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Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area

1946-53 - Introduced by David Meltzer with Wilder Bentley II in Person


September 29, 2010; 47 Minutes; Audio

David Meltzer is a San Francisco poet and author. Recent books include
David's Copy: Selected Poems; San Francisco Beat: Talking with the Poets; and the forthcoming When I Was a Poet.

The artist and poet Wilder Bentley II is featured in one of the portaits in Christopher Maclaine’s The End.

The first period of Bay Area experimental filmmaking coincided with Frank Stauffacher’s heavily influential Art in Cinema series, which between 1946 and 1953 focused on avant-garde film. Beginning with The Potted Psalm (1947), James Broughton and Sidney Peterson made several dramatic films that extended earlier surrealistic tendencies into new directions, and soon young artists such as Stauffacher himself, Harry Smith, and Sara Kathryn Arledge tried their hand at filmmaking. Working with minimal budgets and little tradition, each made extraordinary work that was infused with and reflected the moods and culture of the time. This program includes a sampling of Arledge’s rarely seen, pigment-applied abstract glass slides; Smith’s first painstaking abstract animations, #1-3, which used various processes directly onto 16mm film; Stauffacher’s ZigZag, a playful rhapsody on the rhythms and shapes of night lights in mid-century San Francisco; Sidney Peterson’s classroom-produced The Lead Shoes, a dark and witty retelling of classic tales of incest and patricide; and Beat visionary Christopher Maclaine’s manic and entirely original first film, The End, a series of intimate portraits that is also a chilling but hilarious social commentary.

—Steve Anker