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Altair

Lewis Klahr

USA, 1999
8 minutes, Colour, Opt., 4:3
Original format: 16mm film
Available formats: 16mm

Altair offers a cutout animation version of color film noir. The images were culled from six, late forties issues of Cosmopolitan magazine and set to an almost 4 minute segment of Stravinsky’s “Firebird” (looped twice) to create a sinister, perfumed world. As in my 1988 visit to this genre In The Month of Crickets the narrative is highly smudged leaving legible only the larger signposts of the female protagonists story. The viewer is encouraged to speculate on the nature and details of the woman’s battle with large, malevolent societal forces and her descent into an alcoholic swoon. However, it is important to note that all of the above was only discovered on the editing table. What motivated me during the shooting of this film, which was largely improvisatory, was a fascination with the color blue and some ineffable association it has for me with both California and what I imagined to be the great sense of relieved openness of the post war 1940’s.
Altair received much attention when it was included in both the 1995 Whitney Biennial and the New York Film Festival. It has been purchased by New York’s Museum of Modern Art for their permanent collection. – Lewis Klahr
“Lewis Klahr’s gorgeous animation Altair evokes the pleasures and dangers of film noir.” – Amy Taubin, The Village Voice
“Checking out the Biennial top to bottom, I stuck my head in the film-and-video gallery midway through Lewis Klahr’s Altair, a noirish collage animation evoking the heavy hand of fate with giant playing cards and marcelled blonds clipped from 1950-ish magazines. Klahr’s films (his magnum opus, The Pharoah’s Belt, is also in the show) have so much presence as ‘visual art’ that I wished they could have their own screening booth, right next to Christian Schumann’s paintings. Of the 35 film or video makers in the Biennial, only a dozen would hold up to such scrutiny.” — Amy Taubin,The Village Voice on the 1995 Whitney Museum’s Biennial of American Art.

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