Marie Menken Critical Response

Robin Blaetz (2006) writes about women's role in avant-garde films in her article "Rescuing the Fragmentary Evidence of Women's Experimental Film." Blaetz argues that films such as Notebook by Marie Menken "reveal the vision and the thinking of women encountering a particularly felicitous medium for the representation of their experience" (153). Menken has only been credited as influencing others in the recent years. She was forgotten for a half a century while others used work similar to her style. Menken's and other women's films are unstudied and not exhibited enough. They are hard to find.

In the article by Wheeler Winston Dixon (2007), "Notes of Marie Menken," he writes about Menken's style as a filmmaker. According to Dixon, "Menken's works are a lightness of touch that is hers alone" (pp. 78) Her films were marked by her lyricism, grace, and simplicity. "Menken forged a sensibility that was uniquely her own, in which the camera became a gently interrogating presence in her hands" (pp. 79). Dixon describes Menken as one of experimental cinema's foremost, and most pioneering, feminist filmmaker. She kept a film diary, which surfaced in Notebook (1963). In her works, Menken projected an air of quiet gentility and modesty. She used a Bolex camera to record little scraps of life around her. She also had financial difficulty n producing her films, but she kept up with the avant-garde changing times.

Juan A. Suarez (2009) writes about Marie Menken in the article "Myth, Matter, Queerness: The Cinema of Willard Maas, Marie Menken, and the Gryphon Group, 1943-1969." The Gryphon group was well known and well regarded in experimental film circles during its active years. Marie Menken and her husband, Willard Maas, were the its core members. Scott MacDonald writes that Menken is a practitioner of the landscape film. Sitney writes that she is in a current of Emersonianism that transverses American avant-garde cinema. Melissa Ragona, on the other hand, rejects the view that Menken's films capture primarily her life and are lyrical, and she demonstrates that Meken's motivation was to transpose drawing and sculpture into a time-bound medium. "Menken delved into the materiality of film and employed chance operations and game-based processes in a way that brings her close to Fluxus and pop art" (pp. 60). According to Suarez, Menken's films mix wit (conceptual play) and rigorous technical elaboration. She produced a jittery motion that has no direction, only intensity. Her films are unstructured, without a center of attention or clear development.


Blaetz, R. (2006). Rescuing the fragmentary evidence of women's experimental film. Camera Obscura, 21(63), 152-156. doi:10.1215/02705346-2006-016.

Dixon, W. (2007). Notes on Marie Menken. Film & History (03603695), 37(2), 78-79. Retrieved from Communication & Mass Media Complete database.

Suarez, J. A. (2009). Myth, matter, queerness: The cinema of Willard Maas, Marie Menken, and the Gryphon Group, 1943-1969. Grey Room (36) pp. 58-87.

Gabriella De Abreu--, 2010.

Marie Menken