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Wild Combinations: A Conversation with Matt Wolf


Nov 29, 2023

To watch Matt Wolf’s revelatory documentaries is to see life as a moving collage in which the past and present are woven together. Over the course of nine intensely researched and intricately crafted features and shorts, Wolf has combined his passion for preservation with his desire for experimentation, mining history to create reappraisals of visionary outsiders.

After growing up in California, Wolf attended film school at New York University. At the same time, he sought out experimental cinema in the queer art world, which helped him begin to develop his own unconventional methods for documentary filmmaking. Regardless of the story he is telling, Wolf approaches his subjects and themes with a critical eye. His narratives are constructed with precision, but the way he assembles his material is guided by emotion, which allows him to create unique and powerful associations between sound and vision.

Immediately following film school, Wolf made his first documentary feature, Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell (2008), a kaleidoscopic study of the avant-garde composer, singer, cellist, and disco producer, who died from AIDS before he was able to see the vast influence of his work. In 2013, Wolf made his next film in collaboration with journalist and punk chronicler Jon Savage. A poignant meditation on the birth of youth culture from the end of the nineteenth century to the first half of the twentieth, Teenage is built from a mix of rare archival footage, diary entries, and meticulously restaged moments.

Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell
Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project
Spaceship Earth
I Remember: A Film About Joe Brainard

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