Sunday, November 18, 2012

Louise Brooks & Bruce Conner

Bruce Conner (1933 – 2008) was an American artist renowned for his work in assemblage, film, drawing, sculpture, painting, collage, and photography, among other disciplines. He was also a big fan of Louise Brooks. On more than one occasion, Conner told me of his lifelong interest in the actress. [Read more about Conner on his Wikipedia page.]

Conner was born on this day in 1933 in McPherson, Kansas, and was raised in Wichita, Kansas. Back in 1997, I mounted a small exhibit about Louise Brooks at a neighborhood cafe. Conner visited the exhibit, and wrote a note in guestbook.

Somewhere, there is a video of me introducing Bruce Conner at the Castro Theater in San Francisco before an audience of more than 1400 people. [The occasion was a screening of Pandora's Box at the 2006 San Francisco Silent Film Festival.] After my introduction, Conner talked of his interested in Brooks and related how he used to watch her come and go from her Wichita dance studio.

From Wikipedia: "Conner began making short movies in the late 1950s. Conner’s first and possibly most famous film was entitled A MOVIE (1958). A MOVIE (Conner explicitly titles his movies in all capital letters) was a poverty film in that instead of shooting his own footage Conner used compilations of old newsreels and other old films. He skillfully re-edited that footage, set the visuals to a recording of Ottorino Respighi's Pines of Rome, and created an entertaining and thought-provoking 12 minute film, that while non-narrative has things to say about the experience of watching a movie and the human condition. A MOVIE (in 1994) was selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry at the Library of Congress. Conner subsequently made nearly two dozen mostly non-narrative experimental films."

Non of those films seem to be available on YouTube. So, instead, we offer these with best wishes to Bruce Conner on his birthday. (To watch the NSFW Bruce Conner film, Breakaway (1966), visit this page on vimeo. And yes, that is Toni Basil of Mickey fame as the dancer.)

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