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Director Stephen Dwoskin dies

American experimental filmmaker worked in U.K.

Experimental filmmaker Stephen John Dwoskin, who was part of the New York “underground” scene in the 1960s before becoming a key figure in British avant-garde cinema, died suddenly on June 28. He was 73.

Dwoskin was also a painter and a designer, but his primary focus was film.

His films were characterized by “an obsessively intense scrutiny of the (mostly female) figures in front of his static or slowly moving camera, and an attention to image textures, printing processes and hypnotic soundtracks,” according to the BFI Screenonline website.

Dwoskin made his first films, “Asleep” and “American Dream,” while working as an art director with CBS Records in 1961.

He co-founded the London Filmmakers Cooperative in 1966 and he won the Solvay Prize at the Knokke Experimental Film Festival in 1967-8. Other films during this period included “Chinese Checkers” (1964) and “Trixi” (1969).

In the 1970s he began to make experimental feature films that were presented in festivals including Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight. He received the L’Age D’or (Bunuel) prize in 1982 for his comedic self-examination “Outside In.”

The filmmaker also created some near-dramatic narratives, as in “Tod und Teufel” (1973) and “The Silent Cry” (1977).

Breaking the fourth wall in such films as “Dyn Amo” (1972), Dwoskin experimented with the idea of actors and audience returning one another’s gaze, an idea that partly inspired friend and feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey’s landmark essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.”

Dwoskin turned the camera on himself in films including “Behindert,” “Intoxicated by My Illness” (2001) and 2007’s “The Sun and the Moon.”

Born in New York, Stephen John Dwoskin studied art under Willem de Kooning and Josef Albers at NYU and later took up design at the Parsons School of Design. He worked as a painter and designer in New York and received a Fulbright Fellowship for design research in the U.K. in 1964.

Dwoskin later taught at the Royal College of Art and the London College of Printing.

Major retrospectives of Dwoskin’s work have been presented in New York, London and Geneva, among other cities, with two recent retrospectives taking place at the British Film Institute in 2009 and the Arsenal in Berlin in 2010.

His final film, “Age Is…” (2012), will receive its world premiere at the Locarno Film Festival in August.

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