Free Thursdays: Losing Ground
Director: Kathleen Collins
Starring: Seret Scott, Bill Gunn, and Duane Jones
1982, USA, 86 Minutes
Losing Ground tells the story of a marriage of two remarkable people, both at a crossroads in their lives. Sara Rogers, a black professor of philosophy, is embarking on an intellectual quest to understand “ecstasy” just as her painter husband Victor sets off on a more earthy exploration of joy.
Celebrating a recent museum sale, Victor decides to rent a country house where he can return to more realism after years working as an abstract expressionist. Away from the city, the couple’s summer idyll becomes complicated by Sara’s research and by Victor’s involvement with a young model. When one of her students casts Sara as the woman scorned in a film version of the song “Frankie and Johnny,” she experiences a painful emotional awakening.
Funny, brilliant, and personal, Losing Ground should have ranked high in the canon of indie cinema. But the early 1980s was not an easy time for women or independent filmmakers and the film was never theatrically released. It was shown once on PBS’s American Playhouse, and then it effectively disappeared. Twenty-five years after her mother’s death, Nina Collins rescued the original negative and created a beautiful new digital master of her mother’s film. Losing Ground now looks and sounds as fresh, bracing and complex as it did when it was first filmed. It is a testament to Kathleen Collins’ incredible talent and a lasting treasure of African American and women’s cinema.
“Mesmerising… An ultra-rare example of a feminist film focused on a complex, intellectual and sexual black female character.” — Ashley Clark, Sight & Sound
“A nearly lost masterwork… Losing Ground plays like the record of a life revealed in real time.” — Richard Brody, The New Yorker
“Stands as one of the finest about a marriage between two ambitious members of the creative class.” — Melissa Anderson, Village Voice