AbeBooks Mitglied seit 1996
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AbeBooks Mitglied seit 1996
Titel: 66 Frames
Verlag: Coffee House Press, US
Auflage: 1st Edition
Über diesen Titel
A sixties memoir and an intriguing slice of avant garde film history.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Jonas' home and workspace was a small loft at 316 Third Avenue, between 23rd and 24th, above a dark and dusky bar, where I'd sometimes peer inside to see the shades of a few individuals, standing or sitting, as if stranded in two-dimensionality. The weary wooden stairs leading up to Jonas' reeked from the whiskey below. The end of the loft that overlooked Third Avenue, hanging over those tired stairs and that dim bar, consisted of a narrow room with a window but without a door; two single beds sat across from each other. Within the rather dark main room it adjoined, two work desks pressed against the south wall: one, an upturned door on two squat file cabinets, solid and spacious enough for paper and typewriter as well as film editing equipment; another, two feet away, was likewise an upturned door, but rested on two saw horses, with 16mm rewinds attached to its surface. I would work at the former, Jonas at the latter. Against the opposite (the north) wall of this main room, sat a somewhat worn dark nappy-piled-Danish Modern couch with wooden frame; a telephone with a long cord could reach either desk and the couch. There was no television.
At the far end of my desk, books and journals on film (Eisenstein, Godard, Mnsterberg, issues of Jonas' Film Culture, among many others) as well as battleship gray 16mm film cans stacked one on top of the other, filled two bookcases. Opposite the narrow room with the window, across a dark and partially carpeted hardwood floor, stood a small bathroom unit with a plastic-curtained shower stall at the west wall. A layering of white powder littered the toilet and sink and floor area erratically.
A young woman lived with Jonas. Ronna Page was about as old as I was-half as old as Jonas-and had long shiny black hair with neatly trimmed bangs, large glistening black eyes, and flawless fair skin covering high cheekbones. Her small, chubby, inquisitive rosebud lips were like a baby's. An actress, her stage name separated her from her Brooklyn origins in a family of Schwarzes. She was in Andy Warhol's just-released Chelsea Girls, his first split-screen movie, and Ronna's first Warhol film. In fact, I later learned, she'd just dropped by the Factory, not intending to appear on camera. Late into the four-hour epic she has an interview-a confession-with the Pope of the Underground played by the actor Ondine. It's a two-shot from a stationary camera with Ronna on the left edge of the frame, on one half of the "confessional" couch, a sectional sofa with the two halves placed back to back. Ondine, on the other half of the sofa, is at the center and right edge of the frame, which is lit radically from the left in harsh black and white. Some minutes into the confession, the Pope, having counseled Ronna to "go up to the nearest image of Christ, kneel down and then peel away the loincloth in your mind," and blow him, suddenly explodes and slaps her: she's stunned, and the tears she sheds are real. She'd made the error of calling him a phony after he'd declared "The mind is all," and "The soul is the mind," after she'd expressed her skepticism toward him, after he'd tossed "Popesi-cola" in her face, after he'd urged her to "Leave the confessional." He slaps her not once but several times, with one hand and then the other, jumping from his side of the couch to hers to strike in both directions in split-second fury. After the first slap she pitifully raises an index finger and shouts "Stop it! Get your hands of me!" before taking more hits and being shunted of the couch, out of the frame. He spends most of the next twenty minutes justifying his actions, threatening her with more as she sobs and shouts off-screen, bragging that what everyone just witnessed "may be a historical document," lambasting her as "Hoah!" and "Cunt!" His late and brief apology to the camera ("I hope once I can say to her in honesty, 'I'm sorry for attacking you. If I can, I'll feel better about it.'") is negligible. Was it, as some would later suggest, simply that Ronna had failed to adapt to the essential ironic mode assumed by virtually all the film's performers? That she'd failed to stay in or fully get into character, and it was therefore she who was remiss? Yet Ondine had shot up on screen minutes before his scene with Ronna, and his performance after his attack seems an exhibition of raving egoism and methedrine psychosis. He brags, "I hit you with my festered hand, you dumb bitch," and even takes on the absent Jonas:
I don't know if it even is the same girl . . . but I think it's the Saint's wife. And the Saint, who's supposed to know a lot about movies, had better be sharp! I'll bring you to court! I'll sue you and your filthy husband! Now shuddup!
