Willard Maas 1910-1970
The Geography of the Body (1943)
Extreme close-ups of nude male and female bodies, taken through a magnifying glass bought at a dime store, are combined with a surrealist text written and read by poet George Barker. The poem, in Barker's deadpan reading, comments humorously on the body parts, which are photographed in such tiny detail that they appear as landscapes. Geography of the Body was the first widely distributed underground art film, and was a regular fixture of the campus art film circuit for years. Although by the year 2000 it appears as a relatively quaint antique (and is in serious need of preservation assistance), Geography of the Body was easily as influential in its day as Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid's Meshes of the Afternoon, made the same year.
Commentary by the British poet, George Barker. An analogical pilgrimage evokes the terrors and splendors of the human body as the undiscovered, mysterious continent. Extreme magnification increases the ambiguity of the visuals, tongue-in-cheek commentary counteracts or reinforces their sexual implications. The method is that used by the imagist-symbolist poet.