Nina Menkes: Cinema as Sorcery

Phantom Love (2007)
February 18, 2012 -
March 7, 2012
In-person: 
filmmaker Nina Menkes.

"[Ms. Menkes’s] trancelike movies, which rely on repetition and incantation, act on the viewer like spells." —New York Times

"Menkes' body of work is a fluid continuum of dreams and nightmares." —LA Weekly

"For three decades filmmaker Nina Menkes has made poetic, evocative films that have placed her in the forefront of American experimentalists." —Los Angeles Times

Independent filmmaker Nina Menkes has secured a distinct and indispensable position within the international film avant-garde. Her collected works, honored by international awards and critical accolades, iconoclastically and passionately map a psychic universe characterized by entropy—implicitly churning with destructive, if undeniably vital, power. Disconnectedness haunts Menkes’ work, as human figures negotiate steep slopes of trauma, self-definition and survival, against a generalized existential plane that seems unconcerned with such considerations. This tension is metaphorically figured by technical means, including precisely attenuated camerawork and sound design that invert the usual hierarchy between human subjects and their supposedly secondary backdrops. The tenuous position of subjective beings in such a universe is most superbly realized in the person of Menkes’ frequent onscreen subject (and off-screen collaborator) Tinka Menkes, whose implacable visage is a perfect riposte to a violent world. But Menkes also describes the work of filmmaking as “sorcery,” and indeed she wields a potent magic, introducing liberating mysteries: the riderless horse, the roulette wheel and the mysterious talisman constitute enigmatic and tantalizing signposts to alternate possibilities. The Archive is pleased to welcome Nina Menkes (a graduate of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television) to this survey of her momentous work.

Special thanks to: Academy Film Archive; Mike Plante—Cinemad Presents; Kevin Ragsdale—KNR Productions; Transfax Film Productions.

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