News from the Archive

O Panama

James Benning, Burt Barr
USA 1985
28 min

Only once did the artistic trajectories of James Benning and Burt Barr intersect, but that they did with a Bang!, as O PANAMA is a gem that makes both their oeuvres shine a bit more brightly. In someways, this visit with a deliriously ill man is closer to Barr’s work at the time, like THE WOMAN NEXT DOOR (1984) or THE DOGS (1989), both urban alienation cacophonies done in a very rigorous, reduced style (Barr is now remembered mainly for his minimalist video works showing e. g. an ice cube melting …); then again: O PANAMA shares many a concern with Benning’s early adventures in experimental narrative like HONEYLANE ROAD (1973), 8 1/2x11 (1974) or 11x14 (1977), making this into something like a coda of a development discarded. From nowadays perspective, the probably most intriguing aspect of this exercise was the choice of actor to carry this one-manshow: a young Willem Dafoe in full Wooster Group furor just at the cusp of becoming a Hollywood star with STREETS OF FIRE (1984; Walter Hill), TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. (1985; William Friedkin) and PLATOON (1986; Oliver Stone). Which is to say that O PANAMA contains all of mid-1980s US moving image art – nothing less. (Olaf Möller)

In the presence of James Benning.

27. 10., 18.30 h, Filmmuseum
With 11X14
28. 10., 16 h, Filmmuseum

  • Willem Dafoe - Pier Paolo Pasolini
  • Sebastian Moore Benefield
  • Joseph Gurley
  • Thomas Gurley
  • based on three short stories by Burt Barr
Susan Dowling, New Television Workshop, WGBH
James Benning
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