Now available: New digital works from Henry Hills

Posted March 9th, 2020 in Announcements, New Acquisitions, New Films, News / Events

Henry Hills has made over two dozen short experimental films, videos & digital works since 1975. His dense and intensely rhythmic compositions, which seek abstraction within sharply-focused naturalistic imagery, the eternal in the temporal & the ethereal within the mundane, promote an active attentiveness through a relentlessly concentrated montage.

The Falls (2019 | 7 minutes | COLOR | SOUND)
A vision of the tortured torrential psyche, made out of two scenes from the film noir Niagara – the movie that made MM a goddess and the embodiment of projection (the iconic image used by Warhol is a still shot during the filming of the souvenir shop scene here), & a rare role in which she is allowed to express any emotional depth (not really again until The Misfits), unlike the cartoon character her screen persona was turned into, & her only good color movie (in Technicolor even). The single-frame juxtaposition simultaneity and fugal repetition makes it seem almost real. We share her longings and her suffering. Hollywood, the pretty face of late monopoly Capitalism, exploits us all. It doesn’t have a happy ending.

Hhhhh (2016 | 28 minutes | COLOR | SOUND)

An “essay film” on the letter “H”, framed as a 50’s half-hour TV variety show.

arcana (2011 | 31 minutes | COLOR | SOUND)

This project began with an invitation from composer John Zorn to make a short film based on a text he wrote in the 80’s (“Treatment for a Film in Fifteen Scenes,” ARCANA. New York: Granary Books/Hips Road, 2000). Zorn and I have worked together frequently over the years (he starred in my film MONEY and suggested the musicians for the soundtrack of SSS; I made 3 music videos for his band Naked City, and worked closely with his arrangement score & his suggested visualizations of several sections in making the storyboard for LITTLE LIEUTENANT; he wrote a special soundtrack, released as a Tzadik CD, for MECHANICS OF THE BRAIN; and I recently made a 60 min. direct-to-DVD documentary/translation of his “opera” collaboration with playwright Richard Foreman, ASTRONOME; plus he wrote soundtracks, also Tzadik CD releases, for two Martina Kudl├ícek documentary features which I edited). This text, a list of 254 ‘shots’ (with blank spaces dividing the list into 15 groupings) which are described with varying degrees of specificity in usually one to five words, begins as if it were the cutaways only, i.e., no action or dialog shots or facial close-ups, from a classic film noir. Primarily ominous urban imagery, the apparent structure quickly becomes too complex, however, to readily interpret and seems an invitation for improvisation–certainly more of a musical than a traditional narrative structure. I was immediately attracted to this idea as it seemed to require the opposite approach from that which I have typically taken in my work. In my last two films, for instance, I composed from a set of 2 or 3 images which I filmed again and again to explore subtle variations in different lights & states-of-mind and over time. The list itself became such an item in my life that it seemed appropriate to include it as a physical element. In gathering imagery (mixing 16mm Bolex footage with many different kinds and qualities of video), I took advantage of my current living situation, rotating back and forth between Vienna and Prague, New York and North Georgia. When I decided to use Zorn music recorded in the same period the text was written as the soundtrack, it all came together. The resulting film is kind of a film noir cooking show with an alchemical twist, and includes a descent into the underworld, historical and autobiographical elements (including a long swim), and a subplot of the adventures of a charmingly bewildered Slovakian poet/philosopher.

The Tree (2018 | 9 minutes | COLOR | SILENT)

The Tree here is an ancient noble American Elm standing at the center of Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. It’s named “The Hare Krishna Tree” because an Indian spiritual leader, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, came to New York, founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in a nearby storefront, and introduced the famous “Hare Krishna” chant under this very tree in the Fall of 1966 to an audience of hippies, which included neighborhood resident Beat icon Allen Ginsberg (who immediately recorded it and released it as a cut on the next Fugs album). Standing as it does across from the site of the former bandshell, this tree has witnessed numerous psychedelic concerts by bands including the Grateful Dead, and has been gazed at endlessly over the years by throngs of hallucinating New Yorkers. You can see some of the dryads within if you don’t blink. When I was asked to shoot a “Roll for Peter” (100 feet of black & white reversal 16mm for a memorial to Peter Hutton), I wrote a simple shooting score for filming this tree with my Bolex. I was happy with my roll in the context of that program and decided to pursue it further, adding color negative even. Somehow I managed to be in New York all 4 seasons. Having spent almost the entirety of 1976 sitting in front of a J-K optical printer that I had bought with my student loan, developing occult combinations of discontinuous single frame progressions, a frame at a time with multiple passes, I decided at a certain life-affirming point “Enough already!” I used some of my scores to shoot single-frame in real time out in the sunlight (Porter Springs 3, North Beach), but mostly decided to wait until there were computers that could do this drudgery for me. So, this film, 40 years later, is edited frame by frame (still pretty much hand-made & organic, though) on a laptop in Adobe Premiere.