Phil Solomon, leading experimental filmmaker, dies at 65

NEW YORK — Phil Solomon, who used repurposed footage, manipulated images, and striking soundtracks to make evocative experimental films that were widely admired by hard-core cinephiles, died on April 20 near Boulder, Colo. He was 65.

Andy Davidson, executor of his estate, said the cause was complications of surgery.

Mr. Solomon, an emeritus professor of cinema studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, took up the experimental-film mantle in an era when the lure of feature filmmaking was irresistible to most of the creative young minds in cinema. His films, usually relatively short, did not have stars or plots in any conventional sense; he was after something more cerebral.


“Phil’s many films were examples of a truly unique style of what is sometimes called ‘visionary cinema,’ a term coined by P. Adams Sitney to describe films which were primarily concerned with the visual experience rather than with a story or narrative situation,” Jeanne M. Liotta, an experimental filmmaker and colleague of Mr. Solomon’s at the university, said by e-mail.

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An early work, from 1980 (revised by Mr. Solomon in 1989), was “Nocturne,” which juxtaposed imagery from several sources to create an unsettling suburban world. “Finding similarities in the pulses and shapes between my own experiments in night photography, lightning storms, and night bombing in World War II, I constructed the war at home,” Mr. Solomon said.

His most ambitious work may have been “American Falls,” an impressionistic 55-minute journey through US history that consisted of synchronized projections on three screens and made considerable use of deteriorated images.

“It was a work that is both majestic and elegiac, both proudly American and expressive of the cataclysmic nature of our history,” said David Schwartz, who presented the film at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens in 2012.