this is very rare.” – Jean Cocteau  “In “Fireworks” I released all the explosive pyrotechnics of a dream. Inflammable desires dampened by day under the cold water of consciousness are ignited that night by the libertarian matches of sleep and burst forth in showers of shimmering incandescence. These imaginary displays provide a temporary release. A dissatisfied dreamer awakes, goes out in the night seeking a “light” and is drawn through the needle’s eye. A dream of a dream, he returns to a bed less empty than before.”- Kenneth Anger
“On the Edge” (1949, 16mm, b/w, sound, 6min.,restored print from the   Academy Film Archive) Directed by Curtis Harrington
“Psyche” (Du sang, de la volupté et de la mort, part 1) (1947, 16mm, color, sound, 25min Directed by Gregory Markopoulos

Print courtesy of the Temenos  Rarely screened, and one of only two surviving films shot by Markopoulos in Los Angeles, where he attended USC.

“House of Cards” (1947, 16mm, b/w, sound, 16min.)
Directed by Joseph Vogel

“What is a Man?” (1958, 16mm, color, sound, 9min.)  Print from Canyon Cinema Directed by Sara Kathryn Arledge

“Imagery and dialogue stimulated by Finnegan’s Wake. It is a satire with undertones of the cosmic spirit.” – — Sara Kathryn Arledge. Sara Kathryn Arledge (1911-1998) is one of the undeservedly neglected figures in the American experimental cinema. Although her two major works,”Introspection” and “What is a Man”, were completed in 1946 and 1958, respectively, neither was screened with any frequency until the late 1970s. In his book “The Exploding Eye”, Wheeler Winston Dixon has written, “Along with Maya Deren and Marie Menken, Sara Kathryn Arledge is one of the foremothers of the American experimental cinema, who worked tirelessly to perfect her art during the span of several decades when she was one of the few practitioners of independent cinema.”

“What is a Man”, her second film, is a series of vignettes which ponder the “alienation” of modern man and woman. Completed shortly after Arledge’s release from Napa State Hospital, where she had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had undergone numerous electroshock treatments,  “What is a Man”offers a fascinating glimpse into the filmmaker’s psyche.

Tickets: $10 general, $6 students/seniors with ID, free for Filmforum memmbers.  Tickets available at: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/200736

Alternative Projections is part of Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945 – 1980, an unprecedented collaboration of more than sixty cultural institutions across Southern California, coming together to tell the story of the birth of the L.A. art scene.

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. www.lafilmforum.org


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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