- Carolee Schneemann’s Fuses plays in the adults-only portion of this year’s cat-related experimental film program.
There are way too many good screenings scheduled for tomorrow night, presenting Chicago cinephiles with their greatest dilemma since, well, last Friday, when there were concurrent revivals of The Ladykillers, Knife in the Water, and Douglas Trumbull’s Brainstorm (the latter screens again tonight, thankfully). The weeklong runs of James Gray’s masterful The Immigrant and Sam Fleischner’s flawed (yet courageous) Stand Clear of the Closing Doors conclude at the Siskel Center and Facets Multimedia, respectively. The Music Box is showing Patton on 70-millimeter, and Doc Films has Painters Painting (1973), Emile de Antonio’s classic profile of New York’s postwar art scene, on 16-millimeter. Also screening from 16-millimeter is South Side Projections’ second annual program of cat-related experimental shorts, taking place at Co-Prosperity Sphere at 7 PM. The first edition was one of my favorite repertory screenings of 2013, and though there are fewer titles on this year’s program, the selections sound just as strong on the whole, with shorts by such avant-garde luminaries as Ken Jacobs, Robert Breer, and Carolee Schneemann.
Last year’s cat program was structured somewhat randomly, proceeding from abstract pieces to family friendly cartoons to political satires. This year, South Side Projections programmer Michael W. Phillips seems to have taken a page from Bill Cosby’s 1969 double LP 8:15/12:15, with one program that’s suitable for all ages and another that’s adults only. (There should be far less repetition between the two sets than on 8:15/12:15. I also doubt that Phillips will attempt an awkward foray into blue humor during the later program, as Cosby does on that record, but you never know.) The centerpiece of the latter program is Schneemann’s Fuses (1967), a once-notorious work that explicitly depicts the artist and her partner, composer James Tenney, having sex. The film took three years to make, according to Steve Rose’s Guardian profile of Schneemann from earlier this year. Rose continues:
She painstakingly etched, colored, and reassembled [the film] frames to form a joyous collage, aiming to capture the equitable, erotic splendor of everyday sex ‘with shameless regard.’ This was at a time when movies couldn’t show pubic hair or even say the word ‘vagina.’ Schneemann had to get the footage developed in a secret lab usually used for pornographic films. Although it was far too risqué for wide exhibition, it did win a prize at Cannes in 1969.
I’m not sure what that has to do with cats, but count me curious.