WintercourseDirected by Paul Sharits.
US, 1962, 16mm, color, silent, 12 min.
Print source: Canyon Cinema
The earliest and only surviving work in Paul Sharits’ filmography after a fairly successful attempt by Sharits to destroy all of his early efforts at filmmaking in “a rage of non-narrative commitment,” Wintercourse was fortunately rediscovered in 1985. Made while the filmmaker was a painting student at the University of Denver and close friends with Stan Brakhage, Wintercourse is heavily influenced by Brakhage’s Wedlock House: An Intercourse (1959). Both films document the trials and tribulations of their previous marriages. With a light, lyrical style that stands in shocking contrast to later work, Wintercourse documents a relationship that is seemingly carefree yet full of apprehensions. Print courtesy of Canyon Cinema from a recent preservation by Anthology Film Archives.
Piece Mandala/End WarDirected by Paul Sharits.
US, 1966, 16mm, color and b&w, silent, 5 min.
Print source: Anthology Film Archives
Originally made to be included in a program of antiwar films, Piece Mandala/End War occurs within Sharits’ period of what he referred to as his “mandala films,” which are flicker films containing very rapidly shifting color frames intercut with black-and-white representational images. In this instance, still images of a lovemaking couple, flipping from left to right on the screen, create an erotic tension with the color frames in order to form “a meditational-visionary experience.” In many ways, Piece Mandala/End War is very much a film of its time, of the Love Generation, with Sharits again making a film as a hopeful offering to humanity and his wife in what was a turbulent time in their marriage.
Made in collaboration with poet David Franks, T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G uses flickering of pure color frames juxtaposed with positive and negative still images of Franks threatening to cut off his tongue with glitter-covered scissors and being scratched across the face by fingernails that leave a sparkling trail. Other rapidly alternating still images of eye surgery and a couple in the midst of intercourse are used to heighten the underlying violent, erotic and psychological undertones of the film and are recurrent themes that Sharits would repeatedly pursue in many of his films. The soundtrack is a continuous looped recording of Franks speaking the word “destroy” over the entire length of the film, which eventually becomes unrecognizable as it mutates in the viewer’s ear into other words or phrases. The first of Sharits’ mandala films to utilize sound in a powerful way, T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G was an attempt by the filmmaker to reconnect and come to terms with both his mother’s suicide and the birth of his son, events that would have a profound impact on his future films as well.
Razor BladesDirected by Paul Sharits.
US, 1966, 16mm, color, 25 min.
A dual 16mm projection of side-by-side projected images, Razor Blades was the last work completed in Paul Sharits’ mandala cycle of flicker films, an exploration of many of his recurrent fixations on the elements of the cosmos, birth, life, sexuality, suicide, death and rebirth. A rapid staccato siege of flickering still images, influenced by Sharits’ involvement in Fluxus along with elements of Pop Art, appear and alternate in split-second succession. Fourteen loops are projected against each other on both projectors, with only the first and last loops repeating, thus ideally creating an infinite loop where “metric time is destroyed.” A powerful and hypnotizing cacophony of competing sounds and images is unleashed, with occasional moments of synchronization. Referencing the tools used by filmmakers to edit their films, Razor Blades also reflects the trauma of the act on Sharits, who referred to the editing process and its effects as “love wounds.”