MIX NYC first screened De Profundis in 1997 at the 11th MIX Festival, where we called attention to its experimental rigor and celebrated its investigation of language, sexuality, and Oscar Wilde's fabulously transgressive aesthetics. We are just as excited now as we were then by the striking beauty of this work and the enveloping score by Frederic Rzewski, with additional sound compositions by Douglas Cohen.
De Profundis is a three part, hand/alternative-processed experimental film based on Oscar Wilde's prison letter De Profundis. This 65 minute film sets up a haunting investigation of queerness, masculinity, history and sexuality, buttressing images against a soundtrack composed of Wilde's aphorisms, a voice and piano setting of Wilde's prison letter, and multi-tracked interviews with a diverse group of contemporary gay men.
"The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it."
If film no longer existed, De Profundis gives the impression that Lawrence Brose is certainly capable of reinventing it. Oddly enough, Brose would do so by stripping film down to visual components that are reassembled only as they are knitted to each other at their breaking points. Redacted.
But one must resist the impulse to talk only of how Brose -with controlled image manipulation and extremely experimental hand-processing techniques- has produced in De Profundis a film united by stress and diaphanous. De Profundis is more than an unconventional approach to filmmaking, though it would be a visual tour-de-force if it were only that. Taking its cue from Oscar Wilde, De Profundis holds up a mirror to gay sexuality and plumbs the tensions reflected there.
Meshing images culled from home movies, drag performances, Radical Faerie gatherings, and vintage gay erotica with a piano soundtrack scored from Wilde's prison letter and a voice composition fashioned from the poet's aphorisms, Brose makes film itself into the protagonist of his exploration. With images and sounds constantly decaying and shifting and contaminating each other, film becomes a metaphor of the transforming self that Wilde prized for corrupting a sense of sexual normalcy. De Profundis embraces Wildesque deviance and cautions that the desire for normalization prevalent among contemporary gays threatens to contain it.
Serenity in sophistication is a triumph - like the deviance of De Profundis, which, achieved in an age too terrified to be deviant, lies in the film's unflinching honesty and terrifying beauty.
Filmmaker Lawrence Brose was arrested by the FBI in 2008 and charged with downloading child pornography from a German website. The charges also include 100 exhibition prints from his film De Profundis. If convicted, he faces a lengthy prison sentence and lifelong sex offender status.
Join us for a screening of Brose's 1997 film De Profundis, followed by a panel discussion about his case with Keith Gemerek of the Lawrence Brose Legal Defense Fund and Judith Levine, author and activist with The National Center for Reason and Justice. Moderated by Sarah Schulman, author and MIX Co-Founder.