Peter Goldman – Wheel of Ashes

Wheel of Ashes (1968) 16mm – 95min – France – subtitles in French, English & German

‘Goldman, who established himself as one of the leading lights of the American underground film movement with his first feature film, […] made his second feature in France, with Clémenti starring as a young man adrift in Paris, searching for meaning via sexual encounters, solitary contemplation, and an exploration of both Western and Eastern religious traditions. Hardly seen in the US, in the sixties or since, Wheel of Ashes represents a fascinating intersection of important European and American underground figures. ‘There was not one of us who was not profoundly touched by this film… perhaps the first to give a true feeling of certain quarters of Paris.’ – Cahiers du Cinéma

‘His people come to life simply and believably – more believably than most of the people in the Chabrol and Truffaut cinema… the film has a thematic and formal beauty that is remarkable.’ – Jonas Mekas

‘[…] the most exciting new filmmaker in recent years. Echoes of Silence, his first film, is a stunning piece of work.’ – Susan Sontag

Who better than Clémenti to portray the angel and the beast, dying and coming back to life with each image, the depressed wanderer incarnate and Rimbaud’s seer prey to the darkness and the dance of specters? A weary and depressed Christ-like beggar, trekking along in a Parisian limbo, Pierre glides freely between Aragon’s Paris Peasant, Soupault’s Last Nights of Paris, and Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. The character is entrenched in a dilemma between two psychedelic impulses towards transcendence: a choice between carnal or cosmic love.

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Qui mieux que Clémenti pouvait alors faire l’ange et la bête, mourir et ressusciter à chaque image, incarner le marcheur neurasthénique et le voyant rimbaldien en proie aux ténèbres et à la sarabande des spectres ? Mendiant christique fatigué et suant de spleen, arpentant les limbes parisiennes, Pierre dérive quelque part entre Le Paysan de Paris d’Aragon, Les Dernières nuits de Paris de Soupault et Les Carnets de Malte Laurids Brigge de Rilke. Élans psychédéliques vers une transcendance, que celle-ci prenne les allures d’un amour charnel ou cosmique, dilemme où s’enfonce le personnage.

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