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Underground Film Yearbook: 1971

This post, and hopefully eventually a series of posts, combines two things I’m intrigued by. One is timelines. Generally, I’m usually pretty interested in knowing how one thing begat another and then the next.

Secondly, I’m fascinated by the general black hole of information regarding ’70s underground film. While I’ve only begun reading into the history of underground film just within the past few years, so the “black hole” might just be in my own personal research, but it seems that writings on the avant-garde cover the flurry of activity of the ’60s, then jumps to the No Wave and Cinema of Transgression movements of the late ’70s. But, what happen inbetween?

Rather than wait for somebody to tell me who was making and screening underground films during this time, I figured I should just go ahead make my own list, which is what you can find below.

1971 is a good year to begin this project. First, this was the year that Jonas Mekas ended his wildly influential “Movie Journal” column in the Village Voice. The last one reprinted in the book collection of these columns is from June 13, which features a profile and interview with Harry Smith.

On Jan. 2, experimental filmmaker Willard Maas passed away, just three days after his wife Marie Menken died on Dec. 30, 1970.

But, 1971 would be one of the years in which several future underground filmmaking stars would be born. This may not be a full list, but some of these filmmakers are: Martha Colburn, Sarah Jacobson, Jennifer Reeves and Carlos Atanes.

I was also only able to find one book published on the underground in 1971: David Curtis’ Experimental Cinema: A Fifty Year Evolution. I couldn’t find too much information regarding this book, so I can’t really say how successful it was or what kind of impact it had, if any, on the underground in general.

The most surprising thing I uncovered was the first film festival to call itself “underground.” It was simply called the Underground Film Festival. It was held in Vancouver and ran in four parts: June 2, 3, 4; July 7, 8, 9; August 17, 18, 19, 20 21; and September 29, 30 and October 1, 2. Stan Brakhage‘s Dog Star Man 4 screened, along with work by Scott Bartlett, Jud Yalkut and more. The fourth part of the fest was devoted solely to the films of Andy Warhol.

Below is a list of underground films that have a completion date of 1971, which I compiled from data from both the Canyon Cinema and Film-makers’ Cooperative online catalogs, plus a few other sources.

I’m sure this isn’t a complete list of experimental, avant-garde and underground films completed in 1971, but just the best list I could come up with. If anybody has any to add, along with proof of year, please leave a comment below and I’ll add it. Some goes for any relevant info about 1971 that I may have missed above.

The list below is organized alphabetically by filmmaker’s last name. Some of the more notable films in the list are one of Stan Brakhage‘s most well-known films, The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes; Bruce Bailie‘s Quick Billy; James Broughton‘s The Golden Positions; Michael Snow’s La Region Centrale; and a version of Jonas MekasReminiscence of a Journey to Lithuania.

The most surprising name that popped up on the list, on a personal level for me, was that of Howard Lester as the main representative of the Focus Pocus Film Squad. Howard was not only one of my professors when I went to film school at the Rochester Institute of Technology, but also one of my favorites and a major influence on the way I look at and appreciate films. He was a very good supporter of mine, especially during the times when I didn’t feel like many were.

Films:

Marc Adrian: Theoria

Dominic Angerame: 10 x 17

Leland Auslender: The Birth of Aphrodite
Dear Little Lightbird

Bruce Bailie: Quick Billy

Scott Bartlett: Lovemaking
Serpent

Les Blank: Spend It All
A Well Spent Life

Stan Brakhage: The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes
Angels
Deus X
Door
Fox Fire Child Watch
The Peaceable Kingdom
Sexual Meditation: Room With View
The Trip to Door
Western History

Bill Brand: Always Open/Never Closed
Pong Ping Pong

Richard Brick: The Conspiracy and the Dybbuk

James Broughton: The Golden Positions
This Is It

Rudy Burckhardt: Inside Dope

Silvestre Byrón: 29 segundos de cine absoluto
¿Dónde estará Vampirella?
Campos Bañados de Azul (Blue Fields)
L’Enfant Terrible
Misterio de Lourdes

