Tuesday, January 14, 2020 at 7pm
Hollis Frampton's Palindrome + Owen Land's Wide Angle Saxon

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Introduced by P. Adams Sitney

Palindrome, Hollis Frampton, 1969, 16mm, 22 mins
Preserved by Anthology Film Archives with support from the Estate of Hollis Frampton

“Hollis, clearly this one of your greatest films! Absolute perfection.” - Stan Brakhage

“At the time the material for Palindrome was collected, I was working in a lab where professionals brought in sheets and rolls of film for processing. All the processing was done by automatic machinery. The waste at both ends of the rolls, where the machine’s clips had been attached, was cut off and tossed into the wastebasket. The physical deformation caused by the clips, and the erratic way in which the clips let in chemicals to work on the emulsion, produced images. It struck me that by far the most interesting images produced by the process went into the wastebasket. The dull ones were put in boxes and sent back to the customers. I began to collect the waste images and mount them as slides. There was something there, a modulated image that could be decoded as having illusionist content, volume. They just didn’t resemble anything specific. The set I chose for Palindrome tended towards the biomorphic. They resembled action painting, too, in the sense that while much is made of the emphasis on two-dimensional surface, one can decode de Kooning’s paintings or Pollock’s or Kline’s as containing perspective indicators. In time, I started thinking about using them in a film. It was my second attempt—the first was Heterodyne—to make a film that did not proceed from photographed footage...

I started by generating a short roll of images that primed the pump. Forty phrases of twenty-four single frames were generated by animation. Then a set of variations was made at the lab, which produced the following: an image of the original roll (color, single layer); a continuous tone, black and white version; a black and white negative; and a color negative. Other sets were produced by printing the original roll superimposed on itself, so that the blocks of image fall on top of each other, but so that we see the images first to last on one level, last to first on the other. A color positive, color negative, black and white positive, and black and white negative were made in that way. Then came a set made from the black and white; on the forward pass, the original was printed through a yellow filter, and on the reverse pass, through blue; and another done the same way, except with magenta and green filters. Those generated rolls were intercut with each other, interwoven around the center point.

Well, why do all that? What is important is not the minute specification of what was done, because other things could have been done. Two general things: first, the palindromicity of the film is local as well as global; and second, it does have a certain diction that's small enough to be recognizable. We begin to recognize, very quickly, images that we've seen before under a different guise; and after a few viewings we develop a sense of where we are at any given moment in the progress of the film. When that last brainlike hemisphere appears, upside down and backwards, there's the clear sense, even the first time through, that we are at the end of it. It doesn't have a beginning, middle, and end in the developmental sense. It is immediately the way it's going to be all the time. Nevertheless, it does develop a certain contour of expectation.”

- HF

Wide Angle Saxon, Owen Land (George Landow), 1975, 16mm, 22 mins
Preserved by Anthology Film Archives

Wide Angle Saxon provides the occasion for Landow to demonstrate, albeit ironically, his view of the status of cinematic imagery in a Christian vision that acknowledges a rational historical order, taking its meaning from the historical drama of Christ as the fulfillment of ancient prophecies and the definition of the future of time. The film obliquely describes the conversion of a television worker, Earl Greaves, who hears but rejects the proselytizing of a Messianic rock group in the course of his work only to be convinced by it, suddenly, while politely clapping for an avant-garde film that has bored him. Interspersed throughout this narrative are found (ready-made) mistakes of a news item about the Panama Canal, culminating in the superimposition of the palindrome ‘A Man, A Plan, A Canal: Panama!,’ mental images apparently from the fictional Earl Greaves’s dreams, and comments about the process by which this and other Landow films were made. A final shot puts the authority of the whole film in question: a woman awakes with a gasp and exclaims, ‘Oh, it was only a dream.’ (Landow considered making a series of films which would end with this line.)

Within the various episodes representing mental imagery, the Freudian principles of condensation and displacement are demonstrated. Landow incorporates free play between the linguistic and visual aspects of the film in this process. The palindromes and the repetitions of shots constitute an arbitrary, cyclic, and reversible order in contradistinction to which he posited the Christian revelation and the decisive moment of conversion. While the film mocks itself, its maker, and, in the hilarious preaching of a rock singer, its religious theme, it slyly invites the viewer to actualize the conversion attributed to its fictional protagonist. The Duchampian vertigo of word and image, he proposes, can only be surmounted by a more radical ‘imaginative’ and ‘eternally present’ leap into faith.

The boring avant-garde film which provides Earl Greaves with an opportunity to reflect on a biblical passage that sticks in his mind is incorporated, as a negative moment, within Wide Angle Saxon. Its title, ‘Regrettable Redding Condescension,’ is a parody of [Land’s own] Remedial Reading Comprehension, but the film itself explicitly parodies Hollis Frampton’s (nostalgia). The imaginary film-maker to whom Landow attributes the film-within-his film is Al Rutcurts, an anagram for ‘structural,’ a term I have used in this book to describe an aspect which Landow’s work shares with several of his contemporaries, who, by the way, share his objections to generic association.”

- PAS, Visionary Film

Tickets - $8, available at door.

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