Tuesday, November 26, 2019 at 7pm
Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's Permutations + Sara Driver's You Are Not I

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Permutations, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, 1976, 16mm, 10 mins
You Are Not I, Sara Driver, 1981, digital projection, 48 mins

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s structural film Permutations is a portrait of the artist’s sister, Bernadette Hak Eun Cha, created from a series of three different shots: an image of her sister’s face, framed like a passport photo; the same composition, now with eyes closed; and the composition yet again, but with the subject turned around, the back of her head to the camera. Cha recombines these elements as a long string of patterns, articulated into flickering, Morse-style phrases. At times, the sequences reach the perceptual threshold of low-frame animation, awakening a kind of movement from the images. Cha punctuates the piece with a single, fleeting shot of her own face, evoking the sense, at once comforting and unsettling, that one’s sibling constitutes a dice-tossed variation of one’s self.

“You are not I. No one but me could possibly be.” So begins Paul Bowles’s 1948 short story that provides the basis of Sara Driver’s featurette You Are Not I, a close adaptation of the writer’s original tale, narrated as the interior monologue of a mute woman, Ethel, on the run from a mental asylum. In Driver’s film, the character first wanders onto the site of a car accident, where she is mistaken for a stunned survivor. A man brings her to the home of her sister, who takes her in, but theirs is an uneasy reunion. The scenario, lensed by Jim Jarmusch, plays out like a minimalist Gothic drama, or a deadpan No Wave update of 1960s psycho-horror, though others, in defining this singular work, have noted still broader affinities.

“Given the overall look of the film, and the meticulously layered construction of the sounds and images alike,” wrote critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, “it isn’t surprising that Jean-Marie Straub became an enthusiastic partisan of this film after seeing it at the Rotterdam Film Festival in early 1982. (‘I liked your film ten times better than Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe movies,’ he told Driver.) As in many of the heroic and mock-heroic compositions of Straub and Huillet, bodies are juxtaposed against landscapes (a row of sheet-covered corpses beside a road actually evokes Machorka-Muff and Not Reconciled in its eerie beauty—although the arrival of a couple of vans in the same shot suggests Benning), off-screen voices against on-screen fictions, surrealist fantasies of the unbridled ego against documentary representations of its confinement, and momentary subjective flashes against longer and broader meditations (e.g., the powerful movement from still shots of two old women pressed against a wire fence to a plan-séquence that starts with Ethel [Suzanne Fletcher] walking past them—like a quick journey from Marker’s La Jetée to Antonioni’s La Notte). The divided self—the art and craft of schizophrenia—thus becomes the film’s method as well as its subject, and the fierce battle of wills, world-views, and intelligences between the two sisters dictates the formal separations in Driver’s stark approach.”

Tickets - $8, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 6:30pm.

Above: Permutations. Print courtesy of the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Gift of the Theresa Hak Kyung Cha Memorial Foundation.