Fragment of Seeking

1946

Dir. Curtis Harrington, 16mm B/W Sound 00:14:00

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Description

Fragment of Seeking (1946) by Curtis Harrington; 16mm film; black and white; sound.  Curtis Harrington. Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Fragment of Seeking (1946) by Curtis Harrington; 16mm film; black and white; sound. Curtis Harrington. Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

FRAGMENT begins with the protagonist, an all but catatonic young man disguised in a large overcoat, hat, glasses, played by Harrington, wandering alone through the courtyard of an elaborate Victorian house. He sees a pair of lovers sharing a drink at an outside table, and he becomes obsessed with the girl, projecting her image into the surrounding architecture and fantasizing attempts to kiss her. When his fantasy is interrupted by the appearance of her friend, he pursues her through the endless mazelike corridors and rooms of the house. Unable to catch her, he enters a room, looks at himself in the mirror, removes the hat, coat, and glasses, and falls asleep on the bed. He is apparently awakened by a knock on the door, but when he opens it, he catches only a glimpse of a fleeting figure. Again he chases her. He finds her in another room, lying on a bed with her back to him. As she turns and rises to kiss him, she suddenly turns into a skeleton wearing a blond wig. He flees her, but as he runs through the corridors, he encounters the bewigged skeleton everywhere. Outside he comes upon the boyfriend, dead alone at the table where he had first been seen with the girl; following footprints that lead away into an outhouse, the protagonist eventually catches up with a figure with long blond hair wearing men's clothes his own. This time as the figure turns to face him, intercut with the rotating head is his own head as a male- but also his own head wearing the blond wig, himself as her.

[Source: David James "The Most Typical Avant-Garde," 2005]

Made while Harrington was a student at the University of Southern California, where the film was also shot, FRAGMENT features a youthful Harrington in a revealing double role. "A climactic fragment from the existence of an adolescent Narcissus," wrote Harrington to describe his breakthrough film which so impressed maverick director Albert Lewin that he recommended Harrington for his first creative job in the studio system, as an assistant to producer Jerry Wald.

[Source: Harvard Film Archive]

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