The experimental films of Breton Tyner-Bryan are a collection of dance-inspired art pieces, which are all part of her aptly named Breton Follies Productions. In under 9 minutes, her short West of Frank makes you feel you have spent hours in the historic Jefferson Market Library, a former courthouse attached to the Women’s House of Detention in Manhattan. Previously, the Art Deco 12-story prison from 1932 to 1974 in New York City housed inmates including Angela Davis, Afeni Shakur, Andrea Dworkin, Mae West, Valerie Solanas, Ethel Rosenberg, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, and Sara Harris.
Exploring the metaphysical energy of the library, West of Frank pays tribute to queer culture and its contribution to New York City’s Greenwich Village identity. It provides space for independent and forward thinkers and displaced trans-masculine prisoners. However, what makes this such a stunning visual and enchanting experience is the movement of the dancers and how their bodies arch and stretch to provide context to the space they inhabit. It is quite beautiful. They are seemingly restricted to table tops, a crosswalk bridge, or within the book stacks, but they are able to express themselves freely through their bodies.
“…the historic Jefferson Market Library, a former courthouse attached to the Women’s House of Detention in Manhattan.”
The film is led by a type of voyeur or guide even though you are watching on your own. The guide, dressed in a sharp maroon suit dripping with chains, jewelry, and crosses, expresses a candid reaction but leaves you to decide for yourself about what is happening. Through dance, there is a type of freedom and revelation for all those who were imprisoned and perhaps existing throughout the pages of the library books. It’s as if the dancers have come to life in a hologram.
West of Frank honors what it truly means to have the freedom to create in a space where history lives and bridges those worlds. The dancers move beautifully and perform incredibly styled sequences, especially those with their hands and fingers. It is expressed energy in a fundamental environment that unfolds into something unique and encapsulating. Even the wardrobe references or illuminates the individuals of the past. The power of film allowed for Tyner-Bryan to edit and build on top of Ai Isshiki’s well-composed soundtrack. The director of photography, Thomas Shomo, appears to be in sync capturing difficult angles and movements that are flawless and natural.
West of Frank references the West Village and honors the Jefferson Market Library librarian Frank. Specifically, it spotlights his vision for allowing artists to contribute to and inhabit the structures of the library and its adjoining garden for the public interest, especially for the performing arts. Although art films may be difficult to conceptualize as a story, Tyner-Bryan has provided such beauty and intrigue that will linger beyond its end — a lasting visual experience.
"…It is as if the dancers have come to life in a hologram."