The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Su Friedrich Day


‘Su Friedrich’s films achieve a unique synthesis of formal structures and human experience that solidifies her position as one of the most important contemporary experimental filmmakers in America. Her body of work articulates a complex feminist and lesbian analysis of social and cultural discourses, rituals, institutions, and power structures. Friedrich’s films probe these concerns through intimate perspectives of emotional experience: dreams (Gently Down the Stream [1981]), sexuality and religion (Damned If You Don’t [1987]), marriage (First Comes Love [1991]), break-ups (Rules of the Road [1993]), adolescence (Hide and Seek [1996]), relationships to parents and family (The Ties That Bind [1984] and Sink or Swim [1990]), and, in her most recent work, health and illness (The Odds of Recovery [2002]).

‘From her beginnings in the American feminist movement of the late 1970s, Friedrich has articulated the slogan “the personal is political” with innovative language and narrative forms. Intense and specific personal experiences sound out striking resonances with larger social, political, and sexual structures. As Friedrich puts it, “You get to something universal by being very specific […] I think you have to start at home.” But while the emotional textures of Friedrich’s work are personal, they are also highly mediated, influenced by the modernist legacy of the “structural” filmmakers of the 1970s. Her work is innovative and accessible—and beautiful (she is renowned for her expertise in black and white cinematography and optical printing).

‘Friedrich’s ability to synthesize the stylistic and conceptual legacy of avant-garde film practice with an analytical sense of human experience makes her exemplary of the evolution of American experimental film practice from the 1980s to the present. In this era film artists freed themselves from the often doctrinaire politics of 1970s avant-garde film practice to pursue new directions of both formal and social invention.

‘Friedrich’s films, as a whole, centralize images of women’s bodies and unreservedly exhibits the aesthetic seductiveness of female flesh and movement. Close-ups of body parts, even as they offer fragmented glimpses of women, are associated with moving bodies engaged in dancing, clapping, rowing, playing cards or swimming, to name but a few examples. The effects of this aesthetic treatment of women’s bodies is not to “[turn] the represented figure…into a fetish so that it becomes reassuring rather than dangerous,” but simply to appreciate the beauty and strength of these women and their movements. Friedrich discusses her commitment to the creation of cinematic pleasure in her interview with Scott MacDonald: “There was a period when I thought it was important to deny myself everything, including all kinds of film pleasure, in order to be politically correct and save the world, but I think if you do that, you deplete yourself and then have nothing to offer the rest of the world.”

‘A valuable element of Friedrich’s “reappropriation of pleasure … for women” derives from her reappropriation of mainstream productions that seemingly deny the existence of lesbian desire. One interview subject in Hide and Seek talks about how she was able to ‘play’ with conventional media images as a child in order to make the scenarios conform to her own same-sex fantasies. While they watched the television show “The Monkees”, the woman played out the scene with her girlfriend. They pretended that one of them was Davy Jones and the other was a woman he was kissing. The two girls would then enact romantic encounters by packing suitcases and imagining that they were going to a hotel together, and then cuddling, naked, on the bed. By overlaying the dialogue with images from the television show, the film simultaneously emphasizes the tremendous power of media depictions of heterosexuality and attests to the even greater flexibility of human imagination.

‘Repeatedly in her films, Friedrich’s ability to balance affective and intellectual responses dramatizes the decidedly mixed reactions that marginalized spectators can have to productions that are at once appealing and alienating. Friedrich reveals, not only how political structures have the potential to oppress, but how they can be, however provisionally, overcome. Friedrich is not content to offer conclusive or facile answers. She balances mitigating circumstances, conflicted intentions, and self-reflexive hypotheses to open up the diverse and multifaceted possibilities of interpretation and growth. The agency with which it is possible to redirect one’s life is not depicted by Friedrich as capable of overcoming all obstacles; rather, small accomplishments that lead along a path of emancipation are recognized and celebrated. She does not pretend that it is not a painful process, but she encourages the indulgence of pleasures—including cinematic pleasures—that bolster and sustain well-being.’ — Senses of Cinema





