A Place in the World: Robert Frank

May. 24 + 25 - 7:30 pm, Dec. 31 - 4:00 pm
Guild Theatre
829 Park Avenue + New American Art Union
922 SE Ankeny

About This Screening

Robert Frank's films represent an intensely personal negotiation of private and public spaces, and the real and imagined worlds he inhabits in his daily life. Randomly unfolding scenes, chance encounters with people in homes and on streets, and shots that include Frank himself articulate the fiction and reality that play off and define one another in each film. In Frank's hands, the camera becomes a powerful means to reflect on his own place in the world.
-John Hanhardt

Robert Frank established himself as one of the most important figures in photography with the 1958 publication of his book The Americans, after which he turned his focus to cinema, giving up still images all together. Combining fiction, autobiography, and documentation, Frank's work in film and video explores the complexities of life, at once telling stories about the world around him while wholly exposing himself. Frank has been constantly redefining his own sense of moving image: from the early film collaborations with Jack Kerouac and the Beat poets to his increasingly intimate videos of the past couple of decades. Eventually returning to photography, his work in these mediums has become intertwined, the still and the moving constantly informing each other. Each work is like a diaristic puzzle piece, strung together to form a life. Cinema Project is honored to present nine works, including his first feature Me and My Brother, portraits of his children in Conversations in Vermont, and culminating in the west coast premiere of Frank's newest video True Story.

Pitting the counterfeit against the authentic and acting against being, Frank's first feature length film, Me and My Brother, is a docu-fiction that describes the inner and outer worlds of Julius, the catatonic brother of poet Peter Orlovsky. The film was re-edited in 1997 to mark the passing of Allen Ginsberg.

Conversations in Vermont is about Robert Frank's relationship with his children Pablo and Andrea. It is his first overtly autobiographical film, set at his children's school in Vermont, Frank interviews them about their feelings, their upbringing in a world where art is valued above all else. In this film we see Frank in search of answers, but ending up questioning his own world.

Life Dances On is Robert Frank's most personal and emotional work because it deals directly with his family and close friends. The film is dedicated to his daughter Andrea and to his friend and collaborator Danny Seymour, both deceased. Life Dances On is composed of delicately balanced, intuitive moments that merge Frank's own sense of loss for two people close to him with several filmed portraits of those who share his life, including his family and people on the street in New York City.

Home Improvements, Robert Frank's first video project, is a simple and poignant diary of consequential events. It is about the relationship between Frank's life as an artist and his personal life, and how the two are inevitably intertwined. It was made cheaply with a half-inch video porta-pak. Home Improvements takes place in New York and Nova Scotia and in the mental space between these two opposing worlds.

Weaving between photography, found footage, projected footage, and filmed reality, Moving Pictures reflects Frank's interest in the temporal and spatial transitions between photography and film. Silence and emptiness prevail as the fragmentary nature of memory is reordered in an associative sequence parallel to the fragmentary nature of the photographic image.

In The Present simple objects, photographs, and events prompt Frank to self-conscious rumination. From his homes in New York and Nova Scotia and on visits to friends, the artist contemplates his relationships, the anniversary of his daughter's death, his son's mental illness, and his work.

Flamingo is a fragment of Frank's poetic diary (with voiceover narration) recording the construction of a new foundation for his house in a remote area of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia; it silently describes the need to keep working in the face of nature and time.

Paper Route features Robert MacMillan on a wintry, pre-dawn morning and accompanies him on his daily route delivering newspapers to towns in the rural Nova Scotia community where Frank has had a second home for many years. Chatting amiably in voiceover as his camera observes the landscape and MacMillan's encounters with his customers, Frank conducts a rambling interview inspired by his own desire to better understand how people live their lives.

True Story, Frank's most recent film, had its world premiere in October at the exhibition ROBERT FRANK STORY LINES at the Tate Modern, London. Speaking in voiceover, the artist narrates scenes shot in his homes in New York and Nova Scotia. His rambling commentary returns to familiar themes of memory, and the loss of friends and family members. Brief excerpts from earlier films are shown, along with Frank's photographs, the art of his wife, June Leaf, and extraordinarily detailed letters written by his son, Pablo (1951-1994). Alternately poignant, reflective, self-mocking and angry, this candid autobiography reveals Frank's late career preoccupations.

Program Details

Tuesday March 24
  • Me and My Brother
    1965-68, 35mm, color, sound, 91 min.
Wednesday March 25
  • Life Dances On
    1980, 16mm, color, sound, 30 min.
  • Conversations In Vermont
    1969, 16mm, b&w, sound, 26 min.
  • Home Improvements
    1985, video, color, sound, 29 min.
Thursday March 26
  • Moving Pictures
    1994, video, color, sound, 16 min.
  • The Present
    1996, video, color, sound, 24 min.
  • Flamingo
    1997, video, b&w, sound, 7 min.
  • Paper Route
    2002, video, color, sound, 23 min.
  • True Story
    2004, video, color, sound, 30 min.

© Cinema Project 2003 - 2016