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Art at the Frontier of Film Theory: Screening AMY! and Journeys from Berlin

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Birkbeck Cinema

Birkbeck, 43 Gordon Square

London

WC1H 0PD

United Kingdom

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This double screening accompanies the exhibition Art at the Frontier of Film Theory: Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen.

Curated by Oliver Fuke and Nicolas Helm-Grovas in collaboration with Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image and the Essay Film Festival. Supported by CHASE.

AMY! (dir. Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen, 1980), 33 min.

Journeys from Berlin/1971 (dir. Yvonne Rainer, 1980), 125 min.

The idea of this double bill is to emphasise the collaborative nature of Mulvey and Wollen’s relationship with certain key artists, a feature that is illustrated and explored in the current exhibition in the Peltz gallery. Here, the example is their collaboration with choreographer and filmmaker Yvonne Rainer, who contributed to the making of AMY!, both through her voice featuring on the soundtrack and also through some of the aerial footage in Mulvey and Wollen’s film, captured when she filmed the Stonehenge images for her Journeys from Berlin/1971 (1980). Meanwhile, the latter film’s recurring tracking shot of a mantlepiece was shot in Mulvey and Wollen’s house; and their then 9 year-old son, Chad Wollen, plays the part of a psychoanalyst.

Mulvey and Wollen’s AMY! focuses on Amy Johnson and seeks to explore the image of the heroine. It is a film that, as Mulvey once described, deals with ‘the narrative spheres allotted to female protagonists, and the fate of a heroine who adopts an active relation to narrative space and resists the intimidating look of the camera in its role as sculptor of passive femininity.’ (Text by Oliver Fuke)

Rainer’s Journeys from Berlin/1971 (1980) mainly revolves around a psychoanalytic session and a kitchen conversation between two disembodied voices (played by Amy Taubin and Vito Acconci) about political violence. This film can be seen, as Noël Carroll explained, as a ‘dialogue of dissonant and at times contradictory voices discoursing on topics like political and psychological domination [...] and the interrelation of the two’. However, instead of offering ‘theoretical exposition’, Rainer explained, ‘Journeys offers contrast and contradiction.’ In the film, as in many of Rainer’s, her friends play important roles. The celebrated critic and film historian Annette Michelson, for example, plays the part of an analysand. Her words are less that of naturalistic speech, as in conventional cinema, and more a bizarre kind of recitation. Rainer creates further instability through having the psychoanalyst played by three different actors: a man, a woman, and a nine-year-old boy who barks. (Text by Oliver Fuke)

This screening is one of a series of CHASE-supported events organised in relation to the exhibition “Art at the Frontier of Film Theory: the Work of Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen”, Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck, 22 March-24 May 2019. Screenings related to this exhibition are part of the Essay Film Festival, 22 March-4 April, held at Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image, the ICA, and the Goethe-Institut.

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Birkbeck Cinema

Birkbeck, 43 Gordon Square

London

WC1H 0PD

United Kingdom

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