November 16: Robert Breer Retrospective, Part III

Sunday November 16, 2008, 7:00 pm

At the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood

Los Angeles Filmforum presents
Moving Figures: The Animated World of Robert Breer – part 3 (films from 1952-1964)
Robert Breer in person!

Robert Breer, one of America’s foremost filmmakers for more than 50 years, pays a rare visit to Los Angeles to attend a multi-venue celebration of his work. A close colleague of Rauschenberg, Oldenburg and many other seminal artists of the ’50s and ’60s, Breer brought a comparably imaginative and rigorous appreciation for collage and pure form to the art of cinema. Throughout a body of more than 40 animated—and in ways anti-animated films—Breer celebrates cinema as a unique way of seeing, and the act of drawing as an endlessly expressive and unpredictable personal gesture. Tonight is the third part of a three-part retrospective organized by Steve Anker, featuring a selection of the artist’s early work (1952-1964), including portraits and collaborations with Jean Tinguely, Claes Oldenberg and other avant-garde figures of the ‘50s and early ’60s, as well as his first major animated and pixilated short films. (Notes by Bérénice Reynaud)

Films include:

Form Phases I (US 1952, 16mm, silent, color, 2 min.)
Form Phases IV (US 1954, 16mm, silent, color, 4 min.)
Breer’s earliest experiments in animation are wonderfully dense yet lyrical abstractions based on Breer’s own geometric paintings.

11-16-08-breer_miracleUn Miracle (US 1954, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, silent, color, 1 min.)
Breer’s first collage film is a hilarious joke about the juggling talents of Pope Pius XII which was made in
collaboration with Pontus Hulten.

Recreation (US 1956, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, color, 2 min.)
Featuring a commentary by Noel Burch (in nonsense French), Recreation‘s rapid-fire montage of single-frame images of incredible density and intensity has been compared to contemporary Beat poetry.

Jamestown Baloos (US 1957, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, color, 6 min.)
Breer’s early masterpiece is a three-part film that combines animation and live-action, collage and photography, silence and sound.

A Man And His Dog Out for Air (US 1957, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, b/w, 2 min.)
A whimsical film that displays Breer’s drawing artistry. Originally shown as a short before Last Year at Marienbad during that film’s initial New York theatrical release.

Eyewash (US 1959, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, color, silent, 4 min.)
A free flow from photography to geometric abstraction hand-painted by Breer.

Blazes (US 1961, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, color, 3 min.)
“One hundred basic images switching positions for four thousand frames. A continuous explosion.” – RB

Pat’s Birthday (US, 1962, 16mm, b&w/so, 13min.)
A day in the country with Claes Oldenburg and the Ray Gun Theatre Players … includes such classic items as the haunted house, a gas station, ice cream stand, miniature golf, airplane noises, balloons. Things happen after each other in this film only because there isn’t room for everything at once. After all, time’s not supposed to move in one direction any more than it does in another.

Fist Fight (US 1964, 16mm blow-up to 35mm, color, 9 min.(
Breer’s extraordinary autobiographical film combines personal and family photos with intense colors, textures and geometric abstractions. Originally presented as part of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s 1964 premiere of Originale.

Special thanks to Andrew Lampert and Anthology Film Archives, who preserved many of Breer’s films in this program.

Part of a three-program retrospective organized by Steve Anker.

On Monday, November 10, REDCAT will present 14 masterworks spanning four decades, gorgeously restored by Anthology Film Archives for the first time on 35mm.  Details below.

On Saturday, November 15, the UCLA Film & Television Archive will present the majority of films Breer released between 1974 and 2003, a period of remarkable growth and sustained artistic activity including LMNO (1978), Bang! (1986), Time Flies (1997) and What Goes Up (2003).

More on Breer:

A founding member of the American avant-garde, Robert Breer (b. 1926) has been working at the forefront of experimental animation for over fifty years. The son of an inventor and engineer, Breer’s continued experimentation with a range of film and animation techniques has drawn from his deep knowledge of early cinema and cinematographic technologies. Breer is celebrated not only for his remarkable line and live action techniques, seen in works such as A Man and His Dog Out for Air (1957), but also for fabulous collage films such as Un Miracle (1954) and his dazzling use of single-frame photography in break-through films such as Fist Fight (1964) and the incredible Jamestown Baloos (1957).

