Michael McClure: A Filmography.
From the late 1950s into the early 1970s, Michael McClure appeared in five underground films, four documentaries, had roles in several independent feature length films, included film as a component of several of his plays, worked on a screen play of his novel, The Adept, shot documentary footage himself, and wrote film criticism. Although the screen play was never optioned for a movie, and McClure's film of his mushroom-hunting trip with Sterling Bunnell to Mexico was never completed and is now lost, McClure's adventure with film is surely impressive and is the subject of this filmography. (1) David James in his study Allegories of Cinema considers the 1960s a key moment for underground film in the United States: " Growing variously from New York and from San Francisco's North Beach scene, the history of underground film was shaped by the history of the bohemian subcultures and the shifts in their ideological and aesthetic principles" (119). McClure was part of this San Francisco "bohemian" art scene, his own theories and poetic practices feeding into the collaborative and multimedia period during which he embraced film.
McClure was born in Kansas in 1932 where he went to high school with assemblage artist and filmmaker Bruce Conner. After attending college at the universities of Wichita and Arizona, he settled in the Bay Area in the early 1950s where he gravitated to poet Robert Duncan's circle through courses at San Francisco State University. There he met experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage and, through him and Duncan, filmmakers such as Lawrence Jordan, who knew Brakhage from Denver where they had grown up. McClure was also part of the seminal 6 Gallery poetry reading where East and West Coast poets associated with the Beat Generation read together for the first time. Thus, he uniquely combines San Francisco Renaissance, Beat Generation, and Bay Area experimental art scenes, while later as a denizen of the Haight district during the 1960s, he became associated with the hippie scene. McClure's involvement withBay Area artists demonstrates the importance of a West Coast psychedelic art approach and positions him in San Francisco's urban milieu in its transition from Beat to Hip.
Many of these connections are caught on film. This period also demonstrates the importance of the communitarian for McClure. For example, most of the directors as well as many of those he performed with were personal friends, and the films were more like collaborations. McClure's role was primarily that of poet and inhabitant of San Francisco, a charismatic city dweller. Alternatively, he was shown as a rebel, especially in his roles in independent film.
However, just as significantly, these Bay Area collaborations can be seen as an aspect of McClure's working methods, which shed light on the multimedia emphasis in his work. In an interview with Harold Mesch, McClure notes of Mesch's comments on the "structural similarities" in some of his books that "a primary process of our [human] thinking is to move away from a scene, to come back to the scene, to move away from it in another direction.... We create an expanding field around the scene and that gives... other resonances, other connections, other possibilities" ("Writing One's Body" 19). In addition, McClure espouses and practices an embodied poetics, seeing poetry as body-centered and organic; this may be the impetus for including his poetry in the more physically-inhabited media of film, stage, and video. The expansion of media is thus another way that McClure and others expanded consciousness. Ultimately, these points of cinematic light combine with words of poems, plays, and essays to form new constellations by which to experience McClure's body of work.
The McClure filmography thatfollows is divided into five sections: Underground Film and Video; Independent Film; Documentary Film and Video; Films and Plays; and Miscellaneous Film-Related Projects. Entries begin with director rather than title of film to better emphasize the varied and esteemed directors with whom McClure worked. In the case of films with numerous actors, only the leading ones in addition to McClure are listed.
Filmography: Underground Film
Underground film, as defined by David James, involves film as "home movies" with "alternative practices," for example the use of 8 or 16 mm film stock in comparison to commercial film's use of standard 35 mm film. Sheldon Renan, in An Introduction to The American Underground Film, characterizes such a film as "conceived and made by one person and is a personal statement.... It is a film that dissents radically in form or in technique, or in content, or perhaps in all three." He adds that "made for very little money... its exhibition is outside commercial film channels" (17). Renan also makes the point that underground is more often applied to films of the 1950s and 1960s, while avant-garde and experimental are terms more often associated with earlier periods of film history (21-22).
Brakhage, Stan, dir. Two: Creeley/McClure. Perf. Robert Creeley and Michael McClure. 1965. Orig. 8 mm and 16 mm. 3 min. DVD. Commercially available as By Brakhage: An Anthology, Criterion Collection.
