Lawrence F. Brose


De Profundis
A film by Lawrence Brose
Music: Frederic Rzewski, with additional
compositions by Lawrence Brose
and Douglas Cohen
U.S.A., 1997, 65 minutes

De Profundis is a three part, hand/alternative-processed experimental film
based on Oscar Wilde's prison letter De Profundis. Incorporating home movies
from the 1920's and early gay male erotica along with images from Radical
Faerie gatherings, queer pagan rituals, drag performances and images of
confinement, this 65 minute film sets up a haunting investigation of
queerness, masculinity, history and sexuality. These images are buttressed
against a soundtrack composed of Wilde's aphorisms, a voice and piano setting
of Wilde's prison letter, and multi-tracked interviews with a diverse group
of contemporary gay men.

"The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it." - Oscar Wilde

If film no longer existed, De Profundis gives the impression that Lawrence
Brose is certainly capable of reinventing it. Oddly enough, Brose would do
so by stripping film down to visual components that are reassembled only as
they are knitted to each other at their breaking points. Redacted.

But one must resist the impulse to talk only of how Brose - with controlled
image manipulation and extremely experimental hand-processing techniques -
has produced in De Profundis a film united by stress and diaphanous. De
Profundis is more than an unconventional approach to filmmaking, though it
would be a visual tour-de-force if it were only that. Taking its cue from
Oscar Wilde, De Profundis holds up a mirror to gay sexuality and plumbs the
tensions reflected there.

Meshing images culled from home movies, drag performances, Radical Faerie
gatherings, and vintage gay erotica with a piano soundtrack scored from
Wilde's prison letter and a voice composition fashioned from the poet's
aphorisms, Brose makes film itself into the protagonist of his exploration.
With images and sounds constantly decaying and shifting and contaminating
each other, film becomes a metaphor of the transforming self that Wilde
prized for corrupting a sense of sexual normalcy. De Profundis embraces
Wildesque deviance and cautions that the desire for normalization prevalent
among contemporary gays threatens to contain it.

Serenity in sophistication is a triumph - like the deviance of De Profundis,
which, achieved in an age too terrified to be deviant, lies in the film's
unflinching honesty and terrifying beauty.

- John Palattella

John Palattella is an editor at Lingua Franca in NY City


De Profundis is the latest in a series of visually and intellectually complex
works by Lawrence Brose... In place of narrative, it offers coherence; in
place of hummable melody, its audio track rewards close listening with
shifting layers of meaning. And I do mean rewards. Brose requires his
audience to meet him far more than halfway, but the result is worth the trip,
if together they wind up breaking new ground. - Ron Ehmke, The Buffalo News.

Lawrence Brose's dense but haunting De Profundis is inspired by and infused
with Oscar Wilde texts. Brose still sees sound as a vital element of cinema;
dissecting his tracks is a reward all its own. - Mark J. Huisman, Village

A strong cautionary message against our assimilation and "normalization."
- Andrew Currie, Capital XTRA!, Ottawa

One of the most important films of the year... MIX -97

The film De Profundis, like the original prison letter, is wildly
self-indulgent. Unlike the prison letter, it is neither interesting nor
inspiring. The visual aspects of the film could have been appealing. Brose
has taken early gay erotica, home movies, and laughable Radical Faerie
gatherings and manipulated them to within an inch of our lives. The results
are often striking, if mindnumbingly repetitive. Perhaps the author was
attempting to replicate the soul-grinding routines of imprisonment. If so,
he has succeeded. - ART fag (Andrew Griffin) Capital XTRA!, Ottawa

In his brilliant independent film De Profundis, Lawrence Brose uses Wilde's
final testament as the centerpiece to a symbolic portrait of deliberate
sexual transgression. ... More than anything, this film is about sound and
imagery, how they can be manipulated, mixed, looped, even mutilated with
startling results. For those used to narrative-based films and documentaries
(as we all are), De Profundis will be a bit discincerting and perhaps
difficult to watch at first. It is an immersion experience and demands full
commitment from the eyes, ears, and brain. ...As a long time fan of
experimental film and new music, I was entirely enthralled by Brose's
masterly combination of the two genres. - Elizabeth Licata, ARTVOICE, Buffalo

But by far one of the most accomplished and impressive films of MIX -97 was
Lawrence Brose's DE PROFUNDIS. 65 minutes of over-processed, abstracted
images of men washed in opalescent fashion colors, set to a rhythmic, looping
score of overlapping voices and text from Oscar Wilde, DE PROFUNDIS is a
rigorously structured investigation of queer identity at the end of the
millennium. - Ed Halter [director of the New York Underground Film Festival],

De Profundis is a terrific piece of work: using the words of Oscar Wilde and
manipulating hand-processed images to create something both sensual and
disturbing. This film looks and sounds like the sexual fantasy that creeps
into your head and takes you by surprise; it's the desire you didn't know you
had. I was aroused and upset all at once. - Matthew Kelty, Lesbian & Gay New

Brose's hand- and chemical processing mimics and exploits the effects of the
vintage film's deterioration, and like Ahwesh's (Color of Love) film the
result is sublime. Explosive colors and textures glorify the long-ago
illicit love scenes, with a defiance that matches Wilde's words. Indeed
Wilde's advocacy of perversion as an ethics and an aesthetic seems to
influence the films ethos of contamination: figures bleed into the surface
patina as a final voice-over whispers, "It is so easy to convert others -
that is why they think us dangerous."
- Laura U. Marks Loving a Disappearing Image Cinemas (forthcoming issue)


Contact Lawrence F. Brose at

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