On Oct. 9 the Keene State Putnam Theatre was visited by experimental filmmaker Mary Helena Clark. She screened eight of her works; the final three were projected on 16-millimeter film. 

The final piece of the night, “The Dragon is the Frame,” has been traveling the festival circuit and was recently shown at the New York Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival.

The film will soon find itself in London for another screening.

All the films have been made in the last six years and cover Clark’s career as a filmmaker. Film Department head Jonathan Schwartz gave a brief introduction to the filmmaker and her works before the screening.

Emily Orell / Equinox Staff

Emily Orell / Equinox Staff

He noted how her films are “in dialogue with poetry and collage” and also how in each viewing he finds “a different thread and something new.”

The first film screened was “By foot-candle light.”

The film starts off with a spotlight searching around a theater curtain.

In a question and answer session after the show Clark explained this as the spotlight “looking for the star while it becomes the performer.”

The scene then shifts to an underground cavern with a pulsating rhythmic beat occurring. Clark referred to this as “the cave rave scene.”

The next film screened was “The Sound of Running in my voice.”

The film starts off with legs pacing in front of a dark background.

The legs are barely lit giving only the slightest impression of movement within the frame.

The scene then shifts to an older woman similarly darkly lit. The film then ends with a constrained frame of fire.

Suddenly the film lets this fire cover the entire frame and the audience can see the digital artifacts of zooming in so close to the fire.

“The Plant” was the third film screened. It started with black and white shots but soon moved to color.

The film oscillates between monochrome colors to full color throughout the film.

The film primarily has shots of a man walking through a city and the city itself. The man walking is accompanied by Foley sound effects—sound recorded after the image.

Clark said, “The Foley sound reveals the construction of the image.”

“And the Sun Flowers” was shot on videotape and featured shots of floral patterns with superimposed flowers on top of that.

The soundtrack consists of a relaxation tape. The medium of videotape gave rise to many video artifacts in the frame.

“Everything but the Elephants, For A.M.M.” was purely a sound piece. It covered various cartoon noises played out around sounds of home life. For the remainder of the screening the films were projected on 16 mm.

The first 16 mm film shown was “Sound Over Water.”

The film was layered images of waves.

The film played the white of the sea foam off of the blues of the ocean.

It ended with still shots of ocean whales, with most of the shots obstructed by another person.

“Orpheus (Outtakes)” featured snippets of old films primarily by French Avant-garde filmmaker Jean Cocteau’s “Orpheus” and silent film comedian Harold Lloyd films.

Repetition and playing with the darkness within the frame was the primary focus of the piece. Former Keene State College student Laura Judge said, “Her work is playful and curious, meditative on loss and displacement and continually shifting between absence and presence, of sound image, space and body.”

The final film of the night was “The Dragon in the Frame.” The film featured a wide array of images from around a city.

At one point the film started to show YouTube videos of a man styling his hair while the frame reflects the other half of the frame.

KSC alumnus Chris Ruble commented on the film saying, “It was interesting seeing digital video on film.”

In response, Clark commented that “it still feels digital” and the audience becomes distanced from the image.

As the night ended and the crowd dispersed, Clark stayed after to mingle with film students and faculty.

Lena Houst commented before the screening that she “only coincidentally” knew about Clark’s work because of her recent visit to the New York Film Festival.

Houst, who is in Film Society, a student organization that runs the Putnam, went on to say, “We don’t always know who will be coming and in some ways that is very refreshing.”

All the films except “The Dragon in the Frame” can be found on Clark’s vimeo page.

Next week’s, Oct. 16 Putnam Thursday night special screening will be of “American Bear – An Adventure in the Kindness of Strangers.”

This is a documentary detailing the adventures of a couple as they travel to 30 towns in 60 days and rely on the kindness of strangers.


Joseph Jowett can be contacted at jjowett@keene-equinox.com

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