The Su Friedrich Homepage
Su Friedrich @ IMDb
The Films of Su Friedrich Collection
Su Friedrich @ Experimental Cinema
Su Friedrich @ Facebook
Su Friedrich on Gut Renovation
Su Friedrich @ MUBI
Su Friedrich: Reappropriations
Senses of Cinema’s Su Friedrich profile
Reinventing Lesbian Youth in Su Friedrich’s Cinematic Autoqueerography Hide and Seek
An Analysis of Found Footage Strategies in Su Friedrich’s The Ties that Bind
Fred Camper on ‘Sink or Swim’
A Conversation with Su Friedrich
Video: An Evening with Su Friedrich
“Making it through”: sickness and health in Su Friedrich’s The Odds of Recovery
Su Friedrich by Claudia Steinberg @ BOMB
The Hot Seat: Su Friedrich



Su Freidrich talks with Jim Fouratt




KATY MARTIN: What first attracted you to film?

SU FRIEDRICH: When I was in fourth grade, I bought my first photo camera, a Brownie, at the local drugstore; I still remember how excited I was when I got it, and I still have it. I then studied black and white photography in college (they didn’t offer any film classes) and realized how serious my interest was in working with images, but at that time I had no idea about being a filmmaker—that seemed far too big and remote. After college, I moved to New York, which gave me the chance to be exposed to great film culture. I started seeing work by filmmakers like Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Margareta vonTrotta, Chantal Akerman, Luis Bunuel and Akira Kurosawa, and this gave me a deep interest in the possibilities for telling stories through film.

I started getting frustrated with photography but I still couldn’t imagine that I could make movies; I still only knew about “big movies.” Also, back then, there were very few women filmmakers, so that made it seem even more remote. On the other hand, it was the time when women were really fighting to make and show work, so I feel lucky that I started out then instead of ten or more years earlier.

One day a friend asked me to go with her to a super-8 filmmaking class at the Millennium Film Workshop, in the East Village. I went and, as they say, I never looked back. It was clear to me after that first evening that it was what I needed and wanted to do. Within a short time I sold my darkroom equipment and started shooting film. The Millennium also put me in contact with the experimental film community, which I hadn’t been aware of, and I started seeing films that were very different from the “big movies.” These were films I could imagine making myself. It gave me a lot of energy and courage to see that individuals, with very little money, were making films all by themselves.

KM: Let’s talk about Sink or Swim (1990), one of your best known works. It’s a film about your father, and some of your memories are highly charged. Can you talk about the use of explicit, personal material in your art?

SF: At the time, I had already made a few other films that used personal material, including The Ties That Bind (1984) about my mother living in Germany during World War Two. So it was a direction I was already going in, and I think there are several reasons for that.

The first would be that I had a difficult time growing up. I had a mother who had been very traumatized by the war and then by her move to a new country; I had a father who was remote when he was living with us and who then left us, who left my mother to raise three children without any support; and I went to Catholic school and very soon realized that I had strong disagreements with the beliefs and practices of the church. So there were many issues I wanted to address when I finally started thinking about telling stories/telling history.

The other big reason is the influence of the Women’s Movement, which opened up a huge and complicated discussion about how we were formed by society, what the damage was from that influence, and how we could change that to something better.

And last of all, I felt that I would be most honest, or would be most challenged, if I made myself look at the experiences that were closest to me. I love to read fiction, and I admire people who can turn life into a story, but I don’t think that’s something I know how to do, so I decided that I should try instead to speak more directly about my own life and the lives of people I knew.

It’s a tricky thing to work with personal material because one has to try very hard to get some distance from something one is very, very close to. Each time I’ve made a film like that, I’ve depended a great deal on the perspective of friends. I ask them many times to read the texts, watch the edit, and tell me when I’m not being honest or correct or when I’m just being stupid and sentimental. The films would be very different, and I think very bad, if I didn’t always have the criticism and advice of these viewers.

KM: Can you talk about how the film is organized, and the simple device of using the letters of the alphabet as chapter titles?

SF: It was extremely difficult to write the text. I started in the first person (“I was” and “my father”) but then understood that I couldn’t continue, it was too emotional for me, so I changed it to the third person (“the girl” and “her father”). That gave me some mental distance, because I could imagine some other girl, not myself. But I also needed to create a framework, so that I could generate more stories. The fear of speaking was strong, and I was having a hard time continuing to write. Since my father was a linguist, and language was the cornerstone of his work, I decided to use the alphabet as a structural device. This of course meant that I had to generate 26 stories, which was more than I had imagined doing, but at least it gave me an end point, a finite sum of work.

