VISITING FILMMAKER SERIES THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 11, 1980 MUSEUM OF ART THEATRE 8:00
VISITING FILMMAKER STEPHANIE BEROES PRESENTS HER FILMS VALLEY FEVER, RECITAL, and
DEBT BEGINS AT 20
Stephanie Beroes is a filmmaker whose career in the cinema has deep ties to her native city of Pittsburgh. Her first interest in film was stimulated by an "underground" series at Carnegie Mellon University and was nourished by the on-going programs at the Carnegie Institute. Interested in gaining an historical perspective, she pursued film studies at the University of Pittsburgh, taking classes with Bill Judson. Ms. Beroes has stated that it "was very definitely the critical analysis of film...which awakened me to 'what's what' in cinema...and consequently intrigued me to attempt filmmaking myself." Clearly, her progression from inspired film viewer to filmmaker fulfills every film curator and teacher's dream.
Ms. Beroes work in the cinema has also been strongly influenced by Pittsburgh Film-Makers', where she served as a founding member and inaugurated the screening room program. In 1974 Ms. Beroes began to make he own films: short poetic works like LIGHT SLEEPING, SEPTEMBER and APRIL; a film-historical work (THE AMERICAN MUTOSCOPE COMPANY), and a documentary on Pittsburgh urban renewal (THE ATWOOD STREET RENOVATION AMD BEAUTIFICATION PROJECT).
In 1976 Ms. Beroes moved to San Francisco to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in Film. There she made SHADOWPLAY, an abstract poetic work, and RECITAL which is part of the program this evening. In 1978, while teaching at Arizona State University, she shot VALLEY FEVER, which was completed at Pittsburgh Film-Makers'. DEBT BEGINS AT 20, which chronicles local punk rock music and culture, was made in Pittsburgh. ;
For the past few summers Ms. Beroes has toured England and Germany with programs of avant-garde film, both her own and those of other filmmakers.
RECITAL (1978) color/sound 20 min.
In The Second Sex Simone de Beauvoir discusses the situation of the woman in love. Her point "is that the experience of being in love is different for men and women in our society. As Lord Byron once put it: "Man's love is of man's life a thing apart. 'Tis a woman's whole existence." As de Beauvoir insightfully remarks, however, this is not a biological, but rather a cultural difference. Given woman's traditional sense of her own inferiority, "There is no other way out for her than to lose herself, body and soul, in him who is represented to her as the absolute, as the essential."
Stephanie Beroes film, RECITAL, addresses the state of "woman in love." As opposed, however, to a Lawrentian reading of the situation--a cascade of images of erotic transcendence唯eroes takes a more distanced look at the phenomenon. And it is one that views the situation as frought less with ecstasy than with risk and pain.
RECITAL is a highly structured film. Each section involves a woman, situated in some external locale, reading a letter or other text. It is clear that the women are not the authors of the words they read. Their stilted delivery, their trouble with words, are dead give-aways of the unfamiliarity with the texts.
The first letter is read by a woman reclining on a ridge overlooking the sea -- a veritable Bay Area picture postcard setting. The text she reads is letter expressing the pain of unrequited love, the abyss of frustrated passion. The letter, however, is read in a monotone, without any peaks of feeling, so that ultimately we find it lass moving than cliche. This pattern of love-letter recital is repeated with several other readers: one stumbles over certain words; another breaks up laughing when she comes to the passage: "Oh, yes, I love you, I love you."
Clearly, the subject is not one of true comedy, particularly since the letters recited are ones Beroes once earnestly composed. Beroes goal, however, is a kind of distanced deconstruction of the experience, in an attempt to view it with the lessons of knowledge and time. Be having other people recite the letters, Beroes breaks the
spell or the romantic fantasy, and allows the Viewer a distanced perspective, Or course what appears to the captive lover as amorous transcendence, appears to the detached observer as mere bondage.
Deroes point in particular, however, is that this state of dependence is a peculiarly female syndrome. This she makes clear in other texts read in the film: ones discussing paternalism in the art world, or the sexual bias of language. The film ends with the return of the first woman reader who crumples up the original letter to the strains of Billie Holiday singing "Lover man where can you be?"
The film is not only interesting for its attempt to critique the phenomenon of female masochism, but also for its use of language. In one of the letters read there is a statement about how women should "keep quiet". Clearly Beroes has decided not to heed that time-worn advice." Her soundtrack is composed entirely of women's words -- her own as well as those of Carolee Schneeman, Casey Miller and Kathleen Frazier.
Through the distanced juxtaposition of words and image, and the progression of ideas within the texts themselves -- Beroes accomplishes a true re-cital; that is, a re- reading of past experiences given shape over time.
VALLEY FEVER (1978) color/sound 25 min.
Though a very different film, VALLEY FEVER shares certain concerns with RECITAL. Again, Beroes is interested in the locus of individual perception. Here, however, is less concern with emotion than with the bounds of human consciousness. Like RECITAL, the film is also highly structured, and revolves around the reading of various texts.
The film involves two "characters", a woman and a man, who, according to Beroes "carry on a disjunctive conversation...about the effects of illness on perception."
While the man reads from a scientific treatise on the syndrome of fever, the woman chooses the words of Merleau-Ponty, explaining her experience in more phenomenological terms. They show each other film footage in an attempt to visualize and exchange their perceptions. But ultimately the film confirms their inability to "see eye to eye." In her choice of cinema as a medium of "exchange" within the film, Beroes also points to the dilemma of the artist, and the problematics of communicating one's singular vision to the larger world.
DEBT BEGINS AT 20 (1979) sound/black and white 40 min.
Beroes' latest work is quite different from her other films, Using a largely documentary format she paints a portrait of punk culture in Pittsburgh--the music, the life-style, the social stance. Once more, however, the film is highly structured. Shots of The Cardboards' drummer (Bill Bored) at home,, for example, are intercut with images of the band performing; and shots of people being "interviewed" at a party are regularly intercut with groups playing music. The film also intermixes documentary and acted footage, and makes great use of captions and "subtitles" as.counterpoints to the visuals.
Again we see Beroes' concern with language; for in punk rock music the ironic lyrics are paramount--be they from The Cardboards' "Low Level Radition," or the Dykes4 "TWo Finger Wide.."', The cartoon-like captions and subtitles further draw our attention to the verbal discourse.
For Beroes, the Pittsburgh punk phenomenon--The Cardboards, The Shakes, Hans Drinker, and the Dykes擁s a brand of folk" or "primitive" art. In keeping with this style, she has chosen not to make a slick rock-and-roll documentary預 WOODSTOCK or MONTEREY POP. As W.T. Koltek of WYEP Radio has stated:
"Beroes' band footage is a radical departure from the grimmicry of stereotyped rock band documentary in its use of pans and slow dolleys, capturing small glimpses of the musicians at work that a "PR" film would have avoided at all costs. Just as the music of the Cardboards challenges the cliches of punk as much as it does those of earlier pop forms, so does the cinemato-graphy demand a reconsideration of the rock band documentary's hoary technical vocabulary."