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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hackenschmied and Derenkowsky

“Another cat? Perhaps. For love there is also a season; its seeds must be resown. But a family cat is not replaceable like a worn-out coat or a set of tires. Each new kitten becomes its own cat, and none is repeated. I am four cats old, measuring out my life in friends that have succeeded but not replaced one another.” ~ Irving Townsend ~

If you’re you’re a true cinephile or perhaps a student at UCLA or NYU film school you’ll probably recognize the names Alexandr Hackenschmied as well as Eleanora Derenkowsky and not think it’s a New York based law firm. The pair, both filmmakers, and once husband and wife, also went by the more recognizable Americanized names of Alexandr Hammid and Maya Deren.

When they were together in the 1940’s, Hammid and Deren created some extraordinary avant-garde films, most notably, MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON.

Recently, one of Hammid and Deren’s lesser-known works, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF THE CAT surfaced on the Internet and begs to be shared; it’s a poignant documentary short, only 22 minutes long, but cinematically packs a haunting punch.

Today, when we go to the theater, we expect to see movies in 3-D with computer generated imagery, oftentimes backed up with thundering Dolby sound, all designed to assault the senses and draw the theater patron in, as close to the onscreen action as possible.

However, if we step back to a gentler time, without music or voice over, and only a modest printed card or two along with a cinematographer’s black and white visuals, we are in for a surprise, and such is THE PRIVATE LIFE OF A CAT.

The story is quite simple – two cats named “He” and “She” and their timeless bond in daily life with their family of kittens.

The documentary, shot against the backdrop of Hammid and Deren’s Manhattan apartment, reaches back 66 years as if it were yesterday.

A special thanks to the Prelinger Archives for making THE PRIVATE LIFE OF A CAT available for viewing. Enjoy!



BarryGillogly said...

Beauty in simplicity. I too measure stages in my life by what cat dynasty I was living under. All praise cats!

Paula Slade said...

Barry - Cats rule! ;-D

TallTchr said...

Reminds me of my days with a Bolex and a roll of 16mm black and white film. Heaven was a crisp shot with no camera shake. It's too easy nowadays with digital video.

Paula Slade said...

TallTchr - Do you still have any of the film you shot with your Bolex? I'd love to see it on YouTube.

Arlee Bird said...

This reminds me-- I have The Experimental Films of Maya Deren on my streaming video queue for NetFlix. I think I've watched most of it and it was quite strange and fascinating. I'll have to finish watching this someday.

Tossing It Out

Paula Slade said...

Arlee Bird - I didn't know NetFlix offered The Experimental Films of Maya Deren - very cool! I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the tip Lee!