KM: How do you use the process of writing in your approach to making films?

SF: Writing has often played a major role in my films, and maybe most markedly in Sink or Swim. With the exception of Hide and Seek (1996), which included a more or less conventional fiction script that I co-wrote with Cathy Quinlan, my films have usually depended on texts I write or find, so I don’t think of myself as a screenwriter. Also, since I do all my own cinematography (again with the exception of Hide and Seek, which was shot by Jim Denault), I tend to be thinking already about shooting, or be in the process of shooting, while I’m writing or finding texts.

I say that writing was most marked in Sink or Swim because it was the first time I had written such a lengthy text for a film, and it was such a hard one to write, and I see that the film depends very heavily on the text. The images are expressive up to a point, but the film really wouldn’t make much sense if it didn’t have the voiceover.

The only other film that I wrote so much text for is Rules of the Road (1993). In most of the others I worked more with a collage approach, mixing things I’d written with interviews, found texts, etc. In recent years, with video, I’ve also been talking more directly, using the camera to record unwritten/extemporaneous speech.

KM: You reference diary, memoir, and letter writing in Sink or Swim. There is even a story of you writing something in your diary that your mother actually erased. Can you talk about art and saying what can’t be said?

SF: There are many ways and reasons to make art, and I can only talk about what I do and what I believe in doing. This means, very importantly, that I don’t think other approaches or reasons are lesser or wrong; they’re only different. I don’t think it’s better (or worse) to speak explicitly and directly about one’s personal life, it just happens to be what I do. So in my case, I would say that it was necessary for me to use art as a way to say what “shouldn’t” be said.

When I started making Sink or Swim, I looked for literature about children’s experiences during divorce. I found almost nothing, so I felt I should tell that story and should speak for, and from, the position of the child. I also found very little about “The Father”—or at least very little that saw fathers from a critical perspective. What I was doing seemed quite taboo (at the time) and I felt strongly that it was something I had to address. In a similar fashion, I started making The Ties That Bind because I felt that the story of the ordinary, non-Nazi (and non-Jewish) German hadn’t been told and I wanted to tell that story.

I think making art like this can be very useful—not just for the person who makes it and thereby has a chance to put their private thoughts and feelings into the public arena, but also for the viewer who might have had a similar experience and can finally see and hear their story being told.

KM: The stories you tell about your father are horrifying. That could not have been easy. How did come to make this film, and how did you find your way?

SF: It’s very hard to say, because I think there were so many factors at play. I started making Sink or Swim in 1988, when I was 34. I had started therapy a couple of years before that. The decision to go into therapy wasn’t easy, but at least by the time I started making Sink or Swim, I was beginning to understand what you had to do in order to unravel certain issues from your childhood. So I had a few skills, and I had somehow accepted that I had to do this, but I was still very early in the process. A critical moment came when I read the book, The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller. The one thing I took from it was the idea that children don’t have a voice, that their stories aren’t told, or aren’t believed or respected when they’re told. When she articulated that as clearly as she did, I recognized the truth of it from my own experience. All my life I’ve been full or rage and unhappiness about how my father behaved in our family, and I never felt that my experience was being heard.

KM: Politically the notion of invisibility and voice is very strong. In the Women’s Movement, it’s huge—if we’re invisible, we have no voice.

SF: You know, I credit Alice Miller’s book, but as I said before, I also very much credit the Women’s Movement, in a broader way, for making me able to think that it was not only necessary but important to articulate those things. Because that’s what women had been saying for years. I started making this film long after the modern women’s movement got going, so there were years and years of women saying, I will now talk about my abusive husband, I will now talk about my experience being raped—all that— and not feel that I’m the one in the wrong. Otherwise, that’s the way they keep people silent. Once you say, no, that’s not the way I should be treated, things start to change.

KM: And I’m a witness to that.

SF: Yes, that’s crucial to me.

KM: Which comes back to the desire to witness. How does that relate to making art?

SF: There is a big difference between, let’s say, going to therapy or talking to friends, and making art. There are connections, but it’s not the same. If I’m sitting at a therapist’s or talking with friends about my father, I may be ranting and raving, I may even be crying. But if I’m sitting in a room, editing or writing, there has to be a lot of control at work. I can rant and rave on a piece of paper, but by the time it’s in a film, it has been reworked so many times that it has become a very controlled thing. I think that’s a really important distinction to make.

