Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Robert Frank: The Complete Film Works Vol. 2

Robert Frank's influence as a photographer is without question, paramount in scope. After publishing The Americans, Frank attained profound photographic notoriety and arguably authenticated the photography book as a legitimate form of artistic expression. Subsequently, his focus shifted from making still photographs to making films. He spent the better part of the next 20 years building an impressive body of filmic work, one that for a long time was not widely accessible to the masses. Steidl has taken it upon themselves to bring Frank's achievements in film to a broader audience. They will release Robert Frank The Complete Film Works Vol. 2 in September, which includes OK End Here, Conversations In Vermont and Liferaft Earth. Below are descriptions of each of the films.

OK End Here is Frank’s 1963 short film about inertia in a modern relationship. The film alternates between semidocumentary scenes and shots composed with rigid formality, and appears to have been directly influenced by the French Nouvelle Vague and Michelangelo Antonioni’s films. The characters are often only partially visible or physically separated by walls, doors, reflections, or furniture, and the camera relays the story with little rhyme nor reason, a roaming gaze, which seems to lose itself in things of little importance, while at the same time capturing the dominant atmosphere of routine, alienation, and apathy.

Conversations in Vermont
“This film is about the past … when Mary and I got married…. the past and the present … Maybe this film is about growing older … some kind of a family album.” Robert Frank in the Prologue. Produced in 1969, this was Frank’s first autobiographical film, telling the story of a father’s relationship with his two teenaged children, and his fragile attempts to communicate with them by means of a shared story. The shared story is partly told through Frank’s narration over filmed images of his photographs, family photographs and world famous images.

Liferaft Earth begins with a newspaper report from Hayward, California: “Sandwiched between a restaurant and supermarket, 100 anti-population protesters spent their second starving day in a plastic enclosure…. The so-called Hunger Show, a week-long starve-in aimed at dramatizing man’s future in an overpopulated, underfed world….” This film accompanies the people on this “life raft” from 11 to 18 October 1969, and was made by Robert Frank for Stewart Brand, the visionary founder of the international ecological movement and publisher of the bestselling Whole Earth Catalog (1968-85).

Conversations In Vermont, 1969
Image © Robert Frank