Marie Menken 1910-1970
Duration: 10' 37"
, filmmaker Marie Menken once stated that "these are too tiny or too obvious for comment, but one or two are my dearest children." Menken was being far too humble, as Notebook is considered by many aficionados of experimental cinema as being her greatest work. Notebook was assembled in 1962 and 1963 from bits and pieces of films Menken had shot over the years; some of these short takes date as far back as the late '40s. Individual segments are organized into brief chapters, which include such experiments as single-frame footage of neon signs at night, single-frame footage of the moon, a shot of a leaf collecting water in a light rainstorm, and others. Stan Brakhage
stayed with Menken and her husband, Willard Maas
, when he first settled in New York in the 1950s. Brakhage was shown many of the individual pieces that ultimately made up Notebook, and later gladly acknowledged his own stylistic debt to them, which is most readily apparent in Brakhage's Anticipation of the Night (1958). ~ David Lewis, All Movie Guide
In a remarkable series of disarmingly unpretentious films she demonstrated a rhythmic inventiveness perhaps previously unmatched in the cinema. In Notebook she stored fragments from all phases of her filmic career, from the mid-forties to the late sixties. There we can see how, at a time when most of her contemporaries were invoking the Dionysian imagination in their invented imagery, Menken was exploring the dynamics of the edge of the screen and playing with the opposition of immanent and imposed rhythm. The exquisite early Raindrops dramatizes the subtle wit of her vision of the perceptual model. As she waits behind the camera for a drop of rain on the tip of a leaf to gather sufficient mass to fall, we sense her impatience and even anxiety lest the film will run out on her; so an unseen hand taps the branch, forcing the drops to fall. Tampering this way with an otherwise straightforward observational film is characteristic of Menken, who cheerfully incorporates the extraneous reflection of herself and her camera, even her cigarette smoke, into an animated fragment and who makes the very nervous instability of the hand-held camera a part of the rhythmic structure of several films.