Anthology Film Archives to Present Two Evenings of Films By Jacob Burckhardt

Anthology Film Archives will present two evenings of films by Jacob Burckhardt on April 17 and 18, 2008.

Mr. Fashion, the nephew of Frankie Lymon
Mr. Fashion, the actual nephew of Frankie Lymon, stars in THE FRANKIE LYMON’S NEPHEW STORY OR, WHY DO FOOLS FALL IN LOVE (1990), directed by Jacob Burckhardt.

The second evening of movies looks for the black and white poetry in our surroundings. In AUGUST 27, 1979 THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT, a dancer runs through the foggy blueberry fields, cow pastures, and rocky beaches of 1979 Maine. BLACK AND WHITE, ROMA, and THE SURFACE are three poems about the grainy shadows of the world around us – the trees, walls, and detritus whose beauty we take for granted. The first two are like self contained sonnets; the latter is like an on going epic, different each time it is presented, with a changing live mix of music and sound effects.

The film maker will be present both evenings. On the second, he will be creating the sound track of THE SURFACE as it plays.


Jacob Burckhardt has been directing and producing films since the early nineteen seventies. His two features, “It Don’t Pay to be an Honest Citizen” (with William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Vincent D’Onofrio) and “Landlord Blues,” have shown in festivals around the world, including Berlin, PIA (Japan), and Birmingham. “It Don’t Pay to be an Honest Citizen” was licensed to WDR TV screened last Spring at the Pioneer Cinema, and has recently been released on DVD.

The black and white poetry in our surroundings is the subject of The Surface, v3
The black and white poetry in our surroundings is the subject of The Surface, v. 3 2007, dir. Jacob Burckhardt.

He has made 33 movies, most in 16mm and some in video and super-8. In 2002, he began a collaboration with Royston Scott which has resulted in three movies in the series “Black Moments in Great History,” the latest of which is “Tomorrow Always Comes.” His 16 millimeter work also includes a series of poetic and contemplative black and white shorts, such as “Roma” (2004), a “poetic” view of the modern ancient city from the point of view of a familiar pedestrian, with stones, water, graffiti, lights, cats, pedestrians, and even the Pope.

Eschewing the money raising rat race, he now prefers shorts in film and video, where it is possible to preserve a direct relationship between the film and the film makers, and still photography on gelatin silver paper. A recent evening at Millennium Film Workshop (February 2, 2008) presented a different thread of Jacob Burckhardt’s work: funky, scripted urban tales, often featuring gangsters, that seem to be “in defiance” of art.

Jacob Burckhardt is son of the Swiss-born photographer and experimental filmmaker Rudy Burckhardt and husband of modernist choreographer Yoshiko Chuma.

The screenings are April 17 and 18, 2008 at 7:30 pm. Anthology Film Archives is located at 32 Second Avenue, Manhattan. The box office number is (212) 505-5181. Tickets are $8 general admission, $6 students and seniors, $5 members.


Thursday, April 17 at 7:30 PM


1974, 9 min., color. A collaboration with Laleen Jayamanne.

Laleen Jayamanne addresses a grubby city block, after appearing out of a hole in the sidewalk. She tries various things: dancing, throwing flowers, waiting in an alcove, jumping up and down nude in a puddle. She even performs an exorcism dance (“Yaknetuma” in Singhala, the language of Sri Lanka) on a rooftop. Each scene ends with her snatched from the frame, the muddy walls and street remaining. But in the end she walks away.


1982, 43 min. 16mm, color.

A small summer resort in the dead of winter, a strange foreign hypnotist whose will nobody can resist, and a fiery crime with an unknown victim, these are the elements of THIS OBJECT. Filmed on location on New Jersey1s south shore, the Utopia theater in Queens, the Bouwerie Lane Theater in N.Y., and the vacant lots of Brooklyn, the film features Carol Mullins, Jim Neu, John Nesci as the investigator, and Jose Rafael Arango as the Hypnotist. Music by Alvin Curran.

Miss Joan Marie Moossey and Mr. Fashion
Miss Joan Marie Moossey and Mr. Fashion in THE FRANKIE LYMON’S NEPHEW STORY OR, WHY DO FOOLS FALL IN LOVE, directed by Jacob Burckhardt (1990)

1990, 37 Min, Color, video. A collaboration with Gerard Little.

