Arts & Events

AROUND AND ABOUT FILM: Rare Gregory Markopoulos Retrospective at the Pacific Film Archive

By Ken Bullock
Friday February 10, 2012 - 07:44:00 PM

Gregory Markopoulos (1928-92) was one of the most creative American filmmakers who emerged during or just after the Second World War. From Toledo, Ohio, on of Greek immigrants, he made his first film at 12, and studied with Josef Von Sternberg as a teenager. His sense of place, of the subliminal (Markopoulos might've said said "mythic"), of person was volatilized by an extraordinary, "almost Mannerist" use of color ("Color is Eros") and his own signature in montage, eventually expressed through rapid cutting and unusual soundtracks, with and without music. 

His uncompromising views on film led to difficulties with reviewers and scholars: a critic as important and influential as Andrew Sarris expressed hostility at what he then regarded almost as Markopoulos' "homosexual agenda," which shows how much has changed--Sarris included!--since the 60s ... the occasional homoerotic content to Markopoulos' films is mild, certainly not shocking, by today's standards. Their beauty and depth of cinematic perception, on the other hand, is something rare, seldom equaled today or anytime. 

By the 70s, Markopoulos had moved to Europe, where he and Robert Beavers, his student, fellow filmmaker and surviving partner (in every sense of the word) continued working, eventually developing Markopoulos' lifework, a radical recutting of his films, to be shown only outdoors at the site their foundation's named for Temenos, in Arcadia, Greece. Those who have seen these now-annual screenings, which Beavers inaugurated after Markopoulos' death--like Susan Oxtoby, PFA curator of the upcoming retrospective--report a completely idiosyncratic experience, using imagery from the earlier films, but without traditional montage--bursts of color and images in the midst of darkness, meant to be seen and felt along with the night sky, the dark shapes pf nature and other viewers around the amphitheater ... 

Markopoulos withdrew his films from distribution; many of these haven't been screened for over 30 years, except at rare retrospectives. (the PFA had one in the 90s.) The work of his contemporaries and peers--Stan Brakhage, Kenneth Anger ... --has long been shown with frequency and available on VHS, then DVD. This is a rare chance to see remarkable works like 'Twice A Man' (with a young Olympia Dukakis) and the short, startlingly lovely 'Ming Green,' besides his longest work, 'The Illiac Passion.' 

Robert Beavers will attend the first two screenings. 

Seconds of Eternity, The Films of Gregory J. Markopoulos: 7 pm, Thursday, February 9: Early Films (1940-49)--includes the Bay Area premiere of Robert Beavers' "The Suppliant." 6:30, Saturday, February 11: Eros & Myth (1960-63)--includes 'Twice A Man.' 7, Thursday, February 16: 'The Illiac Passion,' starring Andy Warhol, Taylor Mead, Jack Smith--program includes "Ming Green." Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft (on campus, up exterior stairway between Telegraph & College). $5.50-$9.50. 642-5249;