Artist, sci-fi illustrator, and video pioneer Ed Emshwiller’s first foray into long-form cinema is an underappreciated underground classic, sharing many of the psychological and formal concerns of its late-1960s counterparts. Image, Flesh and Voice considers human relations through a layered succession of figures and voices, exhibiting the first-person perspective and freewheeling panache of the counterculture. Emshwiller’s “non-story-telling feature film” achieves maximal impact by doubling down on the interplay of image and sound, with a beguiling amalgamation of loose, finely structured segments reminiscent of films by William S. Burroughs and Antony Balch. Emshwiller was drawn to using dreamlike dance episodes for their capacity to imply rhythm and interrelations (through the presence of a solo or a duet) without reverting to traditional narrative—a sentiment shared by David Rimmer, whose structural dance loop opens the program. Image, Flesh and Voice had its debut in the 1969 Director’s Fortnight at Cannes, suggesting the wide range of cinema contexts embraced by Cineprobe.
The Dance. 1970. Canada. Directed by David Rimmer. 16mm. 5 min.
Image, Flesh and Voice. 1969. USA. Directed by Ed Emshwiller. With Carolyn Carlson, Emery Hermans. 16mm. 77 min.