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directed by Stephen Silha, Eric Slade, Dawn Logsdon
USA 2013

 

BIG JOY is the story of James Broughton, a Modesto boy who grew up under a domineering mother who said that his birth was the "orgasmic highlight of her life" and appeared to hate him from that point on, especially after she caught him in one of her dresses. Fleeing to the Bay Area – where artistic expression had exploded after WWII – he developed an interest in poetry and filmmaking, making THE POTTED PSALM with avant-garde filmmaker Sidney Peterson and a few others before embarking on Maya Deren/Jean Cocteau-influenced MOTHER'S DAY on his own. He had a tumultuous relationship with future film critic, then-costume designer Pauline Kael that produced a child, before becoming very close to actor/playwright Kermit Sheets. Amidst McCarthy's persecution of homosexuals in the early fifties, Broughton and Sheets went overseas when four of his films had been accepted by the Edinburgh Film Festival. They stayed in Europe and traveled, during which Broughton would film THE PLEASURE GARDEN in 1953 which would play at Cannes where Cocteau would praise him as an "American who made a French film in England".

Returning to the San Francisco, he found himself an outsider – or rather, a precursor – to the Beat Movement which had taken hold during his absence, and in need of reinventing himself. Having broken up with Sheets, he went into Jungian psychoanalysis and became fascinated with the concept of the Androgyne and its concept of masculine and feminine parts of the individual psyche. He would end up getting married to "straighten himself out" at the encouragement of his analyst as well as filmmaker Stan Brakhage. During this period, he embraced Zen philosophy by way of British philosopher Alan Watts who "married" both Broughton and his wife. Broughton also started teaching filmmaking classes at the San Francisco Art Institute, appearing in his student films and directing THE BED which became a counterculture success. During this period, he would begin a relationship with student Joel Singer – who produced the film, partially funded through Kickstarter – with whom he would spend the rest of his days, finding and embracing his own joy and encouraging others to "follow your own weird." The narrative is interspersed with the stories of his collaborators and students – including dancer/choreographer Anna Halperin, writer Armistead Maupin, and filmmakers George Kuchar and Sharon Wood – his former wife (as well as Pauline Kael via archival recordings) and son, as well as poets, dancers, performance artists, and filmmakers that he has subsequently inspired.

Eric Cotenas

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Theatrical Release: 9 March 2013 (USA)

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DVD Review: Alive Mind / Kino Lorber - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

Alive Mind / Kino Lorber

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:21:12
Video

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.12 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Alive Mind / Kino Lorber

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Deleted Scenes (16:9; 27:49)
• Extra Interviews and Stories (16:9; 4:04)
• Keith Hennessey Presentation (16:9; 2:26)
• Poetry Readings (16:9; 11:47)
• Theatrical Trailer (16:9; 2:23)
• 1971 short film 'The Golden Positions' (4:3; 2:20)
• DVD-ROM: Poetry from Big Joy (.pdf)

DVD Release Date: June 3rd, 2014
Amaray

Chapters 10

 

Comments

Kino's progressive, anamorphic transfer is more than serviceable given the patchwork of new and archival video interviews and film clips, while the Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track's rendering of talking heads, narration, and music is more consistent. Deleted scenes consist mainly of longer versions of "Explainer" Keith Hennessy's contextual lectures (performance pieces in themselves) which are more helpful than what is left in the film for those of us who didn't live during this period. There are also some clips and additional discussion of Broughton's film DREAMWOOD, curiously left out of the final cut since it's apparently a major work (although it may have been considered extraneous to the documentary's narrative.)

 

The extra interviews section is actually a five minute account of a visit to Broughton's grave by some of his friends and fans, while the Keith Hennessy presentation featurette shows some of his performance pieces as he explains how they were inspired by Broughton. The poetry readings sections features various interviewees reciting Broughton's poetry (some of which is also available in a .pdf file), and the disc also includes one of Broughton's short films "The Golden Positions" from 1971 interspersed with some commentary by some of the surviving participants.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

Distribution

Alive Mind / Kino Lorber

Region 0 - NTSC

 




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