1973 Episode of “Screening Room” with Cavell


I just stumbled upon a website where one can purchase an episode of the show “Screening Room” made in 1973 which features Stanley Cavell and Standish Lawder as guests. Unfortunately, only a very brief preview is available online, and in the few minutes of footage we are permitted to see for free, Cavell does not speak (though the host does read a bit from The World Viewed, which had just been published when this episode was filmed). However, I’ll embed the short clip anyway since it gives a sense of what this show was like. DVD and downloadable copies of the episode are available for purchase here (the website is run by Documentary Educational Resources [DER]).

The following is some information about the guests and the episode that is published on DER’s website, and below that some information about the “Screening Room” series itself.

About the episode and guests:

A professor of art history and film, a photographer and an inventor, Standish Lawder has made truly experimental films by seeing what a predetermined idea about content, structure, or technique will produce when carried out in shooting or printing. Lawder has taught at Harvard, Yale, UC San Diego, and at Denver Darkroom, which he founded. He is the author of The Cubist Cinema.

A distinguished philosopher and professor at Harvard, Stanley Cavell had just published The World Viewed, his first book on film, when he appeared on this program. His subsequent writing on film includes Pursuits of Happiness and Contesting Tears.

In this episode of Screening Room, Lawder demonstrates the intricacies of his home-made optical printer and shows examples of what can be achieved with rephotographing film. Gardner, Lawder, and Cavell also discuss the intellectual and psychological implications of his manipulations. Their frank commentary carries on over Lawder’s test print of Intolerance, which he had just received from the lab and had not yet viewed it himself. Lawder also screens Necrology, Color Film, and Corridor.

“Standish Lawder is a cinematic magician, an American original. His films are an astonishing mix of formal beauty, structural rigor, and probing wit. He is a high-wire performer, with no net.” — Clifford Ross, photographer/inventor of the R1 camera.

About the Screening Room series:

In the early 1970s a group of idealistic artists, lawyers, doctors and teachers saw an opportunity to change commercial television in Boston and the surrounding area. It would require years of litigation up to and including the Supreme Court, but the case was won and the Channel 5 license was given to WCVB-TV. Screening Room was one of several programs offered in an effort to provide alternative television viewing. The idea behind Screening Room was to give independent filmmakers an opportunity to discuss their work and show it to a large urban audience. Nearly 100 ninety-minute programs were produced and aired between 1973 and 1980.

Screening Room was developed and hosted by filmmaker Robert Gardner, who at the time, was Director of Harvard’s Visual Arts Center and Chairman of its Visual and Environmental Studies Department. His own films include Dead Birds (1964), and Forest of Bliss(1986).

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