Warren Sonbert: Three Short Films | Duke Experimental Film Society

Location: Rubenstein Arts Center Film Theater

-- Presented by Duke Experimental Film Society and Screen/Society

A screening of three short films by Warren Sonbert, a major American experimental filmmaker, an inveterate traveler, and occasional critic (under the alias of Scottie Ferguson, after Hitchcock's Vertigo). Before his death from AIDS in 1995, Sonbert made eighteen short films; the three selected here each foreground his rhythmic, exuberant style of montage and prominently feature pop and rock music.

(1966, 10 min, 16mm)

Sonbert began making films in 1966 as a student at New York University's film school. In his first films, he uniquely captured the spirit of his generation and was inspired both by his university milieu and by the denizens of the Warhol art scene. In both provocative and playful fashion, Amphetamine depicts young men shooting amphetamines and making love in the era of sex, drugs and rock and roll.

The Bad and the Beautiful
(1968, 34 min, 16mm)

Noteworthy for Sonbert’s use of in-camera editing, in which he assembled together individual 100-foot camera rolls (that he shot) into a series of mini-narratives. Each camera roll sequence captures an individual couple in unusually intimate, quotidian moments: eating, making love, dancing, etc.

Friendly Witness
(1989, 22 min, 16mm)

In Friendly Witness, Sonbert returned after 20 years to sound. In the first section of the film, he deftly edits a swirling montage of images – suggestive of loves gained and love lost – to the tunes of four rock songs.

"Sonbert was a matador, stylishly guiding his films' relentless charge, his art a spectacle of uncertainty, and of grace." – Thomas Beard

“Warren Sonbert was the supreme Romantic diarist of the cinema” – Wheeler W. Dixon

“What makes Friendly Witness such a rich masterpiece … is that its whole structure is based not on a single organizational principle but on many, some of them almost contradictory.” – Fred Camper

“Sonbert’s films play with cinema’s magical ability to whisk us from one place to the next, their scale remains distinctly human, restricting abstract or ostentatious spectacle.” – Harvard Film Archive

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Screen/Society screenings are free and open to the public.

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Still from Friendly Witness

Contact: Hank Okazaki

Email: hokazak@duke.edu

Sponsor: Duke Cinematic Arts

Co-Sponsors: Institute for Critical Theory and Program in Literature