Rice, Ron (1935–1964) By Guilford, Josh
Ron Rice was a central figure in the 1960s American avant-garde cinema. His films are closely affiliated with beat literature given their emphasis on improvisation and spontaneity, their engagement with themes such as social marginality, drugs, travel, and sexuality, and their documentation of artistic subcultures in San Francisco’s North Beach, Mexico, New York City, and Venice, California. As is suggested by his use of the neologism “Dazendada” to describe his work, Rice was influenced equally by the historical avant-garde (Dada, Soviet Cinema) and distinctly late-modern American cultural developments such as free jazz and the popularization of Zen Buddhism. At the same time, the comedic dimensions of his films have invited comparisons to silent slapstick cinema.
Rice only completed three works before his death by pneumonia at the age of 29: The Flower Thief (1960), Senseless (1962), and Chumlum (1964). An additional feature, The Queen of Sheba Meets the Atom Man (1963/1982), was assembled posthumously.