Celluloid Therapy

Massachusetts experimental filmmaker Anne Charlotte Robertson, who died in 2012, created video essays, stop-motion films, and, most notably, a Super-8 diary spanning nearly 20 years. The five films collected here trace Robertson’s mental breakdown and subsequent efforts to better herself through filmmaking because “therapy wasn’t therapeutic.” The first three pieces—Locomotion (1981), Magazine Mouth (1983), and Apologies (1986)—maintain a clear focus, using stop-motion collage and monologues that Robertson addresses to the camera. Even when considering such dark topics as regret, violence, and mental illness, Robertson can be playful, using quick-witted wordplay or scoring a scene to a John Philip Sousa march. The highlight of the program is two reels excerpted from Robertson’s Five-Year Diary, in which scenes recorded directly from Robertson’s life (often without the knowledge of the other participants) are accompanied by a soundtrack layered with stoic monologues, emotional outbursts, impromptu conversations, and rock music, creating the impression that we’re privy to what goes on inside her mind. As images of her life flash by, personal details emerge about past love affairs, family relationships, and her desperate desire to capture every moment in life, searching for significance in everything from a piece of tofu to a street sign to a wasp.