If you’re quick (and rich, and ready to resettle) you can pick up one of the most illustrious settings in the history of experimental film: the house at 1466 N Kings Road in West Hollywood is currently for sale. Not only do you get an “uber bright living room” and views which “explode in from both bedrooms” (probably more pleasant than it sounds), you get the setting for Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid’s 1943 film Meshes of the Afternoon. All of this and change from a million dollar note (precisely $75,000 change, with which you may want to purchase this, the ultimate coffee table book for your new pad).
This essential artefact of non-linear filmmaking has come up a few times on Strange Flowers, but really, it’s difficult to overstate its importance. In just 14 minutes, without dialogue, Deren and then husband Hammid revolutionised film art right in Hollywood’s backyard. And now for just 925,000 samolians you can not only stand at but own the very arched picture window which framed the iconic image of Deren (above). Have a few cheeky martinis and you too can recreate the scene where Deren lurches erratically up the stairs.
“This film is concerned with the interior experiences of the individual,” claimed Deren. “It does not record an event which could be witnessed by other persons. Rather, it reproduces the way in which the sub-conscious of an individual will develop, interpret and elaborate an apparently simple and casual incident into a critical emotional experience.” The film made the most of the location’s midday eeriness and sloping streets to evoke a kind of waking dream.
In her 2011 tribute Maya Deren’s Sink, filmmaker Barbara Hammer engaged with the physicality of Deren’s films, shooting in the house and other locations associated with her. When I saw her introduce the film’s premiere in Berlin she admitted that a number of the people who worked on the film did so because they were so keen to see the house where Meshes of the Afternoon was shot. “It seems so right that I return to Deren and her homes to access the private spaces known only through her films,” says Hammer in her description of the film. “I hope to ‘open doors’ for others who may not know her work so well. By re-projecting the architectural details from her films back onto the ceilings, walls, floors, cabinets and windows of her homes I call forth her creative spirit and invite viewers, who like me, might have a similar driving curiosity to visit and walk inside the homes where Deren scripted, shot, edited, and projected her films.”
Evidently the house was until recently home to British film director Clive Donner, who died in 2010. With movies like What’s New Pussycat?, The Nude Bomb and a soft-porn interpretation of the legend of Abélard and Héloïse, it’s safe to say that his vision was more closely aligned with the indigenous culture of Hollywood (a place Deren described as a “cloaca”). The house, built in 1923, is close to numerous landmarks of Old Hollywood. Sunset Boulevard is just around the corner, and apart from the obvious gothic allure of the film of the same name, 1466 N Kings Road is also close to the real-life location of Schwab’s Pharmacy, the drugstore which features in the film. Just down the road is the Chateau Marmont, the hotel whose place in Hollywood annals is assured and presumably needs no introduction.
And a mere stone’s throw away is the location of (Alla) Nazimova‘s Garden of Allah. The silent siren had already built a home there in 1919, and in 1927 she hedged against the decline of her film career by building additional villas on the mansion’s large plot, where the standards of the film industry’s bad behaviour were set, surpassed, and set again. It was a playground of figures like John Decker, whose grooming we admired yesterday, who lived out their excesses largely free of media scrutiny. Autostraddle’s winningly-titled “10 Great Places to Meet Lesbians If You Have a Time Machine” should give you some idea of the enticements on offer; Walt Lockley has a more thorough history of “The Vanished Garden of Carnal Abandon“.
I’ll leave you with
the marketing video for 1466 N Kings Road Meshes of the Afternoon: