JEFF KEEN TRIBUTE: DUNCAN REEKIE

Marvo Movie (1967, Jeff Keen)

Jeff’s friends, fans and collaborators offer their memories and recollections of Jeff and his films. Originally published in Film Panic Magazine, issue 1, June 2013

From the late 1950s and into the 1960s the American experimental film movement was accelerating into the counterculture of underground cinema. Kenneth Anger was developing lush superimpositions of kitsch erotics set to teenage pop music, Stan Brakhage was scratching and colouring the surface of his films into cosmic euphoria, Stan Vanderbeek was making surreal photo collage animations, Jack Smith had gathered together a core ensemble of performers to enact his orgasmic dream palace pantomimes, Barbara Rubin was filming happenings of painted nakedness, Robert Breer was animating his spontaneous sketches, Carolee Schneeman was composing animated photomontages of fast cut war atrocity, the Kuchar Brothers were invoking the camp subversion of B-Movie melodrama, Bruce Connor was cutting found film footage into ironic montage, Jonas Mekas was shooting diary films of his bohemian life and Andy Warhol was pioneering expanded cinema techniques with the Exploding Plastic Inevitable.

Meanwhile in Brighton Jeff Keen was using all these techniques, and sometimes all these techniques in the same film. If he had been working in New York he would have been acknowledged as one of the key experimental filmmakers of the 20th century. When the British Avant-Garde renounced the popular in the 1970s, Keen became a liability they could neither understand nor completely disregard. Undaunted, Dr Gaz was in it for the long haul and over the next 40 years he produced an oeuvre of mindfucking intensity. By which I mean to say he is the most important British underground filmmaker: full stop.

Duncan Reekie is an artist and a founding member of Exploding Cinema, and author of Subversion: The Definitive History of Underground Cinema (2007).