From Robert Frank’s Beat Movies to a Nearly Unknown Staged Afternoon, at Anthology

Who is Robert Frank? The most influential of mid-century American photographers? Eternal boho and Beat Generation fellow traveler? Venerable titan of the (old) New American Cinema?

Although he’s made over 20 personal films since 1959, it’s symptomatic of Frank’s subterranean career that his best known is still the Beat family portrait Pull My Daisy, co-directed with painter Alfred Leslie and narrated by Jack Kerouac. Still, Anthology’s comprehensive retro “Mapping a Journey: The Films & Videos of Robert Frank” (November 7–16, coinciding with the artist’s 84th birthday) could hardly begin anywhere else. The first two programs are devoted to Frank’s beatnik movies—notably his faux cinema verité feature Me and My Brother (1968), which, although ostensibly a portrait of poet Peter Orlovsky and his catatonic sibling Julius, is filled with theater people and self-identified actors.

Me and My Brother, which Frank re-edited in the late ’90s, is the weightiest item in his oeuvre, but, for my money, he came into his own as a filmmaker with the first-person Conversations in Vermont (1969), which concerns his ambivalent confrontation with his adolescent children. Anticipating by several years Yvonne Rainer’s more polished avant-celebrity psychodramas, Conversations in Vermont and its successors Life-Raft Earth (1969), documenting a week-long “starve-in” organized by Wavy Gravy and Stewart Brand, and About Me: A Musical (1971), which mutated from traditional music doc to startlingly manic self-presentation, are steeped in the pungent clutter of late-’60s hippie boho life. The elusive, ineffably sad Life Dances On (1980) provides a postscript to this period, touching on the accidental deaths of Frank’s daughter Andrea and his young assistant, Danny Seymour.

Frank’s legendary and usually restricted Rolling Stones documentary Cocksucker Blues (1972) is scheduled for two rare screenings. Less sensational but more felt is the (very) quasi-commercial feature Candy Mountain (1987), a collaboration with novelist Rudy Wurlitzer. In a way, this shaggy-dog hipster road film is Frank’s ultimate work—evoking the end of the road and even the end of Endsville—but he has persevered. “Mapping a Journey” includes subsequent low-tech music videos (for New Order and Patti Smith), eccentric tributes to fellow artists (Kerouac and Alfred Stieglitz), and at least one nearly unknown gem, C’est Vrai! One Hour (1990), a single-take chunk of real time choreographed one summer afternoon in the artist’s Lower Manhattan neighborhood.

Here, 30 years later, is the (almost) spontaneous action documentary Frank claimed to have made with Pull My Daisy. Even the milieu is similar: C’est Vrai! begins in the artist’s impressively disheveled studio; the camera moves outside to the corner of Bleecker and Lafayette and into a beat-up van that drives in circles around the neighborhood, occasionally stopping to allow the camera to run out into a diner or record a bit of on-street conversation. Truth is an elastic concept: One soon realizes that Frank has salted the area with staged events. C’est Vrai! is a one-of-a-kind stunt, both street theater and an urban road movie.


‘Notes on Marie Menken’

Marie Menken’s films and paintings reveal a stunning fondness for the rhythms of nature, technology, and human custom. Her friends and acolytes—Stan Brakhage and Kenneth Anger among them—attest to her influence in Martina Kudlácek’s
Notes on Marie Menken, which seeks to establish this fringiest of fringe artist’s rightful place in the annals of avant-garde history. Kudlácek understands the tragedy of a great film artist’s work rusting away in mini storage, from which Menken’s nephew resurrects incredible footage of his eccentric aunt observing the rituals of grave-digging monks and Andy Warhol goofing around on her rooftop. But while it opens a rare window into an unconventional life, this portrait of an artist as an old woman is prone to strange distractions. Perhaps starving for filler, Kudlácek decides to make visual art of her own, lingering on the patterns of New York City precipitation and often losing complete sight of Menken, whose influence on the lives of her friends isn’t exactly obvious in the moments of Alfred Leslie obsessing over a rusty radiator or Billy Name stroking his beard.


Movie Journal

August 4, 1959

The other day Robert Frank was threatening me. He went to see “Anatomy of a Murder,” and the movie was so boring that he had to walk out of it. “Why did you go see it?” I said. “I gave it a very bad review.” “So, your review wasn’t bad enough,” said Frank.

