‘One of the most extraordinary American experimental filmmakers of the 20th century, Gregory Markopoulos (1928-1992) also remains one of its most elusive. For more than a decade before his death, Markopoulos—who had emigrated to Europe in 1967, withdrawn his films from circulation, and asked that a chapter on his work be removed from P. Adams Sitney’s Visionary Film—had been disassembling many of his most celebrated films and reworking them, along with some 55 previously unscreened new films, into a final magnum opus, Eniaios, a silent, 80-hour-long epic arranged in 22 cycles. Left unprinted when Markopoulos died, Eniaios (a term evoking unity and oneness, yet a film in which, separated always by lengths of leader, no two images “touch”) is still today being slowly processed and projected for the faithful once every four years at the outdoor theater known as the Temenos—a place “cut off” from the everyday and reserved for contemplations of divinity—established by Markopoulos and his partner, the filmmaker Robert Beavers, in the mountain village of Lyssaraia in Greece. Only eight of the 22 cycles, each running between three and five hours, have been screened thus far.
‘“I propose a new narrative form through the fusion of the classic montage technique with a more abstract system,” wrote the filmmaker in 1963, in one of the essays collected in Mark Webber’s invaluable Film as Film: The Collected Writings of Gregory J. Markopoulos (The Visible Press, 2014). “This system involves the use of short film phrases which evoke thought-images. Each film phrase is composed of certain select frames that are similar to the harmonic units found in musical composition.” Markopoulos spent much of his career focused on various methods for editing and interrelating “short film phrases” and individual compositions (of often inanimate objects, emptied rooms, and unpopulated landscapes) in elaborate patterns, and finally on the effects of individual frames as they puncture and punctuate passages of darkness—like flashes in a night sky, or musical notes suddenly piercing silence. Eniaios is the complex culmination of this life’s work, but aspects of its nascent form can be glimpsed in 1968’s Gammelion, a 54-minute portrait of the much-storied castle of Roccasinibalda in Rieti, Italy, made from only six minutes of photographed footage: each image fleetingly appears and reappears, interwoven in a thousand slow fades and myriad combinations with lengthy passages of black and clear leader.
‘Shortly before relocating to Europe, Markopoulos had also developed a personalized method for composing and editing certain films entirely in-camera. In the eventually restored Markopoulos chapter of Visionary Film, Sitney (still the filmmaker’s greatest admirer and exegete, and Artforum’s Temenos correspondent) explains: “Carefully watching the frame-counter on his camera, [Markopoulos] would expose a number of takes of one image interspersed with blackness, achieved by covering the lens with his hands or the lens cap for as long as he wanted, or by using the automatic fading mechanism of his Bolex camera, all with different nuances. He would then rewind the film and expose the units of the next view, detail, or object.” Both the lush 1966 apartment portrait Ming Green and 1967’s Bliss, a study of a Byzantine church on the Greek island of Hydra, utilized this technique, the cumulative effect of which finds beautifully composed, naturally lit images appearing from and disappearing into darkness, often superimposed upon one another in extremely specific ways—like panes of illuminated vapour in a chimerical piece of leaded glass.
‘Markopoulos’ brilliance as a composer with light may owe a debt to his studies with Josef von Sternberg while a student at USC, but like so much related to the filmmaker’s immense cinematic legacy, speculation only goes so far. Fortunately, Webber and Beavers occasionally travel with and exhibit the films in their original forms: I caught Bliss and Gammelion earlier this year courtesy of Los Angeles Filmforum and Redcat. Beyond that, well…there’s always Lyssaraia.’ — Chuck Stephens
Gregory J. Markopolous @ IMDb
Film as Film: The Cinema of Gregory Markopoulos
A Pilgrimage to the Peloponnese: Gregory Markopoulos, Eniaios and the Temenos
Gregory J. Markopoulos @ Experimental Cinema
STAN BRAKHAGE ON GREGORY MARKOPOULOS & JIM DAVIS
Gregory Markopoulos @ Mark Webber
Gregory J. Markopoulos and the Cantrills
THE WRITINGS OF GREGORY J. MARKOPOULOS
Like Being in a Rainbow: Gregory Markopoulos and the Temenos
Daily Briefing. Bill Morrison, Winsor McCay, Gregory Markopoulos
ROBERT TODD / To Gregory Markopoulos
Queer & Now & Then: 1949
GM @ Making Light of It
The Song of the Poet ; on Gregory J. Markopoulos
Film Grows Unseen: Gregory Markopoulos, Robert Beavers, and the Tectonics of Film Editing
Seconds in Eternity: Experimental Film Master Gregory Markopoulos
Gregory Markopoulos & Robert Beavers in 1987
“Andy Warhol, Gregory Markopoulos et Cinématon au Jeu de Paume” (2014) by Gérard Courant
Interview with Robert Beavers
We believe that some films such as Christmas U.S.A., Eldora, Serenity, The Divine Damnation, Gammelion, Index – Hans Richter, Hagiographia or Moment are not preserved in The Temenos Archive. Is this true? Is a priority on the part of The Temenos that all Markopoulos’s film copies could be found there – apart from other places?
