Robert Frank’s significant contribution to photography in the mid-twentieth century is unquestionable. His book,The Americans, is arguably the most important American photography publication of the post-World War II period, and his photography has spawned numerous disciples, as well as a rich critical literature. However, at the very moment Frank achieved the status of a “star” at the end of the 1950s, he abandoned traditional still photography to become a filmmaker. He eventually returned to photography in the 1970s, but Frank, as a filmmaker, has remained a well-kept secret for almost four decades. Robert Frank The Complete Film Works fills a long overdue gap by presenting every one of Frank's more than 25 films and videos, some of them classics of the New American Cinema of the 1950s and 60s.
Keep Busy "I am filming the outside in order to look inside," Robert Frank once said about his aesthetics. In Keep Busy his chosen home of Nova Scotia serves for the first time as the “outside” in an examination of the “inside.” The protagonists’ astounding verbal gymnastics and often incomprehensible interactions tend to descend into nonsense, and with the syncopated rhythm of its action and dialogue, this film is reminiscent of the playful and parodying elements of the Beat fantasy Pull My Daisy. The interweaving of documentary and fiction with the syncopated rhythm of its action and dialogue presents an absurd buzz of activity reminiscent of Beckett’s abstract comic grotesque.
About Me: A Musical “My project was to make a film about music in America…. Well, fuck the music. I just decided to make a film about myself.” Robert Frank’s self-portrait is a film about music that repeatedly poses questions concerning artistic expression and the function of memory. Frank himself introduces an actress as “the young lady that is playing me.” She throws a stack of photographs onto the bed and says with disgust, “That’s my past.” Despite the apparently autobiographical nature of the film, Frank, the immigrant, regards his story as a collective one. The film teaches temple musicians in Benares, India, “hope freaks” in New Mexico and inmates in a Texas prison. “That’s me,” Frank says when an old-fashioned film projector shows him as a small child. An interview of passers-by completes the circle: “If you had a camera and some film, what would you shoot?” A street musician answers, “About myself,” and starts playing a classic number. “Those were the days, my friend.”
S-8 Stones Footage from Exile on Main St. Filmed during the making of the Exile on Main St., Rolling Stones album cover.