When James Broughton was 30, he frequently contemplated suicide. Then James began making films and thoughts of his own extinction disappeared for good. That was the 1940’s and cinema was still a young medium.
Today, James Broughton is often called the “father of West Coast experimental film.” James made 23 deeply personal, poetic, soulful films ranging from 3 to 45 minutes in length. These films set a standard for cinematic expression, combining mythological imagery, experimental visions, path-breaking nudity and humorous life lessons.
In his book on filmmaking, Seeing the Light (1977), Broughton wrote,
“Cinema like life is only worth living if it is in the service of something beyond the explicit and the mundane. Keep true to your own nature and you will be original enough. Trust your feelings, intuitions, attitudes, and follies. Go deep. Don’t wrestle with a mouse. Exercise an angelic foe or a challenging daemon. Follow your own weird.”James Broughton
Visual and verbal poetry reign in Broughton’s films. Broughton’s 1967 award-winning film, “The Bed”, ran for over a year in a San Francisco theater. It chronicles an amazing range of fantasies and realities that can happen on a bed. “I never expected this success.” he said. “I made it for my amusement. It was the only one of my films that ever made money.”
Broughton’s films have screened in retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Film Theatre in London, Pacific Cinematheque Vancouver, the Royal Film Museum Brussels, and many others.
Honored with a lifetime achievement award by the American Film Institute, the groundbreaking tactics of his films remain inspiring today.
Enjoy a taste of James’ films below!
A large number of Broughton films are available
from the Facets Collection “The Films of James Broughton”
- Adventures of Jimmy (1950) 11 min 16 mm
- Devotions (with Joel Singer) (1983) 22 min 16 mm
- Dreamwood (1972) 45 min 16 mm
- Erogeny (1976) 6 min 16 mm
- Four in the Afternoon (1951) 15 min 16 mm
- Hermes Bird (with Joel Singer) (1979) 11 min 16 mm
- High Kukus (1973) 3 min 16 mm
- Loony Tom, The Happy Lover (1951) 10.5 min 16 mm
- Mother’s Day (1948) 16 mm
- Nuptiae (1969) 14 min 16 mm
- Scattered Remains Part 1, Part 2 (with Joel Singer) (1988) 14 min 16 mm
- Shaman Psalm (with Joel Singer) (1981) 7 min 16 mm
- Song of the Godbody (with Joel Singer) (1977) 11 min 16 mm
- Testament (1974) 20 min 16 mm
- The Bed (1968) 20 min 16 mm
- The Gardener of Eden (with Joel Singer) (1981) 8.5 min 16 mm
- The Golden Positions (1971) 16 mm
- The Pleasure Garden (1953) 38 min 16 mm
- The Potted Psalm (1946) with Sidney Peterson 25 min
- The Water Circle (1975) 3 min 16 mm
- This Is It (1971) 10 min 16 mm
- Together (with Joel Singer) (1976) 3 min 16 mm
- Windowmobile (with Joel Singer) (1977) 8 min 16 mm