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September 11 – 14, 2015

Saul Levine, Part I: 1966-77

“I tried to film what was going on around me and value it as much as the heroics of the big screen.”—Saul Levine

With a monumental filmography that dates back almost fifty years and seems to grow monthly (if not weekly), Saul Levine (b. 1943) long ago established himself as a central figure in American experimental cinema. He is also a key member of the filmmaking community in Boston and Cambridge, not only because of his own work but also for his passionate, tireless and inspiring roles as both a professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and the programmer of the MassArt Film Society, one of the foremost venues for experimental cinema in the area. The Harvard Film Archive is extremely excited to present the first in a number of programs designed to help local audiences acquaint, or reacquaint, themselves with Levine’s impressive body of work, from the beginnings to the present day.

This initial program covers the first dozen or so years of Levine’s prolific filmmaking career, which began in 1965 in his hometown of New Haven, Connecticut. Levine quickly gravitated to 8mm and Super 8 as formats in which he could work easily and inexpensively, shooting the world he saw around him: colleagues, collaborators, lovers, political actions and demonstrations, the city and landscapes of New England and Chicago. Like other filmmakers who emerged on the experimental scene in the mid- to late 1960s, including Warren Sonbert and Robert Beavers, Levine’s work embraces the structuralist impulse to foreground cinema’s formal elements while celebrating the camera’s ability to capture the beauty and texture of everyday experience.

Helpfully, for one as prolific as he, Levine organizes many of his films into series, indicated by the title of the individual films. Although the series continues to this day, the “Notes” cycle encompasses much of his work from the 1960s and 1970s. By labeling these films “notes,” many addressed to friends, Levine foregrounds their brevity and intimate nature. The label also helps give the works a casual quality, something off-the-cuff, rather than a grand statement.

Almost all of Levine’s work is based in montage, and the splice becomes a recurring visual event, especially in the films shot on 8mm and Super 8. While the splice—the joining of two pieces of film by tape or glue—is typically invisible by the time a film is projected, Levine foregrounds his splices, partly by necessity but also as a gesture that brings together the body of the film and the mind of the filmmaker, as well as the hand of the filmmaker and the spirit of cinema.

Besides the “Notes” and other similarly diaristic films, this program also includes the found-footage work A Big Stick/An Old Reel, which highlights the political charge of Chaplin’s Little Tramp, and Star Film—an abstract exploration and exploitation of the iconic five-point starwhich could have been inspired by Jasper Johns.

Smitten, melancholic or tender, what Levine's films have in common is a heartfelt quality—the films always seem completely honest and direct. To experience them is to understand what has made Levine such a profound influence, especially on such former students as Luther Price, Anne Charlotte Robertson and Jonathan Schwartz.– David Pendleton

All films directed by Saul Levine. All prints courtesy of the filmmaker, except for Notes of an Early Fall from Film-Maker's Coop.

$12 Special Event Tickets
Saul Levine in person
Friday September 11 at 7pm

The films in this program, and their juxtaposition, show the ways in which Levine’s work interweaves the personal and the political, combining intimacy with public activism.

Saul’s Scarf

US 1966-67, 16mm, color, silent, 20 min

 

Lost Note

US 1968-69, 16mm, color & b/w, silent, 10 min

 

The Big Stick/An Old Reel

US 1967-73, 16mm, b/w, silent, 10 min

 

New Left Note

US 1968-82, 16mm, color & b/w, silent, 28 min

 

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$12 Special Event Tickets
Saul Levine in person
Sunday September 13 at 7pm

This program foregrounds Levine’s use of movement, color and light, as well as his attention to landscape and the cycle of the seasons.

Note to Erik

US 1966-68, 16mm, color, silent, 4 min

 

Note to Pati

US 1969, 16mm, color, silent, 7 min

 

Star Film

US 1967-69, 16mm, color, silent, 15 min

 

On the Spot

US 1973, digital video, color, silent, 29 min

 

Note to Colleen

US 1974, 16mm, color, silent, 4 min

 

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$12 Special Event Tickets
Saul Levine in person
Monday September 14 at 7pm

The mid-1970s found Levine incorporating sound into his work, beginning a new series of “Portrayals” and confronting the loss of his teaching job at SUNY Binghamton, owing at least partly to his political activities.

Rambling Notes

US 1976-77, 16mm, color, silent, 19 min

 

Notes of an Early Fall

US 1976, Super 8, color, 33 min

 

Twilight Portrayal

US 1977-78, 16mm, color, silent, 3 min

 

Nearsight AKA Portrayal/Near-Site

US 1978, 16mm, color, silent, 2 min

 

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