A lot of times people watching films about personal issues see them as a form of therapy (for the filmmaker). It may start out as therapeutic, but it doesn’t end up as a therapeutic experience because there’s so much craft involved. In making Sink or Swim, there was so much rewriting, so much re-editing. Worrying about how to cut together two shots has nothing to do with my father—it’s about composition and rhythm! And then there’s the problem of how somebody delivers their lines. I recorded many, many takes of Jessica Lynn, the girl who did the voiceover, and I had to decide which ones to use. So when she says, “When he held my head under the bathwater”—well, that may be a traumatic phrase, and when I wrote it, it may have made me throw myself on the bed and start crying, but when I was editing, I was just concerned about whether she read it articulately or whether it hit the right frame. It’s an odd thing to start out making something that’s so emotionally devastating, and then find yourself, a year and a half later, in the editing room, worrying about things like the frame.


16 of Su Friedrich’s 19 films

Cool Hands, Warm Heart (1979)
‘Building on proverbs, metaphor, and the principles of a radical feminist imagination, Su Friedrich creates a world in which women’s private rituals become public spectacles. Filmed in super-8 on the streets of New York’s Lower East Side, Cool Hands, Warm Heart works through questions of danger, attraction, violence, and ultimately the transformative power of bonding between women. Friedrich is able to draw on her training in avant-garde cinema as well as her background as a street photographer. In this work, she combines the two sets of concerns into an unusually original vision, re-imagining public space as a sort of Cool World inhabited by women of daring.’ — B. Ruby Rich



Gently Down the Stream (1981)
‘…her films (particularly the celebrated Gently Down the Stream) signalled an important change that was occurring with the evolution of experimental cinema….The film demonstrates Friedrich’s considerable technical talents and formal creativity as well as her canny historical sense in reappropriating the formal strategies generally associated with the “structural film.” Friedrich’s film becomes a public exorcism, one that continually exposes and infects the viewer with the psychic consequences of religious constraints, familial binds and sexual conflicts.’ — Bruce Jenkins, MILLENNIUM FILM JOURNAL

Watch an excerpt here


But No One (1982)
‘In making this film, I wanted to investigate a formal device that I had started using in Gently Down the Stream: presenting dreams as text through the form of scratched words which have to be read rather than recreating the “look” of the dream through images. In the previous film, I used fourteen dreams. In But No One, I concentrated on a single dream, and one that disturbed me because of its seeming amorality and passivity. The text is presented with the same “scratched word” technique used in the previous film, but is handled in a more playful, surprising manner. The blunt, vernacular images, which were shot on the streets of the Lower East Side, are set in contrast to the strange images conjured by the text.’ — SF

Watch an excerpt here


The Ties That Bind (1984)
‘The film is an original: a moving and courageous tribute from a child to a mother’s beleaguered memory.’ — David Edelstein, THE VILLAGE VOICE



Damned If You Don’t (1987)
Damned If You Don’t is a real prize. Beautifully shot in black and white, it blends conventional narrative technique with impressionistic camerawork, symbols and voicovers to create an intimate study of sexual expression and repression. It begins with footage from a stylish old potboiler about an isolated convent, whose tale of passions leashed and unleashed provides the leitmotif for a young lesbian who watches it and the lonely nun she pursues and seduces.’ — Andrew Rasanen




Sink or Swim (1990)
‘I regard it as one of the most intellectually lucid, aesthetically accessible, and emotionally moving avant-garde films produced in the past twenty-five years.’ — David Sterrit




First Comes Love (1991)
‘Throughout, Friedrich keeps a gracious distance, building a critique that doesn’t patronize the very real, very naked emotion she captures. A virtuoso of clarity, Friedrich recasts the personal as political, makes the public curiously intimate. In her hands, a slow pan to a discarded box of Carolina Rice is both poignant and absurd, a fit coda to a ceremony of privilege that’s at once desired and denied.’ — Manohla Dargis, THE VILLAGE VOICE

Watch an excerpt here


Rules of the Road (1993)
Rules of the Road tells the story of a love affair and its demise through one of the objects shared by the couple: an old beige station wagon with fake wood paneling. A typical American family car for an atypical American family, it provides the women at first with all the familiar comforts. But when their relationship ends, the car becomes the property of one and the bane of the other’s existence. Even long after their separation, this tangible reminder of their life together—and thousands of its imitators—continues to prowl the streets of the city, haunting the woman who no longer holds the keys either to the car or the other woman’s heart.’ — SF



