Robert Breer

Moving Figures: The Animated World of Robert Breer

"Breerworld is homey but tumultuous, filled with sudden shifts in color and scale, flash frame jolts, and a steady back-beat of good-natured apocalypse... he towers over a field where gimmicks are common currency and cuteness is as virulent as malaria in the tropics..." J. Hoberman, American Film

Jack H. Skirball Screening Series

Robert Breer, one of America's foremost filmmakers for more than 50 years, pays a rare visit to Los Angeles to attend a multi-venue celebration of his work. A close colleague of Rauschenberg, Oldenburg and many other seminal artists of the '50s and '60s, Breer brought a comparably imaginative and rigorous appreciation for collage and pure form to the art of cinema. Throughout a body of more than 40 animated, and in ways "anti-animated," films, Breer celebrates cinema as a unique way of seeing, and the act of drawing as an endlessly expressive and unpredictable personal gesture. The program features 14 masterworks spanning four decades, gorgeously restored by Anthology Film Archives for the first time on 35mm: Recreation (1956), A Man And His Dog Out For Air (1957), Jamestown Baloos (1957), Eyewash (1959), Eyewash (Alternative Version, 1959), Blazes (1961), Fist Fight (1964), 66 (1966), 69 (1969), 70 (1970), Fuji (1974), 77 (1977), Swiss Army Knife With Rats And Pigeons (1981) and Bang! (1986).

In person: Robert Breer

Part of a three-program retrospective organized by Steve Anker. On Saturday, November 15, the UCLA Film & Television Archive will present the majority of films Breer released between 1974 and 2003, a period of remarkable growth and sustained artistic activity including LMNO (1978), Bang! (1986), Time Flies (1997) and What Goes Up (2003).

On Sunday, November 16, the concluding program will take place at the Los Angeles Filmforum, with a selection of the artist’s early work (1954-1964), including portraits and collaborations with Jean Tinguely, Claes Oldenberg and other avant-garde figures of the ‘50s and early ’60s, as well as his first major animated and pixilated short films.

"Breerworld is homey but tumultuous, filled with sudden shifts in color and scale or color, flash frame jolts, and a steady back-beat of good-natured apocalypse…he towers over a field where gimmicks are common currency and cuteness is as virulent as malaria in the tropics..." J. Hoberman, American Film


Recreation (1956, color, 2 min.)
Featuring a commentary by Noel Burch (in nonsense French), Recreation's rapid-fire montage of single-frame images of incredible density and intensity has been compared to contemporary Beat poetry.

A Man And His Dog Out For Air (1957, b/w, 2 min.)
A whimsical film that displays Breer's drawing artistry. Originally shown as a short before Last Year at Marienbad during that film's initial New York theatrical release.

Jamestown Baloos (1957, color, 6 min.)
Breer's early masterpiece is a three-part film that combines animation and live-action, collage and photography, silence and sound.

Eyewash (1959, color, silent, 4 min.)
A free flow from photography to geometric abstraction hand-painted by Breer.

Eyewash (Alternative Version, 1959, color, silent, 3 min.)
The recently discovered alternate version to Eyewash presents a radical reinterpretation of the same footage.

Blazes (1961, color, 3 min.)
"One hundred basic images switching positions for four thousand frames. A continuous explosion." – RB

Fist Fight (1964, color, 9 min.) Breer's extraordinary autobiographical film combines personal and family photos with intense colors, textures and geometric abstractions. Originally presented as part of Karlheinz Stockhausen's 1964 premiere of Originale.

66 (1966, color, 5 min.)
"Abstract, quasi-geometric study in interrupted continuity." – RB.

69 (1969, color, 5 min.)
"It's so absolutely beautiful, so perfect, so like nothing else. Forms, geometry, lines, movements, light very basic, very pure, very surprising, very subtle." – Jonas Mekas

70 (1970, silent, color, 5 min.)
"Made with spray paint and hand-cut stencils, this film was an attempt at maximum plastic intensity… Places Breer for the first time among the major colorists of the avant-garde." – P. Adams Sitney

Fuji (1974, color, 9 min.)
"A poetic, rhythmic, riveting achievement (in rotoscope and abstract animation), in which fragments of landscapes, passengers, and train interiors blend into a magical color dream of a voyage. One of the most important works by a master who – like Conner, Brakhage, Broughton – spans several avant-gardes." – Amos Vogel

77 (1977, color, 7 min.) "Breer is a consummate master of cinematic space. Like Hans Richter, he constantly provokes a sense of depth through changing the scale of his shapes. Breer celebrates the freedom endemic in animation by giving the spectator a creative role in the process of metamorphosis." – Noel Carroll

Swiss Army Knife With Rats And Pigeons (1981, color, 7 min.)
"... a typically bravura and delightful display of simple objective forms flashing, rotating, and dissolving into abstraction...." – J. Hoberman

Bang! (1986, color, 10 min.)
"Bang! reveals Breer at his most accomplished and most playful. It is also his most autobiographical film – the youngster paddling a boat is Breer as a boy and the pencil cartoon sequences were drawn by Breer when he was around ten years old. Breer inserts a photo of himself with a question mark scrawled over his head, accompanied by the words 'Don't be smart.' But he can't help it – he is." – Katherine Dieckmann

All prints: 16mm blow-up to 35mm

Part of a four-program complete retrospective organized by Steve Anker. Additional screenings are held at Los Angeles Filmforum and the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Funded in part with generous support from Wendy Keys and Donald Pels.

Associated Images: 

MON 11/10
8:30 pm

G - General Audience

M - REDCAT Members

ST - Students

CA - CalArts Students/Faculty/Staff