New Beginnings is a recurring curatorial endeavor oriented to the presentation of historic works of international artist-made cinema in the contemporary context. This seasonal series intends to open space for new cinematic encounters, revive interest in forgotten (or not forgotten) classics, to problematize canons through the unearthing of unsung cinematic oddities, to provide fresh insights to well-known works, and to offer opportunities for guest curatorial input and experiment. Please send hot tips and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Beginnings Fall 2018 presents The Hart of London (1970), Canadian painter/poet/filmmaker Jack Chambers’ cinematic magnum opus, presented in its first Bay Area screening in nearly two decades. Spinning outward from scenes of generational life in the semi-rural community of London, Ontario, The Hart of London interweaves striking—and at times disturbing—scenes of birth, death and religious ritual with extensive regional newsreel footage and lyrical abstraction to present a complex and deeply conflicted allegory of a fallen humanity spiritually at odds with the natural world. (Steve Polta)
[The Hart of London] represents the apogee of the work that he had pursued throughout the 1960s, with an eye to death gained in his Spanish conversion [to Roman Catholicism; Chambers lived in Spain c. 1953–61], and in its use of film time and sequence, with its calculated editing and visible roughness. Chambers had known terror in Spain, embodied in the predators that stalked the suffering Picasso-like figures of his paintings of the late 1950s. They were the specters of illness, poverty and indifference. Such beasts gave form to the stalking menace of modern convenience and complacency that Chambers had seen first in provincial London’s resigned imitation of life. In the mid-1960s, he spoke out against the grave effects of chemical warfare in Vietnam and the inhuman practices of the American armed forces. In an act of environmental morality, he confronted the compromises dealt to the land by sophisticated agricultural practices and aspirations toward technological mastery. These moral stances would become urgent as he assumed his role as a father. The grief and rage of Chambers’ film came from something greater than his own doom, more encompassing even than the individual causes of his grief. His overarching concern was with the denigration of life and of perception, and the aim of The Hart of London was not merely to illustrate suffering, but to redeem perception through new and old myths. It joined a haunting vision of his life, his perceptions and his rituals, to an anonymous, unconscious record of his hometown, a stage for paradise and inferno. (Stephen Broomer: Codes for North—Foundation of the Canadian Avant-Garde film)