Early Monthly Segments presents: Warren Sonbert Retrospective
EARLY MONTHLY SEGMENTS presents
WARREN SONBERT RETROSPECTIVE
November 15-17, 2012
Seven Screenings at the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Jackman Hall
(317 Dundas Street West, McCaul Street Entrance)
October 19, 2012 - Early Monthly Segments presents the complete retrospective of the films of Warren Sonbert (1947-1985). Suffused with a love of image, melodrama and the teachings of Douglas Sirk and Alfred Hitchcock, the films ofWarren Sonbert are wonderful records of his vibrant surroundings in New York and San Francisco and his travels abroad. Gorgeously shot and meticulously edited, his films serve as an important touchstone for the possibilities of personal filmmaking.Early Monthly Segments is pleased to be able to host a retrospective of his films programmed and organized by Jon Gartenberg and imported from Light Cone in Paris. These screenings are the first stop of an international tour of these films at many prominent European museums and cinematheques and are a rare chance to see the complete body of work of this exceptional filmmaker.
“In [Sonbert’s] best work, behind the mask of unalloyed visual pleasure lurks a dramatic intensity and trajectory, not just of personal concerns or protracted journeys but of massive social upheavals, the melding or collision of distinct cultural rituals of crisis, cessation, renewal.” – Paul Arthur
The retrospective begins Thursday, November 15 at 6:30pm with Queer Identity. This program examines Sonbert’s relationship to the gay universe, beginning with his provocative and playful first film, Amphetamine (1966), which depicts young men shooting amphetamines and making love in the era of sex, drugs, and rock and roll and culminating with Whiplash(1995), his elegiac meditation on his own mortality, a film that was completed posthumously according to Sonbert’s instructions.
At 8pm, Thursday, November 15, From Mise-en-Scene to Montage examines one of the most profound themes coursing throughout Sonbert’s work—the love between couples in all its pitfalls and perfect moments. Featuring the films The Bad and the Beautiful (1967) and Tuxedo Theatre (1968), the program marks his transition to developing his unique style of montage, which subsequently resulted in his magnum opus, Carriage Trade.
Friday, November 16 features two screenings. The screening at 6:30pm, Overarching Themes, continue to model the beautiful tensions which come out of a style that film theorist Noel Carroll called “polyvalent montage”. Divided Loyalties(1978), is about “art vs. industry and their various crossovers” (Sonbert) and Honor and Obey (1988) questions all forms of male-dominated authority, particularly familial, religious, political, and military. Sonbert modeled A Woman’s Touch (1983) after Hitchcock’s Marnie, both in the stylistic interplay between “images of [en]closure and escape,” and in the thematic tension between male domination and female independence.
The Friday, November 16, 8pm screening, Travel Diary features his masterpiece, Carriage Trade (1972), which interweaves footage taken from his journeys throughout Europe, Africa, Asian and the United States. Carriage Trade was an evolving work-in-progress, and this 61-minute version is the definitive form in which Sonbert realized it, preserved intact from the camera original, evoking “a jig-saw puzzle of postcards” that examine “the changing relations of the movement of objects, the gestures of figures, familiar worldwide icons, rituals and reactions, rhythm, spacing and density of images.”
Saturday, November 17 features three screenings, including a 3pm matinee. This matinee, 60’s New York, includes films that captured the spirit of his generation, inspired first by his university milieu and then by the denizens of the Warhol art world. BothWhere Did Our Love Go? (1966) and Hall of Mirrors (1966) feature Warhol superstar Gerard Malanga in a starring role, along with many fellow travelers in the Downtown art scene.
The Saturday, November 17, 6:30 pm screening, Silent Rhythms/Sound Symphonies 1 features Rude Awakening (1976), which subverts our expectations of his classic visual style with a liberal sprinkling of avant-garde techniques. The incorporation of the materiality of film, the treatment of light, and the use of a hand-held camera, all suggest the influence of Stan Brakhage, Sonbert’s “hero”. Friendly Witness (1989), is “suggestive of loves gained and love lost” (Fred Camper), and weaves a montage of images around a rich soundtrack of classical, pop and world music—a return to incorporating music tracks back into his movies.
The final screening on Saturday, November 17 at 8:00 pm, Silent Rhythms/Sound Symphonies 2 features the classic Short Fuse, informed by Sonbert’s awareness of his own mortality once he was diagnosed with HIV. As film critic Steven Holden astutely noted, in Short Fuse, “an undercurrent of rage seeps through the cracks of its ebullient surface.” Shifting musical passages collide against images of leisure, war, and protest.
Series programmer, archivist and preservationist Jon Gartenberg will be on-hand to introduce the screenings and provide personal context for the work, along with special surprise film fragments from Sonbert’s archive.
Thursday, November 15 – 6:30 and 8 pm
Friday, November 16 – 6:30 and 8pm
Saturday, November 17 – 3, 6:30 and 8 pm
Screenings are $5 each. An all-access pass is $30.
The screenings are made possible through the generous support of the Art Gallery of Ontario; Cinema Studies Institute, University of Toronto; Department of Film, Faculty of Fine Arts, York University; School of Image Arts, Ryerson University; andan Indiegogo campaign supported by audience members. The prints were preserved by the Estate Project for Artists with AIDS and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles, California
Early Monthly Segments is a monthly film series named after an early film by Robert Beavers, and is inspired by the immediacy, vibrancy and experimentation found in that film. Programmed by Scott Berry, Chris Kennedy, and Kate MacKay this series features historical and contemporary avant-garde 16mm films in a salon-like setting. http://earlymonthlysegments.org
Jon Gartenberg and members of EMS are available for phone interviews.
More info, DVD's + press stills available from Brittany Mumford at 416-809-5350 or
Justin Leger at 416-574-3678 or EMAIL: email@example.com