Breer entered film through painting in the early 1950s when he was living in Paris and deeply influenced by Neo-plasticism as defined by Mondrian and Vasarely. Breer channeled his interest in geometric abstraction into his remarkable first group of films, Form Phases (1954-1956), which explored the role of movement in the understanding of form and space. Breer’s wonderful kinetic sculptures also tie directly into the concern for movement, composition and space perception which has remained central to his films. Combining a meticulous attention to form and rhythm with an acerbic wit and talent for satire, Breer provides an important link between the abstract films of Richter, Eggeling and Leger and the lyric and radical traditions of the avant-garde, from Brakhage and Baillie to Kubelka and Sharits. (Harvard Film Archive)

“Breerworld is homey but tumultuous, filled with sudden shifts in color and scale or color, flash frame jolts, and a steady back-beat of good-natured apocalypse…he towers over a field where gimmicks are common currency and cuteness is as virulent as malaria in the tropics…” J. Hoberman, American Film

An Animation World magazine article by Jackie Leger from 1996

Chicago Reader review by Fred Camper from 1997

The REDCAT Program, Monday November 10, 8:30 pm

Recreation (1956, color, 2 min.)
Featuring a commentary by Noel Burch (in nonsense French), Recreation’s rapid-fire montage of single-frame images of incredible density and intensity has been compared to contemporary Beat poetry.

A Man And His Dog Out For Air (1957, b/w, 2 min.)
A whimsical film that displays Breer’s drawing artistry. Originally shown as a short before Last Year at Marienbad during that film’s initial New York theatrical release.

Jamestown Baloos (1957, color, 6 min.)
Breer’s early masterpiece is a three-part film that combines animation and live-action, collage and photography, silence and sound.

Eyewash (1959, color, silent, 4 min.)
A free flow from photography to geometric abstraction hand-painted by Breer.

Eyewash (Alternative Version, 1959, color, silent, 3 min.)
The recently discovered alternate version to Eyewash presents a radical reinterpretation of the same footage.

Blazes (1961, color, 3 min.)
“One hundred basic images switching positions for four thousand frames. A continuous explosion.” – RB

Fist Fight (1964, color, 9 min.)
Breer’s extraordinary autobiographical film combines personal and family photos     with intense colors, textures and geometric abstractions. Originally presented as part of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s 1964 premiere of Originale.

66 (1966, color, 5 min.)
“Abstract, quasi-geometric study in interrupted continuity.” – RB.

69 (1969, color, 5 min.)
“It’s so absolutely beautiful, so perfect, so like nothing else. Forms, geometry, lines, movements, light very basic, very pure, very surprising, very subtle.”– Jonas Mekas

70 (1970, silent, color, 5 min.)
“Made with spray paint and hand-cut stencils, this film was an attempt at maximum plastic intensity… Places Breer for the first time among the major colorists of the     avant-garde.” – P. Adams Sitney

Fuji (1974, color, 9 min.)
“A poetic, rhythmic, riveting achievement (in rotoscope and abstract animation), in which fragments of landscapes, passengers, and train interiors blend into a magical color dream of a voyage. One of the most important works by a master who – like Conner, Brakhage, Broughton – spans several avant-gardes.” – Amos Vogel

77 (1977, color, 7 min.)
“Breer is a consummate master of cinematic space. Like Hans Richter, he     constantly provokes a sense of depth through changing the scale of his shapes. Breer celebrates the freedom endemic in animation by giving the spectator a creative role in the process of metamorphosis.” – Noel Carroll

Swiss Army Knife With Rats And Pigeons (1981, color, 7 min.)
“… a typically bravura and delightful display of simple objective forms flashing, rotating, and dissolving into abstraction….” – J. Hoberman

