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Second Time Around 

Wednesday, Oct 1 1997
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Markopoulos: Seconds in Eternity
Gregory Markopoulos, called by one critic "the American avant-garde cinema's supreme erotic poet," was an eccentric even by the exacting standards of the 1960s film underground. Ohio born, he started making 8mm movies at age 12. These miniatures, lasting only a few minutes, were based on novels by Brontë and Dickens and predicted the obsession with classicism that marked his mature films. At 18, already under the heady influence of von Sternberg and Cocteau, he was melding this classical bent with a daring formal innovation, the flash-cut, in a trilogy called Du Sang, de la Volupte, et de la Mort (1947-48; showing at the PFA Tuesday, Oct. 7, at 7:30 p.m.). Markopoulos' style and motifs appear in nascent form in early works like Swain (1950; showing at S.F. Cinematheque Sunday, Oct. 5, at 7:30 p.m.) and Flowers of Asphalt (1947-51; showing as part of the PFA's Oct. 7 program). The hypnotic repetitions, disjointed narratives based on ancient Roman and Greek sources, mysterious characters pursuing something never glimpsed, and celebration of the textures of the male body find full expression in his peak period of the 1960s, with dazzling films like Twice a Man (1963; also Oct. 5 at the Cinematheque) and The Illiac Passion (1964-67; showing at the PFA Thursday, Oct. 9, at 7:30 p.m.). Economic hardship drove his art as much as aesthetics, and his inventive use of superimpositions, double exposures, and "strobe-editing" -- much of it created within the camera -- was arguably inspired by his perpetual poverty. Markopoulos was highly regarded in limited circles and became a mentor to younger filmmakers, but eventually he and his lover, Robert Beavers, withdrew permanently to Greece. There he continued to make films, some of which he showed in an open field to various startled peasants and curious journalists. This once-influential auteur tried to erase himself from film history by refusing interviews, disallowing screenings, and demanding the excision of already printed reviews of his work from books that were being reprinted. He died of lymphoma in 1992; this long-overdue retrospective (the first on the West Coast in 30 years) is welcome evidence of his failure to disappear. Robert Beavers appears at the Oct. 5 Cinematheque screening.

-- Gary Morris

"Markopoulos: Seconds in Eternity" runs at the Pacific Film Archive, 2625 Durant (at College) in Berkeley, on Tuesdays in October. Tickets are $5.50, 1.50 for an additional feature. Call (510) 642-1124. A companion series from the S.F. Cinematheque runs at the S.F. Art Institute, 800 Chestnut (at Jones), on Sundays in October (except Oct. 26). Tickets are $7; call 558-8129 for more information. For a complete schedule, See Reps. Etc. on this page.

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Gary Morris

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