Christmas U.S.A. and Eldora have recently been preserved through new internegatives made by Temenos Archive. Serenity is lost for the time being. The single existing copy of The Divine Damnation rests in Anthology Film Archives. Gammelion has been preserved by Österreichisches Filmmuseum. And the only existing copy of Index – Hans Richter is in the Österreichisches Filmmuseum. There are two versions of Hagiographia; the splices in the first version were defective and turned magenta. One copy of this version is in Anthology Film Archives and the second version was refilmed and is the main film in Eniaios V. Moment, if I remember correctly, is a portrait of Barbara Hepworth, and the only existing copy is in the Österreichisches Filmmuseum.
In some cases (Alph, Doldertal 7, Saint Acteon, 35, boulevard General Koenig) the original reversal film is deposited in The Temenos Archive. Will you try at any point to restore them?
Yes, we hope to restore a number of these films. Three of the four film titles that you mention were incorporated into Eniaios.
What does Sitney mean when he talks about the “reediting of his entire corpus”? What did this reediting involved? What is exactly Eniaios?
The creation of Eniaios was a process that began by Markopoulos making corrections in some of his earliest films, then he came to the decision to discard the existing soundtracks; and he had conceived the idea of the Temenos and was continuing to produce new films that he edited but chose not to print. At some point in the mid-70’s -I have a clearer sense of the place, Champéry, than of the year- he began the process of organizing all of the existing films into a new form, and finally reached the interwoven composition of Eniaios, in which reels of different films are composed into the unit of each “cycle” or “film order”. Each of these multi-reel compositions has its own individual title and there is a progression from the first to the 22nd cycle. The first five are listed in our Temenos 2008 program and the next three will be listed in our new one.
In this sense, what do these “about one hundred films” involve?
They are the summation of Markopoulos’s filmmaking and give it a unified form. Other qualities that are in his earlier work may be lost, but there is a remarkable gain.
Is it true that it would take more than eighty hours to project Eniaios?
I cannot give you an exact length in minutes for Eniaios. It has 167 reels and at some point I must have reached an approximate calculation of 80 hours, but I could be mistaken…
Is it true that you started to rework your films until arranging in three cycles My Hand Outstretched, continuing in a certain sense the example of Markopoulos with Eniaios?
My decision to re-edit many of my films also began with the intention to “correct” some of my earliest films, but I kept them in chronological order and compressed the length of these early films often to half their original length, and I devoted a number of years to editing new sound tracks. I cannot describe the complex back and forth of inspiration and conflict that existed; most of my filmmaking has been in dialogue with Markopoulos, and this continues to some degree although more indirectly.
Did you work in parallel on these projects?
How were those working days?
Usually quiet. Often interspersed with crises related to lack of funds.
Did you use to edit in the same place?
Sometimes in connecting rooms.
Given the date which appears in the Temenos website, 1948-1990, should we understand that Markopoulos began “shooting symbolically” Eniaios in 1948?
No. This date means that the films incorporated into Eniaios date between 1947 and 1990. The initial decision about the form of Eniaios came in the 1970’s and it was often revised up until its completion in 1991.
1948 is the year in which Markopoulos finished his film Du sang, de la volupté et de la mort. Can we in any way understand that this is the first film he reworked at the beginning of the Eniaios project?