Similarly to other Beat writers during the heyday of experimental film, McClure was often portrayed as a poet and focus of the camera's eye. This is the case with Brakhage's 1965 color silent film portrait, Two: Creeley/McClure. Part of a series. 15 Song Traits, Creeley's portrait comes first, then McClure's. (2) Brakhage depicts Creeley with negative reverse tones, as well as positive, in a fairly static, seated manner with some abrupt cuts near the end. In contrast, McClure is presented more dynamically with staccato and diagonal movements of the camera, simulating poetic voice. A flicker effect is also created as Brakhage's camera jumps rapidly between McClure's face and that of an image of a lion, an animal persona McClure had taken on in his 1964 poetry collection, Ghost Tantras, with poems written in what McClure calls beast language. (3) McClure also makes a brief appearance inBrakhage's The Songs: 23rd Psalm Branch, 1967, where he plays the autoharp as part of the Brakhage domestic scene.
Conner, Bruce, dir. Liberty Crown. Perf. Michael McClure. 1967. 3 min. Video. Collection Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA.
This 1967 experimental black and white video, part of KQED's series on Bay Area arts, presents McClure reading one of his poems, "The Screen is Red and Gold and White and Pink," from the collaboration Mandala, with poems by McClure and drawings by Conner, published by Dave Haselwood in 1966. McClure reads in a somewhat measured fashion, while Conner's camera work with feedback loops and distortions presents a more dynamic image of the poet, similarly to Brakhage's film. McClure even seems to project an aura at one point. Of the video, Conner states that he '"tried to use its electronic character to make it obvious that there were cameras there that might be moving to Michael'.... McClure was seen reading the poem to his own image on the set screen, sometimes multiplied in the process of feedback going into the monitors" (qtd. in Reveaux 109).
Jordan, Lawrence, dir. Spectre Mystagogic. Perf. Michael McClure, Joanna McClure, and Mary Rexroth. 1957. Orig.16 mm. 8 min. DVD. Rental from Canyon Cinema, San Francisco.
Lawrence Jordan's Spectre Mystagogic begins with a quote from Dada artist Hans Arp's On My Way, which contrasts light and shadow, flames and waves, the dead and the living, space and time. The title of this film can be loosely translated as ghostly presence who initiates others into mysteries, a figure played by Michael McClure who moves between the contrasts Arp has described. Throughout, the camera cuts between the world of nature (city park with pond and playground) and the domestic (a flat with mother and infant). The film, in black and white and silent but for a Beethoven score, begins with a distance shot of McClure and a young girl approaching each other by the edge of the pond. They never meet, although at one point their paths cross and the girl throws her ball into the water as McClure stands nearby. In between, McClure moves rapidly and stealthily between park and flat, through flickering light and shadows of trees and stairways. Sitting briefly at a table opposite the infant's presumed mother, he smokes a cigarette, then returns to the park for the final scene with pond's rippled reflections of spectre and girl. Viewers see McClure as enigmatic and charismatic. Jordan describes this film as a "fairly complete portrait of Michael McClure." (4)
--. Triptych in Four Parts. Perf. Wallace Berman and family, Larry Jordan, Philip Lamantia, Michael McClure and John Reed. 1958. 16 mm. 12 min. Rental from Canyon Cinema, San Francisco.
Triptych in Four Parts, in color and silent but for a sitar sound track, exemplifies underground film as "shaped by bohemian subcultures," in James's words. It also demonstrates the interest in art as both expanded mind and mind-expanding for Jordan, McClure, and others. The first and last parts depict San Francisco artists, John Reed, the Berman family, McClure, and Philip Lamantia respectively, while the second and third feature drugs as spiritual mind expansion, including peyote harvesting with Jordan in Texas. Jordan characterizes the film as '"a spiritual drug odyssey seeking religious epiphany'" (qtd. in Sitney 164). McClure appears with the Bermans in their flat as a disembodied hand holding a cigarette. His association with peyote is suggested here, but is evident in both his essay "Drug Notes," containing descriptions of various mind-expanding drug experiences, and "Peyote Poem," written at about this time and published in 1958 in the third number of Berman's Semina magazine. According to McClure, Berman introduced him to peyote, while in turn, McClure introduced Jordan. (5) McClure's essay echoes the intense and saturated colors and chiaroscuro effects Jordan captures in this film, reflecting the visual effects that peyote afforded its users as described by McClure in his essay: "White hands speak to you in sign language on a screen of black velvet" (27). (6)
--. Visions of a City. Perf. Michael McClure. 1957/1979. Orig. 16mm. 8 min. DVD. Commercially available as The Lawrence Jordan Album.
