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April 25

Robert Breer, Kinetic Poet of the Avant-Garde

A founding member of the American avant-garde, Robert Breer (b. 1926) has been working at the forefront of experimental animation for over fifty years. The son of an inventor and engineer, Breer's continued experimentation with a range of film and animation techniques has drawn from his deep knowledge of early cinema and cinematographic technologies. Breer is celebrated not only for his remarkable line and live action techniques, seen in works such as A Man and His Dog Out for Air (1957), but also for fabulous collage films such as Un Miracle (1954) and his dazzling use of single-frame photography in break-through films such as Fist Fight (1964) and the incredible Jamestown Baloos (1957).

Breer entered film through painting in the early 1950s when he was living in Paris and deeply influenced by Neo-plasticism as defined by Mondrian and Vasarely. Breer channeled his interest in geometric abstraction into his remarkable first group of films, Form Phases (1954-1956), which explored the role of movement in the understanding of form and space. Breer's wonderful kinetic sculptures also tie directly into the concern for movement, composition and space perception which has remained central to his films. Combining a meticulous attention to form and rhythm with an acerbic wit and talent for satire, Breer provides an important link between the abstract films of Richter, Eggeling and Leger and the lyric and radical traditions of the avant-garde, from Brakhage and Baillie to Kubelka and Sharits. We are honored to welcome Robert Breer to the HFA for this special evening dedicated to his films and remarkable career.

Special thanks to Andrew Lampert and Anthology Film Archives, who preserved all of Breer's films in this program and generously loaned these wonderful new prints, many in new 35mm blow-ups.


Special Event Tickets $10
Friday April 25 at 7pm

Form Phases I – IV

Directed by Robert Breer, Appearing in Person
Form Phases I
US 1952, 16mm, silent, color, 2 min.
Form Phases II
US 1953, 16mm, silent, color, 2 min.
Form Phases III
US 1953, 16mm, silent, color, 3 min.
Form Phases IV
US 1954, 16mm, silent, color, 4 min.

Breer's earliest experiments in animation are wonderfully dense yet lyrical abstractions based on Breer's own geometric paintings.

Un Miracle

Directed by Robert Breer, Appearing in Person
US 1954, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, silent, color, 1 min.

Breer's first collage film is a hilarious joke about the juggling talents of Pope Pius XII which was made in
collaboration with Pontus Hulten.


Recreation

Directed by Robert Breer, Appearing in Person
US 1956, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, color, 2 min.

Featuring a commentary by Noel Burch (in nonsense French), Recreation's rapid-fire montage of single-frame images of incredible density and intensity has been compared to contemporary Beat poetry.




Jamestown Baloos

Directed by Robert Breer, Appearing in Person
US 1957, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, color, 6 min.

Breer's early masterpiece is a three-part film that combines animation and live-action, collage and photography, silence and sound.


A Man and His Dog Out for Air

Directed by Robert Breer, Appearing in Person
US 1957, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, b/w, 2 min.

A whimsical film that displays Breer's drawing artistry. Originally shown as a short before Last Year at Marienbad during that film's initial New York theatrical release.

Eyewash

Directed by Robert Breer, Appearing in Person
US 1959, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, color, silent, 4 min.

A free flow from photography to geometric abstraction hand-painted by Breer.

Eyewash (Alternate Version)

Directed by Robert Breer, Appearing in Person
US 1959, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, color, silent, 3 min.

The recently discovered alternate version to Eyewash presents a radical reinterpretation of the same footage.

Blazes

Directed by Robert Breer, Appearing in Person
US 1961, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, color, 3 min.

"One hundred basic images switching positions for four thousand frames. A continuous explosion." – RB

Fist Fight

Directed by Robert Breer, Appearing in Person
US 1964, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, color, 9 min.

Breer's extraordinary autobiographical film combines personal and family photos with intense colors, textures and geometric abstractions. Originally presented as part of Karlheinz Sotckhausen's 1964 premiere of Originale.

66

Directed by Robert Breer, Appearing in Person
US 1966, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, color, 5 min.

"Abstract, quasi-geometric study in interrupted continuity." – RB.

69

Directed by Robert Breer, Appearing in Person
US 1969, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, color, 5 min.

"It's so absolutely beautiful, so perfect, so like nothing else. Forms, geometry, lines, movements, light very basic, very pure, very surprising, very subtle." – Jonas Mekas

70

Directed by Robert Breer, Appearing in Person
US 1970, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, silent, color, 5 min.

"Made with spray paint and hand-cut stencils, this film was an attempt at maximum plastic intensity… Places Breer for the first time among the major colorists of the avant-garde." – P. Adams Sitney

77

Directed by Robert Breer, Appearing in Person
US 1970, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, color, 7 min.

"Breer is a consummate master of cinematic space. Like Hans Richter, he constantly provokes a sense of depth through changing the scale of his shapes. Breer celebrates the freedom endemic in animation by giving the spectator a creative role in the process of metamorphosis." – Noel Carroll

Fuji

Directed by Robert Breer, Appearing in Person
US 1974, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, color, 9 min.

"A poetic, rhythmic, riveting achievement (in rotoscope and abstract animation), in which fragments of landscapes, passengers, and train interiors blend into a magical color dream of a voyage. One of the most important works by a master who – like Conner, Brakhage, Broughton – spans several avant-gardes." – Amos Vogel

Swiss Army Knife with Rats and Pigeons

Directed by Robert Breer, Appearing in Person
US 1981, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, color, 7 min.

"... a typically bravura and delightful display of simple objective forms flashing, rotating, and dissolving into abstraction...." – J. Hoberman

Bang!

Directed by Robert Breer, Appearing in Person
US 1986, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, color, 10 min.

"Bang! reveals Breer at his most accomplished and most playful. It is also his most autobiographical film – the youngster paddling a boat is Breer as a boy and the pencil cartoon sequences were drawn by Breer when he was around ten years old. Breer inserts a photo of himself with a question mark scrawled over his head, accompanied by the words 'Don't be smart.' But he can't help it – he is." – Katherine Dieckmann

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

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