Du sang, de la volupté et de la mort is the earliest film incorporated into Eniaios, but it was not the first film that he edited for Eniaios. For a long while he was not certain whether he would include the trilogy1 in Eniaios. Then he found how he wanted to re-edit it and has placed the re-edited version in the first cycle of Eniaios.
Is there any kind of correspondence between the material we can see in each one of the first cycles of Eniaios and the chronology of his filmography?
Outside of the trilogy being in the first cycle, I can see no correspondence between the chronology of his filmmaking and the order of films in Eniaios.
An illustrative example: someone who knows well a film like Twice a Man, perhaps one of Markopoulos’s most seen works… What would he find of it in Eniaios?
There are four reels of images from Twice a Man in Eniaios, in the film orders IV, VIII, XV and XIX.
Do you think that, regarding the previous films, their previous “incarnations” have been “discarded”?
Not for me. I see them as two separate works. Markopoulos acted as if he thought they were discarded. He probably had to think that, but then at one point he said that it might have been a good idea, if we had made internegatives before he began editing Eniaios!
It’s been written that Eniaios could be thought as an “incomplete file” or a “ruin”. Do you agree with that?
Sometimes, when I am in Greece, or when I think about Hellenism and relate it to the fragile state of the Eniaios film originals, in which most of the tens of thousands of film splices need to be redone before the films can be printed, the thought of “ruin” takes on a special meaning. But I do not think that either terms describe this work correctly.
Could this “ruin” idea also be related with The Temenos environment in Greece?
When I think of the Temenos environment, I think of the generosity of Nature…
The black & white “frames” are present all over Eniaios? Is it true that they do not only respond to an structural program, but rather open themselves as a dream space?
Some films are edited using only lengths of black between the chosen images. The reels of The Illiac Passion for example. Other films have both black and transparent film between the images. I would say they have both a structural program and are a dream space.
In some films, Markopoulos overexposed or underexposed the frames or he made superpositions, all with the camera. Are these effects preserved in Eniaios?
Yes, these effects (overexposed or underexposed frames, superpositions) are preserved in Eniaios.
Why the so-called “dedication to Herakles”? And why is Eniaios cycle IV entitled Nefeli Photos? What does the title refers to?
The so-called dedication reel is of the archeological site, Pyra Heracleos. And the Eniaios IV cycle’s title Nefeli Photos refers to the light of the moon.
Is it true that Gammelion is the film that looks the most like Eniaios?
Gammelion is a very important step along the way.
Is it true that the shots normally last for a few seconds, and sometimes a single frame?
Frequently, a single frame.
What is left from the three axes of research of Markopoulos -interpretations of literature or mythological sources, portraits of individuals and studies of locations or architecture- in Eniaios? Have these axes disappeared or have them been reinforced?
All three thematic sources are present in almost each cycle.
At the editing of Eniaios, did Markopoulos go back to the rushes of all his previous films?
He went back to the films that he had already edited. Not all of them but most.
What was the difference between those sequences he had edited in the editing table and those others he had assembled in the camera?
This needs a more precise answer than I can give you. There is an organic quality resulting from the in-camera editing that results from filming within a single location. The way of filming with superimpositions meshes elements together to create new metaphors. It also possesses other rhythms.
Did Markopoulos conceive Temenos as the only possible place to project Eniaios or was he open to the possibility that the cycles were projected elsewhere?
The Temenos was conceived as the only place.
