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Silent Light Silent Light

Silent Light Silent Light
£22.99

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The six films of Silent Light are all from the 1950s, a decade when most films had spoken narration and music. Not so here. All of these films are silent, except for Thru the Looking Glass, which has a music track. Davis believed that music was necessary for his distributed films, but he was unhappy with most electronic compositions. (In fact, music was not as important as he imagined: in 1956 NY Times critic Howard Thompson forcefully wrote that a preview screening of Davis' Becoming had made it clear that he did not need music.) Spoken words were a still greater problem (Davis made just one spoken word film, Taliesin West).
Let There Be Light (1956) is a silent symphonic light work. Variations on a Theme, made one year later, is similar in form, but the great difference is that Variations is not composed of light reflected off screens but light reflected off the surface of water, or on underwater vegetation. This contemplative work prompts comparisons of light with water: both are fluid media that become visible when they intersect hard surfaces, whether screens in the case of light, or rocks in the case of water.
Davis was drawn, all of his life, to the changing patterns of light on water, as can be seen in his The Sea in 1950, Like a Breeze in 1954, and the 1959 A Dream of Space. Dream celebrates, with a natural scientist's precise vision, the melting of ice and snow on rocky cliffs, it seeping beneath a sheath of ice, then threading into rivulets of water and larger and larger streams that turn into rapids. The title presumably refers to the erosive effects, over space and time, of water on the hard surface of the crust of our world. Path of Motion (1950) is a record of some of his landscape paintings that are charged with the energy of movement, though on a static painted canvas.

This DVD contains:
Thru the Looking Glass, 1953
Let There Be Light, 1956
The Sea, 1950
A Dream of Space, 1959
Path of Motion, 1950
Variations on A Theme, 1957

James Edward Davis (1901-74) began making films in 1946, at first to document his experiments in light sculpture, but then to explore how the motion picture could enlarge the scope of his work as an artist, and extend the understanding of nature. Davis' encounter with motion pictures came at a time (post-World War II) and at a place (Princeton University) where the pace of change and discovery was the only constant. His belief in the force of change and growth can be seen in key words that appear in the titles of his films: becoming, transfiguration, transformation, flow, and evolution. Scientific curiosity and artistic innovation led him to make scores of films. In the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s he was known (to a small but influential audience) for his symphonic, color abstractions. But he also made documentary portraits of Frank Lloyd Wright and John Marin, and of the City of Chicago. He also made films of the American landscape, of his own paintings, of the impact of water on the terrain of West Virginia and New Jersey. And not the least, he promoted the recognition of cinema as the art form (what he called the only dynamic art) that offered pertinent insight into the experience of the twentieth century. A member of the first postwar generation of experimental film-makers, his films were invited to and shown at Cinema 16 and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, at the San Francisco M The six films of Silent Light are all from the 1950s, a decade when most films had spoken narration and music. Not so here. All of these films are silent, except for Thru the Looking Glass, which has a music track. Davis believed that music was necessary for his distributed films, but he was unhappy with most electronic compositions. (In fact, music was not as important as he imagined: in 1956 NY Times critic Howard Thompson forcefully wrote that a preview screening of Davis' Becoming had made it clear that he did not need music.) Spoken words were a still greater problem (Davis made just one spoken word film, Taliesin West).
Let There Be Light (1956) is a silent symphonic light work. Variations on a Theme, made one year later, is similar in form, but the great difference is that Variations is not composed of light reflected off screens but light reflected off the surface of water, or on underwater vegetation. This contemplative work prompts comparisons of light with water: both are fluid media that become visible when they intersect hard surfaces, whether screens in the case of light, or rocks in the case of water.
Davis was drawn, all of his life, to the changing patterns of light on water, as can be seen in his The Sea in 1950, Like a Breeze in 1954, and the 1959 A Dream of Space. Dream celebrates, with a natural scientist's precise vision, the melting of ice and snow on rocky cliffs, it seeping beneath a sheath of ice, then threading into rivulets of water and larger and larger streams that turn into rapids. The title presumably refers to the erosive effects, over space and time, of water on the hard surface of the crust of our world. Path of Motion (1950) is a record of some of his landscape paintings that are charged with the energy of movement, though on a static painted canvas.

This DVD contains:
Thru the Looking Glass, 1953
Let There Be Light, 1956
The Sea, 1950
A Dream of Space, 1959
Path of Motion, 1950
Variations on A Theme, 1957

James Edward Davis (1901-74) began making films in 1946, at first to document his experiments in light sculpture, but then to explore how the motion picture could enlarge the scope of his work as an artist, and extend the understanding of nature. Davis' encounter with motion pictures came at a time (post-World War II) and at a place (Princeton University) where the pace of change and discovery was the only constant. His belief in the force of change and growth can be seen in key words that appear in the titles of his films: becoming, transfiguration, transformation, flow, and evolution. Scientific curiosity and artistic innovation led him to make scores of films. In the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s he was known (to a small but influential audience) for his symphonic, color abstractions. But he also made documentary portraits of Frank Lloyd Wright and John Marin, and of the City of Chicago. He also made films of the American landscape, of his own paintings, of the impact of water on the terrain of West Virginia and New Jersey. And not the least, he promoted the recognition of cinema as the art form (what he called the only dynamic art) that offered pertinent insight into the experience of the twentieth century. A member of the first postwar generation of experimental film-makers, his films were invited to and shown at Cinema 16 and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, at the San Francisco M

Additional Info

Additional Info

SKU 2100000018420
Year 1950-59 (DVD 2007)
Director Davis, Jim
Format DVD
Publisher(s) Anthology Film Archives
Countries USA
Colour Colour
Running time 55 min
DVD region 0, NTSC
Certificate N/a

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