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Museum of Modern Art Celebrates Four-Decade Career of Sally Potter
The Tango Lesson. 1997. Great Britain, France, Argentina, Japan, Germany. Directed by Sally Potter. Image courtesy of Adventure Pictures.

NEW YORK, NY.- A retrospective of the films of British director Sally Potter (b. 1949) at The Museum of Modern Art from July 7 through 21, 2010, celebrates her distinct, independent vision, showing all her feature films, documentaries, and shorts, and a selection of her experimental works made between the early 1970s and the present. Potter has consistently kept a radical edge in her filmmaking work, beginning with avant-garde short films and moving on to alternative dramatic features that embrace music, literature, dance, theater, and performance. Potter typically works on multiple elements of her films, from script and direction to sound design, editing, performance, and production. Her films elegantly blend poetry and politics, giving voice to women’s stories and romantic liaisons and exploring themes of desire and passion, self-expression, and the role of the individual in society. Considered together in this retrospective, Potter’s films reveal the common thread of transformation that runs through her work—in terms both of her characters’ journeys and her own ability to transcend genre and work with cutting-edge film forms. Sally Potter is organized by Sally Berger, Assistant Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.

The opening night, Wednesday, July 7, at 8:00 p.m., is the U.S. premiere of the digitally remastered, high-definition version of Potter’s most critically acclaimed film, Orlando (1992), which will be re-released theatrically by Sony Pictures Classics on July 23. Based on Virginia Woolf’s novel of the same name, the film stars Tilda Swinton as a young poet who is commanded by Queen Elizabeth to stay forever young, and lives for over four centuries first as a man, then as a woman. Potter and Swinton will participate in a conversation after the screening on July 7 at MoMA.

Potter’s most recent movie, RAGE (2009), screening at MoMA on July 8 and 16, was first distributed on mobile applications before going to theaters when it was released in September 2009. The film continues Potter’s groundbreaking forays into experimental narrative, with 14 actors (Judi Dench, Eddie Izzard, and Jude Law, among many other big names) playing characters persuaded to reveal their secrets into a schoolboy’s cell phone at a New York fashion show. When an accident occurs on the catwalk, possible murder motives come to light. The film was nominated for Best Drama in the Fourteenth Annual Webby Awards.

The U.S. premiere of Carmen (2007) screens at MoMA on Saturday, July 10. The 170-minute split-screen film captures a modern-day production of Bizet’s Carmen, directed by Potter for the English National Opera. It is made from a multicamera recording of one performance—both backstage and in front of house—which was originally webcast by the BBC.

Also featured in the exhibition are Potter’s early short films, which experimented with ideas of “expanded cinema,” incorporating projected films, split screens, and live performance. Her low-budget short Thriller (1979), which reverses Mimi’s tragic death in La Bohème, achieved international cult status as a feminist critique of the romantic drama. Thriller was followed by her first feature, The Gold Diggers (1983), a hybrid drama set in a surreal landscape and starring Julie Christie, which symbolically explored the relationship between the female star and commercial cinema.

The Museum of Modern Art | Sally Potter | Sally Berger |

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