Films by Christopher Maclaine

San Francisco beat poet Christopher Maclaine made only four films, but the longer two are among the greatest and most original I've seen. Rarely screened, perhaps because of their crude, homemade look, they have an emotional and spiritual authenticity few mainstream films can match. The End (1953) tells the stories of seven people on the last day of their lives (most of them are preparing to kill themselves, but the world is also about to be annihilated by the bomb) with a mix of black humor and bizarre twists. The editing and Maclaine's narration are constantly veering off in unexpected directions, replicating the disordered thoughts of a person on the brink; during one particularly jumbled sequence of images, he invites us to make up the story. In The Man Who Invented Gold (1957) a “madman” loner emulates the medieval alchemists, and the rapidly changing colors of the film's opening titles provide a clue to its gnostic theme: like an alchemist, the filmmaker can use cinematic techniques to turn darkness into light. On the same program: Beat (1958) and Scotch Hop (1959).

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