Artists' Television Access

Warren Sonbert 2: Pop Witness

presented by

Thursday, May 29, 2008, 8:00 pm, $6

Second of three programs in a retrospective look at the films of SF experimental filmmaker Warren Sonbert curated by Johnny Ray Huston and Konrad Steiner. 

Prints from Canyon Cinema.

Amphetamine  16mm, b&w/so, 10 min. (1966)

A film by Warren Sonbert and Wendy Appel. With Gene Dawson and Tommy Mitchell. Asst. Edythe Lazarow and Peter Heller.

“Sonbert began making films in 1966, as a student at New York University’s film school in New York. In his first films, he uniquely captured the spirit of his generation, and was inspired both by his university milieu and by the denizens of the Warhol art scene. In both provocative and playful fashion, Amphetamine depicts young men shooting amphetamines and making love in the era of sex, drugs and rock and roll.

“In this film, Sonbert also reveals his deep admiration for classic Hollywood cinema, which he regularly inscribed in his filmmaking practice. The circular tracking shot of the two young men kissing is a vivid visual reminder of the famed scene of James Stewart and Kim Novak embracing in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958).” – Jon Gartenberg

Where Did Our Love Go?  16mm, color/sound on CD, 15 min. (1966)

“Warhol Factory days … serendipity visits, Janis and Castelli and Bellvue glances … Malanga at work … glances at Le Mepris and North by Northwest … girl rock groups and a disco opening … a romp through the Modern. My second film.” WS

Hall of Mirrors  16mm, b&w/color/sound, 7 min. (1966)

“This film is an outgrowth of one of Sonbert’s film classes at NYU, in which he was given outtakes from a Hollywood film photographed by Hal Mohr to re-edit into a narrative sequence. Adding to this found footage, Sonbert filmed Warhol’s superstars Rene Ricard and Gerard Malanga in more private and reflective moments.

“Throughout Hall of Mirrors, Sonbert underscores the materiality of film and the self-referential aspect of the filmmaking enterprise. Hall of Mirrors begins and ends with the protagonists’ movements enmeshed within multiple relfecting mirrors. He incorporates black and white ‘found’ footage with newly filmed scenes photographed in color, works the exposed leader of the film rolls into the film’s fabric, and captures his own reflected image while filming one of his protagonists. The rock and roll soundtrack underscores the sense of visual entrapment of the characters.” – Jon Gartenberg

Friendly Witness  16mm, color/soound, 22 min. (1989)

“In FRIENDLY WITNESS, Sonbert returned, after 20 years, to sound. In the first section of the film, he deftly edits a swirling montage of images – suggestive of loves gained and love lost – to the tunes of four rock songs. ‘At times the words of the songs seem to relate directly to the images we see …; at other times words and images seem to be working almost at cross-purposes or relating only ironically. Similarly, at times the image rhythm and music rhythm appear to dance together, while at others they go their separate ways.’ (Fred Camper, Chicago Reader, October 12, 1990)

“Accompanying the closing imagery with a music underscore from Gluck’s overture to Iphigenie en Aulide, Sonbert remarked that ‘Spectacle, public domain, objective (god’s eye) point of view is the aesthetic approach with the constant idea that all this activity is perhaps occurring simultaneously.’ Here, as Sonbert weaves together an extraordinary palette of synchronous global activity, he places himself firmly in the pantheon of the great montage theorists in film history.” – Jon Gartenberg

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