Chronicles: Family Diaries I


Reviewed by: Chris

Chronicles: Family Diaries
"This is the random relaxation of people who normally ‘perform’ if a camera is in the vicinity."

The overall impression created by this footage is a giant mess. But it is the gems hidden in the mess that make it important.

Basically you have a bunch of people hanging out and sounding off. Someone (Michael Auder) seems to be holding a video camera which records it all with very low quality sound and vision. Occasionally subtitles have been added to make it more comprehensible, but some of these are only barely readable.

But the film is of great interest to researchers and film enthusiasts. Especially to people interested in the work of Shirley Clarke.

Amongst the people featured in this late night free-for-all are Oscar winning experimental filmmaker and video pioneer Clarke, and Brigid Berlin (also known as Brigid Polk), artist and leading socialite of Warhol fame. You may have seen her in Warhol’s Chelsea Girls or some of John Waters’ films. Then there are Robert Mapplethorpe, leading cult photographer (his photo of Warhol sold for a small fortune), and actor-director Roscoe Lee Browne.

The conversations are rambling. Clarke reminisces in quite an illuminating way over her work in Agnes Varda’s film Lions Love (...and Lies). It is a very different from the formal session she does in Rome Burns: A Portrait of Shirley Clarke, when she answers questions from a professional interviewer.

Among the other more challenging late-night topics is: if a star needs drugs to get through a scene, who pays? It is like a moving postcard from another era. You keep watching, entranced by the stories (and the telling), but eventually wondering, are they just spraffing?

Brigid gives a long explanation of how she avoids looking fat when she’s getting into to bed to get fucked (her phrase). Then there’s a disconnected story of a get rich scheme, penguins, anchovies and 20,000 used bowling balls. If you’ve ever spent an all-nighter with people off their faces talking entertainingly, you get the picture. This is the random relaxation of people who normally ‘perform’ if a camera is in the vicinity. Perhaps you will have watched (Warhol’s) Velvet Underground And Nico, wondering if they will get a song together? Same vibe. Keep hoping.

But you’ve never spent a night with people like this.

Reviewed on: 08 Jul 2008
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Director Shirley Clarke talks about her work.

Director: Michael Auder

Starring: Shirley Clarke, Brigid Berlin, Roscoe Lee Browne, Robert Mapplethorpe

Year: 1970

Runtime: 46 minutes

Country: US


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