Academic journal article Millennium Film Journal

In Memoriam: Jordan Belson (1926-2011)

Academic journal article Millennium Film Journal

In Memoriam: Jordan Belson (1926-2011)

Article excerpt

FIGURES OF LIGHT: A REMEMBRANCE

Nested within the camera obscura of my faded memory is another dark room, a very small room that looms large in remembering Jordan Belson. I had come to his tiny North Beach apartment in the summer of 1968 to interview him for my book Expanded Cinema. I remember a Japanese style main room with tatami mats and flowers and a breathtaking view of San Francisco Bay. I remember a little workroom opposite the window with an editing bench and rewinds and racks of film cans on the walls. I remember a narrow hallway and a cluster of hidden rooms in the back, hived there in crepuscular contrast to the sunlit main room like a heterotopic metaphor of the unconscious.

One of the hallway doors was ajar, and through it I briefly glimpsed the magician's tools - the rotating tables, the motors, lights and optics Jordan had mentioned in our interview. It was a good interview of quiet intensity. Thirty-four years later his archivist told me it was the only time Jordan ever revealed how he conjured his figures of light from glass and allowed the secret to be published.

Jordan primed me for the interview by showing me a film he'd just completed. He said I was the first person to see it, and he made a ritual of the event. I remember a tiny room, perhaps five by eight feet, not more, its walls and ceiling painted flat black. There was a naked light bulb, a straight-backed wooden chair, and a small screen on the wall. I stepped in and sat down. It occurred to me, I don't know why, that the chair was fixed to the floor. Jordan turned off the light and closed the door. The little room was dark as a planetarium. …

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