James Broughton  

A playful, joyous, bisexual poet and experimental film-maker from San Francisco who worked with Sydney Peterson and Stan Brakhage. His short movies are not marked by heavy pretensions or formalism but only experimental film-poetry, romance, and playful visuals which slowly grow in their hippy-esque outlook and approach. This makes his experiments fun but also a little too childishly romantic, quaint and blithe, with a whimsical love for life. Recurring themes include love, joy, eternal children, statues, multiple lovers, dance, and gardens. Later movies get lost in eroticism, worship of the human body, hippy/zen philosophies and the joy of nature, Broughton pioneering the use of explicit nudity in art-film and often exploring and worshipping his own body, even making an absurd short that recites poetry to the sight of a growing erection. Included here are only the unusual or outstanding shorts in his repertoire. Died in 1999.

Of Some Interest

Bed, The  
A surreal short depicting life revolving around a bed. The bed rolls down the mountain, innocent nude lovers appear, the tempter/Pan plays a saxophone, a snake slithers on the bed, a mother prepares the bed, other rituals are performed, a baby appears, a lizard comes out of a man's mouth, and then a whole slew of varied and symbolic characters sleep in it, usually naked, often making love or participating in various pleasures and playing odd games as the sex games grow in their kinkiness, until, eventually, people get sick and die on the bed. A poetic, erotic homage to an important piece of furniture.

Broughton's most surreal, abstract, dreamlike and bizarre movie. A man plagued by an industrial, modern world hates what he has become, has visions of a strange woman and goes on some kind of quest on an island where he encounters all kinds of tests, tribulations and adventures. This includes naughty nuns, materialism in the form of a man in front of a dresser with drawers full of pigeons which he promptly axes, a swarm of aggressive naked children, naked river nymphs, a leather-clad dominatrix, an alternate version of himself, what may be a succubus helped by masked men, and various other odds and ends, until he makes love to nature and defecates on her. Dream-like super-impositions, cinematography and sound add to this hippy-esque and symbolic fantasy-cum-parable.

Mother's Day  
Broughton's mother-complex comes out in subtle ways in this experimental short homage to mothers who want everything to be lovely and proper. People and objects here are interchangeable, representing their eternal nature, and his father (who died early) is only a stern but friendly and lively face in a picture frame. His mother picked him out of scores of suitors you see, all bearing gifts but arriving empty handed. The rest of the short consists of grown adults posing as children, playing various strange games, some sexually suggestive and curious, with mother(s) standing sternly willing them to be lovely ladies and gentlemen. Because, you see, eternal and interchangeable hats and rituals are important...

Potted Psalm, The  
See Sydney Peterson


Pleasure Garden, The  
A slightly surreal fantasy so childish it is fit only for very young children. A bunch of stereotypes prance, sing, dance and pose in a garden in search of happiness. There's a tortured artist, stuck-up bourgeoisie, innocent young women, a stern mother, a drawling cowboy, gay men wrestling in the nude, a hunter, etc. while a puritan runs around making absurd rules and forbidding everyone to do things. Along comes a fairy/cupid of a big woman who pairs them off into romantic couples and makes battle with the dark humans who want to replace the garden with a cemetery and lock up all of the bohemians, leading to a literal tug of war.

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents