Directed by Shirley Clarke

Directed by Shirley Clarke

24 Episodes

Born one hundred years ago, Shirley Clarke was a true cinematic visionary who synthesized jazz, modern dance, and abstract expressionism into a dynamic vérité style that put her at the forefront of the emergent American independent film scene of the fifties and sixties. Beginning her artistic career as a dancer, she brought a choreographer’s feeling for rhythm and movement to early experimental dance films like DANCE IN THE SUN and BULLFIGHT and to kinetic city symphonies like the avant-garde tour de force BRIDGES-GO-ROUND and the Academy Award–nominated documentary SKYSCRAPER. Though she directed only a handful of features—including the controversial Beatnik bombshell THE CONNECTION and the nonfiction queer-cinema classic PORTRAIT OF JASON—they stand as taboo-busting landmarks of the American underground that pointed the way toward a radical counter-cinema.

Subscribe Share
Directed by Shirley Clarke
  • Rome is Burning: A Portrait of Shirley Clarke

    Episode 1

    A 1970 profile of Shirley Clarke with appearances by Yoko Ono and Jacques Rivette.

  • Shirley Clarke: The Artist with the Lens

    Episode 2

    This short documentary on Shirley Clarke’s singular life and work was produced by FilmStruck in 2016. It features interviews with Dennis Doros and Amy Heller of Milestone Films, the longtime distributors of Clarke’s work.

  • The Connection

    Episode 3

    Directed by Shirley Clarke • 1961 • United States
    Starring Warren Finnerty, Jerome Raphel, Garry Goodrow

    Shirley Clarke made a splash—and ignited a landmark censorship case—with her controversial feature debut, an innovative adaptation of Jack Gelber’s off-Broadway play in which the line between...

  • Robert Frost: A Lover’s Quarrel with the World

    Episode 4

    Directed by Shirley Clarke • 1963 • United States
    Starring Robert Frost

    Shirley Clarke’s Academy Award–winning documentary profiles the renowned poet Robert Frost as he reflects on his life, career, and philosophy of the world. Interspersing intimate moments with Frost at his Vermont home with f...

  • Portrait of Jason

    Episode 5

    Directed by Shirley Clarke • 1967 • United States
    Starring Jason Holliday

    On the night of December 2, 1966, Shirley Clarke and a tiny crew convened in her apartment at the Hotel Chelsea to make a film. For twelve straight hours, they filmed the one-and-only Jason Holliday as he spun tales, sang,...

  • Ornette: Made in America

    Episode 6

    Directed by Shirley Clarke • 1985 • United States
    Starring Ornette Coleman

    This freewheeling documentary captures Ornette Coleman’s evolution over three decades. Documentary footage, dramatic scenes, and some of the first music-video-style segments ever made chronicle his boyhood in segregated T...

  • Dance in the Sun

    Episode 7

    Directed by Shirley Clarke • 1953 • United States

    Director Shirley Clarke’s first film displays the dancing expertise of choreographer Daniel Nagrin as he performs in a studio and in the sun. Drawing upon her own dance training, Clarke fluidly follows Nagrin as he moves across the interior and e...

  • In Paris Parks

    Episode 8

    Directed by Shirley Clarke • 1954 • United States

    An early work by director Shirley Clarke, this short film displays the dynamic movement of people (including Wendy Clarke, the director’s daughter) as they enter and exit parks in Paris. Observing how crowds flow through an urban setting, the fil...

  • Bullfight
    Episode 9


    Episode 9

    Directed by Shirley Clarke • 1955 • United States
    Starring Anna Sokolow

    Shirley Clarke’s fascination with dance is on full display in this short film featuring a moving performance by Anna Sokolow. A reinterpretation of a bullfight, Sokolow’s choreographed piece illustrates the dramatic exchange...

  • A Moment in Love

    Episode 10

    Directed by Shirley Clarke • 1956 • United States

    The recurring theme of dance once again works its way into a Shirley Clarke project, as this short film features a performance that takes place across a multitude of environments. As a primary couple intimately interacts, Clarke tests herself as ...

