Visual Variations of Marie Menken

Sep. 28 + 29 - 7:00 pm

About This Screening

"There is no why for my making films. I just liked the twitters of the machine, and since it was an extension of painting for me, I tried it and loved it. In painting I never liked the staid and static, always looked for what would change the source of light and stance, using glitters, glass beads, luminous paint, so the camera was a natural for me to try—but how expensive!" —Marie Menken Marie Menken (1910-1970) is the unsung heroine of the American avant-garde cinema. A mentor, muse and major influence for such key experimental filmmakers as Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas, and Andy Warhol, Menken created an extraordinary body of exuberant and stunningly beautiful films shaped, above all, by her intuitive understanding of handheld cinematography. [W]ith her celebrated first film, Visual Variations on Noguchi, Menken used the hand-cranked Bolex camera favored by avant-garde filmmakers to introduce a new agility, grace and spontaneity into experimental cinema, a lightness of camera and form hitherto unseen in American film. — Haden Guest / Harvard Film Archive Included in the program is Poem Posters, an invaluable historical document that shows Factory stars Edie Sedgwick and Gerard Malanga cavorting with Beat legend William Burroughs, film critic Parker Tyler, and a show-stopping Jane Mansfield. Menken shared the camerawork of Poem Posters with such luminaries as Willard Maas, Charles Boultenhouse, Gregory Markopoulos, Robert Whitman, Andy Warhol, Rudy Wirtschafter, and Stan Vanderbeek, producing a truly collaborative enterprise.

Until recently, Marie Menken was known only as the wife of filmmaker and poet, Willard Maas, and who had tinkered with filmmaking and acting (she played Gerard Melanga's alcoholic mother in Chelsea Girls, starred in Warhol's The Life of Juanita Castro, and was muse for Edward Albee's play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf). For those more in the know (i.e. filmmakers like Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage,  Jonas Mekas, Tony Conrad, and Carolee Schneemann) Menken was a gifted painter and filmmaker whose ease with a hand-held camera inspired a whole generation of filmmakers. As Brakhage noted, her “free swinging, swooping hand-held pans” challenged the norms of the seamless dolly shot promoted by Hollywood.

Program Details

September 28
  • Glimpses of the Garden
    1957, 16mm, color, sound, 5 min.
  • Notebook
    1940-62, 16mm, color/b&w, silent, 10 min.
  • Geography of the Body
    by Willard Maas
    1943, 16mm, b&w, sound, 7 min.
  • Go! Go! Go!
    1962-64, 16mm, color, silent, 12 min.
  • Poem Posters
    by Charles Henri Ford
    1967, 16mm, color, sound, 24 min.
  • Bagatelle for Willard Maas
    1958-61, 16mm, color, sound, 6 min.
  • Lights
    1964-66, 16mm, color, silent, 7 min.
September 29
  • Visual Variations on Noguchi
    1945, 16mm, b&w, sound, 4 min.
  • Go! Go! Go!
    1962-64, 16mm, color, silent, 12 min.
  • Poem Posters
    by Charles Henri Ford
    1967, 16mm, color, sound, 24 min.
  • Arabesque for Kenneth Anger
    1958-61, 16mm, color, sound, 4 min.
  • Andy Warhol
    1964-65, 16mm, color, silent, 22 min.
  • Excursion
    1968, 16mm, color, silent, 5 min.

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