This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
Combining lowbrow humour with a masterful command of collage—as if George Kuchar’s films had been edited by Robert Breer—the eye-popping films of Jeff Keen careen through the projector at a frenetic pace as cut-out images collide with each other one frame after the other, costumed guests carouse and fight in the local dump, and plastic toys burn to bits in elaborate dioramas. Influenced by his experiences in the British army during World War II and fired by his abiding love for comic books and pulp novels, Keen produced more than eighty films over his long career, his insatiable creative energy only ceasing upon his passing in 2012 at the age of eighty-eight. More a creature of myth than a truly central figure of the British experimental scene (due in part to his pulpy subject matter, as well as his relative isolation in Brighton), Keen finally received some well-deserved attention near the end of his life when the BFI took pains to restore several of his films, a selection of which are included in this programme.
Originally begun as a way to provide content for his wife Jackie’s art college film society, Keen’s filmmaking soon took on a life of its own. Adopting the character of “Dr. Gaz” as a mad-scientist alter ego, Keen recruited his friends and family to perform in his films as his own gallery of superheroes: Jackie made numerous appearances as “Vulvana,” Keen’s daughter became “Stella Starr,” and visitors to the Keen household (such as Warhol Factory poet Piero Heliczer) soon found themselves in costume. Despite the surface-level kitsch of the subject matter, Keen’s films are veritable compendiums of kinetic effects and celebrations of the subversive properties of popular culture.
dir. Jeff Keen | UK 1990 | 1 min. | video
dir. Jeff Keen | UK 1961 | 5 min. | Super 8 on video
dir. Jeff Keen | UK 1967 | 3 min. | 16mm on 35mm
dir. Jeff Keen | UK 1968 | 3.5 min. | 16mm on 35mm
dir. Jeff Keen | UK 1967 | 5 min. | 16mm
dir. Jeff Keen | UK 1968-1976 | 13 min. | 16mm
dir. Jeff Keen | UK 1968 | 9 min. | 16mm on 35mm
The Cartoon Theatre of Dr. Gaz
dir. Jeff Keen | UK 1977-79 | 12 min. | 16mm on video
dir. Jeff Keen | UK 1983-86 | 12 min. | 16mm on 35mm