The three discs that make up Facet’s collection, The Films of James Broughton, reveal the work of a film poet whose passions — spiritual, carnal and aesthetic — grew stronger and wilder over the course of a 40-year career. The 17 films gathered together here build to a crescendo. As part of the generation of midcentury filmmakers that included Kenneth Anger, Maya Deren and Curtis Harrington, Broughton helped to put the West Coast cinema avant-garde on the map. In early works, he takes playful, mocking jabs at such authoritarian figures as a Victorian matriarch or a stuffed-shirt bureaucrat, yet always within the loose but discernible bounds of narrative. Mother’s Day (1948) plays like a psychoanalytic family history, as a scowling mother lords over a brood of adult-aged children who seem unable to grow up. In The Pleasure Garden (1953), shot in England during a European sojourn, a grim undertaker and a voluptuous muse do battle amid the tall grass of a city park. After a 15-year hiatus devoted to writing poetry, the bisexual Broughton returned to filmmaking in the late 1960s to let all hang out. Gone are the authority figures, along with any semblance of narrative. Only the exuberant muses remain, eccentric imps all, like the naked saxophonist in The Bed (1968), who plays perched on the brass framing of a bed, set in the middle of a grassy, open field, to serenade the couples and groups of all stripes who cavort, dance and caress among its sheets. In films such as Song of the Godbody (1977) and Devotions (1983), Broughton emerges as a cinematic Walt Whitman, throwing a wide embrace around the physicality of his body, his homosexuality and the pleasures of communal living. Devotions, in particular, stands as a career-capping paean with Broughton weaving together sensual scenes of his closest male friends and companions in a dazzling celebration of love, community and joy.
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Also released this week: DVD: Angora Ranch; Bob Dylan: 1966 World Tour: The Home Movies; Bolshe Vita; Daughters of Darkness; Distortion; The Films of Harun Farocki: Indoctrination, The Interview; Future Kill; Girls from Nowolipki; Grigori Kozintsev’s Hamlet; Hungry for Monsters; I Drink Your Blood; Lotna; Maxx; Prisoner 13; The Spectator; Tales of the Rat Fink; The Tarzan Collection, Vol. 2; Vacationland; Who Wants to Kill Jessie?; Whoever Says the Truth Shall Die.