Go! Go! Go!

Think of the earliest film footage of city life: jerky, too fast, comically overwrought, with passers-by passing at a sprint and carriage horses erratically galopping. Now imagine filmed images had continued accelerating (rather than improving to capture movement in real time). Imagine they kept pace with the development of the city, racing faster and faster, ever more frenetic, more frantic and more frenzied.

Follow that trajectory and you may well end up with something like Marie Menken‘s 1964 short film Go! Go! Go!

Menken, born on this day in 1909, assembled the film from many hours of footage which she shot over two years. Go! Go! Go! is, to reduce it to its most banal, a time lapse view of New York City. At the same time it is infinitely richer, more exhilirating and more involving than that would suggest. Pause the film at any moment and a new insight into the city in the early 1960s emerges; leave the film running and witness nothing less than a portrait of the entire urban organism.

Inevitably individual fates and desires are largely unexamined in the rush, but suggestive editing provides a kind of commentary, such as the sunlit graduation ceremony which cuts away to show what could well be those same graduates, hastening to their offices in the grey city. Elsewhere humanity merges into elegant patterns, as in the overlaid images of what appears to be an al fresco deb ball spied through foliage. The balletic fluttering of ballgowns in sugared almond shades creates a tableau of almost hallucinatory beauty.


  1. The builders at about the 5:32 mark looked to me at first like they were working on the face of a building! Dizzying, dazzling.

    And I wonder who that was struggling at the typewriter…

  2. And so it is known! (Yes, I resorted to searching for “marie menken typewriter,” but sometimes the plainest method is best.) (And yes, this was still bothering me a week later.)

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