There I am. My next review of a big Hollywood movie will consist of adjectives only, such as bad, horrible, boring, disgusting, stupid, ridiculous, etc., etc., interspersed with a few four-letter words. Our old generation of film-makers is so boringly bad and so outdated that all their current films, all unanimously acclaimed by New York reviewers, could be perfectly described by such a collection of adjectives.

The two most modern and most intelligent American films, John Cassavetes’ “SHADOWS” and Robert Frank’s and Alfred Leslie’s “BEAT GENERATION,” are still not released, and my praising them here wouldn’t amount to much, since you cannot see them. But these two movies are so far ahead of all Hollywood and independent films that once you’ve seen them you can no longer look at the official cinema: you know that American cinema can be more sensitive and intelligent.

The Simple Truth
Let us be frank: if Hollywood films are boring and outdated, it is not because our “geniuses” are being kept away from the cinema; not because the scripts are being ruined by the producers; the truth is more simple: the horrible fruits we eat through our eyes and ears are just what their makers are capable of; what we see is their finest work at the top of their intelligence. And the sensitivity? Allen Ginsberg: “These media are exactly the places where the deepest and most personal sensitivities and confessions of reality are most prohibited, mocked, suppressed.”

As I’ve said many times before, my hopes are in the young generation. Last week I saw a short film, “CRY OF JAZZ,” by Edward Blank, from Chicago. This picture only proves my point again. The new generation did it again. It took new and young and inexperienced (in cinema) people to get us, after two long decades, out of the vapid, commercial, pale, official documentary. For the first time in a very long time we can see an American documentary which is temperamental, passionate, angry. Made by a group of young Negro intellectuals and artists in Chicago (Mark Kennedy, the writer, has meanwhile moved into the Village), it is an essay on jazz and the Negro condition in America. They know what they want to say, and they say it with passion.

Tragic Richness
For what the movie says, and how it says it, it will be attacked equally by Negroes and Whites. But nobody can deny the importance of what they say: the emotional-tragic richness of the American Negro.

As I hear, the film will be shown next season by Cinema 16, and since I don’t think anybody else will show it, you will have to see it there.


The Octopussarian Drugstore Cowboy

Sitting in his loft, Alfred Leslie cackles as he recalls his first solo exhibit, in 1952, which included a highly abstract Self-Portrait with “Fuck You” scrawled across it. Critic Manny Farber labeled him “a Bronx drugstore cowboy who loves to thumb his nose at the polite art public.” In 1964, an anonymous audience member was even more succinct during a screening of Leslie’s film The Last Clean Shirt when he “dropped his pants and mooned the screen.”

With shaved head and strong build, the 77-year-old Leslie, a gymnast and artist’s model in his youth, betrays no loss of the piss ‘n’ vinegar that has fueled a half-century of what he once termed “octopussarian impulses”—the drive to express himself not just as a painter but as a writer, filmmaker, set designer, and even tunesmith.

Leslie developed his painting chops during the heyday of abstract expressionism while learning about theater from exiles who came to New York to escape Nazism. He met practitioners of Brecht’s theater of engagement and confrontation, in which “people shout at you, and harangue you from the audience—that was their shtick.” In 1959, he confronted the public with his groundbreaking indie film Pull My Daisy, gorgeously photographed by Robert Frank as if through scrims of black, white, and infinite gray. Adapting an unproduced Jack Kerouac play, Leslie silently filmed the action in his ramshackle painting loft, and then had Kerouac dub the voices of a Who’s Who of Beat-generation “actors” playing themselves. Allen Ginsberg gyrates like a spastic shaman in front of splattered rectangles on the studio wall; Gregory Corso chugs an early-morning beer and flicks a hand toward Fourth Avenue outside, mouthing—in Kerouac’s grumbling voice—”Nothing out there but a million screaming 90-year-old men being run over by gasoline trucks, so throw the match on it!”

Daisy is full of serendipitous gems made possible by Leslie’s process: The engineer kept the mic open on Kerouac at all times and during a break caught the Beat king free-associating, “Up you go little smoke,” as he dragged on a cigarette. That unscripted line makes luminous a scene in which a sleepy child reaches up for a wind chime. The film celebrates the Beats’ Dada-esque rebellion against the stifling conformity of the Eisenhower years, while unconsciously documenting a dress rehearsal for the cultural revolution of the ’60s.

