An Evening with Carolee Schneemann
Stan Brakhage Vision Award
Starz Denver Film Festival

Tender moviegoers should probably start their acquaintance with Schneemann at Americana I Ching Apple Pie. It’s a hilarious deconstruction of baking an apple pie that involves hammers, two-headed axes, car scrapers to mix dough, audience participation, and deep questions, such as “Should I just throw it on the floor?” Eventually the audience got their pieces of “pie” on napkins, but there was a moment when I thought they’d be diving for the goodies and licking them off the floor.

Academics who like to bake will be doubly delighted with this film.

Compared to Meat Joy and Fuses, the first two films Schneemann showed after receiving the Stan Brakhage Vision Award, Americana was mainstream and lighthearted.

I guess there’s a narrative of sorts in Meat Joy, but it’s not exactly a whodunit, though apparently there were lots of rules involving what happened if you got hit with a dead fish or a plucked chicken or sausage.

Schneemann said the scene at the end, in which the 4 couples dive into a pile of shredded paper, took 14 hours to rehearse, because everyone needed to be in the paper and it needed to be moving.

But it was Fuses that really amazed me.

Warning: Many people would consider Fuses to be pornographic.

Schneemann was inspired to make this film after she noticed her cat watching her and her partner having sex. She wanted it to somehow be from Kitch’s point of view. So she hung a camera from the ceiling and got into bed with her partner.

When the film ran out, she changed it and got back into bed. She never had any idea how it would turn out until she got it back from the lab.

Sometimes the camera fell off the rope that held it.

In between the sex scenes, extreme closeups of genitals, and shots of the cat, there were many lovely, tender moments, but they were interrupted by collage and all the damage she intentionally inflicted on the film. “I wanted to interact with the film [pause] almost the way the apple was treated [being smashed with a hammer in Americana], she said. She painted the film with aniline dyes (but here she mentioned as an aside that she never put the dyes in her mouth. Brakhage did, and she thinks that may have caused his cancer). She collaged the film, baked it, and hung it out the window.

There was no sound, except for other audience members breathing. I kept wondering if I heard people breathing heavily.

Fuses was made in 1964 and understandably for that time, was censored.

I’ve never seen anything like Schneemann’s films. I’m thankful I live in a country where I can watch them.

If you want to see them, you can order them at Electronic Arts Intermix.

Bird continuity: the chickens in Meat Joy

Sorry this post was not up until Wednesday. I had a deadline Tuesday, and then I had to get to the airport. I’ll be posting from Chattanooga for the rest of the week.

Leave A Comment

  1. BernardL November 26, 2008 at 10:40 am - Reply

    I doubt I’ll see this one, but I enjoyed your review. 🙂

  2. Beth November 27, 2008 at 12:38 pm - Reply

    Glad you liked it, Bernard. Happy Thanksgiving!