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November 08, 2010

Starz Denver Film Festival 2010 - An Evening with P. Adam Sitney

p adams sitney.jpg

About the above photo, that's P. Adams Sitney, as I knew him in the Seventies, when Anthology Film Archives first opened.

This year, the Denver Film Society honored P. Adams Sitney. Usually a filmmaker is the person to get the "Stan Brakhage Vision Award". Lest anyone reading think that someone is exploiting Brakhage's name, let me go on record as having seen Stan Brakhage and several of his films at previous Denver Film Festivals. I even remember the time that Stan Brakhage introduced Andrey Tarkovskiy's Andrei Rublev one year. In his introductory remarks, Sitney mentioned both Tarkovskiy and Brakhage, the first in a quote about how the artist shares of himself, the second because Sitney discussed his own relationship with Brakhage that lasted over several decades.

I have to acknowledge my own personal interest. P. Adams Sitney was one of my teachers at NYU, where he taught a class on what was then called "New American Cinema". What I also remember is that a favorite word of his was "hermeneutics". To try and put as simply, or perhaps as simple minded, as possible, this was understanding non-narrative films as a form of text, visual poetry. What I have kept from that time was being introduced to the paintings of Turner, Rothko and Still, comparing them with the films Brakhage was doing at the time that attempted to resemble what is seen in hypnagogic vision. I also took advantage of my access to films at the Museum of Modern Art to study Curtis Harrington's short film, On the Edge, writing a shot by shot analysis. Also, I still have my copy of Sitney's book, "Visionary Film".

The program presented by Sitney was of four films that created a sort of chronology of films and filmmakers that created a kind of chain of inspiration. First were films by Marie Menken, Glimpse of the Garden, a film that caused Stan Brakhage to change his own way of making films, and Arabesque for Kenneth Anger. Brakhage was represent by Hymn to Her, one of several films Brakhage made about his then-wife, Jane. The next two films were by Sitney's late wife, Marjorie Keller, The Answering Furrow and Herein. Sitney discussed how Keller made some of her films as responses to Brakhage's films, and how she had also worked as an assistant to Brakhage during the time he taught at the University of Chicago.

I can't really discuss the films because I really don't have the ability to clearly write about non-narrative cinema. Or more precisely, what ability I may have had in the past has been allowed to lapse. For myself, I do appreciate that the Starz Denver Film Festival still makes room for films that are neither commercial, nor exist for any other reason than visual expression.

Posted by peter at November 8, 2010 02:21 PM

Comments

I'm envious!!

Posted by: Maya at November 9, 2010 02:12 AM

I've just been delving into P. Adams Sitney's writing for the first time this year, and have been very inspired by his words. His passion for experimental cinema is infectious - my world of cinema has opened up so much through reading some of his work. I'm jealous you were taught by him!! Cheers for the post.

Posted by: Michael C at November 12, 2010 04:50 AM