Underground Film Journal

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Paul Sharits: Wintercourse

By Mike Everleth ⋅ October 20, 2010

Embedded above is the earliest surviving work by Paul Sharits, Wintercourse, which was produced in 1962. While Sharits would go on to become one of the pioneers of the structuralist movement, Wintercourse is a more playful, seemingly less structured film than the ones he would become most well-known for, such as T, O, U, C, H, I, N, G, (1968) and N.O.T.H.I.N.G. (1968). Wintercourse was shot in B&W in 16mm and is silent. WARNING: There are brief flashes of non-sexual nudity in the film, so while it’s not quite NSFW, be considerate if you are indeed at work planning to watch this.

I also can’t find any writing about the film online, but I’m thinking the film is possibly heavily inspired by Stan Brakhage‘s Wedlock House: An Intercourse (1959). According to Sharits’ biography, he began a mentorship and friendship with Brakhage around this time while he was studying Fine Art at the University of Denver’s School of Art.

Wedlock House documents the early marriage between Brakhage and his first wife Jane. The film shows them making love as well as arguing. Wintercourse — perhaps named as a take-off of the “intercourse” of Wedlock House: An Intercourse — features chilly scenes of winter outdoors and a woman lounging around indoors, whom I’m assuming to be Sharits’ wife Frances.

The film is a choppy, cubist interpretation of what one does in the winter, mostly enjoying each other’s company indoors, watching TV, trudging through the snow, admiring the local architecture rising out of the blank white ground. Then, the film ends on a springtime scene of a happy couple kissing, finally able to comfortably enjoy the outdoors.

Close-up of a female statue in still from Paul Sharits' Wintercourse

Sharits sadly passed away in 1993, but his son Christopher maintains an extensive online resource lovingly dedicated to his father’s life and career.

The video above was uploaded by the Anthology Film Archives. The quality of the digital transfer is really beautiful. So far, the Anthology, which is hoping to digitize its entire collection someday, hasn’t uploaded too much to their Vimeo account, just six short films and two promotional videos. And for the films they have put up, they only give the barest of details. It’d be nice to get lengthy backgrounds on these films, too.