Continuing his acclaimed abstract painting and Pop-presaging collage work (a selection of which is on view now at the Allan Stone Gallery), Leslie next reached a tentacle toward literature. The Hasty Papers, the one-shot literary journal he published in late 1960, was a “democratized, egalitarian, choral work.” Characteristically blunt, Leslie solicited literary luminaries from John Ashbery to William Carlos Williams, promising to divide any profits evenly among contributors. Illustrated with paintings, drawings, and photo montages, the writing jumped from poetry by Joel Oppenheimer to father of the atomic bomb J. Robert Oppenheimer’s treatise “Industrial Society and the Western Political Dialogue.” Ashbery and Terry Southern kicked in comedic plays; Fidel Castro’s legendary 1960 U.N. harangue —the American naval base at Guantánamo particularly galled El Commandante—and the Eisenhower administration’s rebuttal are transcribed in full. Reviews of the Papers were mixed: Retrograde art critic Hilton Kramer sniffed, “How inelegant for a painter to do this”; Leslie’s friend Bill de Kooning enthused, “Geessus Les, vot the hell, it’s a snapshot of us all!”

Two years later, although the high priest of abstraction, critic Clement Greenberg, had proclaimed “there is nothing left in nature for plastic art to explore,” Leslie began a series of monumental full-frontal nude Grisaille paintings. Working large-scale and in a hyper-real style, Leslie sought “direct testimony” challenging what audiences perceive as the “pure truth” of photography.

Which didn’t stop him from making another movie, in 1964—the provocative, absurd, and sometimes melancholy Last Clean Shirt. Shot from the backseat of a convertible as a mixed-race couple drives up Third Avenue, the 10-minute take (demarcated by an alarm clock lashed to the dashboard) is looped three times. First, the white female passenger speaks a nonsensical language; next, poet Frank O’Hara supplies rueful subtitles (“If we were all flowers, and someone stepped on us/someone else, maybe even God, would at least think/That’s too bad.”); finally, the driver’s dissociated thoughts spill out: “jellied aluminum bathtub.” “Elke Sommer.” As the Vietnam War escalated, Leslie says, people saw “an American soldier [on TV] firing an M-16 into a man’s head” while voice-overs told viewers “something entirely different, and the people believed it.” Leslie wanted Shirt to force the question “What the fuck is going on?” because “to most people, reality is nothing more than a confirmation of their expectations.”

Then came the fire.

It’s disturbing to flip through a catalog of Leslie’s work and find paintings captioned Destroyed, drawings—Destroyed, films— Destroyed. On October 7, 1966, shortly before he was to exhibit at the Whitney Museum, Leslie escaped with his son from an inferno at his Broadway studio. Almost 39 at the time, he has spent the last 38 years on two tracks: making new art, and recovering his lost art.

Earlier that year, his friend and collaborator Frank O’Hara had been run over by a beach taxi on Fire Island. Homeless and nearly destitute after the fire, Leslie gave up filmmaking and began merging his ideas into “painted stories,” beginning with Killing Cycle, paintings about O’Hara’s death. A flood of water-colors, charcoal drawings, and paintings followed; an oil exhibited in the 1973 Whitney Biennial, The Telephone Call, depicting O’Hara prone before the jeep that killed him, was labeled by the indefatigable Kramer “the single most repugnant work so far installed.” The Loading Pier (1975) quotes Caravaggio’s Entombment of Christ through its dark, shallow stage-setting and the angled gestures of the mourners. Yet the bathing suits and cutoffs worn by Leslie’s female pallbearers conjure O’Hara’s earthy humanity and the absurd circumstance of his death.

There have been many paintings since, plus a lifetime achievement award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2002, Leslie released The Cedar Bar, an orgy of appropriated film footage—Hollywood musicals, Holocaust documentaries, hardcore porn—combined with voice-overs from his reconstructed 1952 play about the legendary artists’ watering hole and the eternal war between creators and critics. (The original manuscript went up in smoke in ’66.) A sinister cabaret clown opens the show by gibbering, “Artists are a vulgar and stupid lot,” followed by such stalwarts as de Kooning waxing insightfully on the meanings of art. Jackson Pollock’s shade is summoned through an old Twilight Zone episode about a 19th-century cattle rustler transported to ’50s New York—he can’t cope, and you just know it’s gonna come to a bad end.

Leslie has outlived his bad ends—O’Hara’s death, the fire, critics’ excoriations—all because, back in the ’50s, he looked at his cameras, typewriters, stage sets, and canvases and “saw it all as one fucking piece.” A tad vulgar, sure. But never stupid.

