Babette Mangolte
What Maisie Knew

23 February 2023, 19.00 pm

16MM RUN, the experimental film programme in collaboration with Villa Lontana, continues with a screening of What Maisie Knew by the French-American filmmaker, photographer and writer Babette Mangolte. 

Most of Mangolte’s early work in film, as well as photography, is a self-examination of what it means to be a spectator. Her first narrative film, What Maisie Knew (1975), is made around the subjective camera, the vision of a child, and a re-reading of the Henry James novel. In this work one can observe Mangolte’s references on dance and performance, but the film is also an experiment in narrative filmmaking: it has practically no dialogue, and is made of set situations that repeat, evolve and change featuring among others Kate Manheim, Yvonne Rainer, Jerry Bauman and Philip Glass. 


Immediately one can see the interest for Mangolte in this 1897 novel whose heroine is depicted like this by James: “She was taken into the confidence of passions on which she fixed just the stare she might have had for images bounding across the wall in the slide of a magic lantern. Her little world was phantasmagoric – strange shadows dancing on a sheet. It was as if the whole performance had been given for her – a mite of a half-sacred infant in a great dim theatre”.  Through the book Maisie is both spectator and screen. She survives the family turmoil by becoming a blank surface on which anyone can see what they want, project what they want.


The film is shot from the point of view of a child but we never see the child. The child is what the film camera sees. 


“I felt that the subjectivity of the child permitted me to be looking at something with the kind of astonished bewilderment of someone that doesn’t understand what they were looking at. At first you have the sense that somebody is called Maisie, and at the end you understand that Maisie is a child, in the last scene she is hiding in the closet. The closet door is shut and that is the end.”



The screening will take place in the Sala Cinema.
No booking required.
Free entrance until capacity reached. 



BABETTE MANGOLTE (1941) has been very influenced in her work by the performance and dance scene in New York in the 1970s, working very closely with Trisha Brown and Yvonne Rainer. In an interview,  talking about her film Water Motor, Yvonne Rainer said “it was one of the best dance films ever made”. Mangolte has been the director of photography for the seminal works of Chantal Akerman and the filmmaker of Marina Abramovic’s Seven Easy Pieces (2007). Her work around performance is about how you look at what you see and how being a spectator is at the core of performance as an art form.