When in Rome 78

James Nares, “Rome 78″. Film still. Courtesy the artist.

Through May 22nd at Anthology Film Archives is a retrospective of artist/filmmaker James Nares, perhaps best known for Rome 78, an anachronistic, subcultural take on decadent Rome via New York circa 1978, with a cast of “downtown personalities” that include Lydia Lunch and John Lurie.

James Nares: Motion Pictures also includes a bevy of never-before screened works from 1975 and 1976, discovered in deep storage only last year. Nares, who is also an accomplished painter, made these films solo and rapidly, usually in one take. They owed stylistically to minimalist, action-based “artists’ films” of the late ’60s to mid-’70s by notables such as Richard Serra and Bruce Nauman (both Season 1), “often combining live and sculptural elements.” Serra’s Hand Catching Lead was one of Nares’ favorites, which influenced subsequent films Arm and Hammer and Steel Rod.