This sepia-toned film, silent but for its impressionistic jazz score by William Moraldo, was shot in 1957, but edited in 1979. Jordan depicts McClure as a habitue of San Francisco, or in critical theorist Walter Benjamin's terms, an urban flaneur, as discussed in the latter's study of Baudelaire. Benjamin would go onto describe this type of urban character in "The Return of the Flaneur" as "the priest of the genius loci," who looks for "images wherever they lodge" (264). Jordan's camera finds McClure as one passerby on a crowded city street, following him as he walks amidst San Francisco's downtown bustle. Jordan focuses on visual effects with reflections of McClure in store or restaurant windows, the surfaces of cars, and even bottles. McClure is anonymous, but magnetic. The film ends as he gets on a bus with a parting shot of Victorian houses in a more residential district, where presumably the bus has stopped to let McClure on. McClure's appearance in a number of Jordan's films in this period may reflect their close physical proximity, living as they did for a time in the same building in San Francisco. In addition, according to Jordan, the two worked on several writing and film projects which never came to fruition. (7)
Filmography: Independent Film
In contrast to underground film, independent film is characterized by James as "the American art film," which is "produced as commodities to be put on the industrial market," though funded by "a series of ad hoc entrepreneurial efforts" (281). For example, Norman Mailer, producer and director of Beyond the Law, bankrolled his films himself. Renan defines independent filmmakers as "commercial filmmakers who produce Hollywood-type films outside the studio system" (22).
Fonda, Peter, dir. The Hired Hand. Perf. Verna Bloom, Peter Fonda, Michael McClure, and Warren Oates. 1971. Orig. 35mm, 93 min Universal Pictures. DVD. Commercially available.
The Hired Hand is a western directed by and starring Peter Fonda as Harry, a drifter. With his sidekick, Arch, Harry returns to the wife he had abandoned to go West, and she takes him back as a hired hand. McClure has a minor role as Ed Plummer, small town troublemaker. Harry encounters Plummer in the town bar, where Plummer makes insinuating remarks about Harry and the lady he works for. A violent fight ensues with Harry and Arch joining in, after which Harry and Arch are kicked out of the bar. The film ends as Harry goes back out West where he is killed avenging yet another comrade. In outtakes not included in the final cut of the film, Plummer is shown shooting it out in the bar with Harry and Arch, and Plummer is killed. According to McClure, he had met Fonda through Rip Torn who had directed McClure's play, The Beard, in its Los Angeles venue. McClure's appearance in this film demonstrates his connections to the alternative art scene in Los Angeles. The rebellious character he plays seems to allow for an association others make about him in real life.
Mailer, Norman, dir. Beyond the Law. Perf. Buzz Farber, Mickey Knox, Norman Mailer, Michael McClure, George Plimpton and Rip Torn. 1968. Orig. 35mm. 98 min. Supreme Mix, Inc. DVD.
Commercially available as Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone and Other Films.
Norman Mailer's independent feature length film, Beyond the Law, was shot over four days in October 1967, when McClure's play, The Beard, was opening in New York at the Evergreen Theater. McClure had met Mailer a few years previously through Allen Ginsberg and connected with him while in New York. The film's action takes place over one night in a police precinct where criminals are being booked and interrogated, and in a bar where the detectives recount their evening's adventures. Film critic Vincent Canby characterizes the film as "improvisational moviemaking," because the dialogue was ad-libbed by the actors per Mailer's direction (142). McClure plays a long-haired Hell's Angel named Grahr who is arrested by the police with his buddy, played by Torn. Interestingly, grahr is one of the most frequently used words in McClure's beast language. Supposedly on a bad LSD trip, Grahr acts violently toward the detectives trying to interrogate him, one of them played by Mailer. There are homosexual overtones as he is harassed, his hair pulled, while police call him beatnik, hippie, and long hair. Here McClure again plays a rebel, rather than being portrayed in the rebellious terms of experimental cinema. McClure's collaboration on an autobiography of Hell's Angel Freewheelin' Frank may also have had something to do with his casting as a biker. (8)
Filimography: Documentary Film
Webster's Dictionary defines the term documentary "as recording or depicting in artistic form a factual and authoritative presentation as of an event or a social or cultural phenomenon; as a documentary journalist or film." Documentaries are usually considered to be objective, although they are certainly subjective constructions, and often used for educational purposes. Sheldon Renan compares the objective documentary film to the subjective "fictive and transformatory" film but notes that an underground filmmaker "tends to make films of things in actual life (documentary), but he usually transforms their appearances and their importance (fictive and transformatory) in the process of filming and editing" (25).
