Anne Robertson’s Diary Films

Anne Robertson’s Super-8 films are at once engaging and troubling. In Apologies (1990) the filmmaker is seen in a variety of settings apologizing for everything from not editing the film more to her apologizing. At first this 17-minute film is somewhat amusing, but as it unfolds one goes from being irritated at its repetitiousness to being fascinated by its almost self-destructive obsessiveness. Her major work, Five Year Diary, begun in 1981 and now more than 24 hours long, is generally shown in excerpts. The two reels on view here (23 and 71) chronicle her mental illness, attempts to recover, obsession with a TV star, and interest in Emily Dickinson and organic gardening. The work is raw, personal, direct, quirky, and oddly revealing. Robertson doesn’t try to get past her mental illness so she can make her films–she makes them to help herself recove. So the reels have all the messiness of unedited thinking: for instance, she shows all her groceries so that the viewer will “know what I was eating.” This all-inclusiveness, which is paired with rapid-motion single framing that often destabilizes what we see, suggests a mind moving too rapidly for clear thinking. Two separate strands of her voice saying different things–apparent only in the video versions being shown here, which are screened only when she won’t attend–suggest a severely divided self. Also on the program, Going to Work (1981), Magazine Mouth (1983), Suicide (1979), and Locomotion (1981). Kino-Eye Cinema at Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division, Sunday, June 1, 7:00, 773-384-5533. –Fred Camper

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Five Year Diary film still.