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Notes on Marie Menken

Notes on Marie Menken

Martina Kudlacek, director of the critically acclaimed "In the Mirror of Maya Deren," brings us the story of Marie Menken (1909-1970), one of New York's outstanding underground filmmakers, who inspired and worked with renowned artists Andy Warhol, Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas, Kenneth Anger and Gerard Malanga, and became known as "the mother of the avant-garde."

Originally an abstract painter and collage artist, Menken produced nearly two dozen experimental shorts, gracefully using a hand-held Bolex camera to create rhythmic patterns of light, color, form and texture, and compose exquisite visual poems. Rich in excerpts of Menken's work, the film also features the rare and fascinating footage of "The Duel of the Bolexes" she conducted with Andy Warhol on a New York rooftop.

The large, loud and tempestuous Menken, whose volatile relationship with husband Willard Maas reportedly inspired Edward Albee's play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, became a Warhol superstar making memorable appearances in The Life of Juanita Castro and The Chelsea Girls.

Featuring interviews with Jonas Mekas, Kenneth Anger, Gerard Malanga, Peter Kubelka, Alfred Leslie, Billy Name, and the Chelsea Girls star Mary Woronov.

Music by John Zorn.

"Marie Menken was six-foot-two and hefty, with a foghorn voice that could silence a room, but she made films whose delicacy was their surprise… The clips are well chosen… One gets a good sense of Menken's refined sense of her movies' internal rhythms-the interplay between camera movement and the dance of color and light."-Amy Taubin, Artforum

"Gets about as close to its subject as is possible, using every scrap of recorded audio, film and stills of Menken that can be found…an affectionate and honest look at how it all really was. It's an excellent show for those interested in the era."-Glenn Erickson, DVD Savant

"The excerpts (plus the bonus Menken films included on the disc, including the seminal 1962 Glimpse of the Garden and the 1945 Visual Variations on Noguchi) are stunning, as are the archival clips." -Jesse P. Finnegan, Film Comment

"[A] Handsome tribute… Interviews with various avant-garde luminaries help to excavate Menken's memory and reputation from the footnotes of film history while clips and entire reels of her rarely seen oeuvre are intercut. Beautifully transferred clips."—Variety

"A stirring resurrection of a fascinating figure-nothing short of mandatory viewing for avant-garde aficionados."—The New York Sun

"Shines a quavering if welcome ray of light on a largely forgotten figure in the American avant-garde film scene…salient details and observations emerge in the documentary."—Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

"Brings back to life the work of Marie Menken, and rescues her from the margins of cinematic history, restoring her to a position as one of experimental cinema's foremost, and most pioneering, feminist filmmakers."—Film and History

"An excellent way to introduce Menken to those who do not know her and to rekindle a friendship for those who remember her but who have not seen her films in years… Highly Recommended."—Educational Media Reviews Online

"Kudlacek's documentary deserves to be celebrated for bringing Menken back to life and honouring the contribution she made to avant-garde filmmaking."—Leonardo On-Line Reviews


Main credits

Kudláček, Martina (film director)
Kudláček, Martina (film producer)
Kudláček, Martina (screenwriter)
Kudláček, Martina (director of photography)

Other credits

Edit by Henry Hill; camera, Martina Kudláček; original music, John Zorn.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

American Studies
Cinema Studies
History (U.S.)
On 35mm
Women's Studies


Marie Menken; Underground; Experimental; Stan Brakhage; Andy Warhol; Jonas Mekas; Kenneth Anger; Gerard Malanga; Martha; Edward Albee; Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf ; Warhol Superstar; The Factory; abstract painter; non-narrative film; Bolexes; Warhol; Andy Warhol; John Zorn; Excursion; Watts With Eggs; Sidewalks Moonplay; Lights Go Go Go Bagatelle for Willard Maas Arabesque for Kenneth Anger; "Notes on Marie Menken"; Icarus Films; "Notes on Marie Menken"; Icarus Films

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