Me and My Brother

Written by Sam Shepard and director-cinematographer Robert Frank, this 1968 antidocumentary emphasizes the relationship between Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, and Peter’s brother Julius, whose diagnosis of schizophrenia is revealed when Peter contemptuously reads a document written by a doctor who once examined Julius. In the parts of this movie that most resemble documentary footage, Peter and Allen appear at ease being filmed, and Julius seems unaffected. Scrutinized by the camera or questioned by the filmmaker, he has a nearly enviable absence of self-consciousness, something Joseph Chaikin–who plays an actor auditioning for the role of Julius in a movie-within-the-movie–doesn’t even try to approximate. Some viewers may feel that the real Julius was exploited, others that the experience must have been liberating–but this isn’t a simplistic essay about mental illness. By treating what’s in front of the camera as a mixture of contrivance and reality–without belaboring or ignoring the fact that this is the nature of filmmaking–this movie addresses a range of ideas about mediating experience, and it does so with a light touch that somehow never trivializes the social issues broached along the way. (This version was reedited in 1997.) On the same program, Frank’s 1996 short The Present. Kino-Eye Cinema at Cinema Borealis, 1550 N. Milwaukee, Friday, March 12, 8:00, 773-384-5533.

–Lisa Alspector

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