Leslie’s show, which includes daily screenings of his films, continues at Allan Stone Gallery, 113 East 90th Street, through December 22.



Perhaps you know Alfred Leslie’s late paintings: hyper-real figures, often stoically separated, but with arms and legs intermingled by the flat artifice of the picture plane. Such taut compositions were not learned at the feet of baroque masters but much closer to home. A native New Yorker, the now 77-year-old Leslie debuted amid the domineering triumph of abstract expressionism, going hammer and tongs at his canvases with loaded, nearly explosive brushes. The decade’s worth of abstractions (1951–62) at Allan Stone document a young artist who, though enthralled by the paintings of de Kooning, Pollock, and Rothko, directed a street-level skepticism toward their grand themes of flesh, nature, and tragedy: In 1960, Leslie cracked wise with a six-foot oil, Nix on Nixon—an exuberant waterfall of color facing off against two stark strokes of black.

Leslie began literally busting up the classicism of his elders by segmenting his canvases and slathering paint over the joints. In 1953, years before Motherwell flogged old-world elegance in his torn-paper pieces, Leslie slapped a GE logo onto a deft, vivacious collage, thereby becoming one of the instigators of the formal melee that would later disgorge Pop art. These lush, gritty works are the curtain-raiser on a New York natural.


Private Eyes

Miscast, misguided, and often nonsensical, Minority Report is nevertheless the most entertaining, least pretentious genre movie Steven Spielberg has made in the decade since Jurassic Park. Spielberg shot this science-fiction thriller while editing A.I., and it has the feel of a second chance—at once giddier than the Kubrick adaptation in its filmmaking and more melancholy in its metaphysics.

The unexpectedly topical premise, taken from a 1956 story by sci-fi master Philip K. Dick, posits a future in which mutant “pre-cogs” dream of murders before they occur, thus allowing the police to arrest killers in advance of their crimes. “The guilty are arrested before the law is broken,” per the movie’s sell line. Spielberg himself has expressed support for the extra-legality of the current Bush war on terror. Adding to the early-21st-century feel, Minority Report opens by channeling David Fincher with a zappy, gore-filled “previsualization.” Chief inspector John Anderton (Tom Cruise) conducts the flow of images, hilariously accompanied by Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony,” rewinding and recombining the evidence as though fashioning a movie on some telepathic editing console.

The three pre-cogs floating unconscious in their high-security amniotic pool are not the only ones troubled by nightmares. The solitary Anderton is a secret dope fiend, haunted by the disappearance of his young son six years before. It is because of the boy’s abduction that the cop has become the poster boy for the Washington, D.C., pre-crime unit founded by the lordly, Ashcroft-like Lamar Burgess (Max Von Sydow). But is preemptive punishment a good thing? Inevitably, Anderton discovers that the pre-cogs have determined that he is destined to commit murder, killing someone he doesn’t yet know. Is it a setup? Do we care? Although even Arnold Schwarzenegger would have been more convincing than action-twit Cruise once he takes it on the lam with Agatha (Samantha Morton, sans eyebrows), the most oracular of the pre-cogs, the robotic rhythms of the Spielberg montage machine are not yet obsolete.

Set in a hazy, amorphous 2054, Minority Report has been shot by Janusz Kaminski as though all color has been leeched from the world, along with criminality. The lighting is pale and diffuse; the space sometimes turns alarmingly viscous. The monuments of Washington, D.C., remain reproachful witnesses. Going for the phantasmagorical, Spielberg keeps the camera in near constant motion, sneaking up on the action even as he shifts tone in every other scene. The familiar sense of Spielbergian wonder mutates into a moment of Lynchian menace that gives way to would-be Wellesian baroque and is itself trumped by gross-out comedy—most successfully in the oedipal bit of business that has the fugitive Anderton chasing his runaway eyeballs as they roll toward a sewer grate.

His trademark paranoia aside, Dick’s original story was mainly an exercise in the proliferation of bifurcating possibilities (hence the title) closer in some respects to imagining a Borges conundrum than an Orwell police state. Spielberg’s movie, however, is less concerned with forking paths of predestination—which, as scripted by Jon Cohen and Scott Frank, grow increasingly convoluted in their lack of logic—than in the process of exorcizing the past. Despite a splendidly played explanation of the term given by a dodgy genetic biologist (Lois Smith), the concept of the minority report that gives Dick’s story its twist is here something of a red herring—although the screenplay does introduce such other Dickian notions as compensatory drug use and pervasive advertising.

