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Macpherson, Kenneth (1903-1971)

Director, Writer, Producer, Critic

Main image of Macpherson, Kenneth (1903-1971)

Ken Macpherson was a novelist and photographer who had a passionate interest in filmmaking. In 1927, he married Bryher (A. W. Ellerman) and they set up the influential film journal Close Up (1927-1933).

Macpherson began to make his own, small-scale avant-garde films parallel to his criticism. His first film, Wing Beat (1927) was an investigation of telepathy and featured himself and the imagist poet H.D. The film survives only in fragments and, according to Anne Friedberg, used techniques such as triple superimpositions in order to represent thought processes. His other two shorts - Foothills (1928), concerning a city-woman visiting the countryside, and Monkey's Moon (1929), about Macpherson's pet monkeys - are entirely lost.

Macpherson's only surviving film and his sole feature, Borderline (1930), dissected race and gender relations and was centred on a love triangle. It starred Paul Robeson and H.D., and was a densely structured film, employing extremely hectic montage sequences. It again attempted to delve into the mental states of its characters, but was a film that confused and bewildered critics. Deeply upset by its hostile reception, Macpherson withdrew from film directing to focus on writing, photography and art collection. He only once returned to filmmaking, acting as a producer on the avant-garde compendium film Dreams That Money Can Buy (USA, 1947).

Cosandey, Roland, 'On Borderline', trans. Deke Dusinberre, Afterimage 12 (Autumn 1985)
Donald, James, Anne Friedberg and Laura Marcus (eds), Close Up 1927-1933: Cinema and Modernism (London: Cassell, 1998)
Friedberg, Anne, 'Approaching Borderline', Millenium Film Journal (nos. 7/8/9, Autumn/Winter, 1980-81)

Jamie Sexton, Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors

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Thumbnail image of Borderline (1930)Borderline (1930)

Avant-garde feature exploring racial, sexual and psychological issues

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