New York-based experimental filmmaker Amy Greenfield has described Club Midnight as taking “the viewer on a journey from the club and struggle against victimization to a freedom and power” (Haller; 2012). Complexly edited, and densely woven together, the performances that make up this cinematic cycle were composed and edited over the course of eight years. Like much of her pioneering work in the cine-dance genre, Club Midnight continues to combine poetic prose with performance. In many of its sequences, Greenfield joins in on her study of motion from behind the screen; the camera is rarely at rest, it zooms in and out, and moves across the performers, a whirling partner and active collaborator that seeks to accompany the work of her chosen dancers, aligning itself with the struggle for empowerment through analogous and complementary movement.
Greenfield’s visual and textual citational practice is crucial to the endeavor; her quotations form a historical intervention that, in many ways, anticipates the struggles over online censorship her early masterpieces Tides and Element would encounter the following year. The film begins by quoting American-French dancer Isadora Duncan as it suggests the collection’s purpose: to mine the confluence of female erotic performance art, dance and avant-garde filmmaking towards “a new nakedness no longer at war with spirituality and intelligence but joining with them.” Likewise, segment “Dark Sequins” is prefaced by a textual interlude that references Salome’s dance before King Herod that suggests the number as a contemporary recreation of this historical legend. But the apotheosis of this journey takes place in the film’s final sequence, the stunning “Wildfire.” Originally crafted in 2002, the dance resurrects early twentieth century footage of vaudeville performer Annabelle Moore shot by Edison. Tinted footage yields to contemporary dancers reenacting the serpentine dance; as the number progresses, Greenfield edits together a kaleidoscopic, multilayered, superimposition, enacting a simultaneity of dance both past and present. The individual movements are no longer presented on their own, rather taking place within a visual and historical continuum of performance. Here, Greenfield reaches across time to fold the struggles of her performers past and present into one, and, in the process, gives her historical counterparts the freedom and power they always deserved.
Club Midnight is available on DVD from RE:VOIR.
Anthony Silvestri is a Ph.D. student in the Media School at Indiana University, Bloomington. His research focuses on the archival work of members of the post-war American avant-garde.