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Experimental Film and Video Archive
  Experimental Film and Video
Friday, July 29, 7pm $2
Woodland Pattern Experimental Film/Video Series
Presented by the UWM Department of Film

Unreal, Frustrated Dreamer: Early Films of Curtis Harrington

Tonight's program presents the early work of Los Angeles filmmaker Curtis Harrington (b. 1928). As detailed in David E. James The Most Typical Avant Garde: History and Geography of Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles (University of California Press, 2005; it's what we've been reading this summer), Harrington's career offers yet another version of Hollywood history, one perhaps peculiarly typical, of an outsider approaching the mainstream, of an experimental practice dovetailing within the most commercial of endeavors.

Harrington's first and last films have been versions of Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher," his first made as a child, working in 8mm and inspired by stills from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari; his last shot on 35mm, made in 2002, with Harrington himself playing both the doomed male and female siblings.

In between, Harrington studied with von Sternburg at USC; co-founded, with Kenneth Anger, Creative Film Associates, the first post-war filmmaker-run distribution center (anticipating Filmmakers Coop and Canyon Cinema); made Voyage to a Prehistoric Planet for Roger Corman; earned the devotion of cultists for his still-celebrated horror films (especially the 1961 Val Lewton-inspired Night Tide, starring Dennis Hopper); and directed episodes of "Wonder Woman" and "Dynasty."

Harrington's own filmmaking blossomed with experimental beginnings. As were his friend and collaborator Kenneth Anger (Harrington appears in Anger's Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome) and his USC classmate Gregory Markopolous, Harrington was transfixed by the work of another Los Angeles filmmaker, Maya Deren. And his early 16mm films were also similarly film poems, symbol-laden dreamscapes that mapped his sexual identity across "labyrinths of self-seeking and self-flight" (as wrote an appreciative Anais Nin). Tonight's program presents four early films, all grappling with fate, transformation, desire, and death. Also offered is a portrait of painter, occultist and L.A. scenester Cameron Parsons, Harrington's co-star in Inauguration on the Pleasure Dome.

To screen (all work on 16mm, prints courtesy of Filmmakers Coop)
Fragment of Seeking (b&w, sound, 13-3/4 min., 1946)
Picnic (b&w, sound, 22-1/4 min., 1948)
On The Edge (b&w, sound, 6 min., 1949)
The Assignation (color, sound, 7-1/2 min. 1952)
The Wormwood Star (color, sound, 10 min., 1956)

Much thanks to Thomas Schur for his extensive Harrington interest. David E. James' The Most Typical Avant Garde (0520242580) can be purchased through the store.


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