Robert Frank: Beat-Gen photographer
Who is Robert Frank? The most influential of mid-century American photographers? Eternal boho and Beat Generation fellow traveler? Venerable titan of the (old) New American Cinema? Although he’s made more than 20 personal films since 1959, it’s symptomatic of Frank’s subterranean career that his best known is still the Beat family portrait Pull My Daisy, co-directed with painter Alfred Leslie and narrated by Jack Kerouac. Still, Cinefamily and Los Angeles Filmforum’s retro of films by and about Frank could hardly begin anywhere else. The July 18 program at the Silent Movie Theatre is devoted to Frank’s beatnik movies — notably his faux cinema verité feature Me and My Brother (1968), which, although ostensibly a portrait of poet Peter Orlovsky and his catatonic sibling, Julius, is filled with theater people and self-identified actors. Me and My Brother, which Frank re-edited in the late ’90s, is the weightiest item in his oeuvre, but, for my money, he came into his own as a filmmaker with the first-person Conversations in Vermont (1969), which concerns his ambivalent confrontation with his adolescent children. Anticipating by several years Yvonne Rainer’s more polished avant-celebrity psychodramas, Conversations in Vermont screened last month at MoCA, where an exhibition of Frank’s Leica photographs, “The Americans,” is on display through October 19. More recent Frank films screen on July 19 and 26 at the Egyptian Theatre.
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