BCC003: See America by Car: Short films by James Benning and Bette Gordon, J.J. Murphy, Alan Berliner, Gerd Stern and Stan Vanderbeek
Public · By Black Circle Cinema
    Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thursday, June 13 at 8:00PM

Aux Performance Space / Vox Populi Gallery
319 North 11th Street, 3rd Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Tickets: $7-10 sliding scale

It’s impossible to separate the “American landscape” from the interstate highway system. The view we have of our vast country is often mediated by what is visible from these roads, with “real wilderness” being slightly beyond reach. The American road trip is a time-honored tradition that has been depicted in many different media from On the Road to Easy Rider to the photography of Walker Evans.

“See America by Car” considers works by avant-garde filmmakers that respond to ideas of the open road, the fetishization of automobiles and the traditional summer sojourn across miles of pavement.

The United States of America (dir. James Benning and Bette Gordon, 1975, US, 16mm, 27’
A true masterpiece of 1970s cinema, more remarkable today than ever before. A conceptual bicentennial film dealing with spatial and temporal relationships between two travelers, their car, and the geographic, political, and social changes from New York to Los Angeles. The space within each frame is at the same time continuous and elliptical.
“Shot from inside a moving car on a trip across the country. The year is 1975. The seemingly relaxed feel of the image is undermined by the intermittent radio broadcasts which announce (as the car travels toward LA) news of the approach of the North Vietnamese to Saigon. — Amy Taubin, Soho News, 1977

Highway Landscape (dir. J.J. Murphy, 1972, US, 16mm, 7’)
“The filmmaker describes his work as ‘a single take, fixed camera meditation on a dead rabbit on Highway No. 1, outside Iowa City.’ As the viewer stares at the almost still-life, the elements of composition come together in sad juxtaposition; the silence of death is set off against the impersonal whizz of passing cars, their momentary appearance in the frame creating almost subliminal flashes of bright metallic color. — Ron Epple

Lines of Force (dir. Alan Berliner, 1979, US, 16mm, 7’)
Explores the urban and highway landscapes of cars and trucks, traffic signals, tunnels and blinking arrows. A simple electronic tone highlights small shifts and sudden changes within the flow of images.

Y (dir. Gerd Stern, 1963, US, 16mm, 12’)
“A question (as valid a form in film poetry as a phrase or a sentence): what effect does the authority syndrome of the highway have on contemporary sexual dynamics? The question is asked through a collage of highway signs, center lines, the nude seen as the way with circumstantial sounds of orgiastic motors and breath.” — Gerd Stern

Wheeeeels No. 1 (dir. Stan Vanderbeek, 1958, US, 16mm, 5’)
A companion piece to Wheeeeels No. 2, exploring more of the highways and by-ways of “America on Wheels” with the filmmaker’s gentle surgery on the American pop-consciousness very much in evidence.

Wheeeeels No. 2 (dir. Stan Vanderbeek, 1959, US, 16mm, 4’)
“Dedicated to Detroit and subtitled ‘America on wheels.’ A fantasy farce on the car of everyday life. Everything is a vehicle, life is in motion, motion is the means, the automation is the mean mania of today.” — Stan Vanderbeek

(via BCC003: See America by Car: Short films by James Benning and Bette Gordon, J.J. Murphy, Alan Berliner, Gerd Stern and Stan Vanderbeek)