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Remembering Charles Wright (1946-2021)

Posted April 12th, 2022 in Announcements, News / Events

Canyon Cinema remembers the San Francisco filmmaker, photo collage artist, and former Canyon staff member and board member Charles Wright (1946-2021), who passed away last April. From 1975-76, Charles served as a co-programmer of the Canyon Cinematheque with Carmen Vigil. Canyon Cinema continues to distribute three of Charles’s 16mm films: Cable Car Melody (1986, 28 min), Sorted Details (1980, 13 min), and Surprised (1973, 5 min).

“One is repeatedly surprised and delighted watching Wright’s films, the world is constantly being discovered, its secret harmony is perpetually revealed.” (Marjorie Keller, Idiolects #8)

“Charles was a great artist who loved to find common ground among disparate elements and the subtle differences among common elements. Whether working with newspaper photographs, postcards, comics, or film, Charles had an uncanny ability to combine found images in order to form a new whole. His films and photomontages are dynamic, dramatic, energetic, and whimsical. He discovered lyrical beauty in the disposable detritus and ephemera of our culture.” (Steve Anker)

“Above all, Charles was funny at work and play, a wry master wordsmith and punster. In his quiet and self-effacing way, he was often the most amusing person in the room.” (Helene Wright)

On Cable Car Melody: “As delightful as a latter-day Méliès and twice as precise, Cable Car Melody strikes two real-life camera positions (looking both ways down Hyde Street), interspersing them with ‘fake’ views of the same space taken from postcard photos and illustrations. Wright matches the cable car placement perfectly from shot to shot, so suddenly the background scenes change, or the angle switches, or Wright cuts to color-negative, the sky going a sickly orange and the trees turning a bismuth pink. In addition to this play with space, Wright assigns each shot a different musical tone in the film’s sound-track composition, a cut-up piece that toggles between jazzy riffs and minimalist drone, eventually incorporating the clanging bells and track rattle of the cable cars themselves. Wright’s film is a concentrated examination of a particular Bay Area locale, but its lasting contribution may be its intensive reclamation of a portion of San Francisco culture so completely associated with tourism. We really see the cable cars again, as a sturdy, handsome technological holdout – not unlike the cinema itself.” (Michael Sicinski, Radical Light)

Examples of Charles’s photomontage work, such as though below, can be seen at: charleswrightphotomontages.com


For more information about Charles’s work and life, please email info@canyoncinema.com. We also invite members of the Canyon Cinema community to share their memories of Charles.