Bridges-Go-Round, 1958

Short Films of Shirley Clarke

Friday, February 6, 2015 - 7:00pm

Drawing on her background as a dancer, Shirley Clarke (1919-1997) created short films that celebrated the “dance of life.”  From the beautifully choreographed portrait of New York City's bridges in Bridges-Go-Round (1958) to collaborations with legendary choreographer Anna Sokolow in Bullfight (1955) and A Moment in Love (1957), to the Academy Award-nominated “musical comedy about the building of a skyscraper” (Skyscraper, 1960), this program of newly restored films commemorates the work of an iconic American filmmaker.

“Dancer, bride, runaway wife, radical filmmaker and pioneer — Shirley Clarke is one of the great undertold stories of American independent cinema.” Manohla Dargis, New York Times

The program consists of:

Dance In the Sun (1953, 7:41)
Shirley Clarke's first film after studying filmmaking with Hans Richter at the City College of New York was this magical adaptation of Daniel Nagrin’s ballet. The film features fluid intercutting between the interior dance stage and the exterior location on the beach.

In Paris Parks (1954, 13:05)
Discovering her original subject had left Paris, and with nothing to do, Clarke found herself taking her daughter Wendy to the park. She realized that the playing of the children was in itself a dance. So she made “a dance of life" that reveals an intimate, charming and loving vision of a now-lost Paris.

Bullfight (1955, 9:24)
The only filmed performance of the legendary dancer/choreographer Anna Sokolow, Clarke cuts between a bullfight and Sokolow's incredible, intensely passionate interpretation of bullfighter, audience and the bull.

A Moment in Love (1957, 9:49)
A spectacular duet choreographed by Sokolow, using abstract colors and changing landscapes from an idyllic garden to a desolated city creating a lyrical, moving dance film.

Bridges-Go-Round (1958, 4:35)
Louis & Bebe Barron electronic score

Bridges-Go-Round (1958, 4:19)
Teo Macero jazz score. Perhaps Clarke's most famous film is this abstract, brilliantly colored kaleidoscope of New York City's bridges appearing to dance. This avant-garde mix of visual and sound has become legendary not only as a masterpiece of the postwar Indie scene, but as a film to be screened two times whenever it was shown — the two scores creating seemingly different films.

Skyscraper (1960, 21:30)
Clarke joined Irving Jacoby and Willard Van Dyke on a short film about 666 Fifth Avenue (known as the Tishman Building), then a year under construction. Clarke later called it “a musical comedy about the building of a skyscraper.” The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Short Live Action.

A Scary Time (1960, 16:02, co-directed with Robert Hughes)
Clarke started her narrative career with this little-seen short produced by UNICEF to promote their Halloween charity drive. Clarke deviates from the expected by comparing the closeups of the "scary" children in Halloween costumes to troubling images of sick and emaciated children in third-world countries. It was so effective, that the film was banned for many years.

All on DCP.