Experimental Film Is Alive and Well
NEW YORK — Richard Foreman's unorthodox methods place him in the avant-garde wing of American theater. American movies also have a thriving experimental branch, and a recent two-evening show called "Avantgarde Cinema Today" spotlighted recent trends at Anthology Film Archives, the unofficial world headquarters for independent film.
Experimental movies have always been an important venue for young directors with innovative things to say, and the Anthology program showed that women are currently making a major impact.
Jennifer Reeves showed three movies of extraordinarily high quality: "Configuration 20" and "The Girl's Nervy," which might be called nature studies with a beat, and "Chronic," the expressively told story of a young woman's struggle with "so-called mental illness," as Reeves puts it in a program note. Lynne Sachs made "The House of Science: A Museum of False Facts," which uses fictional scenes, home movies, "found footage," and diary entries to explore how women's minds and bodies are forced into male-dominated molds.
Other films included "Winter Wheat" and "Echo Anthem" by Mark Street, explorations of American mythology and ideology; the brief "Sleepy Harem" and "Alpsee" and the ambitious "The Memo Book," personal film-poems by Matthias Mueller; the harrowing "Sodom" by Luther Price, which turns images of gay sexuality into a cry of pain and sorrow; and "Hardwood Process" by David Gatten, a gentle film about art-making as a hands-on activity.
The programs were curated by Colorado filmmaker Stan Brakhage, a towering giant of the avant-garde scene whose many contributions include a gift for recognizing and encouraging bright young talents.