dear Barbara Sternberg,


I'm one of those two you didn't know in the audience at your Millennium screening the other night in NYC, the older man directly in front of you as you spoke. I didn't come up afterwards because I wasn't sure what I wanted to say, and knew that whatever it was I didn't want it all mixed in with others listening and the awkwardness of maybe having to identify myself, etc. I hope it was just me, but I found the encompassing situation all too painful and sad, so few there to see this exceptional film, and those (it seemed) teachers (where for god sakes were some students, at least? I mean the screening wasn't in Sadieville, Kentucky!). Beating is for real, an extraordinarily ambitious and ripe piece of work, deeply deeply seen. I was in town only for a few days, and considered myself quite fortunate indeed to have happened in on such a passionate and assured film, and ahh such a lush and intelligent one. Some of the most cherished nights of my life have been there at the Millennium and the old Anthology Film Archives and the Collective for Living Cinema, back in 80-81 when I was living in NYC, and here and there since whenever I can create the chance; and your film had the strut and magical intensity that made those experiences so special, of something really and truly seen, with the ongoing surprise of a genuine artist at work, and a real filmmaker. It struck me that you took your literary experience into the mix with uncommon savvy, and your politics as well, as recurring motifs in a song, or more exactly, a meditation. Bless you and that wisdom. I left thrilled, especially by where you brought the piece out, loosening and then loosening again its allegiance to its pain and to history, and finally erasing even forgiveness itself.


On the way back home my wife and I went through Buffalo to check out CEPA (where I've got some photographs in the "Return to the Pleasure Principle" show) and met Larry Brose. When I found out he was a filmmaker I related my Millennium experience and was delighted to discover that he understood exactly what I was describing, right down to the inflected nuance, and that his familiarity with Beating was so immediate, and his regard for its qualities so close to my own. I wish I could have seen it on that marvelous Eastman House screen, and in the sway of a few to share my reactions! We caught him and Robert Hirsch at the end of a work day, and could talk only too few minutes about too many things, but what a thrill to meet someone who knows who Bruce Baillie and Stan Brakhage are, and the beauties thereof, and who could leave me with the sense that Barbara Sternberg and her work are not quite so unappreciated as I thought the Saturday before. I hope to see Beating again some day and your other films.


In gratitude,


James Baker Hall