The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Jon Behrens Day

 

‘For more than 30 years Jon Behrens worked as a film artist. Since the age of 16, Behrens made well over 100 films of various lengths, subject matters and approaches, from documents of the early Seattle punk rock scene to poetic film experiments in which the celluloid film stock itself has been manipulated. Behrens ceaselessly realized a practice of creating visually stunning films that combine painterly concerns with acute photographic observations.’ — Exploded View

‘Jon Behrens was a Seattle based filmmaker/composer. His films have been screened at film festivals, colleges and museums throughout the world since the early 1980’s including screenings at Antimatter Film Festival Canada, Seattle International Film Festival, TIE Film Festival Colorado, London Underground Film Festival, Crossroads Film Festival San Francisco, Festival International des Cinemas Differents et Experimentaux in Paris, Alternative Film and Video festival in Novi Beograd Serbia, Sydney Underground Film Festival, Festival des Cinémas Différents de Paris and many many others. His work ranges from personal film diary’s to abstract hand painted optically printed works. In addition to filmmaking Jon Behrens was also a composer and created sound designs for most of his own films starting about 10 years ago, as well as non film related compositions.’ — Counterpath

‘RIP Jon Behrens (1964-2022). The longtime Canyon artist member was a prolific filmmaker and an analog film magician. In addition to his creative work, Jon co-founded Seattle’s Interbay Cinema Society, the Engauge : Experimental Film Festival, and the LightPress digitization grant, which have benefitted so many. Jon was also a wonderful friend to Canyon and a quiet pillar of the West Coast experimental film community for decades.’ — Canyon Cinema Foundation

‘The vibrancy of Jon Behrens and his cinematic output was unmatched. A man dedicated to his craft, an experimental super hero whose creative life seemed to be endless. For many, many years he held together the outpost of Seattle’s experimental film community organizing dozens of shows and rallying support for filmmakers. I met so many people whose work I’ve grown to love and admire through Jon’s efforts. And his kindness knew no bounds. I was lucky to share time, space and the screen with him. A true friend in cinema and life. I can’t believe he’s gone.’ — Le Weatherman Sekuler

 

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Stills































 

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Further

Jon Behrens Site
Jon Behrens’s blog
Psychotronic 16
Jon Behrens @ IMDb
Jon Behrens @ MUBI
Jon Behrens @ Soundcloud
Jon Behrens @ Letterboxd
Jon Behrens @ Vimeo
The Handpainted films of Jon Behrens

 

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Sounds

 

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Jon Behrens on The Cycle Savages (1969)

With its sleazy violence, psych-rock soundtrack and wooden acting, The Cycle Savages (1969) ticks all the boxes of the outlaw biker gang film. Trashy even by the standards of this trashy genre, it wheels along without a hope of being a leader of the bikesploitation pack – unlike The Wild One (1953), with its iconic performance from Marlon Brando, or The Wild Angels (1966), featuring Peter Fonda’s famous nihilistic ‘we wanna get loaded’ speech. The Cycle Savages instead brings up the rear alongside roadhogs such as The Born Losers (1967), She-Devils on Wheels (1968) and Satan’s Sadists (1969).

Yet it is also a film about the power of art. Clean-cut, law-abiding Romko (Chris Robinson) is an artist who witnesses a sadistic biker gang called Hell’s Chosen Few terrorizing customers at a local diner. He makes speedy sketches of the criminals at work. The drawings are formally stiff, heavy on workman-like shading, but made remarkably quickly given the circumstances. Rumour of his sketches reaches Keeg (Bruce Dern), the gang’s psychotic leader. A local bartender warns Keeg about Romko. ‘He’s been drawing pictures alright. Plenty of ’em. You give him any trouble, he’s got pictures of you and your whole gang he can take to the cops.’ Hell’s Chosen Few are involved in running a prostitution ring and Keeg’s paranoia grows: ‘What’s gonna happen when The Man gets hold of these, huh?’ he asks his greaser hoods. ‘If they get hold of these pictures they’re gonna start connecting things up, right? The automobiles, the trips to the border, even the girls! Now you think we want pictures like this, huh, hanging all over town?’ He hatches his cruel revenge: ‘We gotta find a way to get these man’s hands, and wreck ’em. ’Cos without his hands, he ain’t gonna make any more drawings.’

Remarkable throughout is the bizarre and unquestioning belief on the part of everyone involved – from bikers to cops – in the veracity of the drawings. Never is it suggested that the artist may have made up the scenes he depicts. Romko’s art is treated as hard evidence, his pencil and paper as good as any photographic proof. The Cycle Savages is, in its own schlocky way, about art speaking truth to power, a fantasy of art having a clearly defined and practical social role.

Romko is fearless, and stands by what he makes, as all artists should. When the gang tries to intimidate him outside his apartment, and Keeg pulls out a flick-knife, the artist, unafraid, sneers at him: ‘My friend, the art critic.’

 

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14 of Jon Behrens’ films

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KODACHROME REVISITED (1987)
‘I made this film by shooting around 180 rolls of 35mm slide film. I then hand processed the film in a very sloppy manner. I never mounted the film into slides I simply took the 35mm strips of film and spliced them together. Some of the rolls used in this film were shot by random people I sent a roll of film to that they shot and sent back to me. The Throbbing Gristle provided the films soundtrack.’ — JB


Excerpt

 

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UNDERCURRENTS (1994)
‘This film was the third and final installment of my Urban Landscape Series and is my personal favorite of the three. In this film I utilized all the techniques that I had learned over the years and put them all into this film. I finally felt that my mission was complete regarding structures and that I could move forward and try other ideas. RUBATO provided the films sound track.’ — JB


Excerpt

 

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GIRL AND A BICYCLE (1995)
‘This film was made in collaboration with fellow filmmaker and friend Rasha Refaie.The film was inspired by a dream that Rasha had about a girl and a bicycle and a silver colored egg. The viewer sees Rasha peddling all over Seattle through city streets, parks, all over and ultimately ending up a graveyard were she begins to experience the nosebleed of her life. This film was going to be the first in a series of films based on Rasha’s dreams; however, shortly after this film was completed Rasha moved to New York City and this was the only film that was made. Rubato composed the films sound track.’ — JB


the entirety

 

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DESERT ABSTRACTIONS (1997)
‘This is a film that I had wanted to make for many years. It was not until the summer of 1996 that I actually got it together and shot it. Again with the help of Steve Creson we packed up all our equipment and loaded on to a plane and flew to Arizona were we rented a car and drove around the desert for week and filmed everything that we thought looked interesting. This film is similar to the films in my urban landscapes series, only this film was shot in eye popping full color and there are no man made elements in this film at all. Lots of rock formations, colors, and shapes only things made my mother nature. This film also has a film score by RUBATO.’ — JB


Excerpt

 

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STAN’S SALON (1997)
‘I was in Boulder Col. on a film shoot when I attended one of Stan Brakhage’s film salons that he hosted. I saw some very incredible images that night and got to meet the grand master himself. I was so inspired by what I saw and the people that I met that the moment that I returned home to Seattle I made this film. My first fully hand painted motion picture, and the techniques that I used in this film are the beginning of an entirely new faze of my filmmaking and I hope to master this technique some day.’ — JB


Excerpt

 

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THE LAST TEN MINUTES OF EXISTENCE (2000)
‘This is a film that I had planed on making for more than two years before I began to shoot it. The Idea was to shoot an entire 400 ft. magazine of film from start to finish without stopping. When news came that they were going to destroy the King County Domed Stadium I thought that this would be a perfect subject for this film. I got up at 3:45 am on that faithful morning and loaded up my beloved Auricon Pro 600 movie camera and made my way to the location that I had seeked out weeks prior. I set up my camera and framed up my shot and began shooting exactly 5 minutes before the Stadium was due to be imploded. My Idea was to document the last moments before destruction, the moments during destruction and the moments after destruction, a full 400ft of film shot in one take from one angle with out stopping. The film was shot in black and white and printed on color stock with a royal blue tint. I had always wanted to make a film this way and pay homage to one of my early film influences the late great Andy Warhol.’ — JB


the entirety

 

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THE FLICKERING OF THE MINDS EYE (2001)
‘This film is made up of hand painted and batik sections of film that I then step printed on an optical printer. I also used fingers, potatoes, sponges to print textures and patterns. The film was then cut into a rhythmic pattern that may play a few tricks on your brain.’ — JB


Excerpt

 

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ANOMALIES OF THE UNCONSCIOUS (2003)
‘This is the second film of the Anomalies Cycle. It is a hand Painted and manipulated film. I also used the technique of bleaching and batiking of the film emulsion. The footage was then step printed on a J-K Optical Printer. Although similar in style to The Flickering of the Minds Eye I began to experiment more with other colors and different textures such as dried leaves and flowers, hair, insect parts, and a variety of different types of inks and paints. The sound track for this film was preformed by NEGATIVLAND.’ — JB


the entirety

 

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THE ASTRUM ARGENTIUM (2006)
‘Is the third film in a series that is being called the Anomalies cycle. It is mostly a hand painted and step printed film. This time I used stained glass dyes and also experimented with photographing growing crystals with time laps cinematograhy. I also created the sound design for this film.’ — JB


Excerpt

 

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PSYCHORAMA (2006)
‘This film is far different than all other films that I have made. I more less put this film together from existing footage. It is a collection of film trailers from the psychotronic film genre of the 50’s through the 70’s. I pieced together from my own personal collection of 35 and 16mm films along with collections of friends and even was even invited to take a trip down to LA to rummage through film vaults. I worked on this film secretly for more than 5 years . This film simply pays homage to all the great studios like AIP and Republic Pictures who cranked out loads of these films during the old drive-in days when film was cheep.’ — JB


the entirety

 

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THE PRODUCTION AND DECAY OF STRANGE PARTICLES (2008)
‘In this film I began to experiment more with creating mats with liquid latex directly on the film emulsion then bleaching of all the excess image around the latex and using the clear bleached sections of film as a canvas to paint my film poem I used special inks that were custom made just for me called Keneville Dyes I then to re-photographed it all on my beloved JK optical printer. I also created this films sound design.’ — JB


Excerpt

 

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BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED (2009)
‘This is a film that I put together early 2009, after I made the film I did not know what to do with it because it is so much different than the Experimental art films that I am most known for doing. I am by no means abandoning my avant-garde filmmaking, I just thought this would be fun to do.

‘Almost as long as I have been a filmmaker I have also been a film collector. I have for many years wanted to assemble a collection of vintage toy commercials into a flowing little feature length film, that feature all of these wonderful toys from 1950’s 1960’s and 1970’s all of the major toy companies are represented in this film. Matel, Ideal, Hasbro, Marx, Aurora and many, many others. These commercials were made in a time when children would use their imagination while playing. So strap your self in and take a trip back through your childhood and you may discover a commercial for a toy that had a kid and my hope is that it will spark pleasant memories from those days.’ — JB


the entirety

 

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A BEGINNING A MIDDLE AND AN END (2013)
‘Reconstituted found footage hand painted optically printed wonder, with a begging a middle and an end.’ — JB


Excerpt

 

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A CITY IN FOUR PARTS (2016)
‘I made this film from a 100ft roll of film shot entirely in one take taken on my Arriflex S camera . I trained my lens on to the city skyline and began shooting. At the end of the 100ft roll, I back winded the film to the beginning of the roll. I then re photographed the skyline from a slightly different angle and blended the two exposures with my hand. I then printed the section 4 times and gave each section its own treatment , each section becomes its own part. a portrait of a city – a City in Four Parts.’ — JB


Excerpt

 

 

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p.s.Hey. ** Dominik, Hi!!! Oh, wow, I honestly like every single thing in the new SCAB, which is pretty wild. Very hard to pick favorites. Off the top my head, … I love seeing the new works by the great Alex Rose. The Jamie Giles piece, Nicholas Alexander Hayes, Pedro Minet (and not just because his piece is titled after a GbV song), Thomas Spiers, Travis Jeppesen (he’s great, awesome to see him in there). I really liked the Josh Peterson video. Oh, and many others I’m forgetting. Pretty 100% stardom filled. Ha ha, I could develop a pimple fetish were that the case. Or … a bigger fetish, ha ha. Love making the present I want to buy for a friend’s birthday tomorrow about 150 Euros cheaper so I can buy it, G. ** _Black_Acrylic, Dude, you are the toughest cookie there is, I swear to god. And yet you remain such a stylish Zeus head of delights. ‘Mothercare’ is great and not too, too overwhelming. ** Tosh Berman, Though your and Lynne’s stories are very different, you’ll relate, I’m pretty sure. I did, and my mom situation was very, very different. ** Jack Skelley, JS = Jumpin’ Septarian! Well, my ears caught on fire and burned to a crisp on Saturday night, which confused the hell out of me until just now. Oh, man so wish I’d have been at your shebang. Waah! Someone surely video-ed it, surely? Getting close to figuring out my LA dates, I think, finally. Yeppers! I wonder how and why that internet communication company came up with the name Zoom for their service? Like … distant locations zoom into proximity thanks to them? Seems weird. Or maybe it’s coffee. Or my lack there of. Anyway, Zoom! Yes, let’s fucking Zooooom! ** RANGUSRAZE, Hi! I’m … pretty okay today. Nice story. Listen, old ladies know their shit. They’ve got nothing to lose. Or gain either. Wow, you are twunking yourself into twunkdom. Maybe even hunkdom itself. Enjoy the two weeks. Don’t take any wooden nickels. xo, me. ** l@rst, Hey, bud! Hooray for you for keeping the venerable genre of swirling script alive. I was just reading the other day that there’s supposedly a whole generation of new people now who can’t read cursive anymore. It’s staring into the sun for them our something. I don’t believe it, though. Sounds like the usual youth hating. But anyway, sweet! ** Okay. Jon Behrens is a very interesting experimental filmmaker who died just the other day. I’m guessing the vast majority of you don’t know of him and his works at all thanks to the film world’s and cultural media’s psychotic conservatism. But here’s your chance, and I hope you’ll take it. See you tomorrow.

13 Comments

  1. politekid

    hi dc!! briefly hopping in because this just crossed my radar on Internet Archive and i immediately thought, if you didn’t know about it already, you’d deffo get a kick out of it: the _McDonaldland Specification Manual (1975)_ https://archive.org/details/mc-donalds-specification-manual-1975
    hope you enjoy & hope you are well! xx

  2. Tea

    Forgot to leave a comment yesterday. Life’s been weird lately. Good-weird, but weird nonetheless. I got invested in another semi-niche community and threw myself into the lion’s den. Firstly, I hadn’t heard of Mr. Behrens before his passing, but I really love those stills, so I will rectify this.

    My therapist is a pretty cool guy, so I lucked out there. He lets me talk about serial killers with him which is—shockingly—a topic my friends don’t care for. He also put me up to leaving comments here. I’d mentioned that I was too nervous to drop in and he pushed me to.

    I am into getting known. It really gets me going. Okay, kidding, but I have a few more fast facts. I’m 23 and gay (maybe that second part goes without saying). I started writing because I thought picking a cognitively demanding hobby would force me to go sober. Lo and behold, it worked. I’m really thankful for that. Who knows where I’d be without it.

  3. Jack Skelley

    Wow. These are killer!

  4. Jack Skelley

    Yes. I am a deviated septarian.

  5. Misanthrope

    Dennis, Right? If I can get there, we’ll have a blast. A little Paris and a lot of Rigby, Mieze, and you. Would be/could be/should be/will be fun. I’ll be looking into it for sure.

    Oh, and guess who’s in concert in MD in November? Suede and Manic Street Preachers. First time Suede’s done a tour here since I saw them in 1995. Eek!

    Hmm, a silent film star? Are you saying I look like Nosferatu? 😉 Wouldn’t be a bad thing, actually. I’d be more famous, though.

    That work was awful. Ugh.

    Onward and upward.

  6. _Black_Acrylic

    These sound fx are great! The spookiness of Land Over Ether hits especially hard.

    The guest on the Bret Easton Ellis podcast this week was A.M. Homes whom I thought was really good. I’m wondering if you like her work and is there anything you would recommend?

  7. Dominik

    Hi!!

    Okay, wow, I’m dazzled. Of course, the issue’s awesome because of all the crazy talent showcased in it, so it’s not only or even primarily my achievement, but it still means the world to me that you like it so much.

    What do you want to buy for your friend? (If it’s safe to talk about it here. Maybe they’re reading the blog as well.)

    Love joining a cult and developing the delusion that he’s the angel of abandoned amusement parks, Od.

  8. Bill

    Sorry to hear Jon Behrens passed recently. Some lovely work here.

    What a great list of books yesterday. A Bruce Benderson retrospective, wow. That and the Tim Jones-Yelvington went straight to my to-read list.

    Bill

  9. Jamie

    Ahoy Dennis! How are you? I was praying that today’s post would be about an experimental filmmaker and here we are. I’ve been feeling a lack of such things in my life lately, as the monthly film club I’d been attending has disappeared (I think it was a labour of love for those who ran it and it was frequently very poorly attended, so it’s understandable.). So, thanks! I’ve watched The Last Ten Minutes of Existence so far, and loved it, although I got a bit tense waiting for The Moment.
    What’s going on with you? From reading the ps, I see you’re still having money issues with Room Temperature. I’m sorry to hear that and wish you all the best for accruing more funds, and for the project in general.
    I’m still in Brussels and writing a ton, which feels good.
    Impossibly warm ice love,
    Jamie

  10. Steve Erickson

    If you’ve never heard of Dimes Square, I’m sorry for introducing it to you.

    I’m currently reading Brian Masters’ KILLING FOR COMPANY. (Masters was fictionalized into a character on last year’s TV series DES, about Dennis Nilsen.) It seems quite sharp. Have you read Masters’ Jeffrey Dahmer book?

  11. HUNKUSRAZE

    Dennis!

    yes! it’s very weird to be in the realm of being perceived as hot, i won’t take it for granted, i will use my power for good. The copy of your book Try arrived today! I’ve started reading it, i also bought a copy of ur book closer recebtly and that will come soon, i’ve already read it but i wanted a copy i could draw notes and quotes from to assist the conceptualisation of my next album after this one im finishing. Today was nice, i went to the gym, and hit all my records. there’s a very deep self knowing sensuality that goes along with workouts i think, it’s very stupid and theatrical but sometimes when i return home from the gym when i’m sweaty and clammy and my muscles are sore and bulging i just lay in bed and writhe my body around and trace my hands around them all and sort of contort my body around to see what new muscles are appearing and how they bulge and form, i think it’s an incredible feeling and i keep the trying to triangulate the feeling so i can translate it into a song on said album, i’m excited to finish this album tho and start pitching it around and stuff but also very anxious and scared that nothing will happen but i guess every artist on every level feels that, but i guess coz i’m unsigned and have no manager or pr or anything it feels more fragile, but i have to take the leap!!!

    anyway yes, i’ve been listening to lots of tori amos recently alongside my bloody valentine and slowdive, all very sexy!

    hahahaha

    love

    ryan

  12. Jack Skelley

    Cooperstown! (Have I already used that one?) Methinks I shall snag 1 or 2 of these choice gifs and a Jon Behrens clip for my IG story page…. I know I have big news but only 2 coffees in this morning and MEee HAVE NO BRAIN WoRdz. Oh! Interstellar Theme Park is No 20 on Small Press Distribution Bestsellers List. Does that even mean anything? Part 2 of the book’s L.A. Launch (Eastside edition) is Sunday at Stories in Echo Park. Where I now virtually reside. Tosh Berman is MC!! .. . I was at Stories last Sunday for “Autofiction” night (whatever that means) with Chris Kraus and Ottesa Moshfegh. Place was packed up the bunghole. (I have secret news about that event to relate later…) Here’s more: Legend Ron Koertge is doing a reading Oct 13 (“Lucky!” – Napoleon Dynamite voice) at Village Well– great newish bookstore in my Culver City hood. Just call me Jumpin Jack POetry Flash. Verily and sooneth we shall each other behold! Go Dodgers … -Jack

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