Warren Sonbert

Warren Sonbert (Courtesy Gerard Malanga)

May 31 to June 5, 2005


The American Warren Sonbert (1947-1995), one of the most important independent film artists of his generation, is virtually unknown in Europe. The Film Museum will show an extensive selection of his works and at the same time provide a context for the oeuvre of the passionate cinema-goer, theorist and teacher: the Warhol circle, in which he created his first films; Alfred Hitchcock (who, together with Douglas Sirk, was Sonbert's great idol in mainstream cinema) and Dziga Vertov, to whose montage-symphonies he felt a strong affinity. Sonbert's works from the 60's are free narrative investigations of the New York Bohème milieu, a scene he was active in during his student days; these films are characterized by remarkable hand camera sequences and pop soundtracks à la Kenneth Anger. A change of orientation took place with his silent magnum opus Carriage Trade (1972); in this, he condenses material filmed on various trips around the world into a unique short montage form, which opens up manifold connections and confrontations, according to formal, aesthetic and often ironic content perspectives. This unique aesthetic which was at once fragile and opulent was something that Sonbert refined in a series of outstanding works right up to his death from AIDS. With Friendly Witness (1989) he also returned to a subtle use of music.
Gartenberg, the curator of this programme and former film archivist of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, will give introductory talks on the films of Warren Sonbert.