December staff pick: Su Friedrich, Rules of the Road

December staff pick: Su Friedrich, Rules of the Road


Clip from Su Friedrich, Rules of the Road, 1993.

December 1, 2021
December staff pick: Su Friedrich, Rules of the Road
Now streaming
December 1–31, 2021
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e-flux Video & Film is very pleased to present the December 2021 edition of our monthly series Staff Picks: Su Friedrich’s experimental essay film Rules of the Road

From the beginning of her filmmaking career in the late 1970s, Friedrich has been one of the most important figures of American avant-garde film and a leading force in the establishment of queer cinema. Focusing on the roles and experiences of women in contemporary America, in her films Friedrich combines formal explorations of the film medium with feminist analysis of social and cultural discourses, rituals, institutions, and power structures. Enjoy an emotional trip through the filmmaker’s memories, driven by popular music and images from the streets of New York in the early 1990s!

The film will stream on e-flux Video & Film from December 1-31. 

Watch it here.

Rules of the Road, 1993
Rules of the Road tells the story of a love affair and its demise through one of the objects shared by the couple: an old beige station wagon with fake wood panel. 

A typical American family car for an atypical American family, it provides the women at first with all the familiar comforts. But when their relationship ends, the car becomes the property of one and the bane of the other’s existence. Even long after their separation, this tangible reminder of their life together—and thousands of its imitators—continues to prowl the streets of the city, haunting the woman who no longer holds the keys either to the car or the other woman’s heart. 

Through spoken text, popular music, and images from the streets of New York, Rules of the Road takes a somewhat whimsical, somewhat caustic look at how our dreams of freedom, pleasure, security, and family are so often symbolized by the automobile. 

“… the light, almost whimsical tone of the film should not blind us to the part of it that is irreducibly personal. Station wagons are everywhere; everybody’s got a sad love story. But only one filmmaker, to my knowledge, has Su Friedrich’s eye….With Rules of the Road, she creates a film like a perfect short story.” 
—Stuart Klawans, The Nation

About the artist
Su Friedrich has produced and directed twenty-four 16mm films and digital videos, including I Cannot Tell You How I Feel (2016), Gut Renovation (2012), From the Ground Up (2007), Seeing Red (2005), The Head of a Pin (2004), The Odds of Recovery (2002), Hide and Seek (1996), Rules of the Road (1993), First Comes Love (1991), Sink or Swim(1990), Damned If You Don’t (1987), The Ties That Bind (1984), Gently Down the Stream (1981), and Cool Hands, Warm Heart (1979). With the exception of Hide and Seek, Friedrich is the writer, director, cinematographer, sound recordist, and editor of all her films.

In 2015, Sink or Swim was one of twenty-five films chosen by the Library of Congress to be included in the National Film Registry. Friedrich’s films have won many other awards, including Best Narrative Film Award at the Athens International Film Festival, Outstanding Documentary Feature at Outfest in Los Angeles, and Special Jury Award at the New York Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Her work is widely screened and has been the subject of retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Rotterdam International Film Festival, The London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, The Stadtkino in Vienna, the Pacific Cinematheque in Vancouver, the National Film Theater in London, the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery in Lincoln, Nebraska, the Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Cinema, the New York Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, the First Tokyo Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, the Cork Film Festival in Ireland, the Wellington Film Festival in New Zealand, The Bios Art Center in Greece, and the Anthology Film Archives in New York. Friedrich is the recipient of the Alpert Award in the Arts (1996). Her DVD collection is distributed by Outcast Films and her films are also now available for streaming via Outcast. In 2022, The University Press of Mississippi is publishing Su Friedrich: Interviews, edited by Sonia Misra and Rox Samer. 

In 2019 Friedrich created EDITED BY, a website that covers the work of 206 women film editors and includes a 95-minute film document of their work, and in 2020 she created a comprehensive website about the African-American filmmaker William Greaves.

About the series 
e-flux Video & Film: staff picks is a monthly streaming series of staff picks and recommended videos designed to disrupt the monotony of an algorithm. Before the end times of big data, we used to discover suggested content along dusty shelves in video rental stores, where Post-it notes scribbled by shift workers implored us to experience the same movies that made them guffaw, scream, or weep. Sometimes the content bored us, sometimes it overwhelmed us, and sometimes, as if by magic, it was just right. e-flux invites you to relive this rental store mode of perusal, with personalized picks curated through judgment that does not take into consideration your viewing history. 

For more information, contact program [​at​]

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December 1, 2021

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