Edge Effects: Color Reversal Films by Timoleon Wilkins


The sublime 16mm films of Los Angeles experimentalist Timoleon Wilkins trace their roots to the romantic and diaristic traditions of the American avant-garde. Making a virtue of working on the edge of celluloid history, he is among a handful of cinematographers still using reversal film. His sumptuous Kodachrome and Ektachrome images resonate with an ecstatic love of color and contrast, relentlessly uncovering beauty amid the untenable realities of modern life across the Americas. Wilkins’ magnum opus “Drifter” (1996-2010)-winner of the Ann Arbor Film Festival’s prestigious Stan Brakhage Film at Wit’s End Award-is “the ballad of a lone wanderer, an atmospheric anthology of places and faces.” The program also includes “Los Caudales” (2005), “The Crossing” (2007) and a rare screening of new camera-original films.
 In person: Timoleon Wilkins

“Wilkins discovers abstractions found in macro-shots of nature, and the mysterious evanescent play of light and color that hint at a higher meaning.”
– Robin Menken, Cinema Without Borders

 “Eschewing issues of contemporary frivolity, Wilkins has grounded his work in the central concerns of experimental cinema’s most productive phase: the development in cinematic terms of Romantic imagination and passion.”
– Brecht Andersch

 (1996-2010) 16mm/color/silent/25 min.  (20 fps)
 “The suggestive ballad of a lone wanderer. Fourteen years in the making, Drifter is an atmospheric anthology of places, faces and the sublime gifts of Kodachrome and a Bolex camera.” (TW)

 Stan Brakhage Film at Wit’s End Award; Ann Arbor Film Festival, 2011

Los Caudales
(2004-2005) 16mm/B&W/silent/17min.
“The film is a study of the undulating chiaroscuro of rivers, creeks and shorelines in black, white, and silver. Much of Los Caudales was processed in a Russian spiral-developing tank using chemical formulas of my own design, producing subtleties harkening back to early photographic processes. Among several metaphors, this film incorporates a last vision of friend and mentor Stan Brakhage, as I imagine him spirited up a stairway of waves in glistening twilight. Camera gestures (in-camera edits, flash frames) evoke this loss and its possible redemption.” (TW)

“Timoleon is not only in love with film, but is the love of film. Los Caudales, shot in B/W reversal and perhaps one of the last films to be printed on the visually luxurious B/W reversal print stock, has many moments of astounding beauty. Many of its camera improvisations will stick forever in the memory of the film lover.”
 – Nathaniel Dorsky

 The Crossing
 (2007) 16mm/color/silent/7 min (20 fps)
 The film begins with a brief flash of molten-red grain followed by a long scene of darkest night-blue sea ripples. Hexagonal refractions and spectral rays puncture alluded-to landscapes – rivers, skies, prairies, trees, mountains. Graphic (yet spatially free-floating) imagery slices intently wrought rhythms of light and dark color fields, producing afterimages. The film concludes with bright, almost-discernible window shapes, hinting at an opening to a different realm.

 Gay Pride4
 (1995) 16mm/color/silent/4 min (18fps)
San Francisco Gay Pride Parade 1993. A wildly gyrating kaleidoscope of four frames-within-a-frame, derived from one un-slit roll of regular 8mm subjected to four different image treatments (Hi-con, negative, positive and hand-painted).

 Quartet (In-Camera)
 (2004-2008) 16mm/color/silent/12 min (20 fps)
 Camera Original (Kodachrome)
 Four 100-foot rolls spontaneously edited in-camera.
 1-“Desert Skies”: A road trip between Green River, Utah; Ely, Nevada and Gallup, NM.
 2-“Rose Porphyry”: A macro-descent into the shadowy labyrinth of roses.
3-“Monks Memoriam”: A gray spring day following the untimely death of a friend’s beloved pet.
 4-“Coda”:  A multi-layered bon-voyage to Kodak’s finest emulsion.

 Sun, Moon, Dog
 (2011-2012) 16mm, color, silent, 20 min (20 fps)
Camera Original (Ektachrome)

In the act of exploring the landscape of one’s daily life, three figures reveal their legendary presence.

Excerpts from “Umbligo de la Luna” and “Dr. Bish Family Portrait”
(2005, 2011) 16mm, color, silent, approx. 10 min
Camera Original (Kodachrome and Ektachrome)

Selected footage from Wilkins’s year in Mexico and a portrait of filmmaker Bruce Baillie at his home in Washington State.  (Work in-progress).

Note: This is a rare opportunity to see the work of Timoleon Wilkins, whose expressive transcendental work traces an emotional arc through a delicate interplay of natural and manmade landscapes. For Wilkins, a classic colorist, light and shadow form a warp and weft, from which irony, melancholy and subtle spiritual moments emerge.

The work-in progress offer’s Redcat’s audience a unique chance to see footage from Wilkins’s formative year in Mexico . Screening the camera originals (typically the sancrosanct artifact from which internegatives and positives are struck) maximizes the luminosity or vividness of colors, and in the case of black and white reversal film, camera originals capture the densest blacks and whites.) Each projection  is a unique performance with the risk of the destruction of the image. (Very few other experimentalists have shown their camera originals ie: Robert Beavers, Jerome Hiler and Paul Clipson. This is often the province of no-budget, small-format filmmaking (Super 8 or 8 millimeter).

Timoleon Wilkins (born 1969) has been making 8mm and 16mm films since he was 12 years old. He has completed over a dozen avant-garde 16mm films and his work has been screened at such venues as New York Film Festival, London Film Festival, Whitney Museum, San Francisco Cinematheque, University of Colorado, The Munich Filmmuseum, Los Angeles Filmforum, and the Onion City Film Festival to name a few. In 2005 he was a visiting artist at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His film “Drifter” won the prestigious Stan Brakhage Film at Wit’s End award at Ann Arbor Film Festival in 2011.

Born and raised in Colorado, Wilkins attended the University of Colorado, Boulder (1988-90) and later obtained a BA in Spanish at the University of Colorado, Denver in 2004. A student and friend of Stan Brakhage, he lived in San Francisco for nearly a decade and served as President of the Board at Canyon Cinema in the mid 1990s.

His writings have been widely published: from 1992-95 he published his own film-fanzine Celluloidall and revived the long-defunct newsletter Canyon Cinemanews (1994-96). He also edited a monograph for the San Francisco Cinematheque, Baillie: Life, Work (1995). Most recently, he co-authored an interview with Stan Brakhage in Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area 1950-2000 (Kathy Geritz, Steve Seid, Steve Anker, eds.) and wrote an article for the Spring 2012 issue of The Moving Image-the Journal of the Association of Moving Image Archivists.

From 1997-2001 Wilkins worked as assistant to filmmaker/artist Bruce Conner and oversaw the film printing/restoration of films for Conner’s retrospective, ‘2000BC: The Bruce Conner Story’ (Walker Arts Center, 2000). Since 2007 he has been employed as theater manager at UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Funded in part with generous support from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Curated by Steve Anker and Bérénice Reynaud

Jack H. Skirball Series
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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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