Based on a TRUE story! Mr. Fashion IS Frankie Lymon’s nephew! He was married THREE TIMES, and NEVER divorced! And he PASSED AWAY in his grandmother’s BATHROOM! The tragic but true story of a young night club singer who just said yes. He lived fast and died slow, leaving several wives to battle over his estate.

Total Running time: 89 minutes


Friday, April 18 at 7:30


1979, 17 Minutes, 16mm, black and white. A collaboration with Yoshiko Chuma

Several basic types of body movements in combination with elemental country locations: shaking crawling, frenzied twitching, duckwalking, running, throwing stones, falling into water. Logs, blueberry fields, dirt roads, fallen down trees, railroad tracks, bathtubs, rocks, collapsing farmhouses. A postmodern remake of the Frank Tashlin/Jayne Mansfield classic.


2001, 10 minutes, 16mm, black and white.

An elegy to urban emptiness. Monochrome winter with plastic bag tree meditation puncturing the silence. The mottled brick of a nearby tenement fire-escape. Timeless natural sky-light. If we only take time to look…


2004, 11 minutes, 16mm, black and white.

A poetic view of the Modern Ancient city from the point of view of a familiar pedestrian. Stones, lights, water, graffitti, a few monuments, cats, people in the streets, clouds, markets, and even the Pope, captured with a Bolex in grainy black and white film.

The Surface v3, 2007
The Surface v. 3, 2007


2007, approximately 45 minutes, 16mm, black and white.


A new layer of the movie, THE SURFACE, a poetic meditation, of water, wind, snow, and trees, of exotic places, like the streets and countrysides of Japan, Egypt, and Rome, a work that will likely be forever in progress, with an improvised structure that is different every time, entirely shot on black and white 16mm film. Accompanied by a live mix of sounds and music featuring rarely-heard recordings contributed by such musicians as Philadelphia pianist Norman Fontleroy, pianist Neal Kirkwood, guitarist Marc Ribot, composer Alvin Curran and three members of Project Zlust. Never the same show twice.

sputtering airplane circles the sky

blanket of snow covers the earth

monochrome world

but magic, yes magic, is still possible!

(Simon Pettet)

Total Running time: 90 minutes


The first program is in color, a retrospective of collaborations, as narrative style movies usually are. Laleen Jayamanne, Jim Neu, and Carol Mullins were people whom I met through Robert Wilson1s Byrd Hoffman School for Birds. In a way it has to do with the transition from abstract performance art to narrative, at least in my work. I had started out as a self taught “underground” filmmaker, improvising with a camera and some film and whatever images struck me, and attempting to form them into something cohesive. I had seen Laleen Jayamanne perform the Sri Lankan Yaknetuma exorcism dance on the stage of the Brooklyn Academy of music, in Wilson’s the Life and Times of Joseph Stalin. That and a collection of stunningly particular New York locations were the elements of that film. By 1982 I was floundering around in the search for narrative. Without a single coherent story but with several ideas and places that tried to live together – the winter abandoned resorts of North Jersey, a missing husband, The Bouwerie Lane Theater, a depraved hypnotist, a burning car, an investigator. And by 1990 I had met Mr. Fashion (Gerard Little), who is Black American Royalty – The nephew of Frankie Lymon, the cousin of Malcolm X, and a descendant of the Nubian kings of Egypt (according to him). He had appeared in my second feature Landlord Blues, and I had seen the stage version of the life of his uncle and its aftermath. We made a movie of that using the down and dirty ultra-low budget techniques of a dressmaker who can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

The movies in second program have a logic in common that is completely non-narrative – in fact they attempt to get as far as possible from “story” but still stay interesting and lively. They are also united by their look – the beautiful clarity of black and white film, where the light of the world as it moves in front of the camera and the surface of the film, with its ever moving grain and the occasional scratches and smudges of its encounters with projectors and people1s hands, meet on the screen in the darkened and not so quiet room. Yoshiko Chuma was just beginning her exploration of postmodern movement when we made the Girl Can1t Help It together in the wilds of Maine in 1979. By 2001, having explored fiction in film I started looking for its poetry again. Scenes are connected by light, by form, by feel, and the sound tracks are compositions of noises, of fragments of words and songs that weave together to make a story of mood and emotion with no causes. The title of Black and White is inspired by the painting of that name by Franz Kline. Roma by the stones of the city, and their resemblance to the tiny stones of silver that make up the surface of a film. The Surface is the latest step in that exploration, a film that will never be finished, just shown in different versions.

Jonathan Slaff
Jonathan Slaff writes on cultural events from the brainy, the edgy and the good. He helps us keep ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.