Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) music by Teiji Itō added 1952

Much like Cocteau’s La Belle et La Bête , which came three years after this short, this piece pivoted on the repetition of certain objects. Through the rondo-like succession of imagery, these objects are instilled with emotional significance.

The cinematography by Deren’s Czech husband Alexander Hammid is skillful and effectively disorienting. It is all the more impressive when the limited budget the pair was working on is taken into account. His focus and composition were excellent, and his perspective was obviously sensitive to Deren’s vision.

9 years after the filming, Teiji Itō produced a minimal score for the piece at the age of 17.  Through the use of semitones between what sounds like a human voice humming and a bowed bass note, the pressure of the unresolved diminished unison adds great tension to the short.  The semitones paired with the staccato percussion speaks as much of Itō’s sensitivity to Deren’s vision as the cinematography spoke of Hammid’s.  It is no wonder that Deren and Itō were later married.

Side note: Looks like Kate Bush much?


Scotch Tape (Jack Smith, 1963)

b&w and color, 3 min, USA


Jack Smith was one of the masters of the underground film-making ‘group’ in New York city in the early 60s, and this was one of the few films that Smith finished and screened. While nowhere near the notorious nature of Flaming Creatures or the color-grandeur of Normal Love, Scotch Tape is significant because in a 3-minute stretch of time Smith is able to convey a lot of energy and excitement over some footage that is hard to make out. It looks as those there are figures dancing among garbage or something, moving about, maybe even at 16 frames-per-second, and all done to a super catchy swing tune from the 30s.