MoMA wraps up its season-long partnership with Rooftop Films with an evening of experimental and nonfiction film in Green-Wood Cemetery. Standish Lawder’s creepy, fascinating Necrology kicks off the evening, followed by Errol Morris’s examination of life, afterlife, and capitalism, Gates of Heaven.
Necrology. 1971. USA. Directed by Standish Lawder. 12 min. Filmed in a purgatorial Grand Central Station in 1969, Standish Lawder’s now-classic Necrology is “without a doubt, the sickest joke I’ve ever seen” (Hollis Frampton).
Gates of Heaven. 1978. USA. Directed by Erroll Morris. 85 min. Inspired by an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, “450 Dead Pets Going to Napa Valley,” Morris’s painfully funny first film chronicles the demise of one pet cemetery in Northern California and the fortunes of another. The owner of the bankrupt cemetery, a broke and brokenhearted man, learns that being compassionate is no way to run a business; his counterparts, the family that runs the successful cemetery, are a cross between 1950s sitcom and American Gothic. Gates of Heaven is a film about filling voids: those of empty graves and of lost loved ones; of dreams deferred and a gnawing sense of loneliness, failure, and mortality often too painful to acknowledge; even of the oppressive silence Morris maintains as an interviewer to compel his subjects to talk.