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Stations of the Elevated

In the late 1970s, filmmaker Manfred Kirchheimer documented the spectacular graffiti art that adorned New York’s subway cars at the time. In his view, the paintings were a distinctive kind of urban folkcraft. Stations of the Elevated has no narration and only incidental dialogue, and the moving subway cars are accompanied by a jazz soundtrack featuring Charles Mingus and Aretha Franklin (with added ambient noise of local weather and street sounds). Kirchheimer would travel to the Bronx to film the trains moving overhead: “They would come by and it would be screaming full of colors—just gorgeous. The smart thing I did was shoot it all outdoors. Most of the lines are indoors, and the way most people would see these paintings was indoors. Doing it outdoors gave a whole other perspective.” (Manfred Kirchheimer, 1981, 45 minutes)