On the Cinema of Happiness and Robert Breer

Robert Breer’s show of kinetic constructions is continuing at the Bonino Gallery. Almost as soon as you walk in you are touched, you begin to feel a pleasant breeze of happiness. There is something happy and good about Breer. I haven’t felt as good in a long time as when I stood in the Bonino Gallery looking at Breer’s constructions and movies (they are running on 8 mm. in Fairchild’s “boxes”). The amazing thing is that all this goodness and happiness is caught so simply and so effortlessly. It’s done through abstract lines, through the play of plastic elements, through movements and rhythms. The happiness has its own rhythm, and Breer seems to have caught and re-created it in his work. We look at Breer’s work and we begin to smile – lightly, a happy sort of smile, a happy feeling like when you see anything beautiful and perfect. It’s through an amazing control and economy of his materials that he achieves this; through the elimination of all the usual emotional, personal, biographical, sick material; by not giving in to temptations.

January 28, 1965

(1) A Man and His Dog Out for Air (Robert Breer, 1960)

Image from A Man and His Dog Out for Air (Robert Breer, 1960)


This text was originally published in Village Voice, January 1965. It was later reprinted in Movie Journal. The Rise of the New American Cinema, 1959-1971 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016).

Many thanks to the Estate of Jonas Mekas. 

© All rights reserved by the artist and his rightholders / Courtesy of Light Cone.


Milestones: Robert Breer takes place on Monday 2 October 2023 at 20:00 in Art Cinema OFFoff, Ghent. You can find more information on the event here.

In Passage, Sabzian invites film critics, authors, filmmakers and spectators to send a text or fragment on cinema that left a lasting impression.
Pour Passage, Sabzian demande à des critiques de cinéma, auteurs, cinéastes et spectateurs un texte ou un fragment qui les a marqués.
In Passage vraagt Sabzian filmcritici, auteurs, filmmakers en toeschouwers naar een tekst of een fragment dat ooit een blijvende indruk op hen achterliet.
The Prisma section is a series of short reflections on cinema. A Prisma always has the same length – exactly 2000 characters – and is accompanied by one image. It is a short-distance exercise, a miniature text in which one detail or element is refracted into the spectrum of a larger idea or observation.
La rubrique Prisma est une série de courtes réflexions sur le cinéma. Tous les Prisma ont la même longueur – exactement 2000 caractères – et sont accompagnés d'une seule image. Exercices à courte distance, les Prisma consistent en un texte miniature dans lequel un détail ou élément se détache du spectre d'une penséée ou observation plus large.
De Prisma-rubriek is een reeks korte reflecties over cinema. Een Prisma heeft altijd dezelfde lengte – precies 2000 tekens – en wordt begeleid door één beeld. Een Prisma is een oefening op de korte afstand, een miniatuurtekst waarin één detail of element in het spectrum van een grotere gedachte of observatie breekt.