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Breathdeath — Stan Vanderbeek

Breathdeath by Stan Vanderbeek (1963).

At the EXPRMNTL 3 film competition at Knokke-le-Zoute, Belgium in 1963, Breathdeath tied for 2nd place with Gregory Markopoulos‘s Twice a Man. Both men took home $2,000 in prize money.

In An Introduction to the American Underground Film, Sheldon Renan classifies Breathdeath as a “protest film,” which was a minority of underground film genre at the time. Renan also describes Breathdeath as a “collage of film technique” and considers it Vanderbeek’s best film. Throughout the book, Renan gives different completion years, both 1963-64 and just 1964. Although, in the film’s on-screen text, Vanderbeek gave the film a 1963 copyright. (See below.) (Stephen Dwoskin’s Film Is also gives Breathdeath a completion year of 1964; as does the film’s listing on the Film-makers’ Coop website.)

Woman lying in bed next to a man with a TV for a head

According to a document published in Scott MacDonald’s Canyon Cinema, in 1970, Breathdeath was one of five films acquired by the Australian National Library’s study collection. Also, filmmaker Bruce Baillie wrote in a letter that he traveled the country in either 1964 or 1965 screening Breathdeath, Kenneth Anger‘s Scorpio Rising and his own Mass.

For an expanded cinema performance piece at the New Cinema Festival I on November 2, 1965; Nam June Paik projected Breathdeath onto a screen that he shaped with his hands and cut a hole in so that a woman’s long red hair spilled out.

The title Breathdeath is almost uniformly written as one word. However, during the on-screen title sequence, the words Breath and Death appear separately. The full title text is below.

Breath and Death appear separately

dedicated to…… Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton

A Trageede in Masks

A Visible Fill’m

By S. Vanderbeek

copyright mcmixiii

Soundtrack by Jay Watt

With Many Thanks To Si Fried

(Si Fried was a filmmaker who only has one film in the Film-Makers’ Cooperative catalogue, the un-dated Out of Sight. The Underground Film Journal is unable to find information on Jay Watt at this time.)

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