Arthur Ginsberg and Video Free America, The Continuing Story of Carel and Ferd, 1970-75

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Arthur Ginsberg, in making The Continuing Story of Carel and Ferd, was decades ahead of his time. What is now known as reality television, Ginsberg films the life of Carel Row, and erotic film actress and film editor, and Ferd Eggan, a bisexual drug addict, particularly the events leading up to their wedding. The film questions reality and the freedom the camera allows for Carel and Ferd to take on personas that are more exaggerated than their real selves. At one point Ferd calls what they are doing “cinema veritas” yet ironically it is close to impossible to determine how much truth is being displayed to the viewer. It is true that Ferd does have two male lovers and that a man name Richard thinks Carel is too good for Ferd, yet whether the reactions that both Carel and Ferd have to these different scenarios are true or not is harder to determine. In fact, in one scene as Carel and Ferd are fighting over her jealously of his lovers Carel indicates that she would not be acting so extreme if the camera was not on. Is anything that is filmed real? Ginsberg plays with this question and includes issues of whether reactions or feelings are authentic if they are on camera.

In addition, there are themes of what narrative consists of. Though Ginsberg has determined to follow this couple during a particular time in their life, the time before their impending nuptials, there is no set script and no pre-determined narrative. The story could change in an instant, keeping the viewer engaged, entertained, and interested. Yet at the same time, this whole narrative is slightly voyeuristic. Not only are we, the viewers, witnessing intimate moments of this couples life, including the consummation of their marriage, the fact that the characters are on the fringe of being pariahs brings intrigue to the consumer. The combination of drug addictions, multiple sexual preferences and partners, and the erotic film industry brings a level of the exotic and atypical to this film upon which the viewer, who most likely is not from the same background as the couple, through the camera, voyeuristically intrudes on. The Continuing Story of Carel and Ferd presents questions to what is private versus public, what is reality versus film, and whether narrative can be completely spontaneous. The answers Ginsberg gives are that the private is the public if anybody is watching, film is a mere abstraction of reality, and spontaneous life is the most engaging kind of narrative.

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