Prismatic Music: The Short Films of Joseph Bernard (1978-85)


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PRISMATIC MUSIC_icon-01Prismatic Music: The Short Films of Joseph Bernard (1978–85)

PrintUnderground Film Series

Prismatic Music: The Short Films of Joseph Bernard (1978-85)

  1. Friday, March 11, 2016 6:30 p.m.
Image from Eye Reels Prismatic Music Short Films by Joseph Bernard

Since the 1970s, visual artist Joseph Bernard has created over 100 silent Super 8 films that work to radically expand our understanding of cinema as an expressive form. Too rarely screened, Bernard’s work offers a rich contribution to traditions of formalist and experimental filmmaking, often described in terms of—but never reducible to—rhythm, color, abstract expressionism, photography, documentary, self-portraiture, and collage. This program will feature a selection of short films curated by the filmmaker and recently digitized as part of an ongoing restoration project. Director and Painter Joseph Bernard is scheduled to be present. (HD.)

A Program of Twelve Super-8 films by JOSEPH BERNARD

1. A.B. PORTRAITS 1978 06:11
A day in a life, edited completely within camera. This is a home movie of my mother.

2. RITUAL 1979 02:42
One of those rare, total in-camera edits that provided options for many of my later, densely compressed films. The timing, lap dissolves and vocabulary were a gift!

A splice joins two pieces of film, leaves a horizontal ‘bar’ across the frame, and is something never seen in movies. This homage to structural filmmaker, Paul Sharits, was made by constructing and re-photographing thousands of cement slices which were then arranged into four movements. This was shown several months ago at Animator International Festival in Poznan, Poland.

4. EYE REELS 1980 16:17
An entangled meld of Celtic-flavored abstractions, home movies and an Irish dance fest that was all edited throughout with those very moves in mind. Quick shots and dense patterning, within the film, echo that found in embroidery, lace, stone and metal work – all of which grows out of the very language; both in sound and calligraphic look. That tapestry-like interweave becomes the very edit and ‘fabric’ of this film. In memory of my maternal grandmother, Winifred Egan.

5. FUGUE 1981 02:25
Bach implied; splice-free and light, airy, soft-focus reflections on and through the back window of a car returning from the beach.

6. INTRIGUES (V) 1981 02:03
From a series inspired by Delmore Schwartz’s observations on the word “intrigue”. These seven films of mine regard multiple qualities of personal visualizations; directly tied to various processes of filmmaking. This one references a dance leading to a dance.

A simplistic analogy of obvious disparities of these two masters that I concocted on the beach in Provincetown. As a disclaimer; my filmed comparisons of the work of H.F. & S.B. should in no way be construed with the quality or intentions of these high priests of filmmaking. Just koaning around.

8. VARIANT CHANTS 1982 15:51
A montage of stills and clips referencing aspects of “set-up” or tabletop filmmaking, as well as images of my own paintings on glass and 35mm photographs. For me, this remains an in-total dervish dance… a celebration of the means at hand and all the charged beauty I was capable of then, or since. Last fall, this film had screenings in Madrid and Barcelona.

An itinerant-text soliloquy acknowledging a solitary, unknown, yet perceptive audience member with whom I’m sharing this film.

10. THE DETROIT FILMS (REEL #3) 1985 04:13
A soft focus and so very silent “essence of place”, shot in Provincetown so as to be later remembered in Detroit.

Truly one of the most gifted models for my figure drawing courses at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, Milton adapted with ease to suggestions, i.e., “…improvise a 10 minute moving pose”. This, then, is a film of one of those poses. Members of the class worked in near total darkness. I’m grateful to him for this intimate document.

Based on the title and a premise from my undergraduate thesis, this one goes back to my first viewing of Brakhage’s MOTHLIGHT and the impact it had on me. That experience, and later grad studies with him in Chicago, to the eventual making of FULL CIRCLE - - and all that’s resonated with me since - - may that be implied here. This film is tagged at the end, “4 SB”. I would now add, “…with love and everything”.