Moore, Richard, dir. USA: Poetry. Perf. Brother Antoninus and Michael McClure. 1966. 58 min. KQED/NET Video. Collection Harvard University, Lamont Library.
This black and white video, the first in a four-part program originally made by KQED-TV, San Francisco in collaboration with National Educational Television (NET), New York, features Brother Antoninus (William Everson) and Michael McClure. Both have 29-minute segments. McClure, taped primarily in his home, is dressed first in a Nehru jacket with beads and tambourine, then changes to a flowered shirt. Reading some of his poems as well as commenting on them, he describes himself as an "experimentalist," listing experiments with drugs, especially peyote, and the creation of his word decks. (9) Filmmaker Bruce Conner then makes a guest appearance demonstrating McClure's "Lion Fight Word Deck." McClure makes the point that he wants to write poetry where sound creates an image in the body; he reads from Ghost Tantras, his experiments with poems written in beast language. The video closes with McClure reading " Silence the Eyes" from that volume to lions at the San Francisco zoo. The video is as much an interview as it is a poetry reading.
--. USA: Poetry: Outtakes. Perf. Michael McClure. 1978. 45 min. Poetry Center, San Francisco State University. Video. Collection Harvard University, Lamont Library.
This video, outtakes from the USA: Poetry series shot in 1966, was produced by the Poetry Center at San Francisco State University in 1978. It begins with McClure reading from Ghost Tantras to the lions at the San Francisco zoo, then segues to McClure at home displaying the words on his "Lion Fight Word Deck." When asked about his past, he provides a zany autobiography: he had three fathers and his mother was a Mongolian princess. Bruce Conner makes an appearance and they play music together, McClure on the autoharp and Conner on the harmonica. McClure continues to goof for the camera, as Conner and McClure simultaneously read random passages from Plato. McClure talks about finding the divine in daily reality, no matter how strange, adding that he does not want to be categorized. His wife Joanna McClure appears and listens as McClure reads from his novel, The Mad Cub, while the camera pans the room picking out among other images a poster of a Hell's Angels movie and a Wallace Berman photograph. In this outtake video, McClure is presented as more irreverent and spontaneous than in the original USA: Poetry video.
Scorsese, Martin, dir. The Last Waltz. Perf. The Band, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Michael McClure. 1976. Orig. 35mm. 117 min. Last Waltz Productions, Inc. Video.
Commercially available as The Martin Scorsese Film Collection.
This music documentary presents the last performance of The Band, Bob Dylan's backup band, in San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom, November 1976. There are many other musicians featured performing covers of The Band's songs, as well as documentary footage of band members as they prepare for the concert. As San Francisco's unofficial poet laureates, both Ferlinghetti and McClure read poetry between acts, McClure reading from "The Prologue" to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. He alludes to this in the poem "The Last Waltz" from Simple Eyes (1993), adding in the notes section that he "meant to go on and recite a poem of my own next, but there was such benign amazement in the auditorium that I stopped with Chaucer" (129). McClure's inclusion in this event also demonstrates his close association with the San Francisco music scene in the 1960s and 1970s. (10)
Williams, Dick, dir. The Maze. Perf. Michael McClure. 1967. Orig KPIX-TV. Video. 25 min. Web. 19 Oct. 2017. http://diva.sfsu.edu/bundles/189371. Available online, see URL.
McClure is host and narrator of this documentary, produced by KPIX-TV, taking viewers on a walking tour of Haight Ashbury at the height of the hippie influx in 1967, thus acting as its genius loci. According to McClure, KPIX asked him to participate in this program. A counter to the media's sensationalized Haight as a scene of drugs and free love during the Summer of Love that same year, McClure's Haight is a compassionate place where free food is distributed by the Digger group; a poster store displays the people's art; and cooperative living spaces are places to practice spiritual communion. We even look in on a rehearsal of McClure's play, The Beard, at the neighborhood Straight Theater. Interestingly, in a short piece called, "Tear Gas," published in Diane di Prima and LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka's Floating Bear magazine (1969), McClure would write about a more brutal experience in the Haight as he observes a night riot where police are tear-gassing a gathering of young people with no idea of how the riot started. This video demonstrates a strong connection between the Beat Generation and the Hippie movement.
Filmography: Films and Plays
This category refers to both plays in which McClure includes film as part of the play's stage set, as well as films which include or document McClure's plays, themselves, especially his most controversial play, The Beard. (11) The filming of these works involves not only a record of the play but also an alternative way to view it. Interestingly, Renan notes underground film's "tendency to document other works of art or to use them as a springboard," giving as example Jonas Mekas's film of The Brig, performed by the Living Theater (27).
McClure, Michael. The Beard. Grove Press: New York, 1965. Print.
McClure's most controversial play, The Beard, a dialogue between Billy the Kid and Jean Harlow, was busted and banned as obscene at its first public performances in December 1965, and then exonerated in a San Francisco court room in 1966, five months after litigation began. However, subsequent showings in Berkeley, Cal State Fullerton, and Los Angeles, also came under scrutiny and harassment, while venues in New York and London went without incident. McClure included film in the second performance of this play at the Fillmore, a rock hall in San Francisco. McClure describes the Fillmore production in a 1966 interview, "Writing The Beard," where the stage set was put on the Fillmore bandstand: "Tony Martin set up an enormous and beautiful light show with everything from movies of horses running through liquid projections to... movies of little girls skipping rope and clouds passing by.... So, although we were looking upward at the play, it was as if the universe or the ocean of images was behind it" (288-289). He notes that there was also a light show for the play in New York (292).
--. The Raptors. Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1957/1969. Print.
An earlier example of McClure including film in one of his plays is his farce, The Raptors, written in 1957 but published in 1969. In one scene, the stage directions call for film footage to be played as the characters, The Rose, The Wolf, General Planarian, and The Shark, march around the stage. At this point, "a movie of a woman struggling with a monster or tied to a stake and being molested is projected on the back of the stage. The movie should be sexy and lascivious. None of the actors notice the movie" (35). The inclusion of the film clip here (presumably from a Hollywood B movie) gives the impression of a happening, as well as demonstrates the influence of filmmaker Bruce Conner, who used found-film footage in his underground films of the 1950s and 1960s. Questioning the conventional commodity aspect of film, this method allows experimental filmmakers to subvert the status quo. (12) In The Raptors, the specific subject matter of the found footage may also imply an ironic commentary because the mission of the General and the other raptors is to free purity (The Rose) from truth.
Varda, Agnes, dir. Lions Love (... and Lies). Perf. Shirley Clarke, James Rado, Gerome Ragni, and Viva. 1969. Orig. 35 mm. 112 min Cine-Terminus. DVD. Commercially available as Agnes Varda Collection: Toute Varda.
French director Agnes Varda's film about making a Hollywood film features underground filmmaker Shirley Clarke playing Varda, and the actors Viva, James Rado, and Gerome Ragni (non-Hollywood stars) playing the main characters, who form a menage a trois. The film begins as the threesome enters a theater where McClure's play The Beard is being shown. They return home to discuss the play, then act out the same scene in their empty backyard swimming pool for an audience of children. Varda also includes TV footage of Bobby Kennedy's assassination in Los Angeles and the shooting of Andy Warhol in New York. The film ends with each of the stars making a last statement to the camera. Varda describes her interest in The Beard in a 1971 interview with Andre Cornand, noting that the play "had provoked a big scandal." She adds that seeing the play had influenced her to make a "film about stars" (52). According to McClure, Varda did not contact him about using his play in her film. Ultimately, both the film and McClure's play present the fantasy of stardom, often synonymous with Hollywood, versus the American reality of sex and violence.
Warhol, Andy. The Beard. Perf. Gerard Malanga and Mary Woronov. 1966. Orig. 16 mm. 60 min. Video.
Limited access, Michael McClure funds, Contemporary Literature Collection, Special Collection and Rare Books, Bennet Library, Simon Fraser University.
