Hassert Seide: Here we have the iron maiden. Otherwise known as the German Statue of Liberty.
Richard Myles: I’m surprised to hear a German say that.
Hassert Seide: I’m an Austrian.
Richard Myles: Isn’t that very much the same thing nowadays?
Hassert Seide: Is that the English view?
Frances Myles: We’re not English. We’re American.
Hassert Seide: Isn’t that very much the same thing nowadays?
I’ve been wanting to write about Maya Deren for a while now. She’s an interesting figure in the 1940s and 1950s American experimental and avant-garde film scene. She’s a filmmaker I’m sure has inspired lots of contemporary psychological filmmakers like David Lynch and David Cronenberg. Deren is interesting for a couple of reasons, but one of the things I love the most about her story is how “American Dream” it is. She immigrated with her parents in the 1920s, attended various schools (including NYU and Smith), where she received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in literature (in the 1930s!), then became part of the émigré art scene in Greenwich Village before eventually moving to Los Angeles. There really ought to be a biopic about her already! Meshes of the Afternoon is a personal film in many senses; it was filmed on a 16mm camera Deren bought with some inheritance after her father died and it tells of female subjectivity, loneliness and confusion. Deren was a woman who embraced her artistic and political freedoms in a time when this was still frowned upon by much of society (all the 1930s were much better for women than the post-war 1950s). There’s some debate as to whether this project was equally created by wife and husband, or if more of the credit should go to her husband Alexander Hammid. Filmmaker and friend Stan Brakhage claims the film was mostly Hammid’s creation and that part of why their marriage fell apart was because Deren got most of the credit. I find that interesting because if it is true, it really speaks to fragility of the male (and artist’s) ego. But I also doubt it’s as much Hammid’s creation as Brakhage claims, partially due to how similar it is to the rest of Deren’s solo work, and partially because the ideas embedded in the film feel so intrinsically female. I’m not going to dissect all the symbolism in Meshes of the Afternoon, but rather embed the film below and let you watch it for yourself (it’s about 13 minutes). If you enjoy it, you can find most (if not all) of Deren’s work on YouTube for your viewing pleasure.
After you watch the film (srsly, it’s 13 minutes so you have no excuse), let me know what you think!
Edward Rochester: Sometimes I have a queer feeling in regards to you Jane. Especially when you are near, as now. It’s as if I had a string somewhere under my left rib, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in a corresponding corner of your little frame. And if we should have to be parted, that cord of communion would be snapped and I have a nervous notion that I should take to bleeding inwardly.
It’s hard to write about any film that was nominated for Best Picture in 1943 since the winner that year is almost universally thought to be one of, if not the greatest film of all time – Casablanca. That being said, there were some other really great films that came out in 1943. I decided to go with one of my favorite recently discovered classic comedies, George Stevens’ The More the Merrier. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, winning one: Best Writing – Original Story, Best Writing – Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor Charles Coburn (won), Best Actress Jean Arthur, Best Director and Best Picture. The other films nominated for Best Picture that year were: For Whom the Bell Tolls, Heaven Can Wait, The Human Comedy, In Which We Serve, Madame Curie, The Ox-Bow Incident, The Song of Bernadette, Watch on the Rhine and winner Casablanca.