Hilary Harris 1929-1999
Longhorns (1951)
LONGHORNS is cine-dance with a surrealist tang. There are no human figures in this early short from Hilary Harris, only a pair of Texas longhorns turning endless spirals in the tall reeds of a New York inlet. The strangeness of this scene abstracts the horns’ mesmerizing rotation, the better for Harris to explore the choreographic possibilities of cutting and framing (Cyril Jackson’s propulsive drum score provides the beat). Harris was a lifelong sculptor in addition to being a pioneering experimental filmmaker, and in LONGHORNS we see him reveling in the interplay between the two mediums. Though somewhat shaggier than his later motion studies (such as 9 VARIATIONS ON A DANCE THEME), LONGHORNS remains a tactile treat. The majestic images of clouds, in particular, evince his special ability to transform the mundane into something revelatory. - Max Goldberg