Artful Adaptations

Ephemeral films document all aspects of human life, from birth unto death. What follows are four films about people at odds with their environments, and how they try to help themselves.

Safety: Harm Hides at Home (Rodger Landoue, 1977). As usual in safety films, the everyday world is a minefield of potential risks, menaces, and jeopardy, but "Guardiana, the Safety Woman" and her supernatural powers are here to protect children from harm. (16 mins, Color)

Age 13 (Arthur Swerdloff for Sid Davis Productions, 1955). Sid Davis's most compassionate film and certainly his most unusual, Age 13 enlists Buñuelian surrealism and a neorealist sensibility to follow the emergence of an "at–risk" young teen from immobilizing anger to self-expression. In its inability to come to terms with customary film language, this might well be called an outsider film. (26:40 mins, B&W)

Social Class in America (Knickerbocker Productions, 1957). This sociology film obeys the conventions of educational films, but packs quite a wallop. Following three boys who grow up in a small company town, it shows the limits that social class imposes on mobility. An unusually downbeat (and realistic) document of disappointment in the fifties. (14:49 mins, B&W)

Boredom at Work: The Search for Zest (University of Oklahoma, 1963). From a remarkable series on the emotions of everyday life, The Search for Zest shows the efforts of a bored, desexualized, and neurotic engineer to find happiness through therapy. Borrowing from film noir and late 1950s TV drama, it might be read as a case study of a rural man trapped by his discontent with urban life. (25 mins, B&W)

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