A Tribute to Curtis Harrington (1926-2007)
Prior editions of this festival have paid tribute in memoriam to experimental artists Stan Brakhage (TFF 2004), Alexander Hammid (TFF 2005), and Nam June Paik (TFF 2006). This program celebrates Curtis Harrington (1926-2007), a versatile director whose career ranged from making experimental films in the 1940s and 1950s to horror films in the 1960s and 1970s. He directed episodes of popular television series (including Dynasty) in the 1980s and completed his final short film, Usher (based on the Edgar Allan Poe classic), in 2004.
Picnic (1948, 22 min.), his rarely screened short that opens this program, was a cinematic exercise in psychodrama and surrealism, highly influenced by Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon (1943).
Harrington's debut feature, Night Tide (1963), stars a youthful Dennis Hopper in his first leading role, as a sailor who falls in love. (Harrington had met Hopper years earlier in a Los Angeles coffee shop that was showing his short experimental films.) In Night Tide, set in a seaside amusement park in Venice, Harrington blends a romantic mystery story with elements of film noir and the horror genre. The characters, locations, motifs, and themes present in Harrington's Picnic—an amorous couple, parental authority, the seaside locale, the presence of sea monsters, and death—are transformed by Harrington in Night Tide from an experimental vision into a suspenseful narrative. The location photography by Vilis Lapenieks, the studio cinematography by Floyd Crosby (High Noon), and the jazzy, melodic score by David Raksin (Laura) all enrich the brooding atmosphere of the film.
– Jon Gartenberg