PANORAMA: NOTE TO PATTI BY SAUL LEVINE

PANORAMA: NOTE TO PATTI BY SAUL LEVINE

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By Sarah Nichols

In his essay on Saul Levine, critic P. Adams Sitney writes that “…Levine has been one of the most underrated filmmakers in the American avant-garde cinema throughout his more than his forty year career” (1). Note to Patti almost bears this out: its title looks like it was made with Scotch tape or Wite out painted directly onto the film; a quick glance and we see a suburb digging out from a blizzard; day passes into night and back again, a city is seen from railroad tracks.

But there are other things at work, too. As I watched, I thought about my almost complete lack of education in avant-garde film. I was taught well, and I had brilliant mentors. But what I saw was, in, large part, the Western Canon. I frequently tell people that I had to leave many things behind when I began to study film seriously: my distaste for violence on the screen, to think of just one example. When I approach an avant-garde film, I find that my taste is too conventional for it; or I feel that my taste is too conventional for it. But an internal shift as quiet as this film is going on.

The quiet, might be deceptive, however. In almost seven minutes of film, Levine manages approximately 400 splices (2). There are scratches on the film. We keep returning to the same images: trees and birds, someone’s children, playing in the heavy snow, probably in a day off from school, seen building a snowman and sledding down a hill. Perhaps one of these children is Patti; we’re never told. The film gathers a rhythm around itself, as a poem does. This is Levine’s poem of winter.

Notes:

  1. Saullevine.com/artwork/858175_Taking_Note_P_Adams_Sitney_on_the_the_films_html  (accessed June 27, 2012)
  2. Dinca.org/ review-of-a-note-to-pati-1969-by-saul-levine/5235 (Accessed on June 27, 2012)

Director: Saul Levine
1969
Silent, Color
6min

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