Occasionally when I was at Jonas' and didn't have work to be done immediately, Ronna and I would talk. I'd love listening to her low, unguent voice: once she was like a Jewish mother to me, telling me I'd never have to do factory work (like at Meunch-Kreuzer that summer) again. Occasionally we'd go out in the evening to Max's Kansas City-on Park Avenue between 16th and 17th, a ten minute walk from Jonas'-and a couple of times Andy and others would be there, always at a red-clothed table in the very back of that rather small and usually quiet back room, and we'd join them. A year later, when Candy and I moved into the loft briefly before leaving for Mexico, Ronna-and sometimes another young woman staying there, Ren de Antonio, the daughter of filmmaker Emile de Antonio-would delight in going out late at night for little plastic bedded packs of chocolate pudding at the deli across the street, up a block on Third Avenue. In the fall of 1966 she talked a lot about "vibes" and "auras." After meeting Ronna, Louise pronounced her "affected," but for me she was a good companion. But I was puzzled a little by her relationship with Jonas, since I didn't really see them together physically, but that was not my affair. I was there to work. "Come in any time during the day you want, vork as long as you want," Jonas said, handing me the key. "Den I vill give you twenty five dollars each week." His Olympia manual typewriter just to my left, his cream and silver Wollensak reel-to-reel taperecorder to my right, I transcribed two panel discussions from the Lincoln Center Film Festival: one on Cinematic Style, the other featuring new, young film critics of the day. Included on the second panel were the balding Ken Kelman, who was perhaps twenty-five; Toby Mussman, who'd graduated Yale three years earlier; and Sheldon Renan, who was writing a book on American underground film. The fourth "young critic" was orange-bearded P. Adams Sitney, who was my age, though I didn't learn that until decades later. Given his name, his vest, his suit, and his minute rimless spectacles, he seemed from the nineteenth century, vaguely resembling Chekhov. Sitney's presentation was the most concentrated. It propounded a belief in "the secret diamond:" a work of art in which the reader (all the examples were books, not films) worked as hard to get at the richness within as the artist had in making it. Ezra Pound's Cantos, Stan Brakhage's Metaphors on Vision, and the soon-to-be published Weeks by poet Robert Kelly illustrated his point. Jonas' own appreciation of demanding, perhaps rareWed works of art seemed parallel. While I'd work at his loft Jonas would often be busy at the other desk. For lunch he'd buy a baguette and cream cheese, and would offer me a cup of hot tea. Inspired by his aestheticism, I'd take the same sort of meal myself. The work he proposed to me that fall was varied. Besides the festival transcriptions, he suggested I interview any of several artists for a special mixed-media issue of Film Culture: Richard Aldcroft, La Monte Young, and Yoko Ono. Preparing for my interview with Aldcroft, I'd examined the recent September 9, 1966 Life magazine, starting with the cover-blazing in a rush of red and yellow was a medium close-up of Aldcroft, a slender man in his early thirties, a few lines of gray in his brown beard, seated in a director's chair, his hands dangling from its arms. Except for some large goggles over his eyes, he was naked, bony, all the way up from the beltless jeans that hurried out-of-frame below his waist. Like the wall behind him, he was bathed in projected image, color and form. The cover heralded "New Experience That Bombards the Senses: LSD art." Inside, the contents page explained: "Psychedelic artist Richard Aldcroft, wearing plastic goggles which force each eye to see independently and thus disorient his brain, takes a psychedelic trip-without the help of LSD . . ."
On the same page George P. Hunt's "Editor's Note" reported on the photo shoot for "The Air War," a much longer article preceding "LSD art." The purpose, Hunt explained, was "to put the viewer in the place of a combat pilot in action:" tentacles of phosphoric light burst over tiny villages; clouds of tracer fire explode in air (intended or not, they counterpoint the vivid light shows of consciousness in the article following). The photographer had "his neck a long way out," Hunt says, "He was right up there with the pilots." But no word for life below, under falling bombs. Any question of bravery, pain, suffering, innocence, righteousness, fearfulness, fearlessness-or sacredness-of the lives that were taken-wasn't raised. And the article itself even celebrated a dc-3 called "Puff the Magic Dragon," a name that a new generation associated with a beneficent, inexpensive, easily available herb which could relax, heighten sensory awareness, and induce aesthetic and spiritual insight. The herb, not the aircraft, was illegal. I visited Aldcroft for the interview. He was quiet, thoughtful, accessible, friendly, a little spacy. He offered me DMT. We smoked it-I for the first time-as we talked, as I recorded. And as, with goggles on and off my eyes, I beheld the workings of his marvelous Proleidoscope-the "Infinity Machine"-a smallish metal box with a projecting lens in front of suspended celluloid particles moving, in a gel, in endless permutation. I returned, more than once, for parties. In the midst of one gathering the phone rang. "Oh, hi, Mom," Aldcroft answered in nonchalance, then sat at his round blond oak table, black bakelite receiver to his ear, electronically engaged with his mother. At all angles from him younger people laughed, talked, kissed, smoked-students, heads, fellow artists from Manhattan, teenyboppers from Queens. In one dark end of the loft, a small huddle of guests on mats and blankets gazed up toward the moving wonder on the opposite wall . . . I transcribed our interview, and Jonas took it for Film Culture.
