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Some films have all the right ingredients: Beat poets languishing in coffee shops, the black and white streets of San Francisco circa 1959, a man hidden in the cellar with a giant teddy bear, vagabonds copulating in kitchen cabinets, fireworks over fairgrounds, a hatchet-wielding director, and – most importantly –  lispy, lanky, lopsided Taylor Mead, giggling his way through the apocalyptic streets of urban America.


Shot with surplus military film on a borrowed (or stolen) Bolex and processed with expired chemistry, THE FLOWER THIEF (1960) is the first of only five films made by the volatile experimental filmmaker Ron Rice. Rice had recently relocated to San Francisco from his native New York when the avant-garde exposé PULL MY DAISY (1959) was released, revealing the spontaneous antics of Beat poets in the Bowery. Inspired by the improvisational style of PULL MY DAISY, Rice set out to shoot a West Coast tribute that would feature the hapless wanderings of a baggy poet through the streets of San Francisco. He found his muse in Taylor Mead, who frequented the Coffee Gallery on Grant Street where Rice hung out while writing the film. Aware that the Beat scene was dwindling, Rice wasted no time scraping together the resources he needed to shoot his first feature film (the estimated budget was less than $1,000). Using an abandoned trolley car hanger as a studio and waving the hatchet he is rumored to have worn around his belt when things were not going his way, Rice and his camera follow Mead from bagel shop to basement to beach, engaging every fence, flower and child that crosses his poetic path. True to the Beat sensibility, THE FLOWER THIEF is a spontaneous film that confronts the conventional boundaries of just about every narrative tradition there is.  Absurd, imperfect and painfully romantic, this is a film that will take you for a joy ride and drop you off alone to figure out how you got there and where you thought you were going in the first place.
The Flower Thief (1960) by Ron Rice
Running time: 75 minutes

MassArt Film Society
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013
8 pm


FREE for MassArt Students

621 Huntington Avenue, Screening Room 1


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