Show a film in the basement of a century-old library and the filmmaker dies.
This might resemble the premise of a horror movie, but it’s something that actually happened last Thursday after I screened Agnès Varda’s 1962 film, Cléo from 5 to 7 in class last week. The doyenne of the French New Wave passed away last Friday at the age of 90.
My History of Film class at Pratt Institute meets in the basement of the Pratt Brooklyn library. The library was built in 1896 and is a pretty exquisite building. It is one of the oldest buildings at the Clinton Hill campus, and it features Tiffany stained glass throughout the building. Another ornate feature is that the book spine labels in the stacks are handwritten in a pretty distinct yet clearly standard style.
When our class met this past Thursday, a student remarked that he had heard that Varda had died, and it struck him that he was familiar with her work due to our screening Cléo in class days earlier. The timing was eery for him and for me.
This past week’s class involved a survey of eight American experimental films, and sensitive to the timing of Varda’s death, I noticed that of the eight films, the filmmakers of seven had already died. These are the films and the filmmakers:
|Rose Hobart||1936||Joseph Cornell||1903||1972|
|Meshes of the Afternoon||1943||Maya Deren||1917||1961|
|A Movie||1959||Bruce Conner||1933||2008|
|Wonder Ring||1959||Stan Brakhage||1933||2003|
|Bridges Go Round||1958||Shirley Clarke||1919||1997|
|Scorpio Rising||1964||Kenneth Anger||1927|
As you can see in this list, of the films I screened on Thursday, only Scorpio Rising‘s filmmaker Kenneth Anger remains alive today.
Being a superstitious fellow, I worried that we would somehow curse Kenneth Anger. He is far from a young man, aged 92 years old and as old as Scorpio Rising is, he actually completed his first film in 1947.
So far, forty-eight hours after our class, Anger appears to be alive, and I wish him many more years.