Filmmaker Shirley Clarke

Filmmaker Shirley Clarke

Shirley Clarke Showcase: Short Films

  • Sun 20 Mar 2016
  • 3:30—4:45PM
  • Len Lye Centre Cinema
  • General $12
  • Concession $10 for seniors, students and community service card holders (with valid ID)
  • Bookings essential
  • Hearing loop provided for the hearing impaired
  • Wheelchair spaces available. Free entry for a companion to assist an audience member who has a disability. Companion seat is automatically allocated when a wheelchair space is booked
  • Rating: Exempt

We close our series of Shirley Clarke (1919-1997) films with a special screening of recently restored short films made by Clarke during the 1950s.

Clarke was an important experimental and independent filmmaker and a key figure of American cinema during the 1950s and 1960s. Studying under Hans Richter at the City College of New York, she later became a driving force in the New American Cinema scene in New York and founded the Film-Makers Coop with Jonas Mekas. From 1975 to 1985 Clarke taught as a Professor of Video and Film at UCLA. Her feature length films include the acclaimed The Connection (1961), The Cool World (1963) and Portrait of Jason (1967).

Dance In the Sun (1953, 7:41)

Producer: Gryphon Films. Danced and choreographed by Daniel Nagrin. Music by Ralph Gilbert. Accompanist: Sylvia Marshall. Camera by John J. Murphy, Bert Clarke and Ted Greenspun. Directed and edited by Shirley Clarke. Restored by Milestone and Metropolis Post.

Shirley Clarke's first film after studying filmmaking with Hans Richter at the City College of New York was this magical adaptation of Daniel Nagrin’s ballet. The film features fluid intercutting between the interior dance stage and the exterior location on the beach.


In Paris Parks (1954, 13:05)

A Halcyon Films Presentation. A film by Shirley Clarke. Music by LaNoue Davenport. Young girl with hoop: Wendy Clarke. Restored by Milestone and Metropolis Post.

Discovering her original subject had left Paris, and with nothing to do, Clarke found herself taking her daughter Wendy to the park. She realized that the playing of the children was in itself a dance. So she made ‘a dance of life’ that reveals an intimate, charming and loving vision of a now-lost Paris.


Bridges-Go-Round (1958, 4:35)

A film by Shirley Clarke. Electronic Score by Louis and Bebe Barron. Restored by Milestone and Metropolis Post.

Perhaps Clarke's most famous film is this abstract, brilliantly coloured kaleidoscope of New York City's bridges appearing to dance, this film started as BRIDGES, on one of the shorts Clarke did as part of a loops series she and D.A. Pennebaker created for the American Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. Bridges-Go-Round imbues inanimate steel structures with motion and emotion. As it was accepted to show separately at the fair, she had to quickly borrow an electronic score by Louis and Bebe Barron they had composed for the MGM film, Forbidden Planet. Later, another friend, jazz composer Teo Macero, wrote another score for the film.


Bullfight (1955, 9:24)

Halcyon Films present. A film by Shirley Clarke. Danced and choreographed by Anna Sokolow. Music by Norman Lloyd, recording by the Barrons. Camera: Bert Clarke, Shirley Clarke and Peter Buckley. Bullfight photography: Peter Buckley. Restored by Milestone and Metropolis Post.

Clarke’s third film, Bullfight, is the only filmed performance of the legendary choreographer Anna Sokolow.  Its success, winning awards at the 1955 Edinburgh and Venice Film Festivals, solidified Clarke’s career as a major independent filmmaker of the time. Anna Sokolow plays the part of the spectator, the bullfighter and the bull in her spectacular dance.


Moment in Love (1957, 9:49)

A Halcyon Films presention. With Carmela Gutierrez and Paul Sanasardo. Music by Norman Lloyd. Recording by the Barrons. Camera: Bert & Shirley Clarke. Choreographer: Anna Sokolow. Designed, directed and edited by Shirley Clarke. Restored by Milestone and Metropolis Post.

Starting out as a feature film based on Pablo Picasso’s La famille de saltimbanques, after months of shooting and editing, Clarke threw out most of the work and instead, took the middle section and created a spectacular duet choreographed by Sokolow. Using abstract colors and changing landscapes from an idyllic garden to a desolated city, she created a lyrical, moving dance film.


Skyscraper (1960, 21:30)

A presentation of Joseph Burstyn Film Enterprises. A film by Shirley Clarke, Willard van Dyke and Irving Jacoby; and Wheaton Galentine and D.A. Pennebaker.  Words by john White. Music by Teo Macero. Camera: Kevin Smith. Sung by Gene Mumford and John Sylvester.

Started by Irving Jacoby and Willard Van Dyke but when they floundered with the concept, Clarke was invited to join in on their short film about 666 Fifth Avenue (known as the Tishman Building), then a year under construction. Perhaps to the credit of or in in spite of the film’s sponsor, the Tishman Group, the film is a surprisingly left-wing tribute to the working class that built the building. Clarke later called it “a musical comedy about the building of a skyscraper.” The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Short Live Action.


A Scary Time (1960, 16:02)

United Nations Children’s Fund presents. A film by Shirley Clarke and Robert Hughes. Music by Peggy Glanville-Hicks. Produced by the United Nations Children’s Fund in consultation with Thorold Dickinson.

Clarke started her narrative career with this little-seen short produced by UNICEF to promote their Halloween charity drive. Clarke deviates from the expected by comparing the close-ups of the "scary" children in Halloween costumes to troubling images of sick and emaciated children in third-world countries. It was so effective, that the film was banned for many years. The “star” of the film was played by a neighbor child, Peter Henry “Skeleton” Willcox. Willcox is now known as a captain for Greenpeace, mostly on the Rainbow Warrior I. He was on board when the boat was blown up by French military members in New Zealand in 1985 and was on the MV Arctic Sunrise when that boat was arrested by the Russian military in 2013, and he spent two months in detention in Russia as a member of the Arctic 30. In a smaller role is Frazer Pennebaker, son of the director D.A. Pennebaker.



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