The latter aspect of the Dickian dystopia is particularly appealing to Spielberg, who imagines an all-too-credible world in which (as with TV ratings) consumers are defined by what they watch. Eyes, in Minority Report, are literally windows on the soul, and the soul is that which yearns for brand-name fulfillment. Every electronic billboard is a consumer surveillance mechanism programmed to recognize a potential customer and deliver a customized personal message. (This is most wickedly visualized as Anderton drags the shaking and quaking, madly prognosticating Agatha through a shopping mall with the cops in hot pursuit.)

Minority Report is a movie of haunting images and mindless thrills. Whatever its intent, it visualizes (as well as demonstrates) a future where the unconscious has been thoroughly colonized. All human desires are grist for capitalist gratification, just as any criminal thoughts are grounds for state punishment. Spielberg himself may want to trade legal freedoms for security from terror, but Minority Report‘s recurring images of thought police drifting down from the sky or crashing through the ceiling into someone’s life have a terrorizing resonance beyond the tortuous permutations of the plot. Similarly, the mechanical spiders that serve as police bloodhounds are spectacularly invasive—a key concept for the movie.

Predicated on lost children and broken families, Minority Report doesn’t entirely escape Spielbergian bathos. But this sentimentality is not the sole instance of the filmmaker’s personal investment. There’s a rueful edge to the tawdry image emporium—part sleazy disco, part psychedelic Radio Shack—where citizens seek solace and Anderton tries to “download” Agatha’s visions. And most fascinating is the bitter knowledge of its final mystery: If you can only create the right movie, you can get away with murder.

The history of modern art is the history of realized alternate universes. A successful art movement provokes collective delirium—a process suggested by two underground “minority reports,” Alfred Leslie’s abrasive feature-length video The Cedar Bar and Bill Weber and David Weissman’s fond, funny documentary The Cockettes.

An exuberantly pugnacious exercise in New York School historiography, The Cedar Bar—named for the well-known painters’ hangout—evokes its time and place with a barrage of clips pillaged from old newsreels and period Hollywood, as well as several recent fictional evocations of ’30s and ’40s New York. Leslie, a lapsed abstract painter whose best-known movie is the collaboratively made Pull My Daisy, envisions Manhattan as a frenzied, semiotic nightclub in which actors read his lost and reconstructed 1952 play, originally based on overheard barroom conversations. This cabaret aspect is maintained throughout with the emphasis on porn, vaudeville, and eccentric dancing—not to mention the atonal songs from Leslie’s play. Throughout, the filmmaker inscribes a wildly enthusiastic and stellar audience, seemingly culled from televised awards ceremonies. (Less engaging is his decision to reference the 20th century with a montage of Nazi newsreels and concentration-camp corpses.)

Leslie’s belated exercise in pop assemblage is an omnivorous, object-like, compulsively layered tape that’s as relentless in its way as his 1964 loop The Last Clean Shirt. The editing is exceedingly dense—many clips no longer than 15 seconds—and the visuals often overshadow the hysterical drama that centers on the spell cast by critic Clement Greenberg. While The Cedar Bar touches on Greenberg’s alcohol-fueled brawls and primitive sexual politics, it more deeply articulates the artist’s enraged ambivalence regarding the critic’s seemingly arbitrary power to bestow genius and confer significance.

More straightforward in its oral history, The Cockettes celebrates the commune of psychedelic drag queens whose anarchic, early-’70s midnight performances at San Francisco’s Palace Theatre represent the exotic confluence of the city’s hippie and gay subcultures. At the time, there were no terms for what the Cockettes were. Perhaps there still aren’t. The group included women, and as one member recalls, “Straight men would come to our show in dresses.” Audiences sometimes joined the show onstage. This compound was inherently unstable and the Cockettes fissured in 1971 over the issue of professionalism. The group’s shamanistic founder, Hibiscus, left and the more professional Sylvester became its star. Then Rex Reed discovered the Cockettes on a trip to San Francisco, and on a wave of publicity, the ensemble came to New York to crash and burn on Second Avenue in a debacle that was the negative theatrical event of the ’71-’72 season.