  • Brussels Film Loops/Gestures/World Kitchen

    Episode 11

    Directed by Shirley Clarke and D. A. Pennebaker • 1957 • United States

    Shown at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, these loops by directors Shirley Clarke and D. A. Pennebaker were intended to display American life to the world.

  • Bridges-Go-Round 2

    Episode 12

    Directed by Shirley Clarke • 1958 • United States

    An exercise in visual abstraction, these montages by director Shirley Clarke examine the bridges of New York City. This version features a jazz score by Teo Macero.

  • Bridges-Go-Round 1

    Episode 13

    Directed by Shirley Clarke • 1958 • United States

    An exercise in visual abstraction, these montages by director Shirley Clarke examine the bridges of New York City. This version features an electronic score by Louis and Bebe Barron.

  • Skyscraper
    Episode 14


    Episode 14

    Directed by Shirley Clarke and Willard Van Dyke • 1960 • United States

    Nominated for an Academy Award, this live-action short film by director Shirley Clarke playfully chronicles the construction of the Tishman Building at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York City. Clarke referred to this work as a musi...

  • A Scary Time

    Episode 15

    Directed by Shirley Clarke and Robert Hughes • 1960 • United States

    Intended as a call to action, this short film funded by UNICEF juxtaposes the fears experienced by children around the world. Beginning with a collection of American kids preparing for Halloween, director Shirley Clarke contrast...

  • Christopher And Me

    Episode 16

    Directed by Richard Leacock • 1960 • United States

    A children’s film directed by Richard Leacock, this short work shows twins describing their involvement in a sailboat race. The film is also noteworthy for the contributions made by Shirley Clarke, who worked on continuity and dialogue, as well ...

  • Butterfly
    Episode 17


    Episode 17

    Directed by Shirley Clarke • 1967 • United States

    This protest film was originally screened at the Week of Angry Arts Against the War in Vietnam, which director Shirley Clarke helped organize at New York University in 1967.

  • 24 Frames per Second

    Episode 18

    Directed by Shirley Clarke • 1977 • United States

    This short film was commissioned by the Los Angeles Museum of Art to complement an exhibit on Persian art. Focused on the beauty within textiles, 24 FRAMES PER SECOND illustrates director Shirley Clarke’s eye for detail.

  • Four Journeys into Mystic Time: Trans

    Episode 19

    Directed by Shirley Clarke • 1978 • United States

    A pair of performers wearing bodysuits dance and balance together in this short film by director Shirley Clarke, part of her FOUR JOURNEYS INTO MYSTIC TIME project.

  • Four Journeys into Mystic Time: One-Two-Three

    Episode 20

    Directed by Shirley Clarke • 1978 • United States

    This abstract work featuring three dancers interacting with large screens as well as each other. Costuming and color play an integral role in this piece, part of Shirley Clarke’s FOUR JOURNEYS INTO MYSTIC TIME.

  • Four Journeys into Mystic Time: Initiation

    Episode 21

    Directed by Shirley Clarke • 1978 • United States

    Part of Shirley Clarke’s cycle FOUR JOURNEYS INTO MYSTIC TIME, this short film observes a dance that represents a spiritual or religious initiation.

  • Four Journeys into Mystic Time: Mysterium

    Episode 22

    Directed by Shirley Clarke • 1978 • United States

    Part of the larger filmic cycle FOUR JOURNEYS INTO MYSTIC TIME, this work makes use of a dancer’s body as a canvas on which to paint projected images.

  • Savage/Love
    Episode 23


    Episode 23

    Directed by Shirley Clarke • 1981 • United States
    Starring Joseph Chaikin

    Director Shirley Clarke worked with writer Sam Shepard and actor Joseph Chaikin on this video piece that meditates on love and its effect on people.

  • Tongues
    Episode 24


    Episode 24

    Directed by Shirley Clarke • 1982 • United States
    Starring Joseph Chaikin

    In this performance piece written by Sam Shepard, enacted by Joseph Chaikin, and directed by Shirley Clarke, a dying man reflects on his life while delivering his own last rites.