Gerard Malanga, poet and assistant to Andy Warhol, originally arranged with McClure to shoot this film version of The Beard; Malanga subsequently starred in it as Billy the Kid opposite the Warhol-superstar, Mary Woronov, who played Jean Harlow. Tony Power, curator at Simon Fraser University which houses McClure's archive, describes the film: "The two actors read from the script, there are no sets or costumes or action, and the shot is standard Warhol fixed camera throughout." (13) Woronov believes the film was shot in Los Angeles and remembers wearing a paper beard, part of McClure's stage directions. (14) She recalls that the actors read from the script, but did not follow their lines closely, in the spirit of Warhol films which involve a degree of ad-libbing and spontaneity. As Woronov puts it, "no set, no blocking, no script." (15) McClure mentions his reaction to the film in a June 6, 1966, letter to Brakhage: "Warhol wrote via his apprentice Malanga asking permission to do The Beard as a seventy-minute sound film.... At first it sounded good and then finally I said NO! Then I got a card from LA... saying they had gone ahead and done Beard anyway" (Flame 101). McClure went down to see the film and found it to be "bad." Even after seeing the film several more times, he was convinced it was unworthy of distribution and got an injunction from a lawyer in order to keep Warhol from showing the film publicly. (16) Perhaps, as with Varda, the play's controversial nature made it more appealing to Warhol.
Filmography: Miscellaneous Film-Related Projects
This last category refers to film-related writing by McClure, specifically film criticism and a film script. McClure also dedicated a number of poems to various filmmakers, such as "For Kenneth Anger" and "The Surge" for Stan Brakhage; and "The Artist," "The Child," "Centaur," "Short Song," and "Thumbprint," among others, for Bruce Conner.
Michael McClure. "Dog Star Man." Film Culture 29 (Summer 1963): 12-13. Print.
This review of Brakhage's film Dog Star Man, Part One appeared in Film Culture, the preeminent film magazine of the time, but was first published in Artforum. (17) The film depicts a woodsman, the protagonist, as he walks with his dog, struggling up a mountain in the snow. McClure describes this as man amidst the elements: "he faints, struggles and hallucinates becoming immortal in his striving." An important aspect here for McClure is that Brakhage makes no distinction between "a physical adventure or a spiritual one." He then extols the film's "dance of editing" and compares the film to "the flashing of verse" (12). The review concludes with the claim that Dog Star Man is "greater than a synthesis of [Brakhage's] earlier works" (13). In comparing the film to those of Sergei Eisenstein, the Russian master of montage, as well as to other films by Brakhage himself, McClure demonstrates his knowledge of both film history and the contemporary scene. In addition, the review signifies the close relationship between Brakhage and McClure as evidenced by Lighting the Flame, a collection of their correspondence from 1961-1978.
--. "Defense of Jayne Mansfield." Film Culture 32 (Spring 1964): 24-27. Print.
In this essay, reprinted in the Film Culture Reader (1970), McClure comes to terms with the Hollywood sex goddess, represented by blonde and voluptuous Jayne Mansfield. He begins by claiming that Mansfield is part of a "black American tradition," which includes Poe and Thoreau, defining this darkness as "LOVE that is driven under cover into their bodies or souls and spirits" (25). This is a suggestion of the dark power of sex in the Americanpsyche. He extols the "mystery" of Mansfield's physical presence, as she shows her body to the crowd without shame. The essay's second part compares Mansfield to other American stars such as Jean Harlow, "La plus blanche--the most white," and Marilyn Monroe, "THE MAMMAL," adding that "Mansfield alone needs protection and a champion--but you are all creatures of love" (26). If Harlow and Mansfield are opposites, then Monroe "is a classical balance of men's desires.... Monroe is neither black nor white--she's rosy" (27). He recalls a poem he wrote for Jean Harlow ("La Plus Blanche") as well as a poem he wrote for Mansfield, but burned. (18) The essay ends with the admonition that "[b] lackness, sexuality and freedom must not be denied in any shape--or they wither" (27). These lines recall his poems "Fuck Ode" and "Garland," which espouse sexual freedom. McClure's equation of Mansfield's body with spirit also validates his praise of the body and the idea of embodied poetry. Here McClure combines his poetics with his knowledge and interest in film.
McClure, Michael, and Jim Morrison. "St. Nicholas." 1969. TS. Courtesy Michael McClure Foundation (Ms A5), Contemporary Literature Collection, Special Collection and Rare Books, Bennet Library, Simon Fraser University.
