IotD: Parker Tyler at Narcissus screening

From the Anthology Film Archives website, a delightful photo by photographer Katherine Bangs from a preview of the experimental film Narcissus by Willard Maas and Ben Moore in 1955.

Parker Tyler Marie Menken James Broughton by Katherine Bangs

Those pictured, from left to right, are pioneering queer filmmaker James Broughton, Julian Beck, the co-founder of The Living Theatre, painter and experimental filmmaker Marie Menken, and Tyler.

Menken and Maas were married, and their friend Andy Warhol famously called them “the last of the great Bohemians. They wrote and filmed and drank (their films called them ‘scholarly drunks’) and were involved with all the modern poets” (Nel 208). It has also been long rumored that Edward Albee based Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?‘s infamous Martha and George on the temperamental pair.

In his collection Underground Cinema, Parker writes at length about Narcissus, which he characterizes as a “Cocteau-influenced film:”

The myth of Narcissus and Echo is set forthrightly in a sort of city slum, a socially deserted warehouse district, where the hero is an infantile young homosexual living a hermit’s penurious life of wandering the streets, collecting toylike fetishes, and daydreaming… (219)

He goes on to state:

Narcissus is a serious and sensitive commentary on a deluded type of homosexual whose infantile withdrawal flows from mental and nervous instability. Without its mythological sensibility, however, the film would have achieved its poetic level” (219)

Anthology Film Archive also has a lovely gallery of stills from Narcissus, which I have long wanted to see but have yet been able. A few choice images:

willard maas ben moore narcissus still 1956willard maas ben moore narcissus still 1956willard maas ben moore narcissus still 1956willard maas narcissus 1956 4

Provenance

Katherine Bangs
“Portrait of James Broughton, Julian Beck, Marie Menken, and Parker Tyler, at the preview of the film Narcissus” (December 15, 1955)
Source: Anthology Film Archives

Willard Maas and Ben Moore
Stills from Narcissus (1956)
Source: Anthology Film Archives

Works Cited

Manchester, Lee. “Who’s the Source for Virginia Woolf?” Wagner Magazine, 2013.

Nel, Philip. Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children’s Literature. University Press of Mississippi, 2012.

Tyler, Parker. “History and Manifesto.” Underground Film: a Critical History, Da Capo Press, 1995, pp. 197–220.

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Event: H.D., Jean Epstein and Queer Modernist Cinema

Wishing I was in New York City this time next week: lectures and a screening is taking place at Brooklyn’s Morbid Anatomy Museum centering around issues of queerness in H.D. and Jean Epstein’s cinematic writing and filmmaking practice.

Here is an excerpt from the event’s webpage, which can be found in its entirety here:

H.D. and Jean Epstein: Queer Modernism, Spectatorship, and The Specimen

EpsteinA lecture and screening with Mal Ahern and David A. Gerstner, presented by Amy Herzog 

Date: Friday, May 16th 
Time: 8:00 PM 
Voluntary Donation: $8 (but tickets must be procured beforehand to present at door)

Tonight, join us at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn to consider two queer film theorists alongside one another: the French filmmaker Jean Epstein, and the Anglo-American poet H.D. Both wrote prolifically about cinema in the interwar period, and both were filmmakers as well as critics. Both privileged the visual and tactile sensations that cinema offers its viewer. And, perhaps most interestingly, both evince a keen interest in the idea of cinema—as well as the cinematic spectator—as a specimen: a body subjected to a probing, scientific gaze.

In addition, see the event’s Facebook page and the Facebook page for the Morbid Anatomy Museum. The Museum seems to be opening in a new space this month–check out its website for more information. From the information provided, it reminds me of the wonderfully whimsical Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles.

I addition, I am familiar with both Gerstner and Herzog’s work, and, frankly, I would attend this event just to hear them present even if I didn’t find the topics under discussion so fascinating in and of themselves.

Hope the proceedings from this event are made available after the fact for those of us on the wrong side of the country!