Robert Frank Retrospective: Program 3

Related Exhibition Looking In: Robert Frank's "The Americans"

Saturday, May 16, 3:00 p.m.
Thursday, May 21, 7:00 p.m.

Phyllis Wattis Theater

Keep Busy is a spontaneous, improvised story of a group of people living on an island off Nova Scotia. Obsessed with daily aspects of their lives and the cycles of nature, the group is subjugated by a lighthouse keeper and his messenger, who have access to the only radio, and therefore control the news.

Filmed in Wendover, Nevada, in early 1981, Energy and How to Get It combines documentary and fictional ideas. What began as a documentary film about Robert Golka — an engineer who was experimenting with ball lightening and the development of fusion as an energy force — was turned into a spoof on the documentary form, inserting fictional characters into the story such as the Energy Czar (William Burroughs) and a Hollywood agent (filmmaker Robert Downey).

Robert Frank's first video project — made cheaply, with a half-inch video Portapak — is about the relationship between Frank's life as an artist and his personal life, and how the two are inevitably intertwined. Home Improvements takes place in New York and Nova Scotia, as well as in the mental space between those two opposing worlds.

Additional Info

Keep Busy, 1975, 30 min., 16mm
Energy and How to Get It, 1981, 28 min., 16mm
Home Improvements, 1985, 29 min., video
Total running time: 87 min.

Image: Robert Frank, Energy and How to Get It (still), 1981; photo courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and Robert Frank

SFMOMA would like to thank the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, home of the Robert Frank Film and Video Archive, for its support in providing prints and other assistance for this program.