For this remarkable experimental film, the provocative avant-garde legend Stephen Dwoskin gathered together a group of strangers and filmed them as they explored their fantasies over a period of five days: a project that now sounds a little like TV’s Big Brother. The ceremonial gowns and make-up here not only evoke the eroticism of European horror movies but also highlight the film’s interplay between performance and intimacy. Jonas Mekas called it ‘theatre of life’. —BFI
Steve Dwoskin was born in 1939 in Brooklyn, New York City, into a poor family originally from Odessa. He contracted polio at the age of 7 and was left disabled. After studying art (under professors de Kooning and Albers), he attended New York University and the Parsons School of Design, and was a regular in Greenwich Village with the likes of Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, and Robert Frank. He discovered experimental cinema alongside Maya Deren and was influenced by the transgressive underground films of Jack Smith and Ron Rice. He later published the book Film is… on this genre, in a highly personal and activist style, at a time when the police frequently carried out Prohibition-style raids on venues where experimental films were shown, confiscating and destroying prints, and arresting organizers, film-makers and sometimes audience members. Such films by-passed the usual commercial channels and norms and were thus considered unacceptable and branded “pornographic”.
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