May 13, 2008
SFIFF Dispatch. 9.Brian Darr Bruce Conner's Cannes-bound - and possibly last - film. According to the Walker Art Center's 1999 volume 2000 BC: The Bruce Conner Story Part II (there is no Part I,) the first screening of Bruce Conner's first film, the seminal A Movie, was held in 1958 at the East and West Gallery in San Francisco. That year, the first West Coast solo exhibition of his painting, drawing and collage work was hung at the venue. Now, 50 years later, Conner's work is coming into the light once more. An exhibition of photographs he took in 1977-8 at the epicenter of San Francisco punk rock, Ness Aquino's Mabuhay Gardens, will display at the Berkeley Art Museum June 4 through August 3. And for the first time ever, a Bruce Conner film will be going to the Cannes Film Festival. Entitled Easter Morning, this 10-minute-long work takes a piece of 8mm film called Easter Morning Raga, which had been intended to be looped and projected at a variety of speeds in installation settings, and locks it to a newly-selected piece of music by Terry Riley. I had the good fortune to see it at the San Francisco International FIlm Festival in a program co-sponsored by SF Cinematheque entitled Alternate Geographies. Like Looking for Mushrooms, a rare Conner foray into explorations of color, Easter Morning is a film about light. In its current, un-looped form it begins with the image of a candle flame rising through the center of the frame, separating a jungle of green as if Charlton Heston were parting the Red Sea. It reveals the world as a garden of both leaf and light, achieved through in-camera double- and triple-exposures that seem especially dazzling as the rhythmic patterns of these multicolored lights sync up to the Riley score added decades later. Riley's piece, a version of his groundbreaking "In C" as performed by the Shanghai Film Orchestra on traditional Chinese instruments, provides a soundtrack just as likely to sound otherworldly and exotic in the East as in the West. The light, color, and blurred motion of the rapidly advancing images may remind the viewer that at the time Conner shot this footage in 1966, he was also moonlighting at the Avalon Ballroom, putting together light shows with film, slides, and strobes. Easter Morning may be seen as a film extension of these psychedelic presentations.
Posted by dwhudson at May 13, 2008 2:30 AM