Re-Animation: An Evening with Lewis Klahr

An Evening with Lewis Klahr

"Lewis Klahr is one of the most original and prolific artists of his generation. Intensely archeological in his approach to autobiography and cultural ephemera… he is a creator of atmospheres—ontological terrains where events and emotions register with archetypal power and dreamlike intensity." Mark McElhatten

Los Angeles premieres

The Jack H. Skirball Screening Series is curated by Steve Anker and Bérénice Reynaud.

Independent filmmaker Lewis Klahr works with cutout animation because of his love for materials that give him access to memory and history, and the kinetic interspace they create between the personal and the cultural. His films explore "the pastness of the present." They involve a recombination of elements, a retelling of forms and events, a slowing down of time—and can be most accurately described as re-animation . From his abundant body of work, Klahr has selected three pieces never before shown in Los Angeles: Marietta's Lied (1998, 4:30 min, 16mm), Pharaoh's Belt (1994, 43 min., 16mm) and Daylight Moon (A Quartet) (2002–04, 40 min., 16mm).

In person: Lewis Klahr



Marietta’s Lied (1998, 4:30 min., 16mm)

Marietta's Lied is a collage animation set to Erich Korngold's exquisite song from his opera Die Tode Stadt. The piece uses cutouts of German cabaret performers from 1935 to render in mythic shorthand the tragic story of the emigration to Los Angeles of many European Jewish composers such as Korngold himself. The film was commissioned by soprano Constance Hauman for her narrative recital Exiles in Paradise -- with Bill Vendice at the piano -- premiered in New York in 1998.

Erich Korngold (1897-1957) was an Austrian Jewish composer whose opera Die Tode Stadt was a major success in Vienna in 1920. As the rise of Nazism forced him to emigrate in 1934, he settled in Los Angeles to write film music. Upon his return to Europe after 25 years, he realized that his early musical work had been forgotten.

The Pharaoh’s Belt (1994, 43 min., 16mm)

The Pharaoh’s Belt, an epic cutout animation and Klahr’s first foray into 16mm, received a special citation for experimental work from the National Society of Film Critics in 1994. Film historian Tom Gunning praises it as “his most masterful film to date” in which “ Klahr provides a lesson in modern hieroglyphics, assembling collages of contemporary demons and divinities in the guise of advertising images culled from a consumer culture's larger-than-life presentation of its products and the ecstasies they offer. These hyperbolic presences with their radiant colors and alternate promises and pitfalls provide the landscape for a childhood quest that teeters between nightmare and promised land, as Klahr's characters negotiate a labor of extrication from the morass of Betty Crocker chocolate icing, formica kitchens and parental phantoms toward a mastery of the imagination and the attaining of true love."

Daylight Moon (A Quartet) (2002–04, 40 min., 16mm)

  • Valise (2004, 14:30 min.)
  • Hard Green (2004, 5 min.)
  • Soft Ticket (2004, 7 min.)
  • Daylight Moon (2002, 13:30 min.)

“Here in middle age, I finally give myself permission to directly draw from some of the richest source material imbibed in my childhood: indelible memories, impressions, physiognomies, as well as second hand experiences and things I have imagined or fantasized about -- World War 2, baseball, the Mississippi River, mythopoeic crime. The quartet is a symmetrical structure suggesting wholeness; four is the number of the directions, the winds, The Beatles, completeness. In working on the series, I witnessed the reappearance of the Deep Sea Diver figure, that had been the protagonist of my first cutout animations in Picture Books for Adults (1984-85) and my first 16mm film, The Pharaoh’s Belt (1994). I can’t help but wonder what his reemergence heralds for me: the beginning of a new phase or merely the final grace note for the one that’s ending?” -- Lewis Klahr

About the filmmaker:

Master collagist Lewis Klahr has been making films since 1977. He is known for his uniquely idiosyncratic experimental films and cutout animations which have been screened extensively in the United States, Canada and Europe -- in venues such as New York's Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Biennial, the New York Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, the Rotterdam International Film Festival, the Lincoln Center Walter Read Theater and Los Angeles Filmforum. He has also received commissions from European arts organizations such as the Gronnegard Theater in Copenhagen, Denmark (Lulu) and the Rotterdam International Film Festival (Two Minutes to Zero). His work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Klahr is a 1992 Guggenheim Fellow and has also received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the NY State Council of the Arts, Creative Capital, The Jerome Foundation, and the NY Foundation of the Arts and Creative Artists Public Services. Commercially he has created special effects and animation for television show openings, music videos, commercials, a documentary and a TV movie. He created cutout animation for Michael Almereyda’s Hamlet (2000) and Louis Massiah’s W.E.B. Dubois: A Biography in Four Voices (1997). Lewis Klahr teaches at the California Institute of the Arts.

Selected Filmography:

  • Picture Books For Adults (8 films: 1983-85)
  • Tales of the Forgotten Future (12 films: 1987-1991)
  • Whirligigs in the Late Afternoon (1996)
  • Lulu (1996)
  • Green ‘62 (1996 6 min. silent color 16mm)
  • Calendar the Siamese (1997)
  • A House Is Not A Home (co-directed with Travis Preston, 2004)
  • Engram Sepals (7 films: Melodramas 1994-2000)
  • The Aperture of Ghostings (3 films: 1999-2001)
  • The Two Minutes to Zero Trilogy (2003-04)

Associated Images: 

MON 10/16

G - General Audience

M - REDCAT Members

ST - Students

CA - CalArts Students/Faculty/Staff