Wynn Chamberlain’s Brand X is a nearly lost masterpiece of 1960s counterculture cinema. Primarily known as a painter, Chamberlain’s sole film stands alongside the best work of experimental filmmakers Jack Smith, Ron Rice, and Jonas Mekas, combining the energy of jazz improvisation with the new truths revealed by the cut-up method. Produced during the aftermath of the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Malcolm X, the film uses the medium of commercial television to expose and ridicule the politics of the era. Brand X parodies the creative bankruptcy of the medium by following Taylor Mead’s aimless TV channel surfing. As he jumps from one program to another, his lingering on commercials and sudden distractions perfectly reveal the terminal boredom guaranteed by the networks. Chamberlain’s fecund parody of soap operas, game shows, sermons, and late shows unravels the sexuality, brainwashing, and stupidity of these programs.
Brand X combines an incredible cast of Factory regulars and downtown legends including Mead, Tally Brown, Candy Darling, Sam Shepard, and Frank Cavestani to tell this story. Chamberlain lived and worked at 222 Bowery throughout the planning and production of Brand X, and the building’s converted gymnasium, which was a studio for both Mark Rothko and Michael Goldberg, also doubled as a soundstage for the filming.
Held hostage by a film distribution company since 1971, this is the first public screening in four decades. It will be followed by a discussion with filmmaker Wynn Chamberlain, music director Ken Lauber, and others.