Thursday, January 11, 2007


in the New York Times: a terribly moving piece by Billy Sothern in remembrance of Helen Hill and in mourning for New Orleans.

Helen's funeral yesterday in South Carolina was uplifting but so sad I was really almost undone by it. I remember this feeling (I know it's apples and oranges, I am not saying anything else is the same...) from the days and weeks following September 11, 2001, a kind of distraction and sorrow and sickness at heart that makes it difficult to do much else.

I barely made it to the airport on time on Tuesday morning--I expect I come across here as rather scatter-brained, but in fact I am usually very well-organized and in particular compulsively punctual, I always get to the airport two hours before the flight's due to leave, I'm not even exaggerating (I know it's mildly neurotic). I vacillated on bus versus taxi (I always take a taxi to LaGuardia, but a bus seemed more in the spirit of the occasion), left it a bit late for the bus and resolved on the taxi but then the bus was right there at 116th St. as I crossed over Broadway for an uptown taxi. So I hopped on, then started digging around in my wallet for my Metrocard. A block later I suddenly realized with a sinking feeling that I had left both the Metrocard and my only credit card in the pocket of the jacket I'd worn to the deep-water running class the night before (not sensible to leave your whole wallet in a strange locker-room, you know?).

The bus driver could presumably see I was in a complete state, asked me where I was going and when I said it was the airport and helplessly waved around a handful of useless dollars he amazingly, benevolently, told me to sit down and relax and not worry about the fare.

As the bus turned east onto 125th St., though, I realized that not only did I have no credit card & barely enough time to get to the airport for check-in, I had also left my cellphone plugged into the charger in the wall....

One of the best things (there were a lot of best things, including the time to talk with dear friends about serious things) in South Carolina was the screening of some of Helen's films earlier in the day before the funeral. I've seen a number of them before, but only on video transfer; it was quite extraordinary to see these magical and haunting shorts in that magical actual space of a real movie theater where the lights go down as the projector starts running and the clattery slightly shaky image comes up on the screen. I see movies so infrequently that I forget the strange alchemy of film, but Helen's work was very much about the actual chemicals and materials of old-school film-making and the work had a remarkably forceful effect under these technical circumstances.

There is almost certainly going to be another screening in New York, perhaps sometime in February; I'll post details here when they are available, but everyone should come and see these, not just Helen's friends and fans, they are quite extraordinary ("Mouseholes" in particular--but they are all amazing).

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