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Awakening the Eye

Robert Frank’s American Cinema

2015
Author:

George Kouvaros

Awakening the Eye

A long overdue critical study of the work of a legendary American photographer and filmmaker

By examining photographer Robert Frank’s daring and unconventional work as a filmmaker, George Kouvaros develops a model of cross-media history in which photography, film, and video are complicit in the search for fresh forms of visual expression.

While showing great assurance in talking about Robert Frank’s still photography, George Kouvaros not only gives the films due consideration on their own terms, but also in the way they reflected Frank’s overall art.

Stephen Brooke, York University

Until now, celebrated photographer Robert Frank’s daring and unconventional work as a filmmaker has not been awarded the critical notice it deserves. In this timely volume, George Kouvaros surveys Frank’s films and videos and places them in the larger context of experimentation in American art and literature since World War II.

Born in 1924, Frank emigrated from Switzerland to the United States in 1947 and quickly made his mark as a photojournalist. A 1955 Guggenheim Foundation fellowship allowed him to travel across the country, photographing aspects of American life that had previously received little attention. The resulting book, The Americans, with an Introduction by Jack Kerouac, is generally considered a landmark in the history of postwar photography. During the same period, Frank befriended other artists and writers, among them Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, and Gregory Corso, all of whom are featured in his first film, Pull My Daisy, which is narrated by Kerouac. This film set the terms for a new era of experimental filmmaking.

By examining Frank’s films and videos, including Pull My Daisy, Me and My Brother, and Cocksucker Blues, in the framework of his more widely recognized photographic achievements, Kouvaros develops a model of cross-media history in which photography, film, and video are complicit in the search for fresh forms of visual expression. Awakening the Eye is an insightful, compelling, and, at times, moving account of Frank’s determination to forge a personal connection between the circumstances of his life and the media in which he works.

Awakening the Eye

George Kouvaros is professor of film studies at the University of New South Wales, Australia. He is the author of Famous Faces Yet Not Themselves: “The Misfits” and Icons of Postwar America (Minnesota, 2010) and Where Does It Happen? John Cassavetes and Cinema at the Breaking Point (Minnesota, 2004).

Awakening the Eye

While showing great assurance in talking about Robert Frank’s still photography, George Kouvaros not only gives the films due consideration on their own terms, but also in the way they reflected Frank’s overall art.

Stephen Brooke, York University

This book is a must read for those interested in Frank or avant-garde cinema.

CHOICE

Awakening the Eye

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Awakening the Eye
1. “Time and How to Note It Down”: Pull My Daisy
2. He’s Not There: Me and My Brother, One Hour
3. “A Better Way to Live”: Conversations in Vermont, Liferaft Earth, About Me: A Musical, Cocksucker Blues
4. “The Fire of Pain”: Life Dances On . . . , Home Improvements, The Present
5. Fragments Shored against My Ruins: Moving Pictures, True Story
Coda. The Circle: Paper Route
Notes
Index