Hide and Seek (1996)
Hide and Seek is A Girl’s Own Story for lesbians. Friedrich has woven a rich and provocative tapestry that assaults complacent assumptions about pubescent desire and lesbian identity, all the while raising important questions about the representation of racial and sexual fantasy life. [The film is] thoroughly engaging from beginning to end.’ — Yvonne Rainer



The Odds of Recovery (2002)
‘What could have been a health-care screed becomes a middle-aged meditation on mortality. ‘You frighten yourself with that fear of not being totally in control,’ says her therapist. ‘What would happen if you gave that up?’ One answer is Odds itself, which settles down into its own engagingly crafted, smoothly mellow rhythm.’ — Ed Halter, THE VILLAGE VOICE



The Head of a Pin (2004)
‘“The Head of a Pin” reveals the awkward ruminations of the filmmaker and her friends as they attempt to learn about nature. Starting out as an examination of the differences between urban and rural life, the film turns unexpectedly into a wry portrait of what happens when city dwellers encounter a country spider.’ — Talking Pictures

the entire film


Seeing Red (2005)
Seeing Red is as personal as many of Friedrich’s best autobiographical films and videos, but here the diary takes on a more worldly view, informed by the wisdom of age. Su Friedrich is an angry young woman, only she’s not so young. That is part of the reason she is seeing red. Friedrich asks what it means to be an artist in a debased world, a world in which things are perpetually unfinished and incomplete, and the house is always messy. She hides herself in and behind the details of everyday life, most of which are surprisingly red. Bach, Whitman and Dickenson provide a backdrop for her desire to transcend the mundane, which she does, simply by finding the beauty of small things in the world around her. Friedrich’s sense of humour meets her existential dilemma with passion and intimacy. Don’t let her flippant tone deceive you; this is a major work.’ — Catherine Russell

Watch an excerpt here


Practice Makes Perfect (2012)
‘The film is primarily a portrait of Kam Kelly, who teaches West African drumming to students at various New York schools, including Intermediate School 292 in Brooklyn. One of his students, Jessica Jackson, is featured. The piece was commissioned for the “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2012.’ — SF

Watch the film here


Gut Renovation (2012)
‘A documentary of small changes evolves into an historical record of New York. The resulting film is a melancholy, essayistic requiem for a neighborhood and an entire way of life; it also provides a case study of the rapid gentrification of our cities. In 1989, together with a group of female friends, Su Friedrich rented and renovated an old loft in Williamsburg, an unassuming working-class district of Brooklyn. In 2005 this former industrial zone was designated a residential area and the factories, manufacturers and artists’ lofts were priced out by property speculators lured by tax breaks. Friedrich spent five years documenting with her camera the changes in the area between East River and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. She shows the demolition of industrial buildings and the construction of trendy new apartments for wealthy clients, watching old tenants leave and new inhabitants arrive. As she keeps meticulous record of developments, the extent and speed of the upheaval becomes clear. Her own tenancy agreement expires too and so her documentary images and trenchant commentary become the tools of her growing anger.’ — Outcast Films



Queen Takes Pawn (2013)
‘A journey through an old house by way of a mirror, a child’s storybook, and some images from days gone by. Or a journey through some old images by way of a house. Or both.’ — SF

Watch the film here


I Cannot Tell You How I Feel (2016)
‘I can tell you how I feel about I Can’t Tell You How I Feel: it is aesthetically unpretentious, ethically adult, and carefully crafted — and precisely as long as it should be. Its candidness about dealing with aging relatives is an engaging antidote to the usual myths, cartoons, and melodramas about aging so common in movies and on television. As participant director and narrator (in both voice-over and visual text), Friedrich is by turns wryly good-humored, self-involved and self-aware, pained, frustrated, and compassionate. For those who remember The Ties That Bind (1984), Friedrich’s breakthrough film about her mother growing up as an anti-Nazi German in the 1930s and 1940s, watching the feisty Lore Friedrich deal with moving to the strange new world of assisted living has particular poignancy.’ — Scott MacDonald







