Willard Maas' Image in the Snow


Image in the Snow
Willard Maas (no date; 1950's, 29 min., black & white sound)

In striking contrast to the unchanging feel of Target Rock1 stands Image in the Snow. In the human sphere, change is swift and irresolute. Who could imagine making such a film today? It takes us to a time before alternative cultures, a time of industrial monoculture when gays were sent to prison or hospitals. In such a world, sanity was sought in a willful act of creating myths. A body of filmmakers of the time used their cameras to transform dreary ghetto-scapes into places beyond the reach of mundane existence.

But, how like city children at play these characters seem! You could almost imagine them saying, "You be the Princess and I'll be the Hero." They are more related to the urchins of the Agee-Levitt In the Street than to personages divine. (The "poetic" narrator, on the other hand, bears a resemblance to the declamatory style of Katharine Hepburn, the mother, in Suddenly Last Summer.) It is a fragile, see-thru realm of innocents at play.

The truly fantastic is to be seen in the real-world background: the vanished world of Brooklyn in the 50s. The nineteenth century warehouses, the Myrtle Ave. "El," the vast cemeteries (which, indeed, you took the El to visit) all are well-chosen and photographed with a poetic eye.

Pathos wins out as the hero flees the sadness of his real mother for the stone, frigid hoped-for redemption of ideal, mythic parents at Mount Olivet Cemetery. Prayers descend into moans for help.

Jerome Hiler
March 2001

1. Jerome Hiler's DVD/film which showed on the same program. These program notes are from the San Francisco Cinematheque show of March 4, 2001, which featured Target Rock and three films by Willard Maas: The Mechanics of Love (7 mins.), Geography of the Body (7 mins.), and Image in the Snow. Programmed by Jerome Hiler.

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