4 On a summer visit with Howard Nadelman I'd gone to Yoko Ono's "Black Box" installation at the Paradox. It was a six-foot by four by six cardboard and wood construction covered in black paper and cloth-you pushed aside hanging black cloth to enter and exit. A kind of meditation piece, I thought, strangely, sitting in it. Its creator had a Second Avenue apartment with Tony Cox, but by the time Jonas asked me to look her up, I discovered, she'd already left for London and the opening of her "Unfinished Paintings and Objects"-where she'd meet John Lennon. I don't believe I ever found La Monte Young, who was (as I'd later learn) a male composer of some reputation in avant-garde circles, and a collaborator with Tony Conrad and the Velvet Underground's John Cale-but I set out seeking a female. My background on some of my subjects was non-existent, my vocabulary almost as limited as it was in carpentry, and my research, when I did some, as haphazard as any beginner's. Mainly, I depended on Jonas' files. (After all, there was no "Aldcroft, Richard" listing in encyclopedias.) If I thought of asking Jonas personally for information beyond his files, for his own impressions and experiences, I may not have followed through for fear not only of interrupting his work but of exposing my ignorance-and by so doing, arousing the suspicion that I might not belong, socially or aesthetically, in this whole concern. I found myself at the center of an unknown sea just learning how to swim. Within Jonas' materials was an article on a large mixed-media light show group, which I had trouble fully visualizing. Though the word "light" might be heard fairly often at mandatory Vespers, I never heard mention of (let alone saw) a "light show" in my four years at Davidson. And though I knew Aldcroft's single work and had read of others in that "lsd art" issue of Life with him on the cover, I had no concrete, first hand sense of a "light show" as a large scale mixed media event; in those first days, I hadn't even been to Warhol's "Exploding Plastic Inevitable" and Velvet Underground, let alone Leary's simulations of the psychedelic experience. I didn't know how to ask-or was embarrassed for my ignorance-or it didn't occur to me to ask-for more information. Though light shows would soon become as familiar as newspapers, in my first days in New York they were scarcely more than words. Back in June 1966, at a wealthy uncle's car dealership in tiny Madison, West Virginia, my parents' graduation gift was a hundred-dollar down payment on a year-old, large dark green v-8 Chevrolet-I was to provide the monthly payments. Now in the fall, whenever needed, evenings and days alike, my Chevrolet was at Jonas' disposal, but he didn't drive. Parking in Manhattan was so inconvenient that I seldom used my car for myself, more often for transporting "ekipment," as Jonas called it. Several times in the fall, for a nominal twenty dollars, Jonas' brother Adolfas and his wife Pola used my Chevrolet for the weekend. Once as Jonas and I hummed past the Murray Hill Theatre on 34th Street where I'd recently seen What's Up, Tiger Lily? and I volunteered that Woody Allen's film was funny. He didn't respond: I knew he wanted more than just that sort of high jinx and hilarity-as ultimately I did too, I said to myself, completing what had become an entirely imaginary conversation. On another occasion, at his loft, Jonas was out when the bare overhead light bulb blew out. "I'll get you a new one," I offered somewhat apologetically when he returned. I not only felt responsible; I thought that offering to replace it might bridge some of the gap I felt between us as well. But Jonas brought me back to earth: "Vot? Vot are you?! Some kind of a nut?" From my end, much of my relationship with Jonas consisted of trying to figure out someone far distant and different from myself. Occasionally, little revelations of surface bits and pieces of his character would manifest, as if the vast depth remained unfathomably hidden, a "secret diamond" encased far beneath the harsh accent and clipped phrasing, a sudden elfish delight opening up, then suddenly closing of. And as we'd set out on our drives, I-who grew up in a banker's household where personal data seemed vaulted away-would often show my admiration for him in a way that only someone raised in the foreign community of 1950s Tokyo might-approaching my parked car, I'd unlock and open his door first, then run around the front to my own.
"So you've left Virginia?"
"Yes-North Carolina-graduated. Done with all that!"
Following one of the first showings of Chelsea Girls, Jonas and I lingered a moment to talk with Andy, who as I was beginning to see, always ask...
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