This collaboration with rock star Jim Morrison began with Morrison's interest in playing Billy the Kid in a film version of The Beard, a project that fell through due to the controversial nature of the play. Morrison then read the manuscript of McClure's second novel, The Adept, the plot of which revolves around a drug deal gone bad, culminating with a murder in the desert. He showed interest in this as an alternative, and the two found a producer in Los Angeles and began work on the film script titled "St. Nicholas." According to McClure's interview withFrank Lisciandro, the two worked hard, isolating themselves from distractions, while creating a film script with too many extraneous details. Morrison ended up cutting down the script, but according to McClure, he "missed the point of the novel" ("Nile" 251). There are four drafts of this film script: the first and fourth drafts are 76 and 77 pages, respectively, and the second and third are each 195 pages, much of which closely follows the wording of McClure's novel.
(1) Information about the lost film is from a telephone interview with Michael McClure on March 24, 2017. Unless otherwise specified, all comments by McClure come from this interview. For McClure and others, Stan Brakhage wrote filmmaking instructions as "A Moving Picture Giving and Taking Book," first published in Film Culture 41 (1966).
(2) Brakhage uses the term filmtrait in a letter to McClure of August 1965 (Flame 79).
(3) See the cover of Ghost Tantras for McClure as lion.
(4) This quote is from Lawrence Jordan's email to the author on September 28, 2017. In an email on November 2, 2017, he notes that McClure evolves from "everyman" in Visions of a City to "a personality" in Spectre Mystagogic. Thanks also to Jordan for providing the source of the Arp quote.
(5) This is according to a telephone interview with Lawrence Jordan on October 5, 2017. Unless otherwise noted, all comments from Jordan come from this interview.
(6) Jordan describes the subliminal influence of Baroque artist Caravaggio on his work at this time.
(7) According to an interview with Jordan and Kathy Geritz, when Jordan showed an early version of this film without a sound track, McClure and Lamantia read their poetry as accompaniment ("Venue" 81).
(8) McClure was to have had a part in Mailer's subsequent film, Maidstone, until the two had a falling out on set.
(9) McClure's "Personal Universal Deck" is an actual deck of card that functions to facilitate spontaneous self reflection, using words associated with the senses. The technique is akin to Tristan Tzara's Dadaist method of random construction.
(10) For more on McClure and the rock scene, see Warner's 2004 interview with McClure in Text and Drugs and Rock 'N'Roll.
(11) The Beard was particularly controversial because it featured the character of Jean Harlow performing fellatio on the character of Billy the Kid. Brakhage fantasized about making a color film of McClure's play, The Feast, but realized it would be too expensive to make ("To Mchael McClure" 40). In the Phoenix Bookshop bibliography of McClure's work, compiled by Marshal Clements in 1965, there is an allusion to a short film of The Blossom by assemblage artist George Herms, who did the sets for McClure's play, but according to Herms only still photos exist.
(12) Conner also found it cheaper to buy old black and white films and collage them together than to buy new film, shoot, and have it developed. See Conner's interview with Scott MacDonald in which he also mentions briefly working with Fonda on The Hired Hand.
(13) Per an email to the author on July 14,2017.
(14) In McClure's interview with Mesch, he explains The Beard's title: "'Beard' is Elizabethan slang, and it means to quarrel with someone; it means to pull his beard..." (17).
(15) Unless otherwise noted, Woronov's comments here are from a telephone interview with the author on September 28,2017.
(16) According to Richard Candida Smith in Utopia and Dissent, McClure was considering making a film of The Beard himself, but the deal fell through partly due to Warhol's film (509-510).
(17) The completed film of this name, shot from 1961-1964, includes a Prelude and four parts.
(18) He also wrote a poem in beast language for Monroe on her death; Harlow would reappear in "The Sermons of Jean Harlow and The Curses of Billy the Kid," as well as in The Beard.
Benjamin, Walter. "The Return of the Flaneur." Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 2, 1927-1934, translated by Rodney Livingstone, edited by Michael Jennings, Howard Eland, and Gary Smith, Harvard UP, 1999, pp. 262-67.
Brakhage, Stan. "To Michael McClure." Brakhage Scrapbook, edited by Robert Haller. Documentext, 1982, pp. 40-42.
Canby, Vincent. "When Irish Eyes are Smiling, It's Norman Mailer." Conversations with Norman Mailer, edited by J. Michael Lennon, UP of Mississippi, 1988. pp. 139-44.
Candida Smith, Richard. Utopia and Dissent. U of California P, 1995.
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"Documentary." Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary. 2nd ed., G and C Merriam, 1956.
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By Jane Falk
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|Publication:||Journal of Beat Studies|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2018|
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