p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. France eternally awaits. ** Armando, Hi. Look, seriously, keep thinking of other ways to get your film made because my being able to help is an extreme long shot. The only person in the film world here who has knowledge and experience with film producing, fundraising, etc. whom I’m connected with is our producer. I probably won’t talk with him until he has read the script of Zac’s and my new film in a couple of weeks at soonest, and he could easily just say that what you’re trying to do sounds tough and good luck to you. So, yeah, don’t put all your eggs in this basket ‘cos I’m not in a position to offer very much help if any. Re: writing, I always show my writing/novels to trusted others before I decide they’re finished. I always have. I don’t have the objectivity to know if they’re working on my own, even after having written so many novels. Until other eyes have read them and agreed that they work, they’re still fragile and in-process for me. But that’s just me. When I write scripts or novels or anything really, I always have their layout and structure in mind before I start, but I always let them mutate as needed when I’m writing them, and they always do, sometimes a lot. Have a good day wherever it takes you. ** Dominik, Hi, D! Apart from the anxiety, and even that immediate suffering sounds like it led to wisdom, your Amsterdam stint sounds like big fun. Amsterdam used to have this amazing little used English language bookshop on the edge of the Red Light District. I bought hundreds of books from there, and many of them became the most important books (to me) books I ever read. That shop must be long, long gone now. Thanks about the potentially finished novel. Well, it’s exciting and very scary to let a novel out for the first time when it’s been so extremely in your head and private. Yeah, I have to really trust the person I let read it first. But, yeah, my fingers are very crossed that it works. I feel like it could be great but, equally, that it could just not work because it’s really going for it in a way I haven’t tried before. Gulp. We restart the TV thing on, I think, this Friday. God, I’m dreading that. That project has just become the most uninteresting, unfun thing ever, but getting it done is also essential, so I’m stuck. What is your week looking like? Thinking about the performance work? Other wonderful things? Lots of love back to you! ** Sypha, Yes, it seems anything can happen in France if you’re not too picky about who you do it with. Thanks about the novel. We will see. ** Misanthrope, Hi. Well, if you’re tired, then sure, let’s hang out in France. I’m not quite sure why someone saying they’re tired is supposed to be alluring. Intoxicated! Nope, never read ‘Lanark’. Never heard of it before, I don’ think. I’ll find it and give it the eagle eye. So you were your workshop’s big dog. There was a self-styled big dog in one of mine who was only a big dog in his own mind, unlike you. Drive is, like, 80% of it, I think sometimes. ** Bill, Hey. Thanks, that was the idea, theirs and mine. I do know 9T Antiope, yes. I saw them perform once even. They were very good, and I don’t have any of their recorded work, so I’ll get that. Thanks, buddy. ** h, Well, hello there, dear h!!! I’m pretty good other than having an annoying head cold, but what can one do. Hoping my novel is finished or close to, and excited to finally to be days away from getting the film script to our producer at long last. So, not bad. I hope your busyness is the really good kind. It’s great to see you! Take care until I see you next! ** _Black_Acrylic, France prides itself on being an ultimate euphemism for just about everything good, and, you know, it can be. ** Steve Erickson, Your ‘Fight Club’ piece sounds to be very ambitious and just generally great to anticipate. I hope the work on it goes very well. As I said to Bill, I’ve seen 9T Antiope live, and they were terrific, no vocals on that occasion though. Yes, I have a couple of Tool hardcores in my Facebook feed. They make even Bernie Sanders fanatics seem like a barrel of laughs. ** KK, Hi, KK! Good to see you too, man! Work you sound really great! I can totally feel the drive and confidence! Fantastic, the best! Keep the momentum close, for sure. That’s the best prize. So happy you were into Sunn0)))’s live thing. Incredible and singular, no? Sure, send me the mss. when you’re ready. I’ll hopefully be in an in-between work moment so I can read it straight away. New Scab! The editor was just here not too far above you. Good luck with the outstanding submissions. I’m good, a head cold aside. Take care. ** Okay. Do you guys know the films of Su Friedrich? If not, well, now you can, and I obviously believe you should know them, if you don’t. So do that? And see you tomorrow.


  1. Quinn R

    Hi Dennis! Quinn here again. Hope this finds you well. How has the end of your summer been? How’s the new film & the new novel coming along? What are you reading/watching lately?

