Chromo Sud | 1968
Despite an entire filmography of only three experimental short films, Étienne O’Leary’s work is a vibrant, majestic reflection of late 60s youth culture and avant-garde film techniques, including some pioneering editing tricks that still seem fresh and invigorating today.
A 60s French dandy by way of Montreal, O’Leary became intoxicated by the sights and sounds of bohemia and formed an alliance with the Zanzibar Group (his films are populated by French underground luminaries like Pierre Clementi, Jean-Pierre Bouyxou, and Michel Auder). A student of the New York underground and surrealism, O’Leary uses a variety of notebook-style shooting, image layering, and fast cutting to capture the era’s heady decadence and political possibilities. Adding to the trippy visuals, O’Leary composed his own singular soundtracks with a myriad of found instruments and tape recorders, a new music genre in and of themselves.
O’Leary’s shorts were shown at various European galleries and happennings (French artist Jean-Jacques Lebel was a big champion of his work), but since the late 60s remained lost until they were recently rediscovered in the vaults of the Cinémathèque québécoise. A product of his time in the best possible way, O’Leary’s films are the cosmic nexus aligning Warhol’s Factory, Jonas Mekas’s home-movie poetics, and Kenneth Anger’s pop subversion. - spectacletheather
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