Bill Morrison's Theater of Decaying Memories

Bill Morrison's Theater of Decaying Memories

“Bill Morrison’s films are as much celebrations of the sometimes-frightening beauty of decomposing film as laments for vanishing relics of cinema’s origin.” Senses of Cinema

Jack H. Skirball Screening Series

Noted for his poetic reworking of decaying archival footage, the Alpert Award winner shows a selection of shorts, ranging from the early Footprints (1992, 6 min., b/w and color, 16mm) to The Highwater Trilogy (2006, 31 min., 35mm)—a collage of ancient newsreel footage of storms, floods and icebergs. The program also includes The Film of Her (1996, 12 min., b/w, 35mm), in which archival footage is reinterpreted through fictional elements to evoke “an unrequited celluloid romance”; Light Is Calling (2004, 8 min, color, 35mm), widely recognized as a masterpiece; the exhilaratingly rhythmical Outerborough (2005, 9.5 min, 35mm); Ghost Trip (2000, 23 min, B/W, 35mm); and The Mesmerist (2003, 16 min, color, 35mm).

In person: Bill Morrison

There will be a screening of different shorts by Bill Morrison at LA Film Forum on Sunday, March 11 – see information below. 

Detailed Program 
Footprints (1992, 6 min., b/w and color, 16mm) West Coast Premiere 
The evolution of cinema as the evolution of modern man. Sound design by Jim Farmer. 
The Film of Her (1996, 12 min., b/w, 35mm) 
Unseen films, and unsung lives: An unrequited celluloid romance is consummated in the vaults of the Library of Congress. And primitive cinema is saved from oblivion. Music by Henryk Gorecki and Bill Frisell. 
Ghost Trip (2000, 23 min., b/w, 35mm) 
A man is shown his car, which he drives until it can be driven no more. Sound design by Michael Montes. 
The Mesmerist (2003, 16 min., color, 35mm) West Coast Premiere 
A melting revision of James Young’s The Bells (1926) starring Lionel Barrymore and Boris Karloff. Music by Bill Frisell. 
Light Is Calling (2004, 8 min., color, 35mm) 
”A contrastingly ecstatic film, in which bodies and movements dissolve in swirling waves of golden light, the film’s decay radiating as a glorious self-immolation.” – Senses of Cinema. Music by Bill Frisell. 
Outerborough (2005, 9.5 min., 35mm) West Coast Premiere 
A trolley trip across the Brooklyn Bridge in 1899 becomes a unit for measuring time. 
The Highwater Trilogy (2006, 31 min., 35mm) 
i) Before I Enter 
ii) How to Pray 
iii) What We Build 
Los Angeles Premiere 
Ancient newsreel footage of storms, floods and icebergs produce a combination of anxiety and awe when viewed in the wake of recent meteorological disasters.

About the filmmaker

Born in Chicago, IL, November 17, 1965, Bill Morrison obtained a BFA from Cooper Union School of Art (NY) – where he studied with the animator Robert Breer in 1989. Eight of his titles are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (New York). His films have been screened at cinematheques, museums and concert halls worldwide, including BAM, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, MoMA, Anthology Film Archive (New York), the Hirshhorn Museum, the National Gallery of Art (Washington DC), the Tate Modern, Royal Festival Hall, the ICA (London England) and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Buenos Aires, Argentina), among others. They have accompanied live performances by The American Composers Orchestra, The Bang On A Can All-Stars, The Brooklyn Philharmonic, Bill Frisell, The London Sinfonietta, and Wilco.

Bill Morrison has been invited to international film festivals such as Sundance, Tribeca, San Francisco, Margaret Mead Film Festival, Black Maria Film Festival, Rotterdam, the Viennale, Forum des Images in Paris and Cork Film Festival in Ireland. His projected set work with the acclaimed performance ensemble Ridge Theater has been recognized with two Bessie awards for excellence in theatrical design, and an Obie Award for collaborative design. Decasia, his feature length collaboration with composer Michael Gordon, has been performed live with a 55-piece orchestra surrounding audiences in Basel, at St. Ann’s Warehouse, Brooklyn, and in Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall. Morrison has received an Alpert Award, a Guggenheim fellowship, and an award from the Foundation for Contemporary Art, as well as production grants from Creative Capital, NYSCA, NYFA, and the NEA.

The online film journal Senses of Cinema devoted two articles to Bill Morrison in issue No 42 (Oct-Dec 2006). Click on to read the articles.

Who By Water (2007) 
The Highwater Trilogy (2006) 
How To Pray (2006) 
Outerborough (2005) 
Gotham (2004) 
Light Is Calling (2004) 
The Mesmerist (2003) 
East River (2003) 
Decasia (2002) 
Trinity (2000) 
Ghost Trip (2000) 
City Walk (1999) 
Another Sky (1997) 
The Film of Her (1996) 
Nine Days North (1996) 
Vigneti (1996) 
Moda (1996) 
Nemo (1995) 
The World Is Round (1994) 
The Death Train (1993) 
Footprints (1992) 
Photo Op (1992) 
Lost Avenues (1991) 
The Night Highway (1990) 

Additional Screening at Los Angeles Filmforum Sunday March 11, 7:00 PM
Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian Theatre
6712 Hollywood Blvd at Las Palmas
see: for ticket & venue information

In Person: Bill Morrison

Photo Op  (1992, 5 min., b/w 16mm) 
Small town news images and WWII newsreels are bracketed by footage of the Desert Storm victory parade. Music by Conrad Cummings 
Trinity (2000, 12 min, b/w, 35mm) 
Reducing to discrete intervals that which remains elusive as a whole. Sound design by Michael Montes 
City Walk (2003, 6 min, b/w, DVD) 
A trip up Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue to Manhattan. Music by Michael Gordon 
East River (2003, 5 min., color, DVD) 
A swim, by proxy. 
Gotham (2004, 25 min., DVD) 
New York continually rebuilds itself on top of itself, layering over the past eras and ushering in newly minted ones. Music by Michael Gordon 
Porch (2005, 9 min., DVD) 
Summer evenings and lemonade
A time when the whole town knew each other and said "hello"
First came screens against the bugs
Then came glass against the chill
Then came walls against the winter
The street became so loud with cars and trucks
Passersby diminished
Inside there is air-conditioning and TV

Libretto by Deborah Artman, Music by Julia Wolfe
Who By Water (2007, 18 min., DVD) 
Ship passengers are depicted staring wordlessly into the camera’s lens. All of their numbers have by now been called. And in staring back at them, we contemplate our own fate. Music by Michael Gordon

Funded in part by a generous grant from The Herb Alpert Foundation.

Associated Images: 

MON 3/5
8:00 pm

G - General Audience

M - REDCAT Members

ST - Students

CA - CalArts Students/Faculty/Staff