Close Up

19 February 2020: Peggy and Fred in Hell: Folding

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We’re thrilled to welcome Leslie Thornton to present a rare screening of her epic Peggy and Fred in Hell cycle in full.

Peggy and Fred in Hell: Folding
Leslie Thornton, 1984-2016, 95 min

Leslie Thornton’s remarkable, mind-boggling experimental feature-length cycle of short films which she’s been working on and releasing in episodes since 1981 is a postapocalyptic narrative about two children feeling their way through the refuse of late-20th-century consumer culture; the films employ a wide array of found footage as well as peculiar, unpredictable, and often funny performances from two “found” actors. Apart from one startling and beautiful color shot in the penultimate episode, Whirling, the whole cycle is in black and white. […] Highly idiosyncratic and deeply creepy, this series as a whole – which includes passages in both film and video, sometimes shown concurrently – represents the most exciting recent work in the American avant-garde, a saga that raises questions about everything while making everything seem very strange.” – Jonathan Rosenbaum

Leslie Thornton’s major work Peggy and Fred in Hell was created over 30 years, between 1984 and 2014. The film follows two children, “raised by technology”, sole survivors of a post-apocalyptic world invaded by cultural clutter. “There are no other people in the world. Something has happened to them, but Peggy and Fred are unconcerned. Since the only other people they see are on TV, they figure that people are watching, learning from or ignoring them, as well. This constitutes their idea of the Social” (Leslie Thornton). In a fascinating montage that combines pop culture, ethnography, the history of American cinema, science and science fiction, the film relates the children’s improvised performances, filmed between 1981 and 1988, with a varied archive of images: newsreels of Universal outtakes, factories in the 1900s, Edison, and weather radar tapes. Peggy and Fred in Hell is an exciting essay about the acquisition of language, narrative forms or the convergence between technology and human conscience.” – Xcèntric, CCCB