8 of Gregory Markopoulos’s 30 films
Christmas, U.S.A. (1949)
‘Gregory J. Markopoulos’ 1949 work, Christmas, USA is a trance film that pretends, at least, on the surface to be a film about the central figure’s homelife. At the beginning of this completely silent film (shown originally without musical accompaniment) we see a handsome male wanderer in an amusement park, “The Cavalcade of Worlds” wandering through the park through the various rides (a merry-go-round, a ferris wheel, etc), through the back alleys of freak shows, and past the dance and music halls of “Little Harlem.” At the same time, our young hero awakens, washing, putting on a fashionable bathrobe, and later shaving. He receives a phone call and speaks for some length. We observe another boy wandering, this time through a woods, dressed in a Japanese robe, lighting what appears to be a ritual lamp, while the boy on the phone continues to play with a letter opener and other nearby objects, which also appear, through Markopoulos’ editing, to be somewhat ritual in nature. Are these the same person, including the man we’ve seen meandering through the amusement park?’ — Douglas Messerli
the entire film
Twice a Man (1963)
‘Twice a Man re-invents the Greek myth of Hippolytus, killed after rejecting the advances of his stepmother Phaedra. The story is transposed, and deeply transformed, to 1960s New York. Here Paul, a contemporary Hippolytus, envisions fragments of the most relevant relationships in his life: his seductive mother, shown in both a younger and an older version, and his male lover, named the Artist-Physician and representing the creative self. With sharp, richly textured and sensuous colours, the images displaying thoughts and memories of the characters interweave in a brilliantly innovative montage, the point of reference always sinuously shifting from one persona to another and almost evoking an intertwining of identities.’ — Eleanora Pesci
the entire film
‘In March and April of 1966, Markopoulos created this filmic portrait of writers and artists from his New York circle, including Parker Tyler, W. H. Auden, Jasper Johns, Susan Sontag, Storm De Hirsch, Jonas Mekas, Allen Ginsberg, and George and Mike Kuchar, most observed in their homes or studios. Filmed in vibrant color, Galaxie pulses with life. It is a masterpiece of in-camera composition and editing, and stands as a vibrant response to Andy Warhol’s contemporary Screen Tests.’ — letterboxd
Ming Green (1966)
‘In early spring of 1966, in anticipation of his eventual departure from the Greenwich Village apartment in which he had been living for a number of years, [Markopoulos] filmed the revelatory seven-minute interior portrait Ming Green , titled for the deep spruce color of the apartment’s walls. Ming Green was edited entirely in-camera, and its precise rhythmic blossoming is based on overlapping dissolves and longer flashes, rather than single-frame clusters. The film’s complex harmonic structure, however — as well as its incorporation of often static, “single” images that may be comprised of more than one frame — echoes the montage techniques developed in Twice a Man (1963). Interweaving mementos with foliage, color, and light, Ming Green suggests the inextricability of past and present: despite its exquisite lightness, it could represent the passage of hours and days rather than minutes.’ — Kristin Jones
the entire film
The Illiac Passion (1967)
‘Throughout his life, Markopoulos remained closely connected to his heritage and made many works that connected with ancient Greek culture. The Illiac Passion, one of his most highly acclaimed films, is a visionary interpretation of ‘Prometheus Bound’ starring mythical beings from the 1960s underground. The cast includes Jack Smith, Taylor Mead, Beverly Grant, Gregory Battcock and Gerard Malanga, and Andy Warhol appears as Poseidon riding an exercise bike. The extraordinary soundtrack of this re-imagining of the classical realm features a fractured reading (by the filmmaker) of Henry Thoreau’s translation of the Aeschylus text and excerpts from Bartók’s Cantata Profana. Writing about this erotic odyssey, Markopoulos asserted that, “the players become but the molecules of the nude protagonist, gyrating and struggling, all in love, bound and unbound, from situation to situation in the vast sea of emotion.”’ — Mark Webber
(A)lter (A)ction (1968)
‘Videotape, black-and-white, sound; 65 minutes.’
‘Capturing both the history and decay of a chateau built for Wagner, Markopoulos builds a rhythm collage of images with contrasting depth – deep shots of forests overlayed with close ups of what could either be chipping paint or bark with a slow transition to the interior of this once private and secluded mini-palace. The images themselves can be frenetic and overwhelming, but by setting them to the tune of Beethoven they almost form a sort of dance. Markopoulos also interpolates focal points of light throughout the film, often forcing you as the viewer to recenter your attention for the next ‘scene.’ The light play he creates with the windows near the end is really beautiful, almost strobe-like.’ — Ryan Carroll
the entire film
‘Markopoulos’ monumental final film, the silent 16mm Eniaios (meaning “unity” and “uniqueness”), is made of 55 completely new films as well as re-edited footage from most of his previous films, and meant to supercede them as an integrated epic work. Eniaios contains 100 individual titles in 22 cycles, or orders, of three to five hours each. Many Eniaios imagesare only one frame (1/24th of a second) long, and all are bracketed and isolated from each other by intervening lengths of black and white leader. The unit of the single frame and the still image were preoccupying, essential elements of cinema for Markopoulos: “It is, perhaps, a fallacy to believe that film is constant movement.” He conceived of the spacing among the flickering images in Eniaios with the Greek god of healing Asclepius in mind, in the hopes of nurturing in his spectators a therapeutic form of incubation akin to the sort sick pilgrims experienced by sleeping and dreaming in the god’s temple. He “imagine[d] himself a member of an emergent, select order of psychic healers…possessing the skill to subliminally plumb the pre-verbal mysteries of an archaic past,” Kirk Winslow wrote.
