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February 27 - February 28

Of Light and Lightness – The Films of Marie Menken

"The realist sees only the front of a building, the outlines, a street, a tree. Marie Menken sees in them the motion of time and eye. She sees the motions of heart in a tree. ... A rain that she sees, a tender rain, becomes the memory of all rains she ever saw; a garden that she sees becomes a memory of all gardens, all color, all perfume, all mid-summer and sun." – Jonas Mekas

Marie Menken (1910-1970) is the unsung heroine of the American avant-garde cinema. A mentor, muse and major influence for such key experimental filmmakers as Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas and Andy Warhol, Menken created an extraordinary body of exuberant and stunningly beautiful films shaped, above all, by her intuitive understanding of handheld cinematography. Beginning with her celebrated first film, Visual Variations on Noguchi (1945), Menken used the hand-cranked Bolex camerafavored by avant-garde filmmakers to introduce a new agility, grace and spontaneity into experimental cinema, a lightness of camera and form hitherto unseen in American film. With Noguchi, Menken also began a spirited dialogue between cinema and the plastic and painterly arts that extends across her films in a witty yet deeply insightful exploration of the formal language and methodology specific to those schools and painters with whom Menken was close – from the Abstract Expressionist drip painting humorously critiqued in Drips in Strips (1963), to the factory production of Pop art in the revelatory Andy Warhol (1964) and the Fluxus practice of Robert Watts in Watts with Eggs (1967).

The longtime creative and marital partner of poet-filmmaker Willard Maas, Menken began as an accomplished painter whose eccentrically textured and effulgent canvases incorporate all manner of reflective media – phosphorescent paint, crushed glass, sequins – in a playful challenge to the traditional boundaries of the painted canvas. Light remained a major focus of Menken's films, most notably in major works such as Notebook (1940-62) and Lights (1964-66) which transform her Bolex into an instrument for painting marvelous sculptural forms from neon and city lights. Like the painters-turned-filmmakers Robert Breer and Carmen D'Avino, Menken (who animated the chess sequence in Maya Deren's At Land) embraced various animation techniques – collage, stop-motion cinematography – as a direct extension of her painting. Yet for Menken, animation also became a way of radically transforming the world around her, reimagining postwar New York City, for example, in her masterpiece of single frame cinematography Go! Go! Go! (1962-64), a work that condenses two years of patient documentary filmmaking into a delirious and exhilarating vision of a hyperactive city.

An important first step towards the recuperation of Menken as a major artist and figure in the postwar avant-garde scene, Martina Kudláček’s recent documentary Notes on Marie Menken (2006) includes rare footage and revealing interviews with a number of close friends and colleagues such as Anger, Mekas, Gerard Malanga and Alfred Leslie. We are pleased to include the rarely seen films Zenscapes and The Gravediggers From Guadix both recently preserved by Anthology Film Archives, who we graciously thank for their permission to screen these titles.

All films directed by Marie Menken unless noted.

Special double feature admission price of $10 for both shows on Friday and Saturday nights. Regular admission price applies to individual screenings.


Friday February 27 at 7pm

Notebook

US 1940–62, 16mm, color & b/w, silent, 10 min.
Print courtesy of the Filmmakers Coop

Moonplay

US 1950–62, 16mm, color, 5 min.
Print courtesy of the Filmmakers Coop

Glimpse of the Garden

US 1957, 16mm, color, 5 min.
Print courtesy of the Filmmakers Coop

Hurry! Hurry!

US 1957, 16mm, color, 3 min.
Print from Canyon Cinema

Zenscapes

US 1957, 16mm, color, silent 3 min.
Print courtesy of the Filmmakers Coop

Bagatelle for Willard Maas

US 1958–1961, 16mm, color, 6 min.
Print courtesy of the Filmmakers Coop

Arabesque for Kenneth Anger

US 1958–1961, 16mm, color, 4 min.
Print courtesy of the Filmmakers Coop

Eye Music in Red Major

US 1961, 16mm, color, silent, 6 min.
Print courtesy of the Filmmakers Coop

Go! Go! Go!

US 1962–64, 16mm, color, silent, 12 min.
Print from Canyon Cinema

Wrestling

US 1964, 16mm, b/w, silent, 8 min.
Print courtesty of the Filmmakers Coop

Lights

US 1964–66, 16mm, color, silent, 7 min.
Print courtesy of the Filmmakers Coop

Excursion

US 1968, 16 mm, color, silent, 5 min.
Print courtesy of the Filmmakers Coop



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Friday February 27 at 8:30pm

The Gravediggers from Guadix

US circa 1960, 16mm, silent, color, 45 min.
Print courtesy of Anthology Film Archives



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Saturday February 28 at 7pm

andy warholScreentest

Directed by Andy Warhol.
US 1966, 16mm, b/w, silent, 4 min.
Print courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art

Visual Variations on Noguchi

US 1945, 16mm, b/w, 4 min.
Print courtesy of the Filmmakers Coop

Dwightiana

US 1958–59, 16mm, color, 4 min.
Print courtesy of the Filmmakers Coop

Mood Mondrian

US 1961/62, 16mm, color, silent, 6 min.
Print courtesy of the Filmmakers Coop

Drips in Strips

US 1963, 16mm, color, silent, 3 min.
Print courtesy of the Filmmakers Coop

Andy Warhol

US 1964–65, 16mm, color, silent, 22 min.
Print courtesy of the Filmmakers Coop

Watts with Eggs

US 1967, 16mm, color, silent, 3 min.
Print courtesy of the Filmmakers Coop





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Saturday February 28 at 8:15pm

marie menken with cameraNotes on Marie Menken

Directed by Martina Kudláček.
Austria 2007, 35mm, color and b/w, 97 min.
Print from First Run Pictures



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Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700