Rarely seen and nearly forgotten, Markopoulos's films were once compared to the works of Joyce, Proust, and Eisenstein.-Kristin M. Jones, Artforum
The films of Gregory J. Markopoulos, a leading figure of the American avant-garde and the world of art cinema, have been almost impossible to see during the past forty years. Markopoulos (1928–92) had very specific views on how his films should be exhibited and, in 1967 when he moved from the United States to Europe, made the decision to withdraw his films from distribution. From that point forward, Markopoulos concentrated his limited resources solely on the production of new work. For the next twenty-some years, he and his lifelong companion Robert Beavers devoted their energies to the Temenos, an archive, library, and outdoor theater in Lyssaraia, Greece. Between 1970 and 1990, Markopoulos created over one hundred works, which he arranged into twenty-two film cycles. Since Markopoulos's death, Beavers has devoted much of his time to raising funds for the Temenos Foundation and the preservation of Markopoulos's films.
Born in Toledo, Ohio, to Greek-immigrant parents, Markopoulos was twelve when he made his first film, A Christmas Carol. As a teen, he studied with Josef von Sternberg, a director who was “among the few Hollywood filmmakers Markopoulos felt matched his filmic ideal, and in his work there are echoes of Sternberg's depiction of erotic passion” (Jones).
Following in the tradition of directors like Jean Cocteau and Jean Vigo, Markopoulos was a poet filmmaker whose work falls into three main categories: mythic themes, film portraits, and films of place. Often taking his inspiration from classic literary works, Markopoulos forged new terrain as a filmmaker exploring abstract narratives. His poetic approach relied heavily on the expressive, even mannerist use of color, composition, rhythm, and fractured temporal structures. He achieved a harmonious and delicate balance of plot, character, and theme. Markopoulos's ideas on narrative form are expressed in his 1963 essay, “Towards a New Narrative Film Form.”
Central to his cinema was the theme of Eros. “Color is Eros,” he claimed in an early note on Psyche. Sensual and elegant, Markopoulos's films concern themselves with beauty and form, sometimes expressing homoerotic love in psychological and dramatic terms (Lysis; Twice a Man). In his films of place, Markopoulos's response to the beauty of the world was conveyed in a more purely Romantic style apparent in his exquisite architectural studies (represented in this series by Ming Green).
By the late fifties and early sixties, Markopoulos was one of the most prominent figures of the American independent cinema along with Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, Andy Warhol, and Jack Smith. His films, which were screened in Europe, had an important influence on the French New Wave directors.
Please join us for this rare opportunity to view eleven of Markopolous's films, made in the United States between 1940 and 1967.