Doris Chase: Circles I
Circles I Variation II

Tom Chomont: Love Objects

Beverly Conrad: Four Square

Storm De Hirsch: An Experiment in Meditation

David Devensky: Homecall

Tom DeWitt: Fall

Hollis Frampton: Hapax Legomena III / Critical Mass
Hapax Legomena IV / Travelling Matte
Hapax Legomena I / (nostalgia)

Stephen Dwoskin: Dirty

Ed Emshwiller: Choice Chance Woman Dance

Shirley Erbacher: Chiaroschro
Dance #6
Dance #7

Victor Faccinto: The Secrete of Life

Focus Pocus Film Squad (Howard Lester et al): Screening’s Logo

Ernie Gehr: Still

Charles Henri Ford: Johnny Minotaur

Myrel Glick: Song

Larry Gottheim: Barn Rushes
Doorway
Harmonica

Nancy Graves: Isy Boukir

Michael Gray: The Murder of Fred Hampton

Amy Greenfield: Transport
Dirt

George Griffin: One Man’s Laundry

Walter Gutman: Trisha Brown Co. at the Whitney Museum 1971–The Reheasal

Will Hindle: Later That Same Night

J. Hoberman: Customs and Immigration

Nancy Holt: Swamp

Peter Hudiburg: Collaborative Drawing

Chuck Hudina: Paint

Robert Huot: Snow
Turning Torso Drawdown

Peter Hutton: July ’71 in San Francisco
Living at Beach Street
Working at Canyon Cinema
Swimming in the Valley of the Moon

Takahiko Iimura: Shutter
In the River
The Pacific Ocean
Yoko Ono: This Is Not Here

Ken Jacobs: Globe

Helene Kaplan: Untitled, Dale and Stephie Film
The Vestal Theatre

Marjorie Keller: Untitled

Alexis Krasilovsky: End of the Art World

Kurt Kren: 27/71 On Peacock Isle
26/71 Cartoon – Balzac and the Eye of God

George Kuchar: Portrait of Ramona

Mike Leggett: Shepherd’s Bush

Richard Lerman: Third Book of Exercises

Saul Levine: Star Film

Lenny Lipton: Far Out, Star Route

Curt McDowell: Confessions

Jonas Mekas: Reminiscence of a Journey to Lithuania (in progress)

Richard Meltzer: Piss Diaquiri

Barbara Meter: … And a Table

J.J. Murphy: Highway Landscape
In Progress

Richard Myers: Allison
Bill and Ruby
Deathstyles

Dore O.: Kaldalon

Pat O’Neill: Runs Good

Yoko Ono: Erection
The Museum of Modern Art Show

Tom Palazzolo: Ricky and Rocky

Suzan Pitt: Crocus

David Rimmer: Real Italian Pizza
Seashore

Loren Sears: Connie Joy
Sevin Goes to School

Paul Sharits: Inferential Current
S:TREAM:S:S:ECTION:S:ECTION:S:S:ECTIONED

Lawrence N. Shustak: Landscape

Michael Snow: La Region Centrale

Warren Sonbert: Carriage Trade

Walter Ungerer: Solstice (Part Three)

Jon Voorhees: Perfectly Normal

Peter Watkins: Punishment Park

Doris Wishman: The Amazing Transplant

Jud Yalkut: ELECTRONIC FABLES

Greg Yaskot: Cows No. 4


Underground Film Feedback (3 comments)

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  • I thought you might like to know that Howard Lester’s short anti-war film ‘One Week in Vietnam’ (1970) is in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. We restored the film, and showed it in the film series ‘War! Protest in America 1965-2005’ at the Whitney and at Red Cat in Los Angeles in 2005.
    Best wishes,
    Chrissie Iles
    Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Curator
    Whitney Museum of American Art

  • Liena Vayzman says:

    I was moved by “One Week in Vietnam” by Howard Lester shown recently at the Whitney. Do you know if it’s available on DVD or as a stream anywhere for educational use? I’d like to screen it in class when I teach about anti-war art. CUNY library collections do not have it. Thanks.

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