Alfred Leslie is a pivotal American artist-painter-filmmaker whose work spans the past fifty years. A celebrated contemporary of the Abstract Expressionists and a key figure in the extraordinary social milieu of downtown New York from the 1950s and 60s to the present, his own canvases were amongst the most revered of his peers. In 1964 he made Pull My Daisy with the photographer Robert Frank and in 1966 collaborated with the inimitable poet Frank O'Hara on The Last Clean Shirt. In 1960 he edited and published the amazing collection of texts and drawings that form the 'one shot review' The Hasty Papers - in and of itself a summation of cultural activity with contributions from Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery and Fidel Castro amongst may others. Leslie dramatically moved away from abstraction to make giant almost hyper-real portraits, the majority of which were destroyed in the now infamous fire that ripped through his studio and its neighbouring blocks on October 17 1966. This utterly devastating event, that completely destroyed paintings, films and manuscripts, continues to inform his work today. Cool Man in a Golden Age presents a selection of his key films on DVD.
This DVD contains: Pull My Daisy, Alfred Leslie & Robert Frank, 1959, 29 minutes Directed by Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie, Daisy was adapted by Jack Kerouac from the third act of his play, Beat Generation; Kerouac also provided improvised narration. Based on an incident in the life of Beat icon Neal Cassady and his wife, the painter Carolyn, the film tells the story of a railway brakeman whose wife invites a respectable bishop over for dinner. However, the brakeman's bohemian friends crash the party, with comic results.
The Last Clean Shirt, Alfred Leslie & Frank O'Hara, 1964, 42 minutes The Last Clean Shirt is a rarely-screened film that has become even more intriguing and thought-provoking with the passage of time. A young black man and white woman get in a car at Astor Place, tape an alarm clock to the dashboard, and start driving around as the woman yaks in an unknown language. This action is repeated three times, each segment featuring a different subtitled stream-of-consciousness narration by poet Frank O'Hara.
Birth of a Nation 1965, Alfred Leslie, 1965 - 1998, 40 minutes In October 16, 1966, around 9pm, a fire began in a building adjacent to Alfred Leslie's studio on Broadway and 22nd. Hundreds of paintings and drawings by Leslie were lost, as well as almost all of his films. Among the lost works was the 120-minute Birth of a Nation 1965, which had just screened for programmers of the upcoming New York Film Festival. From the debris, Leslie recovered fourteen minutes of the picture track and some sound elements. Twenty-five years later, he began work on this compressed restoration. Birth of a Nation 1965 was shot with sound-on-film 8mm (a briefly-tested format that was never widely produced), then blown up and finished on 35mm. Text which appears in the film is adapted by Leslie from works by Frank O'Hara. Artist Willem de Kooning appears as Captain Nemo, and actor Patrick McGee (Marat/Sade and A Clockwork Orange) reads the works of the Marquis De Sade while hipsters tumble about in a simulated orgy. With theme music by Leiber and Stoller, conducted by modern classical composer Morton Feldman.
This DVD is for private home use only, please contact LUX directly for institutional orders.
A new essay by Ian White.
A Stranger Calls at Midnight, A Self-Interview of Sorts, Alfred Leslie, 2008, 32 minutes
USA Poetry: Frank O'Hara, Richard O. Moore/WNET, 1966, 15 minutes