In this radical meditation on image-making, Babette Mangolte puts the viewer of the film in a vantage similar to that of the photographer looking at her subject. This structural device reveals a series of studio portraits not as neutral observational exercises, but as a subtle accumulation of interpersonal tensions and meanderings. In the film’s second half, Mangolte captures street scenes and reflections from SoHo buildings in a light-drenched metaphor of interiority and exteriority equal to the artist’s legendary work lensing the films of Yvonne Rainer and Chantal Akerman (who appears in the film). In a work replete with dualities, the most revelatory is the film’s existence as both “a description of the act of making photographs” and a self-portrait at a singular moment in time. Another photographer-filmmaker, David Haxton, is represented with the superlative reverse-polarity piece Cubes, a self-reflexive inquiry into the nature of images, also from 1978.
Cubes. 1977. USA. Directed by David Haxton. 16mm. 12 min.
The Camera: Je, La Camera: I. 1977. USA/France. Directed by Babette Mangolte. With Epp Kotkas, Kim Ginsberg, Mimi Johnson, Sasson Soffer, Simeon Soffer, Paolo Serra, Carlotta Schoolman, Linda Patton, Lucinda Childs, Stuart Sherman, Avra Petrides, James Barth, John Macellari, Powers Boothe, Chantal Akerman, John Erdman, Paul McMahon, Amy Taubin, George Ashley. 16mm. In English and French. 88 min.