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Video 50 & Letter from Paris

Video 50
On July 20, 1978, Das Kleine Fernsehspiel presented the first video work by the brilliant American theater artist Robert Wilson. A chamber piece - more like Wilson's “I Was Sitting on My Patio This Guy Appeared I Thought I Was Hallucinating” than such large-scale pieces as “Life and Times of Sigmund Freud,” “Deafman's Glance,” “Joseph Stalin,” and “Einstein on the Beach” - Video 50 is an episodic work consisting of 50 miniature dramas (wordless - built on gestures, objects, still-life variations, and a sense of menace). Many of the “dramas” are in several “acts”; however, in Wilson's rigorous scheme, each “act” is precisely 30 seconds in duration. However, the “stories” are not presented in continuity: “order” is provided by the precision of each shot sequence, and by the mathematical or musical perfection of the multiple variations on minimal narrative themes. Underlying the temporal matrix of 50 mini-dramas is Wilson's instruction to the viewer to perceive specific optical changes: for example, a room with a window, then the same room without a door and without a window, then the same room with the door without a window. Although it stands against the dominant TV aesthetic, in which all stories have to have a beginning and end, some ready-made content, and easy-to-digest “meaning,” Video 50 is not a dry structuralistic exercise; it is a stunningly choreographed piece, cheerful and liberating.

• Written and Directed by Robert Wilson. Produced by the Film and Video Collective, Ecublens, Switzerland. ZDF Production Executives, Eckart Stein and Maya Faber-Jansen. Photographed by Renato Berta. Music by Allan Lloyd. With Lucinda Ghilds, Sherryl Sutton, Madeleine Renaud. (Switzerland, 1978, 50 mins, color, Videotape Courtesy of ZDF)

Letter from Paris (Brief Von Paris)
The Polish animator Walerian Borowczyk is best known for his dark and dense cartoons, full of Polish black humor and despair in their parables on the human condition in today's oppressive society; as well as for his live-action features, mostly made in France, which generally deal with death and eroticism. Hence, his Letter from Paris arrives as one might expect: with a grim message. Namely, that Paris is a monstrously inhuman cityscape, in which cars, buses, crowds, and unceasing noise combine to smother any decent and delicate human activity. A documentary without narration or spoken dialogue, Letter from Paris is an effective montage statement on the attempts of people and flowers to survive in a city that seems ready to explode from an over-heated mixture of traffic and noise.

• Directed by Walerian Borowczyk. ZDF Production Executives, Eckart Stein and Annegret Even. Photographed by Michel Zolat. Music and Editing by Borowczyk. (1977, 37 mins, color, Videotape Courtesy of ZDF)

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