Sunday, April 15, 2007

Frampton's Frames, etc.

Recently viewed: Zorn's Lemma ... (nostalgia) ... Dr. Jekyll et les femmes ... Hold Me While I'm Naked ... Eclipse of the Sun Virgin

I watched the latter two of these films on the Ubuweb page to which I'm linking; I'm sure they don't really give off all their best qualities in such small, digital format. Certainly something would be lost by watching Zorn's Lemma and (nostalgia) in such circumstances. (As for Borowczyk's Dr. Jekyll, I bet it's available on bit torrent sites if you're signed up with one of those. I saw it on the Cult Alley Theatre dvd, which I think is maybe the best version that is semi-readily available, though still imperfect. See here for an informative short review of the film's available versions, and the problems of mutilation and bad transfers--from 2005.) Something makes me think that the Kuchar titles I watched are something of a fusion of the Frampton aesthetic (only a little though: more likely I'm referring to a certain New York 1960s avant-gardism from which Frampton himself was coming) and the extremely painstaking cult craftsmanship of Borowczyk's work ...

My favorite anecdote about Frampton comes from David Ehrenstein on a_film_by (who said Frampton was an arrogant bastard, though Fred Camper came to Frampton's defense at the accusation):

"But Frampton wasn't marginalized. From his very first appearance he was hailed as Major Artist. Zorns Lemma was the first avant-garde film to get a screening in The Big Room at the New York Film Festival back in 1970. It was a major event. And to say something in Frampton's favor I recall his squaring off with John Simon in the Q & A that followed. Simon undoubtedly thought from Frampton's appearance that he was some sort of mindless hippie. It didn't take long for him to find out he was dealing with someone even more intellectually arrogant than he was."

I can just see that eminently cultured "highbrow" Simon drowning next to the vastly superior intellect of Frampton, who may or may not have been arrogant, but was certainly brilliant. His collection of essays, Circles of Confusion (not easy to find nowadays!) is pretty great, and the author seems to be erudite in a fairly charming way. A bit intellectually intimidating at times, yes, definitely--but he doesn't ever lord his erudition over the reader, as I experience it. And what's also interesting is that Frampton doesn't seem to be one to retreat into aesthetics like a turtle into its shell, a possibility one could be forgiven for suspecting given his commitment to esoteric problems of aesthetics (and his relationship with Ezra Pound). Frampton does not shy away from problems of history or politics even as he does not specialize in them, in my limited knowledge of the filmed & written corpus ...

(Also on a_f_b Camper wrote:

"By the way, not that it's strictly relevant, but I think Frampton was the most widely "cultured" of all avant-garde filmmakers. He studied with Pound in his youth (as one of the group of people who surrounded Pound at St. Elizabeth's); he knew Latin and Greek and God knows how many other languages; he was, unlike most filmmakers, well-versed in and fascinated by mathematics and physics, as witnessed by some of his movie titles; he was widely read in literature, poetry, philosophy, and history; he had a deep knowledge of and love for cinema; he was technically one of the most accomplished filmmakers, having worked in labs and become intimately familiar with photo-chemistry; he was originally a still photographer whose vast knowledge of the history of that medium is evidenced by his often brilliant essays, commixed by Annette Michelson for Artforum and October and published in his book, Circles of Confusion.")


Mubarak Ali said...

I didn't know that Dr. Jekyll et les femmes was available on legit-dvd. I've seen the supposedly uncut vhs that was available from Midnight Video some time back. What a film this is!

Zach Campbell said...