At the intersection of eroticism, mysticism, and the everyday one finds Tom Chomont. As filmmaker/curator Jim Hubbard notes, “Chomont’s films offer a lyric depiction of the ordinary world, but at the same time reveal an unabashedly spiritual and sexualized parallel universe. His incomparable technique of offsetting color positive and high contrast black-and-white negative creates a subtly beautiful, otherworldly aura.” Hubbard observes that in this sense, “the subtitle of his film Phases of the Moon best characterizes all of his work: The Parapsychology of Everyday Life.” His films lovingly depict the commonplace, while the richness of texture, layer, and observation always point to something beyond.
Infusing this dynamic is a palpably human longing for love. In Chomont’s world, the boundaries that limit us are in fact gateways, be they door, window, skin, or spirit. Nowhere is this more visible than in his most famous, ‘though outwardly least characteristic 16mm work, Love Objects. In Love Objects, explicit scenes of heterosexual and homosexual lovemaking are intercut so seamlessly that one doesn’t know quite what one’s watching. And yet—while its subject and content are daringly transgressive, the film reveals in its tenderness, rather, that life itself is a transgression on prurience.
Chomont completed approximately 40 short films between 1962 and 1989. He suffered from Parkinson’s during the last decades of his life; a time in which he also produced a wide range of video works. These later pieces include documents of his struggles with illness as well as his immersion in ritual S&M culture. While outwardly quite different from his earlier work, characteristically, they transcend their striking subject matter and point to the spiritual aspects of our physical existence.
Ironically the impoverished and disabled Chomont was only able to get financial assistance for his Parkinson’s once he became HIV positive, allowing at least a modicum of medical treatment in his later years. This program of newly restored titles focuses on Chomont’s exquisite early 16mm work. UCLA ultimately hopes to restore more of the oeuvre of this truly underappreciated genius of experimental cinema.
Preserved as part of the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project. Preserved from the original 16mm assembly rolls. Laboratory services by Triage. Special thanks to: Tom Chomont, Jim Hubbard.
Ophelia/The Cat Lady (1969)
16mm, color, silent, 3 min.
Love Objects (1971, Holland)
16mm, color, silent, 11 min.
The Mirror Garden (1967)
16mm, color, silent, 4 min.
16mm, color, silent, 6 min.
16mm, b/w and color tint/tone emulations, silent, 4 min.
Phases of the Moon (1968)
16mm, color, silent, 4 min.
16mm, color, silent, 5 min
DigiBeta, color, silent, 3 min.
Sadistic Self Portrait (1994)
DigiBeta, color, silent, 5 min.
[Self] [Portrait] (2000)
Directed by Mike Hoolboom, Tom Chomont.
DigiBeta, color, silent, 4 min.
Storm Warning (2008)
DVD, color, silent, 2 min.
Directed by Samay Jain.
DVD, color, silent, 7 min.