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May 16, 2007

Lover Other

claude cahun.jpg

Barbara Hammer - 2006

Although she has had a long career as a filmmaker, last night was my first exposure to any films by Barbara Hammer. Lover Other has made me want to see Hammer's other work to get a better overview of how this new film fits with the older films and themes. The film is not a documentary in the traditional sense in that it is much more subjective about the artists and their work, stemming from Hammer's interest first in artists as war resisters, and specifically lesbian artists as resisters.

The life story of Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore has only recently gained serious attention. The names are the pseudonyms for Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe, respectively. The name Claude can be either male or female in France. The two women were childhood friends who became sisters through the marriage of their parents. The two women also became lovers and established themselves as artists at a young age when Paris was open to new possibilities.

Living in the British isle of Jersey since 1937, Cahun and Moore created photographic images primarily for their own pleasure. The two were imprisoned during the Nazi occupation of Jersey, as much for their refusing to cooperate with the Germans as well as both being Jewish. Much of their artwork was destroyed by the Nazis, with much of the remaining work saved almost by chance. What is most conspicuous about the artwork of Cahun and Moore is that it was done in isolation from the artistic centers of Europe.

Hammer astonishingly shot the bulk of her film in one week in Jersey. Much of the film is made up of shots of Cahun and Moore's photgraphs, such as the one above, and photo collages. There are also excerpts from video interviews with surving Jersey residents who knew Cahun and Moore as well as those who have preserved their work. Hammer also has voice-overs from their autobiographical writing. Two actresses briefly portray Cahun and Moore for extremely brief, dramatic effect. Even if one questions some of the choices Hammer makes in how she tells the story of Cahun and Moore, the story itself is compelling for someone who had not known of the artists previously.

barbara hammer.jpg
Barbara Hammer

An added bonus to the screening last night at the Miami Beach Cinematheque, was that it was also Barbara Hammer's birthday. Present for the showing of her film, Ms. Hammer was introduced by her former student, Dinorah De Jesus Rodriguez.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at May 16, 2007 02:34 PM


Peter, I also saw her present Lover Other about a month ago, here in Buffalo. She also showed her mid-70s explicit lesbian film, Dyketactics, which was very interesting.

She was really dynamic and engaging in her Q&A!

I noticed that Netflix carries History Lessons.

Posted by: girish at May 16, 2007 03:47 PM

Thanks so much for mentioning this film. If you hadn't, I probably would have never heard of it and Claude Cahun is one of my favorite photographers. The movie sounds really interesting and I look forward to seeing it myself.

Posted by: Kimberly at May 17, 2007 03:29 PM