For its final screening of 2008, White Light Cinema is pleased to present a special program of early films by experimental animator Lewis Klahr.

PICTURE BOOKS FOR ADULTS (1983-85), an eight film series, is Klahr’s earliest work available for screening. In a very rare presentation, it will be shown it its original Super-8mm format—the first time anywhere in almost a decade.

Still one of Klahr’s major works, THE PHARAOH’S BELT (1994) was a breakthrough film, both in its length (43 minutes) and in establishing Klahr’s signature cutout animation style.

Over the past thirty years, Los Angeles-based filmmaker has created a stunning body of work that easily places him at the forefront of avant-garde artists. Moving from the intimacy of his early Super-8 films to his current digital works (with a long sojourn in 16mm), Klahr has always taken advantage of the particular characteristics of his various media. This appreciation of the textures and looks of each format is not surprising, though—Klahr’s meticulously constructed films (his early found footage collage works and his more well known cut-out animation films) all benefit from his careful attention to small details. From the constant lookout for source material (old magazines, comic books, diverse other printed matter, photographs, and even occasional three-dimensional objects), the selection of those materials for a particular project, and the combinations and juxtapositions of those materials within a film, Klahr exhibits an unerring eye for the telling, resonant, and evocative.

Klahr’s films are works of mystery and wonder. More than any other filmmaker working today they are psychic excavations of our shared mid and late-twentieth century cultural memory.


PICTURE BOOKS FOR ADULTS (1983-85, 37 mins., Super-8mm)

Deep Fishtank Birding (1983, 3 mins, b/w, sound)
Enchantment (1983, 2.5 mins., color, sound)
Pulls (1985, 5 mins., color, sound)
What’s Going on Here, Joe? (1985, 5 mins, color, sound)
The River Sieve (1984, 5 mins., color, sound)
Candy’s 16! (1984, 2.5 mins., color, sound)
Deep Fishtank Too (1985, 5.5 mins., b/w, sound)
1966 (1984, 8 mins., color, sound)

“Picture Books For Adults” is “my first attempt at media autobiography created over a two year period (1983-85) in which tenderness, intimacy and the sensuality of the Super 8 image were primary. Many of the found films are culled from Super 8 highlight films (recently made obsolete by VHS) that were sold out of a barrel on Canal Street like all the other construction supplies. Included are my first finished films with strip collage ("Pulls") and cutouts ("Deep Fishtank Birding"). Introduced in the latter is the deep sea diver that periodically appears through all periods of my work including "The Pharaoh's Belt" and most recently "Valise." (Lewis Klahr)


THE PHARAOH’S BELT (1993, 43 mins., 16mm)

“Klahr’s lost American Eden is an imaginary suburban childhood. ‘The Pharaoh’s Belt’ opens with the image of a Japanese monk battling several ninjas in a forest that soon turns into the woven fabric of wall-to-wall carpeting. A boy asleep in a biliously green frosted cake dreams of cosmic wrestling matches. A living room sofa becomes first a pool of water, then a flying carpet. A kitchen merges with the bottom of the sea or, more often, outer space. The split-level universe is populated by elegant parental silhouettes and costumed comic book heroes, as well as a variety of advertising imps like the Jolly Green Giant who appear from appliances like the genies summoned by Aladdin’s lamp.” (J. Hoberman, Village Voice)

"In his most masterful film to date, Lewis Klahr provides a lesson in modern hieroglyphics, assembling collages of contemporary demons and divinities in the guise of advertising images culled from a consumer culture's larger-than-life presentation of its products and the ecstasies they offer. These hyperbolic presences with their radiant colors and alternate promises and pitfalls provide the landscape for a childhood quest that teeters between nightmare and promised land, as Klahr's characters negotiate a labor of extrication from the morass of Betty Crocker chocolate icing, formica kitchens and parental phantoms toward a mastery of the imagination and the attaining of true love." (Tom Gunning)

“In ‘The Pharaoh's Belt,’ Klahr engages in a sort of fantastic history of childhood, using the attribution of incoherent significance and the perverse joy of irrational association characteristic of games of make-believe to fashion an allegorical narrative of adolescence. A dizzying mélange of resonant images and shocking - yet always coyly astute - juxtapositions of objects, actions and effects, this film uses the familiar and banal to tear open the Pandora's Box of suburban childhood, and revels in the terrors it releases. A narrative of incommensurate events, chronicle of a dream always on the verge of waking into adulthood, it explores an uncharted terrain of linoleum floors and the living room couch, wondering at the mysterious wonders implicit in the birthday cake and the vast unknown expanse of an outer space which equals in wonder any uncharted wild or misty ruin. And as we float through this lost space, breathing only the forgotten ether, these images assume their own sort of truth, naming a story which need not be told, but remembered, and their sense becomes clearer as it becomes less so.” (San Francisco Cinematheque)


Admission: $7.00 - 10.00 sliding scale