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February 15 - 17

Ernie Gehr’s Marvelous Cinema

"If Giotto had been an action painter his name would be Ernie Gehr." – J. Hoberman

Ernie Gehr (1943–) arrived on the experimental film scene during the remarkable efflorescence of the 1970s, as a new generation of ambitious young filmmakers began to mine and, quite often, challenge the territory previously staked out by postwar artists led by Brakhage, Anger, et al. An entirely self-taught filmmaker, Gehr's meticulous attention to the material and formal qualities of cinema closely aligned with the Structuralist film movement and contemporary minimalist art. Like minimalist painters or sculptors, Gehr's cinema draws its energy from the carefully defined limits that structure his every film, a controlled restriction of the cinematic apparatus that, in a seeming paradox, results in incredibly exhilarating and even liberating films. Indeed, in Gehr's hands the camera seems to take on magical properties, able to transform the most quotidian object or environment – the pattern of sunlight on a wall, a busy street – into marvelous and unexpected phenomena. The magical qualities conjured by Gehr's cinema are especially powerful within those works dealing with the urban environment. In films such as Side/ Walk/ Shuttle, Shift and Greene Street, Gehr leads the viewer through a looking glass of sorts and into a gravityfree zone where buildings, cars and shadows seem to float and where the time and space between things become as concrete as the objects themselves.

In recent years, Gehr has discovered and embraced digital video, a shift which has only increased his prolific output and resulted in wonderful new works. We are thrilled that Ernie Gehr will join us to discuss his films and career for the two evenings of this program, which draws from both old and new works.


Special Event Tickets $10
Friday February 15 at 7pm

Wait

Directed by Ernie Gehr, Appearing in Person
US 1968, 16mm, silent, 7 min.

 

Reverberation

Directed by Ernie Gehr, Appearing in Person
US 1969, video, b/w, 25 min.

In his first sound film Gehr masterfully abstracts sound and image track into tactile and textural fields. Against a complex arrangement of deeply sonorous urban and machine sounds, the image – 8mm film re-photographed several times – is alive with swirling, pulsing film grain. Filmed at and around the World Trade Center's construction site, Gehr's mysterious film follows a nameless young couple (Canadian actress Margaret Lamarre and experimental filmmaker Andrew Noren) as they drift either in or out of love.

The Astronomer's Dream

Directed by Ernie Gehr, Appearing in Person
US 2004, video, b/w, 15 min.

A lovely homage to the supreme magician of the cinema and Gehr’s hero, George Méliès. "Particles of dust – insolent creatures – filling the air with dreams and enchanted sounds of night, tantalizing the real with their dance of veils. Be quick! Be quick! They are awakening… Curtains!" – E.G.


Serene Velocity

Directed by Ernie Gehr, Appearing in Person
US 1970, 35mm, color, 23 min.

Gehr's justifiably most famous work is a sublime meditation on camera movement and the inherently disorienting properties of institutional space. The Museum of Modern Art's gloriously restored and newly struck 35mm blow up of Gehr's iconic film intensifies the experience of this truly mesmerizing film.

 Listen to this evening's introduction, discussion and Q&A.

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Special Event Tickets $10
Saturday February 16 at 7pm

Shift

Directed by Ernie Gehr, Appearing in Person
US 1972-74, 16mm, color, 9 min.

A playful and dazzling study of city traffic that transforms a city street into a type of crazy pinball machine.

Side/Walk/Shuttle

Directed by Ernie Gehr, Appearing in Person
US 1991, 16mm, color, 41 min.

One of Gehr's most absorbing and magical works, Side/Walk/Shuttle is a wonderful fairground ride of a film that transforms San Francisco into a mysterious cavern where skyscrapers grow like stalagmites in a stop-motion rhythm and city streets ribbon and bend. Filmed over several months from the glass elevator of a San Francisco hotel, Gehr's masterpiece explores an alternate, hitherto unseen vision of urban experience unmoored from habitual reality.

Glider

Directed by Ernie Gehr, Appearing in Person
US 2001, video, color, 37 min.

Glider is a wonderfully hypnotic work that seems to float in a waking dream above a curving topography of sea and shore. Shot entirely within a camera obscura, Gehr harnesses the panoptic and oneiric powers of the precinematic device to create a profoundly fascinating and sensuous work.

 Listen to this evening's introduction, discussion and Q&A.


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Sunday February 17 at 3pm

Eureka

Directed by Ernie Gehr, Appearing in Person
US 1974, 16mm, b/w, silent, 30 min.

One of the great found footage films, Eureka was made by re-photographing a 1902 film travelogue shot from the front of a San Francisco street car. Extending the original nine and a half minutes to half an hour, Gehr makes the viewer a time traveler passing through a world thick with camera grain and redolent with temps perdu.

The Essex Street Quartet

In the early 1970s Gehr embarked on an ambitious city symphony film that he would never complete, armed with a series of vintage 16mm cameras from the 1930s from his impressive collection of cinematographic devices. Inspired by the Lumière brothers and, it would seem, by Georg Simmel's description of the restless kineticism of the modern city, Gehr turned his obsolete cameras upon primary sites of physical and commercial movement in Lower Manhattan: the long gone Essex Street Market, crowded Wall Street diners and subway cars swollen with rush hour commuters. Returning to the abandoned footage over thirty years later, Gehr transferred the film to video and assembled a four part work that rediscovers the rhythms and shapes of a now lost city and poignantly ends, in Greene Street, with a burst of Kodachrome magic.


Essex Street Market

Directed by Ernie Gehr, Appearing in Person
US 2004, video, b/w, silent, 29 min.


Noon Time Activities

Directed by Ernie Gehr, Appearing in Person
US 2004, video, b/w, silent, 21 min.


Workers Leaving the Factory (After Lumière)

Directed by Ernie Gehr, Appearing in Person
US 2004, video, b/w, silent, 12 min.


Greene Street

Directed by Ernie Gehr, Appearing in Person
US 2004, video, color, silent, 5 min.



 Listen to this evening's introduction, discussion and Q&A.



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