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Film Details

Edgar B. Howard
Theodore R. Haimes

Duane Michals (1939 - 1997)

LISTED UNDER: Photography


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A haunting and evocative film by the photographic master of mystic innuendo, Duane Michals.

This film is divided into sections, some of which reproduce in Michals' well-known photographic stories, sequential images that add up to form a narrative. "The Bogeyman" is a child's nightmare in photo-animation. Did it happen, or not?

Then we get to a cryptic message from the artist, as though from beyond the grave (hence the title "1939 - 1997"). We watch over the artist's shoulder as he writes "It is no accident you are reading this, I am making black marks on white paper, these are my thoughts." This brings another concern of Michals'; the act of writing, which has predominated in his exhibitions.

"The Human Condition" shows the subway stop immolation of a young man who turns into a galaxy, stressing the spiritual nature of existence. The artist's voice returns: "A failed attempt to photograph reality -- to photograph reality is to photograph nothing -- I can only fail."

Other sections: "People Eat People," "The Spirit Leaves The Body," "Things Are Queer," "The Pleasures Of The Glove," and "Chance Meeting" -- all deal with perception, reality, phenomenology. They also provoke thoughts of change, and above all, mortality: "He was becoming silence."

In the final sequence, Michals reveals his "guardian angel" in a burst of unexpected color.

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