Milton Moses Ginsberg, Unfamiliar Filmmaker, Died at age 85

Milton Moses Ginsberg, who directed two ambitious but unsettled films before falling into darkness, one about the sinking of a psychiatrist and the other about a press aide in a Nixon-like administration turned into a murderer who wolf, died May 23 at his apartment in Manhattan. He is 85.

The cause was cancer, his wife Nina Ginsberg said.

Mr. Ginsberg, a film editor decided to make his own films, wrote and directed “Coming apart” (1969), a raw black-and-white film that used a single, almost full static camera to document the unloving grief and psychological disintegration of a psychiatrist, played by Rip Torn, who surreptitiously recorded his encounters using a camera inside a mirror box.

“Coming apart” has received mixed reviews, at best. But what broke Mr. Ginsberg was from The Village Voice’s Andrew Sarris, who wrote that “if everyone in the cast refused to drive for action or no action,‘ Coming apart ’would crumble commercially in a half. cooked amateur film without the ability to sell enough tickets to fill a phone booth. “

Mr. Ginsberg blamed that review for the film’s box-office failure.

“That’s all,” he told The New York Times in 1998, adding: “I did everything I wanted to do. And nothing happened.”

He followed “Coming apart” in 1973 with another low -budget film: “The Werewolf of Washington,” a camp of political parody inspired by the classic horror film “The Wolf Man” (1941), which terrified Mr. Ginsberg as a child, and by President Richard M. Nixon, which terrified him as a man.

In Mr. Ginsberg’s film, which was released more than a year into the Watergate scandal, Dean Stockwell plays an assistant press secretary who turns into a wolf wolf in unexpected moments, such as when he bowling to the president. , and characters killed based on Katharine Graham, the publisher of The Washington Post, and Martha Mitchell, the outspoken wife of Attorney John N. Mitchell.

“The film isn’t advertised as a documentary,” syndicated columnist Nicholas von Hoffman wrote, “but when you think about what’s going on around this town, you can’t tell it from the plot.”

In 1975, after Mr. Ginsberg received a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, he fell into a depression that increased only after he met and married. Nina Posnansky, a painter, in 1983. He and his brother Arthur, survived him.

After the commercial failure of his feature films, Mr. Ginsberg returned to film editing. He has worked on a variety of projects, including Oscar -winning documentaries “Down and Out in America” ​​(1986), about unemployed and homeless people left behind in the economy, directed by actress Lee Grant, and “The Personals” (1998), about a group of older people in a group theater.

He’s in limbo, he is write in the Movie Comment in 1999, in producing “Coming apart,” which he enthusiastically called “killing an audience.”

“So if oblivion is what you desire, for yourself and your film, follow me!” He added.

Mr. Ginsberg has never made another feature, but in recent years he has completed several short video essays, among them “Kron: Along the Avenue of Time” (2011), a phantasmagorical exploration of his life taken through a microscopic journey into the intricate movements of the watch.

Milton Moses Ginsberg was born on September 22, 1935, in the Bronx. His father, Elias, was a cutter in the garment district, and his mother, Fannie (Weis) Ginsberg, was a homemaker.

After graduating from Bronx High School of Science, Mr. Ginsberg received a bachelor’s degree in literature from Columbia University. Italian films such as Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” (1960) inspired him to make films, but in 1960 he worked as a film editor at NBC News, held a production job with documentaries Albert and David Maysles, and an assistant on The “Candid Camera,” the popular television series that used hidden cameras to capture people in a variety of situations, which he said turned -influence on the psychiatrist’s quick recording of guests’ “Coming apart.”

Mr. Ginsberg’s frustration with responding to his features was somewhat alleviated when the Museum of Modern Art screened “Coming apart” in 1998. But he was too hurt by its reception nearly 30 years before it was watched; he did not enter the theater until it was over, when he had addressed the audience. MoMA has shown this several times since.

“It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen,” Laurence Kardish, the former longtime senior manager of MoMA’s film department, who saw “Coming apart” in its original release, said by phone. “It was very explicit and very raw and struck me as an important New York film, showing the enthusiasm of a New Yorker for self-examination.”

When “Coming apart” was released on video in 2000, an article on The Chicago Tribune called it “effortless in appearance.” And in 2011, the Brooklyn Academy of Music was both screened of Mr. Ginsberg’s films. After its associate curator, Jacob Perlin, moved on Metrograph, the repertory theater on the Lower East Side, where he is now the artistic and program director, he will hold the 50th-anniversary screening of “Coming apart” in 2019. The restoration of both Mr. Ginsberg’s films has been completed by movie Kino Lorber.

The mad reception of his films offers some redemption to Mr. Ginsberg.

“In 2011, Milton said he had two afterlives,” Mr. Perlin, who became friends with Mr. Ginsberg, said by phone. “When MoMA showed ‘Coming apart,’ and 2011, when I showed both of his films.”

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