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Sara Driver Gets Long-Overdue Retrospective at the Anthology Film Archives

18DRIVER1_SPAN-articleLarge.jpgOne of the most compelling, original and regrettably overlooked filmmakers to emerge from the creative maelstrom of downtown New York City in the daze of yore, Sara Driver is the subject of a long-overdue retrospective at the Anthology Film Archives. After Driver was relegated to recent obscurity, the discovery of You Are Not I (Driver's haunting psychological portrait of a young schizophrenic let loose upon the world but not from her mind) and its stunning inclusion in the New York Film Festival, has brought new attention to this most idiosyncratic and personal of directors. You Are Not I was thought long lost, until a print of it was found in the home of writer Paul Bowles -- whose story was the basis for Driver's film.

YOU ARE NOT I 3[2].jpgSuzanne Fletcher in You Are Not Alone. Photo by Nan Goldin courtesy of Sara Driver.

Independent in a way that makes us realize how corrupted that term has become, smart in a way we rarely expect from cinema, and deeply intimate to a degree that wider audiences are neither accustomed nor entirely comfortable with, Sara Driver's films ask so little of story and action that we never so much witness them as experience them conjured in a dream.

Driver amassed a modest body of work for a career that spans more than a quarter century -- two features, one near feature-length movie and a short -- that sadly is more a testimony for how hard it is for the women auteur than any lack of things to say. Much like her long-time partner Jim Jarmusch -- for whom she produced Stranger Than Paradise and Permanent Vacation -- Driver is a rare maestro at forging ensemble casts into atypical new spaces while allowing the camera to linger in ways that evoke the eerie specter of fantasy around which we wrap our fallible sense of reality.

WHEN PIGS FLY 4.jpgMarianne Faithfull and Rachel Bella in When Pigs Fly. Photo by Nan Goldin courtesy of Sara Driver.

Even with such notable figures as Steve Buscemi, Anne Magnuson, Marianne Faithfull, Luc Sante, Nan Goldin, Seymour Cassel and Alfred Molina populating Driver's otherworld, this week of screenings offers the a truly remarkable respite from the familiar. And if you don't smoke a joint before watching her masterwork When Pigs Fly, you might risk wasting a most beautiful encounter with one of the greatest cinematographers (Robby Muller) and composers (Joe Strummer) who've ever lent their genius to this debased medium we call movies.

"Sleepwalking: The Films of Sara Driver" runs from Mar. 23-Apr. 1 at Anthology Film Archives. More info here.

Photo by Jim Jarmusch

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