The Films of Richard Kostelanetz

A Berlin Lost/Ein Verlorenes Berlin/ Berlin Perdu/Ett Forloratt Berlin/El Berlin Perdido/Berlin Sche-Einena Jother (1984-86). These are six versions of the same documentary footage, made in collaboration with Martin Koerber of West Berlin, co-produced with Literarisches Colloquium Berlin, with six different, wholly fresh soundtracks, respectively in English, German, French, Swedish, Spanish, and Hebrew accompanying the same footage. The Great Jewish Cemetery of Berlin (Weissensee) is seen as the principal surviving evocation of the greatest years (1860-1940) of German's principal city. In this visual history, the Cemetery and its suggestive gravestones become an archaeological window into a Berlin, not only Jewish, that, alas, no longer exists. The visual track has current scenes from the Cemetery. On the soundtrack is the authentic testimony of ex-Berliners remembering the Cemetery and the world represented there. Since the gravestones already provide so much to read, we chose not to sub-title the film (or to allow the affectations of overdubbing), but, instead, used the more authentic, if unusual, principle of reproducing the film with wholly new soundtracks composed from fresh interviews with ex-Berliners. Not only because the soundtracks differ in content, but because the imagery begs to be reseen, our recommendation is that, especially for sophisticated audiences, at least two versions be seen in sequence. (For the films other than English, we can provide printed sheets of rough translations.). The films have been screened on my personal tours where I also answer questions about it and Weissensee. These 21' films are available in 16 mm optical track or 16 mm magnetic track (from your nearest Goethehaus), 3/4" U-Matic cassettes (both NTSC and PAL) and 1/2" VHS cassettes, for rental or purchase. Koerber, along with Michael Maassen and myself, also produced a 65-minute radio feature Nach Weissensee that has been broadcast over German stations and favorably reviewed in the German press.

Epiphanies (1981-93). On the soundtrack are heard my single-sentence stories that are meant to be the epiphanies, or resonant, illuminating moments of otherwise nonexistent fictions. Read by numerous voices, these stories have no ostensible connection to each other, other than similarity in esthetic kind, and no ostensible connection either to the visual track which has unconnected clips of various lengths that have the same epiphanic quality. What results from these abundant collection of visual and verbal stories is the exhaustive experience of the experience of fiction. This film, in progress for several years now, is available in several forms. 1.) Footage, 29:35, presently without sound, which can be played in conjunction with audiotapes in either English or German. This is available on both 16 mm film and 3/4" NTSC U-Matic cassettes. 2.) A 20-minute U-Matic NTSC cassette of a different version (whose film no longer exists), with an entirely German soundtrack. 3.) A four-hour videotape that is available on VHS or U-Matic cassettes with a fixed soundtrack mostly in English but including some parts in German, Chinese, and Vietnamese. 4.) A series of 10 to 20-minute films that could be printed, support willing, with soundtracks in either English or German; these would work best as a sort of nonserial serial shown in conjunction with a sequence of other films in a standard projection venue. My own recommendation is that the longest version would work best with an audience that could leave and return to it, say as an installation in a museum or a public space.. Various versions of Epiphanies have been screened at the Arsenal (West Berlin), the Donnell Library (NYC), the Anthology Film Archives, and over the North German television network. This can also be shown with the videotape realization of Epiphanies in which the stories appear on the television screen in various typographical arrangements produced by me on an electronic character-generator.

Constructivist Fictions (1978). Symmetrical line-drawings, seen in negative, change in systemic sequence. The system informing these changes may be additive, reductive, permutational or combinational, among other syntactic techniques. One recurring theme is variation and development within a systemic constraint. Produced in collaboration with Peter Longauer, now a well-known commercial animator, with a soundtrack by the composer Jon Gibson, this film was made on an animation stand, but is unlike any animation seen before. For images this draws upon two of my books of visual fiction: Constructs (WCPR, 1975) and Constructs Two (Membrane, 1978). 5:30 in length, it is available on 16 mm optical track and a 3/4" NTSC U-Matic cassette. This film has been screened at Global Village and the 25th Festival Mondial du Cinema de Courts Metrages (1985), where it received an honorable mention in the "Classe Independant."

Openings & Closings (1976-78). Single-sentence stories are either the openings or the closings of otherwise nonexistent fictions. All that appears on the screen are the words, with the openings as black letters on a white background and the closings as white letters on a black background. Since the soundtrack has continuous classical piano, the film evokes recollection of silent movies and, within that context, could be considered "all titles, no action." This draws for its text upon my book of the same title (D'Arc, 1975). 15:30 in length, this film, made in collaboration with Barton Weiss, has been screened at the University of Texas, Global Village (NYC), Anthology Film Archives (NYC), Hamline College (St. Paul), and the Western Front (Vancouver), among other places. It and Constructivist Fictions also toured with Wordsand (1978), a traveling retrospective of my work with words, numbers and lines, in several media.

"When we say expanded cinema, we actually mean expanded consciousness. Expanded cinema does not mean computer films, video phosphors, atomic light or spherical projections. Expanded cinema isn't a movie at all: like life it's a process of becoming, man's ongoing historical drive to manifest his consciousness outside of his mind, in front of his eyes. One no longer can specialize in a single discipline and hope truthfully to express a clear picture of its relationships in the environment." --Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema (1970)

Films in progress, seeking support, include “New York City,” a montage of images unique to my hometown, fused to a 140' electro-acoustic tape composition of the same title (that expands an earlier, shorter tape of the same title, initially produced for Westdeutscher Rundfunk) and “Invocations,” a universe of sacred images, to complement the remixed version of another electro-acoustic composition, 60 minutes long, broadcast by public stations around the world and currently available, in an unrevised form, on a Folkways record. Both projects are meant to explore Moholy-Nagy's vision of "a true opto-acoustic synthesis in the sound film. ... The 'documentary sound film' and the 'abstract sound film' will be reinforced by the 'montage sound film', by which must be understood not merely montage of the optical and acoustic sections, but a mutually integrated montage of both. We ought to begin with a series of experiments in the sound element." Longauer and myself are also working on “A Life in New York City,” likewise proposed to be 60 minutes long, that would resemble the Berlin films in regarding current architecture as reflective of past life, in this case my own, to my narration.

Related work includes books, videotapes, audiotapes, and holograms, some of which complement the films. For more information about any of these, please write me.