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01/09/2012 h 17:00Darsena
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Miu Miu Women's Tales
MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON
by Maya Deren
United States 1943, 16mm, 14', bw
 
editing Maya Deren
music Teiji Ito
cast Maya Deren (a woman), Alexander Hamid (a man)
print source Lux Distribution
 
Meshes of the Afternoon is one of the most influential works in American experimental cinema. Made by Deren with her husband, cinematographer Alexander Hammid, Meshes of the Afternoon established the independent avant-garde movement in film in the United States, which is known as the New American Cinema. Maya Deren has been choosen as the symbol of the project "Women's Tales".
 
Filmed with very few means, using a second-hand 16mm Bolex camera, Meshes of the Afternoon is considered one of the most avant-guarde, influential films in film history. The film is a way of expression for the surrealist poet. There is no chronological logic, just a series of potentially symbolic images which go backwards and forwards with each other through analogies. A young woman follows a mysterious figure slipping away. She walks into her house and falls asleep. The scene repeats itself three times, resulting in the multiplying of the protagonist's figures. The woman then follows a worrying figure covered by a coat and who has a mirror in place of a face. In the final scene, a male figure also appears, played by Maya Deren's then husband Alexander Hamid. The film won the Grand Prix International in Cannes in the experimental section. In 1959, a suggestive soundtrack by Teiji Ito was added, and thirty years later, the film was included into the US National Film Registry in the Library of Congress.
 
Maya Deren (Kiev, 1917 - New York, 1961) was originally called Eleanora Derenkovskaja. The Trotskyist inclinations of her psychiatrist father, and the increasing anti-Semite reprisals her family was subjected to, led them to leave the Soviet Union in 1922 for Syracuse, New York. The Derenkovskajas changed their surname to Deren after gaining citizenship in 1928. Eleanora studied journalism and political science at Syracuse University. From the mid-thirties onwards, she started spending her time in socialist hangouts in New York, becoming acquainted with feminist ideas, which would later so permeate her work. In 1939, she graduated from Smith College in English Literature. That year, she also divorced her first husband Gregory Bardacke. She threw herself into dancing, completing a tour with fellow ballerina Katherine Dunham, an African American anthropologist. During the tour, she met Alexander Hamid, a Czechoslovak Hollywood film director. The two married in 1942, moving to New York the following year. At the beginning of the 1940s, Deren bought her first camera, a second-hand 16mm Bolex, which she used in 1943 to shoot her first film Meshes of the Afternoon. That year, she decided to adopt Maya as her stage name. Husband Hamid contributed to the making of Meshes of the Afternoon, acting opposite his wife. The film became influential enough to throw her into the social circles of intellectuals such as Anaïs Nin, Marcel Duchamp, John Cage and Gregory Bateson. The following year, with the same camera, she made her second film At Land. A Study in Choreography for Camera (1945) and Ritual in Transfigured Time (1946) followed in quick succession with input from Anaïs Nin and the performance of dancers Rita Christiani and Frank Westbrook. In 1946, Maya Deren was awarded a Guggenheim scholarship, the first time such an honor was extended to a filmmaker. The money was used for a trip to Haiti where she learned about the Vodun culture. During three long stays on the island, she managed to gather hours of film on local rites, with special interest in performance of possession. She also wrote a book with Joseph Campbell called Divine Horsemen: the Living Gods of Haiti. Once back in New York, she started organizing musical and ritual performances, often combining these with screenings of her films or with conferences on the topic. During this time, she continued her research for films on dance, resulting in The Very Eye of Night. The film encountered many problems on the production front, and was only finished in 1955, being distributed four years after that. During those years, she met Stan Brakhage, who considered himself a Deren disciple. In 1952, Deren became emotionally involved with Japanese composer Tiji Ito. Ito worked on a number of her films, including Meshes of the Afternoon. The two married in 1960. Maya Deren died in 1961 as a result of a brain hemorrhage. After her death, friends and colleagues gathered to complete the work she had not managed to finish. One of the most distinctive pieces of work to come out of this effort was Divine Horsemen, a feature film made from her Haiti filming. In 2001, Austrian filmmaker Martina Kudláček made In the Mirror of Maya Deren, a documentary featuring John Zorn's original music.

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