Film
UbuWeb









Hy Hirsh (1911-1960)



Come Closer (1952)


Born in 1911 in Chicago, Hy Hirsh worked all his life as a camera operator and a photographer in advertising. In 1937, he turned to avant-garde cinema and collaborated on a few projects as a comic actor and a camera operator in San Francisco. A friend of Belson's and Smith's, he counselled the two artists during their first experiments, and was inspired by them to create films of his own. In about a twelve year span, Hirsh made a large number of films, in the United States first, then in The Netherlands and finally in Paris, where he died in 1960 of a heart attack.

His disorderly life and his lack of interest in his own works make his filmography very difficult to compile. Many films have been lost, and any conjecture about the actual form of his surviving works is impossible, as some of them have been mutilated. Treating each show as a happening, Hirsh edited and re-edited his films according to the need, favouring live-music over soundtracks and, at times, choosing multivision. In short, he acted as a choreographer of cinema, refusiing to bring his films to completion. What is left shows a genial and uneasy jack-of-all-trades. Gifted with great visual and rhythmic sensitivity, vivacious taste and unrestrained vitality, Hirsh was probably too attracted by the novelty of the next experiment to complete the artistic themes he had just discovered.

Chasse de touches (The Chase of Brushstrokes)is a beautiful, elegant graphic game, marred only by a banal ending of fireworks. The film employs the same technique of drawing on dense oils used in the late 1940s by John Whitney. Come Closer is a festive, carnival-like three-dimensional experiment, best viewed with 3-D glasses, which is held together by a sure handed use of form and rhythm. Scratch Pad mixes graffiti on film stock and live-action, while Gyromorphosis frames the close-up of a metallic structure as a three-dimensional sculpture, and enriches it with superpositions [sic]. Autumn Spectrum is a ÔliquidÕ film, edited with live-action shots of water effects, reflections and waves; it is similar to Defense d'afficher (Post No Bills), a sequence of peeled off walls and pieces of old posters.

Hirsch's finest remaining work is Eneri (almost certainly made for 3-D), which recalls McLaren's Around is Around or Alexeieff's Fumees(Smoke, 1951); a complex film, it includes a brilliant use of the split-screen and a reappearance of Hirsch's fireworks theme (presented here in a figuratively coherent manner).