Long an under-celebrated influence on American experimental cinema, Saul Levine now receives a rare retrospective of his own, in conjunction with an exhibit of his multi-chromatic image-encrusted light bulbs at Participant Inc. With a crafted aesthetic that blends avant-garde time composition, home-movie content, and overt politics, Levine’s small-gauge films reshape handmade memories into emotive visual poetry. Though comparable in heartfelt grit to Jonas Mekas’s diary films, Levine’s style is even more materialist. His silent, 16mm New Left Note (1968–82) throbs through frames of protest footage, held together with thick, visible splice tape; the Super-8 sound Notes of an Early Fall (1976–77) references its own abilities as affective engine through a warped record’s fractured blues.
Focusing largely on the last decade, Anthology’s retro also includes miniDV tapes, like Levine’s Driven series—confessional road movies with fellow filmmakers, taped as they drive around Boston at night. Unlike his often frenetic films, Levine’s videos can be composed of one long shot, prompting a very different memory sense. In Kibbitzer (2001), a single tripod take of Levine’s ailing, elderly father playing Scrabble unfolds like a bit of ready-made theater. The silent Whole Note (2001), shot simultaneously on Super 8, dissolves monochrome silhouettes of Levine’s father into one another, gently suggesting a poignant passing through time.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 13, 2004