Mining the Frame

Thom Andersen, Stephanie Beroes, Leah Gilliam

Curated by Matt Ellis

On Thursday, March 17th, Magic Lantern presents Mining the Frame, a program of experimental films that examine, remix, restage, sample, or otherwise play with the history of cinema. The “raw materials” include the motion studies of Eadweard Muybridge (19th century), G. W. Pabst’s late silent masterpiece Pandora’s Box (1929), and Basil Dearden’s Sapphire (1959), an earnest “social problem film” dealing with British race relations. These sources are mined and reshaped by three contemporary artists: Thom Andersen, Stephanie Beroes, and Leah Gilliam. Each in some way explores the legacy of iconic images and the construction of social identity through these images.

TRT: approx. 120 mins

Thom Andersen, Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer, 1975, 59 mins, b&w, sound, 16mm on DVD
Digital restoration. “Completed as thesis for his UCLA Master’s degree, Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer was Andersen’s breakthrough feature, the first work to express his unique melding of avant-garde cinema and careful historical archaeology. As a work of historical research, Andersen’s film helped spur the rediscovery of Muybridge that was just beginning in the period, pointing new attention in particular to his then relatively unknown landscape photography. Equally striking, however, was the film’s meticulous reanimation of thousands of Muybridge images to firmly establish the photographer’s pioneering work as a taproot of the cinematic imagination…. Crisply edited together with fellow Angelo and filmmaker Morgan Fisher, the film’s insightful narrative is spoken by actor (and occasional experimental filmmaker) Dean Stockwell.” (Harvard Film Archive)

Stephanie Beroes, The Dream Screen, 1985, 45 mins, color/b&w, sound, 16mm
“In The Dream Screen, Stephanie Beroes’ concern is with the positioning of woman in the cinematic and cultural imagination. She employs, as her central trope, the legend of Pandora’s box, a focus that allows her to examine woman’s figuration in both a classical film and an ancient myth. The Dream Screen proceeds as a multilayered experimental narrative that operates on three distinct levels. It intercuts footage from the silent film, Pandora’s Box (1929), with Beroes’ own drama of a modern-day equivalent of Pabst’s ‘femme fatale.’ The sound track intensifies this melange by providing commentary on the career of Louise Brooks taken from her autobiography. Superimposed on these segments is a third tier of interview material with a contemporary Louise Brooks look-alike, who discusses her problematic relationship with her father. Through this intertextual montage, Beroes not only re-writes the Pabst classic, but examines the mythification of woman, and its articulation in the cinema.” (Lucy Fischer)

Leah Gilliam, Sapphire and the Slave Girl, 1995, 17 mins, b&w, sound, digital video
“Loosely based on the 1950s British detective film Sapphire, in which two Scotland Yard detectives investigate the murder of a young woman who is passing for white, Sapphire and the Slave Girl examines the determinants of Sapphire’s murder investigation through its cinematic representation. Referencing detectives from Marlowe to Shaft, Sapphire and the Slave Girl enacts its analysis in the persona of the hard-boiled detective in order to highlight transgressions of identity and location. Featuring a multifarious cast of identity-shifting Sapphires, this fast-paced genre bash visualizes and problematizes the way that identity is negotiated and performed within urban spaces.” (Video Data Bank)