Bang! (1986, color, 10 min.)
“Bang! reveals Breer at his most accomplished and most playful. It is also his most autobiographical film – the youngster paddling a boat is Breer as a boy and the pencil cartoon sequences were drawn by Breer when he was around ten years old.  Breer inserts a photo of himself with a question mark scrawled over his head, accompanied by the words ‘Don’t be smart.’ But he can’t help it – he is.” – Katherine Dieckmann

All prints: 16mm blow-up to 35mm

REDCAT is located in downtown Los Angeles at the corner of W. 2nd St. and S. Hope St., inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex. Tickets may be purchased by calling 213.237.2800 or at http://www.redcat.org or in person at the REDCAT Box Office on the corner of 2nd and Hope Streets (30 minutes free parking with validation). Box Office Hours: Tue-Sat | noon–6 pm and two hours prior to curtain.

The Jack H. Skirball Screening Series is curated by Steve Anker and Bérénice Reynaud

The UCLA Film & Television Archive show, Saturday November 15, 7:30 pm:

Fuji (1974, 35mm (blow-up from 16mm), 9 min.)
“A poetic, rhythmic, riveting achievement (in rotoscope and abstract animation), in which fragments of landscapes, passengers, and train interiors blend into a magical color dream of a voyage. One of the most important works by a master who – like Conner, Brakhage, Broughton – spans several avant-gardes in his ever more perfect explorations.” — Amos Vogel

LMNO (1978, 16mm, 10 min.)
“[A] French gendarme weaves a hapless path through the film’s strobe attacks, disparate drawing styles, and variable scale …. Framed by underwater and travel imagery, the central section’s faucets and aerosols, collapsing tents and outsized croquet games, breakfast foods and sexual violence, all suggest domestic frustration.” – J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

T.Z. (1979, 16mm, 9 min.)
“An elegant home movie, its subject is Breer’s new apartment which faces the Tappan Zee (T.Z.) bridge. It is permeated, as are all his films, with subtle humor, eroticism and a sense of imminent chaos and catastrophe.”–Amy Taubin, Artforum

TRIAL BALLOONS (1982, 16mm, 6 min.)
A mix of rephotographed live action and animation using hand-cut traveling mattes.–Canyon Cinema Catalogue.

BANG! (1986, 16mm, 10 min.)
“Bang reveals Breer at his most accomplished and most playful. It is also his most autobiographical film – the youngster paddling a boat is Breer as a boy and the pencil cartoon sequences were drawn by Breer when he was around ten years old.

“Robert Breer is the godfather of animation art. In Bang he sustains ten dense minutes of collagistic mayhem that’s as potent as anything he’s ever done. Television images of a boy paddling a boat and an arena crowd cheering, plus film shots of bright pink and red flowers and a toy phone, are intercut with frenetic drawings in Breer’s trademark heavy crayon, principally of baseball games. Breer inserts a photo of himself with a question mark scrawled over his head, accompanied by the words ‘Don’t be smart.’ But he can’t help it – he is.”–Katherine Dieckmann, The Village Voice

A FROG ON THE SWING (1989, 16mm, 5 min.)
This animated fable is centered around a backyard pond shown intermittently in live-action scenes. A small child appears and disappears in a ballet of crows, rabbits, monkey wrenches, and goldfish. When the police arrive there are pot-shots at backyard varmits, but the frog on the swing seems to survive it all.

TIME FLIES (1997, 16mm, 5 min.)
A playful meditation on loved ones and the passing of the years.

ATOZ (2000, 16mm, 5 min.)
A short film dedicated to his granddaughter Zoë that demonstrates all the characteristic traits of Breer’s animation: his humour, his favourite motifs (the hammer, a frog, graphic shapes, aeroplanes). What is the impact of an order such as the alphabet on the awakening mind of a child?–International Film Festival Rotterdam.

WHAT GOES UP (2003, 16mm, 5 min.)
Breer’s personal take on the everyday in images that zoom past us like a flashback of a thousand perfectly lived moments, a four-minute epic. The final scene of a derailed train provides a metaphor for the absurdity of the notion that a big, beautiful, well-lived life simply runs out. –International Film Festival Rotterdam.

IN PERSON: ROBERT BREER

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