Friday, 5 December 2008

william klein: a maverick filmmaker and photographer in focus

Broadway By Light

This January the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) invites you to enter the wild world of artist, photographer and filmmaker William Klein with Focus on William Klein. From fashion to art, manic fiction feature films to groundbreaking 'direct cinema' documentaries, his work is riotous revolution writ large across the cinema screen.  

This season of rarities unleashes Klein's eclectic career and creative genius; from maverick fashion photographer (1950s Vogue) and distinguished photojournalist; to off-the-wall fiction filmmaker and documentary chronicler of celebrity, counterculture, sports heroes and political icons.

An American expatriate and New York native who for the past four decades has been residing in Paris, Klein first gained recognition as a photographer in the mid 1950s with his book New York (Life is Good and Good for You in New York), before heading to Paris and working for Vogue from 1955 to 1965, where he spearheaded an innovative period of fashion photography. One of the greatest photo-reporters of the era, Klein also published Rome (1960), Moscow (1964) and Tokyo (1964).

In the 1960s, Klein turned his focus to filmmaking, producing raw, funny, shocking and stylish works, most of which are still relatively unknown.

ACMI Film Programmer Amree Hewitt says it was a privilege to curate this program of unique cinematic pieces created by a visual genius. "True discovery is such a rarity and revelation even rarer; the films of William Klein are both," she said.

"A celebrated, seminal photographer of the late 20th Century, his cinema work is almost unknown and certainly unseen by most. Klein's wild, unconventional vision and unwillingness to narrow his artistic focus to one artform - coupled with being a lifetime 'American in Paris' and slipping through the cracks of both countries' official and unoffical film histories - have no doubt played their part in his works," said Amree.

"From the highly stylised fiction features to an eclectic array of in-your-face documentaries, this retrospective is a jolt to the senses, offering a totally unique window into fascinating times and a riotous world. It has been a pleasure to curate this season for ACMI audiences," she said.
Impossible to pigeon-hole, his unique output includes Who Are You, Polly Magoo? (1966), a wild pop-art fairytale, and a satirical swipe at the sixties fashion world and its excesses; Mr. Freedom (1968) the superhero satire and fierce humorous swipe at America's ham fisted efforts trying to save the world; and documentaries including Eldridge Cleaver, Black Panther (1970), all showing as part of this retrospective season.

Focus on William Klein also features Klein's key verite documentaries including; the eye-opening Muhammad Ali, The Greatest (1964-1974), a sublime behind-the-scenes look at Cassius Clay 'becoming' Ali;  an agitprop portrait of the then fugitive Black Panther in Algiers Eldridge Cleaver, Black Panther, (1970); Hollywood California: A Loser's Opera (1977), a record of 1970s Los Angeles and vintage Americana classic capturing Klein's fascinations with the cruelties of street life and celebrity obsession; The Little Richard Story (1980), an off-the-wall tribute to a fractured legend; an intimate and revealing first look behind the scenes at the tennis stars at work during the landmark 1981 Roland-Garros - the year Lendl defeated Borg - in The French (1982); and Klein's contribution to the anti-Vietnam protest film Far From Vietnam (1967), also directed by Agnes Varda, Joris Ivans Godard and Chris Marker, which screens following Eldridge Cleaver, Black Panther.

ACMI will also showcase Klein's dynamic short films in a one-off program of rarities simply titled 'Short Works.' Among the shorts screening are Broadway By Light (1958) Klein's expressionistic debut film; Contacts (1989), which shows Klein surveying his famous photographic contact sheets as he gives a miniature master class in identifying 'the image' among a hundred striking variations; Ralentis/Slow Motion (1984) a silent film of dreamlike figures and the athlete as movement and time; and Chris Marker's La Jetée (1962), in which Marker, a vital champion of Klein's work, gives us a 'Bill Klein' cameo as a 'man from the future' in the director's sublime and influential ciné-roman.

A retrospective of Klein's cinematic works would not be complete without an insight into his own take on the fashion world, for which he is renowned. The season features Fashion in France (1984), a series of thirteen sequences, all shot in different cinematic styles, tracking the history of French fashion as told by Klein. 

Decades after these seminal works, Klein made In and Out of Fashion (1998), a chronicle of his five decades of capturing and making images from fashion to street scenes to advertising and of course filmmaking.  This Klein-on-Klein retrospective documentary piece is sure to be a highlight of the season. 

Also screening are; The Model Couple (1977), in which an 'average' couple volunteer to inhabit a futuristic 'happiness-capsule' apartment and undergo psychological testing and televised surveillance - apparently all for the national good; and Klein's collaboration with conductor Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble, Messiah (1999), a cacophony of images, both sacred and profane, casting Handel's Messiah as a powerful cinematic experience.

Focus On William Klein is on at ACMI Thurs 22 Jan -  Sun 1 Feb 2009


Further information

Claire Butler
Communications Coordinator
[direct phone] 61 3 8663 2415 [fax] 61 3 8663 2498 [mobile] 0434 603 654
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