Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The New Talkies: Neo-Benshi at the deYoung

You are invited to a unique program of narration and film art in the poetry series I curate at the de Young Museum of Fine Art.

Friday, September 11, 2009, 7 p.m.
The deYoung Poetry Series
de Young Museum of Fine Art
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
San Francisco, CA 94118
Free to museum members; $5 at the door for all others
Parking is available in the museum garage; enter on Fulton

An Evening of The New Talkies (neo-benshi): live film narration introduced by Konrad Steiner

In the past six years a new application of live poetic art has emerged in the San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. This event will include poet-performers who have written scripts to re-narrate scenes from well-known films. With the sound muted, the images from the films are freed to reveal hidden subtexts and meanings which these writers draw to the surface or forge anew through the simplest means: a text, a commentary, a ventriloquist's dream to re-voice the silver screen and tell you what might have been really going on in those films we've all long checked off our Netflix queue.

From Jay Ward's 1960s TV show Fractured Flickers to Situationist Ren Vinet's 1973 film Can Dialectics Break Bricks?to Mystery Science Theater 3000 in the 1990s, the latter-day art of re-narrating a film has always been in the shadow of the original benshi (Japan) and pyonsa (Korea), the film-tellers who were stars in their own right during the silent era, explaining and voicing the action on screen from just off stage to huge admiring crowds.

The recent re-emergence of this live form is due in part to Korean scholar Walter Lew, and Japanese benshi, Midori Sawato, who herself continues to tour and educate audiences in this lost art. Poets appearing tonight who have taken up the challenge to reinvigorate the form for a new era include Andrew Choate, Jen Hofer, Douglas Kearney & Nicole McJamerson from Los Angeles; Rodney Koeneke from Portland; and Jaime Cortez from San Francisco. Local filmmaker, curator and writer Konrad Steiner will introduce the program.

Neo-Benshi text by Konrad Steiner; photo by PAH.

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