Friday, August 10, 2012

Astonishing Humphrey Esterhase Revelation!

Many readers of this blog will be aware of the sad and frustrating phenomenon of the late Humphrey Esterhase, the noted 1960s underground filmmaker whose entire filmography was destroyed in a tragic accident in the late '60s and who vowed never to work again. A couple of years back, he seemed to change his mind. He collaborated with me in making Ten Minutes Isn't Worth a Dream in 2010 and seemed ready to start working on a comeback of his own. Unfortuately, he sank back into alcoholic depression and passed away last year. In tribute, I put together a small film from some Super-8 tests he shot in his last years and sound from his often harrowing taped diaries to form The Last Films of Humphrey Esterhase. And I really thought that would be the last of him.

(You get a good sense of the man from this interview I did with him:

But now, out of nowhere, a black-and-white 26-minute video has appeared on Youtube called Habits of a Lifetime (Notes Towards a Dream Diary by Humphrey Esterhase). It is undoubtedly Esterhase's work. I've been in touch with Nigel Naniwa, the person who uploaded it, and it seems he found a VHS tape with this work on it by chance in a skip he was going through whilst on holidays in Switzerland. The only other items in the skip were toys and furniture. He uploaded it simply because some of the images appealed to him. By his own admission, he knows nothing about Esterhase or experimental film in general. I've arranged to buy the VHS from him with a view to doing whatever restoration work I can on it, although he warns me that it already contains mould. 

What is this rediscovered work?! For a start, proof that Esterhase attempted at least one moving image project between 1970 and 2010. The title- 'Notes Towards...'- indicates that it might have been a sketch for a more elaborate project that was never accomplished. Is this a finished piece or a rough cut? A statement or an experiment? Abandoned? Very possibly honestly forgotten by its author in his tragic final years. He certainly never mentioned it to me.

Anyway, my head's too dizzy with the implications of all this to write more. To see the video:


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