Archival Program Information
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Film Screening, Symposium, and Performance

Harry Smith's Film #18, Mahagonny
A mathematical analysis of Marcel Duchamp's Large Glass expressed in terms of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Film Screening
Newly restored, four-projector film work
(USA, 1970-1980, 16mm, 2 hours, 21 minutes)
Thursday, May 30, 2002, 7 p.m. FREE

Investigating Mahagonny
Friday, May 31, 2002, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. FREE

Patti Smith: Spoken Word and Song
Friday, May 31, 2002, 7:30 p.m

Filmmaker, anthropologist, painter, and musicologist Harry Smith worked on Mahagonny, his final film, for over ten years and considered it his magnum opus. His cinematic transformation of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's caustically satirical opera is an allegory that explores human needs and desires amid the rituals of daily life in New York City. The film is a collage composed from a variety of film genres, intercutting portraits of important avant-garde figures, New York City landmarks, and Smith's visionary animation.

The film was shot from 1970 to 1972 and edited for the next eight years. The "program" of the film is meticulous, with a complex structure and order. The Weill opera is transformed into a numerological and symbolic system. Images in the film are divided into the categories portraits, animation, symbols, and nature to form the palindrome P.A.S.A.N.A.S.A.P.

The film has had limited exposure, showing only six times in 1980 at Anthology Film Archives in New York, with Smith present at each screening. This screening represents the completion of an ambitious preservation project by the Harry Smith Archives with the assistance of Anthology Film Archives. The original 16mm elements have been duplicated and transferred to an optically printed 35mm film. The Getty Research Institute presents the newly preserved film with a one-day symposium that will investigate the various paths of Smith's creative universe. This symposium is part of the Getty Research Institute's 2001-2002 theme, "Frames of Viewing: Experience, Perception, Judgment."

To learn more about Harry Smith's life and work, visit Harry Smith: The Avant-Garde in the American Vernacular.