Notes on Marie Menken
Photos and Video
Martina Kudlacek has made a name for herself creating bio-docs on experimental cinema personalities such as, Maya Deren (In the Mirror of Maya Deren) and Alexander Hammid (Aimless Walk) (TFF 2005). Kudlacek latest brings into focus the underground film icon Marie Menken, best known for her role as a protagonist in Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls. Menken's role in Warhol's underground classic that managed to make it above ground brought her a certain degree of fame as an actress, but people often overlook the fact that she was a talented filmmaker in her own right. Kudlacek's fascinating, filmic diary Notes on Marie Menken follows the reminiscences of her friends and colleagues, among them Gerard Malanga (poet, photographer, and filmmaker) and Jonas Mekas (fellow Lithuanian, artist, and public champion of the avant-garde). Various interviewees recount how the public marital theatrics of Menken and her husband, filmmaker Willard Maas, became the inspiration for the perennial battling older couple in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Beginning with the excavation of Marie's rusty film cans, old photographs, and papers housed in a storage locker, Kudlacek brings Menken vividly back to life. She contrasts her own crisp black-and-white digital cinematography with lush color excerpts from Menken's 16 mm celluloid films. In the film's most compelling sequence, fellow artist Gerard Malanga winds through a rare clip of Marie Menken and Andy Warhol on a New York City rooftop. They seemed to be engaged in an artistic duel, each shooting with their respective 16 mm Bolex cameras. The moviola, through which the film runs, sheds light on an intricately choreographed dance that shines through flickering images of deteriorating film.
Director's Statement Collapse
Next to Maya Deren, the female icon of the Avant-garde cinema, Marie Menken (1909-1970) was the other outstanding woman pioneer filmmaker of the 1940s through the 1960s in New York. Menken made about 20 short film poems of beauty, joy, and vitality in 16 mm. Hers is a very personal cinema without protagonists. It searches to express the viewer's emotional point-of-view to the limits of abstraction and rhythm (like Glimpse of a Garden, Eye Music In Red Major, Arabesque For Kenneth Anger, Go! Go! Go!, Wrestlers, Lights and Andy Warhol). For these films, she was the cameraperson and the editor "within the camera." The presence of her body gives the succession and patterns of images a physical quality. She is a master of single frame. Her filmic project Notebook, structured in a lyrical diary-style, has inspired many similar films up to this day. Her work tends to be brief and to the point - a high artistry. It reminds me of the late Maya Deren asking for "filmic haiku", a lyrical essence of poetry. I am fascinated by Menken's essential feeling for rhythm. I am encouraged by her playfulness.
Film Information Collapse
[NOTES] | 2006 | 97 | Documentary Feature
Foreign Title: (Notes on Marie Menken)
Premiere: North American
Connect to this film Collapse
About the Director(s)Collapse
Born in Vienna, Austria, Martina Kudlacek studied Theater, Film and Media Arts at the University of Vienna. Kudlacek received an MFA degree in Documentary Film Directing at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in Prague, Czech Republic. Many of her films, including experimental works in photography, Super-8, 16mm film and video, have won awards throughout Europe. Her feature length documentary In the Mirror of Maya Deren was her first international success. Kudlacek also works as a researcher for the Anthology Film Archives, assisting in preservation projects with director and filmmaker Jonas Mekas. She is the recipient of the Anthology Film Archives Film Preservation Award 2004.