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Honoring Peter Mays, Los Angeles Treasure, part 1
At the Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian,
Los Angeles, CA
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Mar 17, 2019 7:30 PM

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Honoring Peter Mays, Los Angeles Treasure, part 1
Los Angeles Filmforum presents
Honoring Peter Mays, Los Angeles Treasure, part 1
Sunday, March 17, 2019, 7:30 pm
At the Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028

Our friend Peter Mays has made films and paintings in Los Angeles since the 1960s.  He was a crucial figure in the experimental film scene here.  He passed away early in the morning on March 4, 2019.  We honor him by screening a variety of his works made over the past 59 years.  In this first part, we look more at his works originating on film in the 1960s, although some werent completed for decades.  Their effusiveness, pop culture references, and psychedelic colorful extremes make them some of the finest documents of the 60s.

 Peter Mays grew up in Los Angeles and attended UCLA where he majored in painting and minored in mathematics.  Fascinated by what he read about underground films, he formed a screening society in the Art Department at UCLA to which he brought Jack Smith and other figures of the New York underground films scene.  He made his first experimental film while in graduate school, for which he constructed a printer and developing tank.  Pat ONeill and Bob Abel were on a similar path in the design division.
  Mays made several experimental shorts in 16mm in the middle 60s.   Inspired by the emerging counter-culture, Mays directed a 16mm feature film, Sister Midnight, in 1967.  Influenced by Warhol's Chelsea Girls, his movie made extensive use of intensely colored gels for lighting. It was structured as a mass dream.  
 In 1968 Mays was a founding member of the Single Wing Turquoise Bird light show, which performed with 4 to 7 members until 1973.  The group re-formed in 2010 to create new live performances as well as museum installations and university residencies.
  Mays took a new and unexpected path in the early 80s.  He wrote a program for the Atari microcomputer to portray large chapters of history through computer animation of geography, spending eight years on an interactive animated history of World War One.  Today he has four animated educational films distributed by Discovery Education.  During this time (the structuralist period in experimental film), he also made several long avant-garde films that gave greater weight to the sound track and "meaning."  Perhaps the most important is Astral Man, an investigation into the past, shot in the 60s but completed in 2000.
  In the 21st century Mays produced numerous digital shorts using the extensive effects available in After Effects, and based on the artifacts and symbols of ancient civilizations and esoteric mystical traditions, including those of the Vikings, Egypt, Hinduism Buddhism, alchemy, Tarot, Kabbalah and the works of Alistair Crowley.

Curated by David Lebrun and Adam Hyman, with readings from Peter Mayss filmic autobiography Mouse Enigma.
Special thanks to Paula Achter, Amy Halpern, Mark Toscano.

Filmforums oral history with Peter Mays, done as part of Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles 1945-1980, can be read at

Tickets: Free but please RSVP. Available in advance from Brown Paper Tickets or at the door.
For more information: or 323-377-7238.


Vision (excerpt)
1960-62, 8mm(?) transferred to SD, b&w, silent, 9 min.
Part 2: The dead are raised from their graves.  They ascend upward, pulled by a pulsating light.  They are judged, chastened horribly, and resurrected into the body of Christ.  VISION is heavily influenced by Cocteau, Anger, Eisenstein, and especially Carl Dreyer.  VISION is an imaginary adaptation of the Book of Revelation.  P.M.

1963-64, 16mm transferred to SD, color, silent, 13 min.
The meanderings of a mountain Stream are followed for a few miles.  Recorded on 8mm Kodachrome and cluster edited to create a highly formal, fugal experience.  P.M.

Death of the Gorilla
1965, 16mm, color, sound, 16 min.
Restored print from the Academy Film Archive.
A sight/sound combine of exotic imagery shot semi-randomly in superimposition off a TV and then cut to make a fast moving but extremely ambiguous "story.  GORILLA moves through modern mans myth mind like a runaway train bursting at the seams.  Prize at Ann Arbor Film Festival, 1967.  P.M.

Astral Man: A Memory Film of the Sixties (excerpts)
1968-2000, 16mm trans to HD, color, sound, 21 min.
The past recapturedA house in Hollywood off the Sunset Strip [on Cresthill] serves as a metaphor for a reconstruction of time based on cycles.......  P.M.

The Star Curtain Tantra
1966/69, 16mm, color, sound, 18 min.
World premiere of the new restoration from the Academy Film Archive!
A trance film originally released in 1966 as THE STAR CURTAIN, about the settling and relaxation of the senses after a climax. "Sentences" of cosmic imagery were added in 1969 to form the vision glimpsed in the trance.  
Los Angeles Filmforum screenings are supported by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles. We also depend on our members, ticket buyers, and individual donors.

Los Angeles Filmforum is the citys longest-running organization dedicated to weekly screenings of experimental film, documentaries, video art, and experimental animation. 2019 is our 44th year.

Coming Soon to Los Angeles Filmforum:
March 14  Babette Mangolte at MOCA
March 15 - Babette Mangolte at the Echo Park Film Center
March 17  Peter Mays Retrospective, part 1, at the Spielberg Theatre
March 24  Films by Sara Kathryn Arledge, at the Spielberg Theatre
March 31  Peter Mays Retrospective, part 2, at the Spielberg Theatre
April 7  Ariana Gerstein, at the Spielberg Theatre

Memberships available, $70 single, $115 dual, or $50 single student
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At the Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian, (View)
6712 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Los Angeles, CA 90028
United States


Arts > Visual
Film > Movies
Film > Premiers

Kid Friendly: No
Dog Friendly: Yes!
Non-Smoking: Yes!
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!


Owner: Los Angeles Filmforum
On BPT Since: Nov 17, 2009
Los Angeles Filmforum

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