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Manual of Arms (1966)

An experimental short by Hollis Frampton who films 14 of his friends in various poses.


Hollis Frampton




Credited cast:
C. Andre C. Andre ... Self
Rosemarie Castoro Rosemarie Castoro ... Self
Lucinda Childs Lucinda Childs ... Self
B. Goldensohn B. Goldensohn ... Self
Robert Huot Robert Huot ... Self
Lee Lozano Lee Lozano ... Self (as L. Lozano)
Larry Poons ... Self
Michael Snow ... Self
Marcia Steinbrecher Marcia Steinbrecher ... Self
Twyla Tharp ... Self
Joyce Wieland Joyce Wieland ... Self


Experimental filmmaker Hollis Frampton shoots a series of portrait shots of each of his fourteen friends, each with half of their face in shadow and each with a different expression. After all fourteen introductions have been made, Frampton then presents a series of brief shots in which each friend shown previously performs an everyday activity for the camera, from smoking to drinking to sitting. The different angles and the varied lighting in each of these lightning-quick shots are used to create a mysterious and sinister atmosphere. Written by Tornado_Sam

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An Experiment in Shadows
2 July 2019 | by Tornado_SamSee all my reviews

When one views a film by Hollis Frampton, they can't be searching for a story, symbolic or not, in the weird, enigmatic imagery that he creates. Many of his shorts were purely experimental in their visuals, not intended to be analyzed in any sense of the word, such as his earliest abstract pieces. Others were mere experiments, and only experiments, focusing on a particular concept and demonstrating this concept with a simple idea.

With "Manual of Arms"--an odd title for such this work--Frampton is, in particular, showing the effectiveness of lighting when photographing a subject. (This was a theme later to be explored in "Lemon" from three years after). In it, he takes fourteen of his friends, lines each of them up against a black background and shoots a portrait-style shot of each one in turn. With the low lighting, he seeks to create a dark and uncomfortable atmosphere, despite how sometimes friendly each person looks. As the film progresses, he then takes advantage of his remarkable editing skills and films each of the friends shown before, doing normal activities in this same dark room and continues to play with the shadows to make even normal activities seem mysterious--and sometimes sinister.

The result of this mishmash of editing is an overlong, yet well-shot and well-edited, short film. At seventeen minutes one must be patient with it. Nonetheless, "Manual of Arms" is undeniably effective in how it illustrates the tool of lighting, which was its only goal--and because of how well it works in achieving this goal, it succeeds remarkably.

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Release Date:

10 April 2012 (USA) See more »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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