Recently rediscovered after being out of circulation for decades, the lyrical films of Robert Beavers offer a fascinating dialogue with and counterpoint to the works of his partner and mentor Gregory Markopoulos.
I think of filmmaking like architecture: the entire process is nourished through many stages of development, and the vision of each part leads to the next. The work does not exclude spontaneity. The filming reaches forward and extends a central impulse. It has a chronology. Observation draws out an interior richness. —Robert Beavers
Robert Beavers began making films while still a teenager, after leaving his home in Weymouth, Massachusetts, for New York City at age sixteen. A few years later, he left for Europe and was joined by Gregory J. Markopoulos, with whom he would share his life until Markopoulos' death in 1992. Markopoulos was both a mentor and champion for Beavers' work, but neither artist circulated their films in the last decades of Markopoulos' life, making them practically invisible.
When Beavers' films did emerge in the beginning of this century — most notably during the Festival's twenty-fifth anniversary in 2002, in a three-screening series that begat the Wavelengths programme the very next year — they were a revelation. Eighteen films were eventually released as a full thematic cycle, collected under the title My Hand Outstretched to the Winged Distance and Sightless Measure. The films, as Beavers says, grew "out of my relation to Gregory Markopoulos, protected by solitude and the spirit that came from our dedication to filmmaking." As such, seeing them in relationship to Markopoulos' films shows both a dialogue and unique counterpoint between the two filmmakers.
Three of the films shown tonight derive from Beavers' eighteen-film cycle, and they are followed by his most recently completed film, The Suppliant. Employing a meticulous editing style, Beavers cycles through evocations of architecture (Greek arcades), archaic customs (bookbinding, ancient refrigeration techniques), landscape (a stream in Lousios, the barren landscape of Hydra), and hands performing an action. The hands in The Stoas are cupped as if holding vases — the initial inspiration for the film. Beavers never shot the vases, so the hands become a visual notion of presence in the face of absence — a beautiful metaphor for the place his work now fills in the continued dialogue around film's evolving possibilities.
Work Done (Robert Beavers \ USA 1972/1999 \ 22 min. \ 35mm)
The Stoas (Robert Beavers \ USA 1991-1997 \ 22 min. \ 35mm)
The Ground (Robert Beavers \ USA 1993-2001 \ 20 min. \ 35mm)
The Suppliant (Robert Beavers \ USA 2010 \ 5 min. \ 16mm)
Robert Beavers will be presenting a reading as part of No Reading After the Internet on Saturday, December 1, 4:00 pm at LIFT, 1137 Dupont St., Toronto.
Robert Beavers in person!