Essay Film Festival Prelude 2: Bette Gordon Selection
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, New York-based filmmaker Bette Gordon produced a series of works that chart a major shift in experimental practice from the rigor of structural film to a theoretically-informed interest in fragmented narrative and subjective experience that Noel Carroll would dub the “new talkies.” With her best-known work, 1983’s Variety, Gordon moves fully into the idiom of independent narrative cinema, but her concerns remain consistent: questions of sexuality, labour, and gentrification are pursued within a critical interrogation of filmic language. Hers is a cinema at once politically urgent, formally sophisticated, and emotionally compelling.
Bette Gordon Programme 2:
An Algorithm (1977, 10 minutes, 16mm)
The action of a woman jumping into a swimming pool is used as the basis of a structural exploration of rhythm, the loop, the analytics of motion, and the possibilities of optical printing.
Exchanges (1979, 18 minutes, 16mm)
Here, Gordon’s practice stands at a turning point between the rigorous interrogation of filmic form that characterises her early work and the experimental narratives of female experience and desire found in Empty Suitcases and beyond. In this deeply semiotic enterprise, voice, image, and text are separated, combined, and recombined in a reflection on the production of meaning
Empty Suitcases (1980, 55 minutes, 16mm to video)
Gordon describes her first feature film as “a narrative derived from film’s own material and my concern for exploring issues of representation and identification in cinema. The film presents fragments of a woman's life – her work (as a photographer), her friendship and relationships – in short, her economic, sexual, and artistic struggles. By deconstructing the fragments of text, speech, music, and picture, the film forces focus on the workings of narrative, as well as on the narrative itself. Central to Empty Suitcases is women’s inability to place and define themselves in language and politics, the location of radical struggle. This displacement leads to a definition of woman as other, and reveals problems of unresolved sexual relations, difference, and violence.”
This programme was curated by Dr. Erika Balsom.
School/department website http://www.bbk.ac.uk/arts/research/birkbeck-institute-for-the-moving-image