Bruce Conner’s Breakaway

by Christina Rees September 16, 2015


This week’s column is a podcast of me urging you, Glasstire readers, to watch Bruce Conner’s 1966 experimental short film Breakaway.

I talk about why you should catch it now, what makes it such a watershed work, and how it changed the way we see the moving image.

Below is the podcast (appx. 8 min.), and below that is a link to Connor’s short. Hope you enjoy both.




Video: here (or cut and paste the following):




Michael A. Morris September 16, 2015 - 09:54

Bruce Conner is pure genius. While you’re at it, go to SMU’s Pollock Gallery and see Jennifer Proctor’s remake of his Iconic 1958 film, A Movie, installed there.

Robert Ziebell September 16, 2015 - 11:07

Thanks for posting this, there is never enough praise for Bruce Conner.

Before “Breakaway” there was “Cosmic Ray”, which is a more of benchmark:

I think Conner was just fine with music videos as he did do Mongoloid:

and Mea Culpa with David Byrne and Brian Eno, pieces of what you can see here:

He did hate watching his films as video (and why it is so hard to watch nothing but bootleg copies on the web) but there was an amazing digital restoration of “Crossroads” at the Kohn Gallery recently that would be nice if it was shown in Houston sometime (hint):

Clark Richert September 16, 2015 - 11:43

Great Film. Yes, see his film “CrossRoads” too (nuclear bombs). BTW, Toni Basil is the singer and the dancer.
FYI, in the 80’s she sang “Hey Mickey”. – And she’s still active today.

Don Quaintance September 17, 2015 - 11:45

What one college student in 1969, like myself, thought of Bruce Conner’s “Breakaway” was “super-cool!” But the film wasn’t like some alien life form. I may have been slightly ahead of the curve at the then very hip Rice Media Center, but Bruce Conner was considered a god immediately by my enlightened instructor James Blue. My very first class assignment was watching Connor’s “A Movie” (1958) and then making my own collage film, or “junk film” as Blue called it (a la the California assemblage movement), splicing together bits and pieces of Super 8 versions of industrial movies, Hollywood shorts, animations into a new super-rapid mélange.

Likewise, the live light shows from ca. 1967 onward presented along with traveling rock concerts by the Dead and the Airplane, for example, explored some of the same kind of dissociative editing and quick cut imagery: you know, like the acid trip the viewer was probably on anyway. Connor was an active participant in many of the San Francisco light shows.

Also he was part of a whole New American Cinema movement with such filmmakers as Will Hindle, Stan Brakhage, and Scott Barlett who were exploring rapidly shifting visual effects.

One other small point: I believe much, though not all, of the editing in “Breakaway” was done in-camera, not with physical splicing or film lab analog fading. In other words, setting the camera on stop-motion frames while filming.

Thanks for bringing this little masterwork to everyone’s attention again. Tune in, turn on, drop out, baby!

Robert Ziebell September 17, 2015 - 13:50

Spot on Don.

You know, Walter always told me that he had a hand in splicing pieces of Cosmic Ray together in Mexico City with Conner.

Splicing, imaging that.

carolyn September 20, 2015 - 19:59



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