For nearly 50 years, Saul Levine (American, b. 1943) has made experimental films that are distinguished by their machine-gun rhythms, political urgencies, and moments of cloistered, even blissful, family settings. Levine’s is a cinema of violent juxtaposition—Charlie Chaplin hotly pursued and Walter Cronkite intoning the grim news of the day; Vietnam War paratroopers and B.B. King playing the blues; street protests, police roundups, and workers on the dole.
Tracing a vital aspect of Levine’s work across four decades—what P. Adams Sitney has identified as “his incessant, chaotic outpouring of political energy” —this special co-presentation of Modern Mondays and To Save and Project: The 10th MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation features the New York premiere of Light Licks: By the Waters of Babylon: This May Be the Last Time (2011), Levine’s meditation on the play of winter light on Boston’s Charles River; and luminous 8mm, Super-8, and 16mm prints of The Big Stick/An Old Reel (1967–73), Notes of an Early Fall (1976), Unemployment Portrayal Note (1980), and Notes after Long Silence (1984–89) that have been beautifully preserved by Bill Brand/BB Optics, with partial funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation.
Inspired by jazz improvisation, Jewish mysticism, visual punning, and poetic meter, as well as the films of Stan Brakhage and Sergei Eisenstein, Levine’s editing ricochets between shock montage and more tender, abstract passages. Through his use of repetition, superimposition, and fragmentation; accidents of exposure, and raw, jagged splicing, Levine creates jarring collisions among television news broadcasts, slapstick comedies, lyrical contemplations of the natural world, and intimate scenes of domesticity and eroticism. Program approx. 80 min.