    My August was pretty rough, but it’s ending on a positive note, I feel. My parents are both pretty ill and that’s tough, but I’ve gotten my mojo back with my social life & my writing life. For the past few days I’ve been working on my Lana Del Rey essay for the LA Review of Books. What’s interesting is that I was trying to mimic the form of your Square Zero essay, merging of critical theory arts criticism & personal history. But I’m actually finding myself most interested in exploring LDR by way of personal reportage, and I don’t really see where the critical theory will fit yet. I feel like the essay is getting a little wishy washy & sentimental too. But I have until tonight to get it done. Do you ever worry in about getting overly sentimental in your writing process?

    Actually strangely enough that’s one thing that I think the Sally Rooney novels do really well, is that she basically writes corny Jane Austen novels, but her prose has a flat affect that keeps the story from getting too trite. Have you read the Sally Rooney novels? You might like them, although the first one was far better. I’ve been noticing that most American fiction that comes out of the MFA programs these days seems to attempt the opposite impact; the prose is so voicey and purplish and charged with meaning, and all the characters feel as if they’re generated by algorithms. Gross. I don’t really want to apply for my MFA this year, but apply I must.

    Two more pieces of news: one, I’ve befriended Edmund White and his husband Michael Carroll. They say hello & expressed their fondness for you, & they seem impressed that I’m trying to connect with my favorite writers. The other piece of news–I’ve launched my escort profile on Rent Men. So if you see me around there, feel free to say hi! Maybe I’ll end up on your Intl Escorts list. My purpose is quite simply to build a savings account; it’s clear to me that the only chance I have of financial solvency as a writer is to enter the sex industry. Which is honestly fine; in fact it almost seems a little cliche at this point. I don’t really want to work for a “company” or whatever. What do you think?

    Again hope this finds you well, Dennis! I think I wanna get back to Europe for a month or two next spring; if you and Zac anticipate needing any PAs or extras for your film then don’t hesitate to reach out. I’ve always wanted to see what it’s like to work on a film set. And I’ve done tons of events shit at a volunteer capacity, whether it was my Catholic youth group or whatever. So you can depend on me!

  2. David Ehrenstein

    I know the films of Su Friedrich. She’s brilliant I especially love her “appropriation” (aka. “sampling”) of “The Bad Seed” in “Damned If You Don’t” It makes an incredibly creepy film een creepier.

    “First Comes Courage” is a title “appropriated” from Dorothy Arzner.

  3. Su Friedrich

    Hi Dennis,
    A friend on FB sent me a message to alert me to this. Thank you! I’ve never had an official “day” before. I appreciate the care you took, all the images and clips you included, etc.
    All the best,

  4. Bill

    Su Friedrich has been popping up in my reading over the years. Will try to squeeze in some viewing time before the weekend.

    Glad you enjoyed 9T Antiope, Steve. I guess they do qualify for being “in France”, haha. Look forward to hearing more about the Fight Club project.


  5. Armando


    “Look, seriously, keep thinking of other ways to get your film made because my being able to help is an extreme long shot.”

    ^ Yeah, I know, don’t worry. It’s not like I’m sitting here idly waiting for you or anyone else to help me with anything. I apologize if I gave you that impression.

    Yeah, I didn’t mean that I’ve any objectivity regarding what I do, but also only I know what I’m aiming for and anyway I always think everything I do is shit, so in that aspect, who cares really. I’ll never be Mann nor Joyce nor Krasznahorkai nor Andreyev nor Trakl nor Vallejo nor Rulfo nor Burroughs; I think that’s extremely obvious to anyone and also a very clearly and evidently and obviously funded fact; so, like, whatever.

    Good day, good luck,


  6. Steve Erickson

    I find NORMAN FUCKING ROCKWELL fascinating, and I’ve been listening to Lana’s older albums a lot since it came out. I started writing a review that I planned to post on Medium and my blog, but I need to write the FIGHT CLUB essay and another review this week. I’m not sure I have anything to say about Lana which hasn’t been said before, but there’s something really interesting about how her most recent music turns around certain images and ideas she’s always used (nostalgia, America, California) in their most complex permutation or how songs like “Fucked My Way To the Top” or “Money, Power, Glory” speak about neoliberalism and capitalist realism without coming across as a Political Statement. Her lyrics have always been strewn with musical and movie references, but on NFR they suggest something about how people internalize the culture they love and use it as a lingua franca.

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