‘Markopoulos spent the final decade of his life working on Eniaios, and created it exclusively for the Temenos site. It was fully edited and notated when he died in 1992, but not yet printed. In 1980, a handful of foreign guests and dozens of visitors from the region, including six priests and their families, had attended the first open-air Temenos screening—a “symbolic effort in [the] direction” of Markopoulos’s ultimate vision.7 Early September screenings continued annually until 1987 (when Beavers and Markopoulos turned their attentions to editing and archiving), followed by the Eniaios premiere (Orders I and II) in 2004 and the second screening (Orders III–V) in 2008. And at the end of this month, about 200 spectators from around the world will gather in Arcadia to see Orders VI, VII, and VIII over the course of three nights.’
p.s. Hey. ** Shane Christmass, Hi, Shane. Cool stuff, and, yeah, my eyes are peeled. Thanks! ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. That makes sense, yeah: your vibe re: collective identity. A personalised pushback against its monolithic, second nature tagging is the way to go, I think. I published a book of Oswell BLakeston’s with Little Caesar back in the day. It was the poorest selling book I ever published. Poor thing. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. I have to check out the dark web one of these days. I’ve still never tread there, as far as I can tell. Reviews! Everyone, Why not use pieces of your weekend to examine Steve’s take on two new films? First, via his thoughts about Abel Ferrara’s latest film, THE PROJECTIONIST, and, second, via his interview with MEETING GORBACHEV co-director André Singer. ** Bill, Thanks, B. Yeah, didn’t need an umbrella even for a second, very strangely. That place is normally wet wet. I think not re: the slaves understanding the herculean, massively obsessive masters and daddies they seek or say they seek. One could make a truly fascinating documentary about that scene, even just focusing on one slave’s hopes/hots and the subsequent trajectory or lack thereof, more likely. ** rhona, Hi, rhona! Oh, thank you so, so much! Zac and I were blown away by what you said at the screening, and it means really a lot that the film mattered to you like that, and the wise things you said and say about it. Really, just thank you so very much! Take good care. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben! Man, it was so fucking great to finally get to meet after all of these very years of meeting long distance here. Thank you so much for coming to Glasgow, and it was lovely to meet your dad as well. What a great treat all the way around, and hopefully now that we’ve broken the in-person ice there’ll be other occasions. ** Misanthrope, Hey, G. I seem to have to made it home. Yeah, the Glasgow screening was fantastic. We were really happy. And to get to hang with Ben, and even Joe Mills showed up! So … I’m guessing LPS roused himself in time to get there? I hope that’s not a case of my just being the eternal optimist. What happened? You have a dolls phobia too? I think the sock monkey my grandma gave me as a toddler is still somewhere in a box. I hope the writing ate you alive, so to speak. ** Sypha, Hi, James. Congrats on a new one being ripped in ‘Harlem Smoke’. Yes, a rite of passage. ** Dominik, Hi, D! Even the photos were creepy. Maybe the photos were the creepiest part. The Glasgow screening went really, really well. We were very happy. And it was very nice to spend time wandering around Glasgow, which I’d barely creased before, Cool city. Yeah, big up on your thoughts about community. Have a super good weekend, my pal! ** Right. I’ve been angling to make a Gregory Markopoulos post for a long time, and recently enough clips and stuff from his films popped up online to make it possible. Please enjoy exploring his work, and I’ll see you on Monday.