THE BIRTH FILM
In celebration of Mothers Day, Los Angeles Filmforum is thrilled to present a special selection of historical experimental films engaging with the subject of birth, from filmmakers Stan Brakhage, Gunvor Nelson, Marjorie Keller, and Maya Deren & Alexander Hammid.
Cinematic records of childbirth date far back in the history of cinema, though for decades it was treated, unsurprisingly, as a subject of nearly abstract, purely medical interest. The implicit taboo of filming childbirth for personal, artistic, symbolic, or otherwise creative purposes was a fierce one, making Stan and Jane Brakhages decision to film the birth of their first daughter Myrrena in November of 1958 a remarkable one.
Since this groundbreaking film the iconic Window Water Baby Moving (1959) numerous other artists have considered the cinematic portrayal of birth, including Brakhage himself four more times. As material for cinema, the subject matter has certainly become dramatically less taboo, but its depiction remains a singularly and disarmingly powerful experience, especially in the hands of a sensitive filmmaker.
This program features a modest selection of extraordinary birth films by some equally extraordinary artists. Showing in a restored print from New York Public Library, Marjorie Kellers psychologically rich and complex experimental documentary Misconception (1977) is an acclaimed multi-part work in which the birth is the crisis of the film and its center, in Kellers words. Brakhages ecstatic and kinetic Thigh Line Lyre Triangular (1961), depicting the birth of the Brakhages third child, is a lesser-known and very different birth film that foregrounds the filmmakers own subjective witness. Gunvor Nelsons little-seen Kirsa Nicholina (1969) largely eschews superficial lyricism in favor of a very direct, documentary approach that nevertheless finds startling power and emotion in its subject. Rounding out the program is a truly remarkable 1944 film from Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid on feline birth, demonstrating an uncannily human tenderness in both its subject and treatment. This film, The Private Life of a Cat, normally shown in a shorter silent version, will be featured in an extremely rare presentation of the films original longer cut (courtesy of Anthology Film Archives), with its original release soundtrack featuring narration by Deren herself.
Program approximately 90 minutes.
Special thanks to: John Klacsmann (Anthology Film Archives), Elena Rossi-Snook (The New York Public Library), Antonella Bonfanti & Seth Mitter (Canyon Cinema), and P. Adams Sitney.
Thigh Line Lyre Triangular
Stan Brakhage, 1961, 16mm, color, silent, 6m
Gunvor Nelson, 1969, 16mm, color, sound, 16m
The Private Life of a Cat
Maya Deren & Alexander Hammid, 1944, HD (originally 16mm), b/w, sound, 28m
Courtesy of Anthology Film Archives, New York
Marjorie Keller, 1977, 16mm, color, sound, 42m
Courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Misconception has been preserved with funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation.
Tickets: $10 general, $6 students/seniors; free for Filmforum members.
This program is supported by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; and Bloomberg Philanthropies. Additional support generously provided by the American Cinematheque. We also depend on our members, ticket buyers, and individual donors.
Los Angeles Filmforum is the city's longest-running organization screening experimental and avant-garde film and video art, documentaries, and experimental animation. 2016 is our 41st year.
Coming Soon to Los Angeles Filmforum:
May 12: Tacita Dean: Presences/Absences @ MOCA Grand Ave, 7pm
May 15: The Death Film (w/ films by Stan Brakhage, Barbara Hammer, Gus Van Sant, others) @ The Egyptian
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