The surviving Cockettes provide their recollections amid a surprising amount of footage documenting their early stage shows. These performances attest to two of the period’s basic social facts: LSD and ATD. The former, ingested by many Cockettes on a daily basis, encouraged them to construct their own reality. The latter, California’s long-gone welfare program Aid to the Totally Disabled (described by the movie’s genial de facto narrator, John Waters, as “a grant from the government to continue your insane lifestyle in San Francisco”), allowed them to subsidize it.


Neither There Nor Here

The connection Maya Deren made 60 years ago between avant-garde and ethnographic moviemaking comes to the fore in this year’s edition of the New York Video Festival. While videomakers are as self-conscious as ever, their focus is less on the uniqueness of video as a medium and more on their relation between themselves and the subjects of their cameras.

In Trinh T. Minh-Ha’s Japanese travel diary, The Fourth Dimension, and Irit Batsry’s depiction of rural India, These Are Not My Images (Neither There Nor Here), the videomakers use voice-over to question their own authority in appropriating images from cultures that are not their own. Closer to home, Alfred Leslie, Joe Gibbons, and Jennifer Montgomery take up the interface between creativity and self-destruction in the artist’s psyche. Leslie’s The Cedar Bar demonstrates the hallucinatory power Hollywood movies had over his own post-World War II generation of American painters. Based on a play Leslie wrote in 1952 evoking a drunken night in the heyday of the Cedar with de Kooning, Greenberg, and various other art world luminaries exchanging fuck-yous, The Cedar Bar intercuts a video recording of a 1997 staged reading of the play with a promiscuous array of stolen clips, mostly from ’40s and ’50s films. Leslie is a connoisseur of images, but as an editor, he can be unbearably crude, as in a sequence that juxtaposes hardcore porn, concentration camp corpses, and televised reaction shots of the audience at the 2001 Academy Awards. The Cedar Bar originated long before Pollock, but Leslie’s contempt for Ed Harris’s biopic, evidenced by his appropriation of a couple of scenes in which Harris acts up a storm, is probably what drove the piece to completion.

In Confessions of a Sociopath, Part I, Gibbons uses his own diaristic film and video oeuvre to take stock of his stubbornly antisocial lifestyle, weighing his deadpan on-camera revelations against the assessments of psychiatrists and parole officers, the most laughable of which is “He appears to have less anxiety and stress than someone in his position should have.” These supercilious professionals don’t know that they’ve given Gibbons an angle for the strongest piece of his idiosyncratic career. Similar in its directness and intimacy, Montgomery’s Transitional Objects employs psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott’s theory of childhood development to illuminate the process of making art in all its psychical and sometimes physical violence. (Winnicott’s theory offers the best explanation for the wrenching moment when Rosebud goes into the fire in Citizen Kane.)

Among the NYVF regulars: Donigan Cumming returns with My Dinner With Weegee, the latest of his unsparing documentaries staged on Montreal’s skid row. Just as enigmatic in its mix of reality and performance, Souheil Bachar and Walid Raad’s Hostage: The Bachar Tapes subtly undermines its documentary veracity, while laying claim to a political truth: the silencing of Lebanese voices during the ’80s Beirut hostage crisis. And Matt McCormick’s The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal, a send-up of art criticism and urban planning, and Michael Goedecke and Eric Saks’s Excerpt From a Video Installation: Dust, a collage of intercepted wireless phone conversations, are seemingly off-handed but exceptionally intelligent forays into American vernacular art.


Up Beat

Reaching back to the heroic age, the NYUFF presents two artifacts Alfred Leslie made in the aftermath of Pull My Daisy— the beats-at-home movie by Leslie, Robert Frank, and Jack Kerouac that helped jump-start the whole shebang. The Last Clean Shirt (1964) infuriated audiences by repeating three times, with subtle variations, the same long tracking shot (a woman speaking fake Swedish as she’s piloted in a convertible down Cooper Square and up Third Avenue). The negative of this film-object— which begs comparison with Andy Warhol and Michael Snow— was lost for years. It’s showing on March 12 at the Anthology with a fragment from the 8mm epic consumed by the fire that gutted Leslie’s studio in 1966. Birth of a Nation 1965, as Leslie has renamed it, is a tantalizing mélange of street scenes, Frank O’Hara subtitles, jazz, and art molls in their underwear, featuring Willem de Kooning grinning, Patrick Magee reading de Sade, and an orgy in disorienting close-up. At two hours it really might have changed history.