6 user 4 critic

Zorns Lemma (1970)

A rhythmically edited alphabet composed of street and shop signs shot in New York City and other elements is gradually replaced by repeated seemingly abstract shots in this influential structuralist film.


Hollis Frampton




Credited cast:
Rosemarie Castoro Rosemarie Castoro ... (voice)
Ginger Michels Ginger Michels ... (voice)
Marcia Steinbrecher Marcia Steinbrecher ... (voice)
Twyla Tharp ... (voice)
Susan Weiner Susan Weiner ... (voice)
Joyce Wieland Joyce Wieland ... (voice)


A voice is heard reading a series of couplets from the Bay State Primer, before there begins a series of shots. A visual alphabet, composed of street and shop signs is gone over again and again in a loop, using new signs and words each time. As the film progresses, each letter of the alphabet is slowly and progressively replaced using a new image for each letter, including a man painting a wall, a woman speaking, a clementine being peeled, etc. As each letter continues to be gradually replaced, the images for the letters already replaced progress in action: the man finishes the wall, the peeling of the clementine is completed. At the end, a shot of a couple with their dog is shown to be walking into the woods in a single long shot, whilst six women take turns speaking Grosseteste's "On Light, or the Ingression of Forms" to a rhythm, each speaking a different word every second. Written by Tornado_Sam

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Featured in What Is Cinema? (2013) See more »

User Reviews

How to take 50 minutes to peel a clementine
16 May 2013 | by cwhaskellSee all my reviews

I am not a fan of avant garde cinema. I like it in theory but have a very difficult time actually watching it and staying engaged. This was actually pretty different from other experimental art films I have seen, and really connected with me and made it to where I had to see how the individual stories resolved. I would say it's worth a watch if you're interested in trying out experimental films.

Just know going in that it will require a certain degree of patience. That's not a bad thing, of course, just something to be aware of. One of the ways the filmmaker captures the audiences attention is by lulling you in to a certain rhythm and then disrupting it on his time instead of your own. Very tricky, but effective, as I was never fully comfortable watching this ... in a good way.

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Release Date:

12 September 1970 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Zorns Lemma See more »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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