Ed Emshwiller (1925-90)

Filmography (partial)

Dance Chromatic (1959), 7 minutes

Transformation (1959), 5 minutes

Life Lines (1960), 7 minutes

Time of the Heathen (with Peter Kaas, 1961), 75 minutes

The Streets of Greenwood (1963), 20 minutes

Thanatopsis (1962), 6 minutes

George Dumpson’s Place (1964), 8 minutes

Relativity (1966), 38 minutes

Image, Flesh, and Voice (1969), 77 minutes

Film With Three Dancers (1970), 20 minutes

Carol (1970), 5 minutes

Sunstone (1979), 3 minutes

Skin Matrix (1984), 17 minutes

Emshwiller came to film from a background of painting and science fiction illustration. Though he brought with him the themes that appear in those static media, he embraced cinema for its non-static properties. His first two films, in l959, can be described as action painting "in action." Certainly by Thanatopsis (l962), he had stepped wholly and unmistakably into the realm of pure cinema, and the light of transcendence. Carol (l970) is very interesting both as a cinematic portrait but also as a fond recollection of one of Emshwiller’s favorite images in science fiction. In the film we see Emshwiller’s wife Carol walking through a wooded glade, with sunlight alternately penetrating the trees, and masked by them. The tempo of this on/off lighting increases as the film develops, until at its climax, Carol is consumed by a torrent of this alternating illumination–an image directly reminiscent of some of Emshwiller’s best science fiction covers when women plunge into a sky full of stars (and those women often were modeled on Carol). (RH)

Emshwiller in l965 (in Berlin):

Most films, as you all know, are word-oriented. That is, based on verbal concepts, and the tradition has been that, actually, it’s probably the easy way to solve the problem of making a film–the very fact that language is the most versatile of our means of communications. And the perimeters of our understanding generally are defined by our language.

However, I think that a great deal can be accomplished in film-making [which] is not based on words. And some of the vision of my friends up here ... are not based on story or a drama or something didactic or the conventional form of film. It’s that sort of thing that excited me and stimulates me, gives me experience that I don’t get another way. I think that’s one of the most dynamic things about film, and that excites me and draws me to it.