Stedelijk Museum x IDFA: Robert Frank Retrospective
20 Nov - 21 Nov 2015
A selection of films by Robert Frank, curated by Laura Israel and Melinda Shopsin
- Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Teijin Auditorium
Tickets are vailable per timeblock, please find timetable below
The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and IDFA invited filmmakers Laura Israel and Melinda Shopsin to make a selection from Robert Frank’s films. Pull My Daisy (1959), Conversations in Vermont (1969), The Present (1996) and Paper Route (2001), among other films, will be presented as a follow-up on the special screening of a stunning documentary on Robert Frank by Laura Israel during the program titled: Stedelijk x IDFA Don’t’Blink – Robert Frank.
TIMEBLOCKS AND TICKETS
MORE ABOUT THE PROGRAM
ROBERT FRANK SHORTS 1
Pull My Daisy, Conversations in Vermont and Energy and How to Get It
Pull my Daisy
28’, black and white, sound
Pull my Daisy is a drama which takes its pathos and irony from the domesticity of a Bowery loft on New York’s Lower East Side. For almost thirty minutes, this apartment becomes a stage and venue. Franks camera films walls, a picture, furniture and a refrigerator. Then, a door opens, and the adjoining room is flooded with sunlight. Then this visual overture is followed by the first words spoken by Jack Kerouac: “Early morning in the universe” and the viewer is brought back in the domestic concretion: “The wife is getting up. Opening the windows”.
Conversations in Vermont
26’, black and white, sound
Robert Frank took thousands of pictures of his family. Now, his children are teenagers and it’s time for meaningful conversations – some painful, some liberating. In one of Robert Frank’s most personal documentaries to date, he examines his relationship with his children Pablo and Andrea. In this loose collage of countless photos of the family intercut with conversations filmed in his customary, unpolished style, the director wonders aloud what the film is going to be about. “Maybe it’s about growing older, about past and present. It's some kind of family album. I don't know.” In the city you have to do everything yourself, but in the countryside things are less chaotic and there’s a greater sense of community.
Energy and How to Get It
28’, black and white, sound
Fact and fiction are intertwined in this experimental tale about Robert Golka, an inventor who wants to provide the world with an inexhaustible supply of energy. Robert Golka is an inventor with an ideal – a dream, an obsession. If he succeeds in achieving nuclear fusion using artificial ball lightning, he’ll be able to provide the world with an unlimited supply of energy. He works in a huge hangar in Nevada packed with equipment that looks like it came straight off the set of some old sci-fi movie. Robert Frank and scriptwriter Rudy Wurlitzer step into this surreal scene and take it a step further with an experiment of their own.
ROBERT FRANK ME AND MY BROTHER
Me and My Brother
Me and My Brother
91’, color, b/w, sound
As he said himself, initially Frank’s plan was to make a film about a poem by Allen Ginsberg. Nevertheless, during the shoot the focus shifted to Ginsberg’s partner, the Beat poet Peter Orlovsky, and his brother Julius. The catatonic Julius had just been released from a mental hospital, where he had received electroshock treatment for schizophrenia. The experimental, unsettling form of the film seems to be a reflection of how Julius experiences the world: detached from reality. “In this film all events and people are real,” says the text that appears at the beginning. “Whatever is unreal is purely my imagination.” The viewer has been warned. There is footage of a performance by Peter Orlovsky with Ginsberg, including Julius onstage, and of the two brothers in the apartment they share. But a psychiatrist who interviews Julius is played by the actor John Coe, who politely introduces himself and says that he is playing the role of the psychiatrist. When Julius disappears at one point, the actor Joseph Chaiken takes over his role. This creates a film-within-a-film in which Frank himself is played by a young Christopher Walken. More than 45 years later, Me and My Brother (partly black-and-white, partly in color) is still fascinating.
ROBERT FRANK SHORTS 2
The Present, Paper Route, I Remember, Flamingo & Summer Cannibals
27’, color, sound
Born in Switzerland, photographer Robert Frank immigrated to the United States shortly after World War II. At first, he felt happy and free in his new home country, but as a slow and thoughtful observer, he gradually started to feel uneasy with the speed of American life and the ever-present focus on making money – he began to feel lost and alone. This sense of melancholy is also strongly felt in The Present, a seemingly formless succession of snapshots of his life in America, set in and around a New York apartment and a cottage in Nova Scotia
23’, color, sound
As a fellow-thinker of the Beat Generation, like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg he was always looking for the life of the common man in his work. He felt more like a craftsman, a dogged immigrant who keeps plugging away and cares little about how things look on the surface. In Nova Scotia, where Frank had a cottage, he found the common man in the person of Robert MacMillan. Like Frank himself, MacMillan spoke with a foreign accent and little faith in the American dream. MacMillan takes his new neighbor along on his daily ride around the neighborhood, where he delivers papers. Frank hides behind his camera but remains present through the questions he asks. His portrait of this backwoodsman is loving, but also realistic: it is what is, and no more.
7’, color, sound
In I Remember, Frank re-enacts a visit he made to the photographic pioneer Alfred Stieglitz and his wife, artist Georgia O’Keeffe. The man playing the role of Frank is the young French photographer Jérôme Sother, who also voices the director’s musings. Frank himself plays the role of Stieglitz, and Frank’s wife June Leaf, also an artist, plays O’Keeffe. The result is a duality in time, simultaneously remote and very close.
5’ b/w, 5 min.)
When Frank moved into filmmaking in the late 1950s, he continued to use the keen eye he had developed as a “poet-photographer” while working on his photo books. Frank’s books tell a different story than his snap-shot style photo’s seem at first glance. The loosely and nonchalantly taken photographs are placed in a carefully selected sequence and convey a clear narrative, and visual associations between them heighten the sense of the drama. The film's title refers to the eponymous photo book he published a year before. The first pages feature images of a crow, which, it later turns out, is unable to fly – it hangs from a branch, dead. Things aren’t always what they seem.
4’, color, sound
In monochrome colors, Robert Frank gives the videoclip ‘Summer Cannibals’ a melancholic feeling to the single for the comeback-album by Patti Smith. She invited Robert Frank to direct the accompanying music video, probably because she identified with his image as an outsider, something he has always cultivated. The camera moves restlessly, as if unwilling to become too attached to a particular face. At the end of the song, Smith offers herself up to be consumed – cannibalism with a messianic flavor.
Curated by: Laura Israel and Melinda Shopsin
This program is a collaboration between Joost Daamen, Laura van Halsema (IDFA), and Anne Ruygt, junior curator Photography and Britte Sloothaak, assistant curator Performance, Film and Discursive Programs (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam).