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Xcèntric 2023

Flowers of Asphalt

Three films by Gregory J. Markopoulos


The protagonists of these dreamy, visionary trance films begin their erotic quests while going through various mental and emotional states. By means of visual symbols or metaphors, elliptical narratives and different editing strategies, Markopoulos addresses the disclosure of sexual identity (Flowers of Asphalt), the rejection of the male heterosexual role (Swain) and unconsummated sexual desire (The Mysteries).

Filmed in his hometown (Toledo, Ohio), Flowers of Asphalt and Swain are evocations of their characters’ unconscious. In the first, made with material from two of his previous films —Jackdaw and Christmas U.S.A.—, Markopoulos films his parents and siblings in a portrait of his own sexual liberation and departure from the family home. In Swain, it is the filmmaker himself who stars. The alternation between images filmed in colour, black and white and with chromatic filters, and sudden changes of costume and variations in viewpoint give shape to the sexual disagreement with a woman and the protagonist’s subsequent flight.

The Mysteries develops obsession, immobility and frustration in formal terms. The coherence between the typical themes of romanticism —desire and love, friendship and loss, time and death—, the locations—the deserted streets of Munich and a luxury apartment— and the sequential logic —omniscient perspective, temporal ambiguity and narrative discontinuity— allows us to understand the consciousness, associations and feelings of the protagonist with no need to resort to dialogue or voiceover. Through the persistence and musical repetition of the images, often reduced in duration to a single frame, Markopoulos aspires to make the form of the film mimic the human mind.

Flowers of Asphalt, 1951, 16 mm, no sound, 7’

Swain, 1950, 16 mm, 24’

The Mysteries, 1968, 16 mm, 64’

16-mm screening. Copies provided by Temenos (thanks to Robert Beavers).


Directors: Gregory J. Markopoulos

This activity is part of Xcèntric 2023

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