Close Up

20 May 2017: Elective Affinities


Elective Affinities is a series of four feature-length films Gottheim started in the early 1970s and completed in 1981 with Tree Of Knowledge; the series explores not only images and their relationship to sound and time (a recurring theme in his work), they also examine issues such as family, psychology, education, freedom, and the theme of nature in art.

"Completed in 1973 (with assistance from CAPS), Horizons was released as an individual film and continues to stand as such. However, I have incorporated it as Part 1 "Overture" to the series Elective Affinities, which includes three further sound films: Mouches Volantes, Four Shadows and Tree of Knowledge." – Larry Gottheim

Larry Gottheim will introduce the programme and will participate in a Q&A following the screening.

Horizons (Elective Affinities, Part I)
Larry Gottheim
1971-73 | 75 min | Colour | 16mm

"This was also my fifth viewing of Gottheim's Horizons. (It is said, in Analects, VII:31, that "when Confucius was pleased with the singing of someone he was with, he would always ask to have the song repeated and would join in himself.") During the first viewing of Horizons, in London, I just looked at it, with my eyes all open and ablaze, and I found it very beautiful. Later I listened to Gottheim talk about the film. I found out about the complex web of image rhymes and correspondences in the film. During my second and third viewings I became very absorbed in seeing and figuring out the correspondences and rhymes. But I found the film equally, if not more, beautiful. The fourth viewing was again an open eye viewing, without any special emphasis. During the Cooper Union screening I suddenly discovered its incredible richness of color. I sat close to the screen and I saw these glorious colors and I was amazed that I could look at Horizons four times and not notice the magnificence of its color." – Jonas Mekas

Mouches Volantes (Elective Affinities, Part II)
Larry Gottheim
1976 | 69 min | B/W | 16mm

“Three elements, at first quite independently, struck me deeply, were brought together: this title which suggested so much to me, this narration by Angelina Johnson of the story of the life of her husband, Blind Willie Johnson; and groups of visual material, light fragments from my own personal world of occupations. [...] As in all my films, the basic processes of cinema, the exposing of film stock to light, here the stringing together of linear patterns of sound and image, become metaphors, embodiments of acts of coming to feel, coming to know. […] Words, images, sound, light, flows of energy leaping and cavorting in conciousness, taking form. A celebration of elusive relationships.” – Larry Gottheim

"The film unfolds and recedes before us as do the waves on the beach in Sections 5 and 6. The shots themselves become familiar images, as does the quizzically magical sound track. The tonality of the film stock moves from high contrast black and white to subdued color and back again. All of this cyclical lyricism creates a fullness, an organic whole." – Raymond Foery

Four Shadows (Elective Affinities, Part III)
Larry Gottheim
1978 | 64 min | Colour | 16mm

"Like constellations wheeling round, a double chain of four image segments and four sound segments wheel past each other in 16 combinations – a family of Gibbon apes, a landscape measured, a shadowed diagram after Cezanne, a wintry urban scene, a text by Wordsworth, a climactic scene from Debussy's opera Pelleas et Melisande... The stately ceremony can generate rich sensuous cinematic pleasure as well as a free-flowing stream of associations. Containment and flowing free – these are some of the issues." – Larry Gottheim

Tree of Knowledge (Elective Affinities, Part IV)
Larry Gottheim
1980 | 60 min | Colour | 16mm

"It started with filming the tree. Something was released in that manner of filming seemingly farthest removed from the procedure of the early films. I first thought a simple ordering of this rich material might be enough, something related to Barn Rushes. But the essential feelings and meanings of that filming held themselves back. So I pursued sounds of comparable texture and richness, from which material the "deaf bar" (thanks to Roger Jacoby and Pittsburgh Filmmakers) and stockyard (thanks to Alan Berliner and U. of Oklahoma) sounds attached themselves to the work. But the film only came into its form-life with the idea of linking this deep-rooted and far-outreaching tree material with that film on paranoia that had fascinated me for many years." – Larry Gottheim

Part of our season on Larry Gottheim