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White Lite (1968)


Main image of White Lite (1968)
16mm, 3 min, black & white, silent
DirectorJeff Keen
Supported byBFI Production Board

A woman goes through a variety of emotional states before the film itself does the same thing.

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White Lite is something of a mystical film. It feels like we've gone through the looking glass and entered another world, despite the fact it was largely shot in the flat of its director, Jeff Keen. The film greets us with the invitation "meet anti-matter and the bride of the monster", pointing to Keen's love of B movies and a reference to The Bride of the Atom (US, 1955) or The Bride of the Monster as it was later known, a film by Ed D. Wood Jr. The homage comes some 12 years before Wood achieved considerable notoriety as winner of a Worst Director of All Time Award in 1980 (and 26 years before he was immortalised in Tim Burton's affectionate tribute Ed Wood).

Jeff Keen's fondness for B movies, pulp novels and comics comes from an interest in archetypes and universal themes, uncomplicated by heavy backstories. White Lite belongs to a similar world where feeling wins out over narrative. The camera spins and repeatedly captures, in negative, Jeff Keen filming himself in the mirror. From that point we seem to enter some kind of mental internal journey. A woman, in fact Keen's wife, throws her hair around violently and then after a jump through various other strange imagery, walks half-naked down a flight of stairs, again and again. The film then really goes somewhere else as scratches, ink and hole punches take over and obliterate the image. The storm subsides and we find ourselves in a museum of stuffed and skeletal animals.

Metaphysical or psychedelic narrative became increasingly popular in the 1960s but to explore it in the context of home, family and without recourse to a larger couching traditional narrative was very unusual. Even when Hollywood films did employ psychedelic sequences, as in 2001: A Space Odyssey (d. Stanley Kubrick, 1968), Midnight Cowboy (US, 1969) and Easy Rider (US, 1969), they were largely following on the heels of pioneers such as Jeff Keen.

White Lite later joined Marvo Movie (1967) and Cineblatz (1968) to become the Jeff Keen triology, an early collection of films from a career that went on to span another 30 years and more.

William Fowler

*This film is included in the BFI DVD and Blu-ray compilations GAZWRX: The Films of Jeff Keen.

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (2:40)
Marvo Movie (1967)
Keen, Jeff (1923-2012)
Psychedelia and the BFI