Heaven and Earth Magic by Harry Smith


Harry Smith’s hour-long collage film is one of the filmmaker’s major works and it can now be viewed in a rather rough form at Ubuweb. Smith made the first version in 1957 then tinkered with it for the next five years. If its effects seem rather primitive today it should be borne in mind that Smith was a pioneer of this kind of cinema which predates the more familiar work of Terry Gilliam and others by a decade. Also at Ubuweb there’s Early Abstractions (1941–1957) and Late Superimpositions (1964).

In addition to filmmaking Harry Smith was (among other things) an artist, ethnologist and the compiler of the landmark Anthology of American Folk Music. The Harry Smith Archives has biographical details and more.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Harry Smith revisited
The art of Harry Smith, 1923–1991

2 thoughts on “Heaven and Earth Magic by Harry Smith”

  1. Thank you for alerting a potential audience to the wonders of Harry Smith’s cinema. Of the many Good Things that have appeared in your indispensable blog, this post is among the best.

    Don’t know if you’ve read older interviews with Smith, these possibly in the pags of Film Culture, where he talked about his ideal cinema in which H&E M would be viewed by people seated in chairs individually constructed to mimic objects onscreen (eggs, watermelons, etc.). Instead we get IMAX. Another instance of the Woolworth version of a promised future coming to pass.

  2. Hi Richard. No, the most I’ve read about H&EM is in the Harry Smith book American Magus and for now I don’t recall any of the details from there.

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