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Re: Avant-Garde Cinema

PostPosted: Tue Aug 22, 2006 5:53 pm
by A

Very interesting to see these rather unknown shorts discussed here. I came around reading this thread only now, as I simply didn't have enough time in the past weeks. I enjoyed reading your comments wpqx, and I'd like to read more. Usually this is a neglected area, probably because of the simple reason that there weren't many feature films that dealt with similar ideas. To this day, short films continue to be ignored.

By chance I also stumbled upon some avant-garde films, two or three months ago when i was watching a lot of (mostly animated) silent shorts. It was a VHS with six early works of Hans Richter, and I also saw the two films you mention, Rhythmus 21 (1921) and Vormittagsspuk (1928) . Can't add much, as Richters films are very abstract, and he seems to be interested in transformation through movement.
I must say that I enjoyed all of them, but didn't find them groundbreaking or remarkable. The exception could be Rhythmus 21, which was probably something new for its time, and which i incidentally also enjoyed the most.

Hmm, I recall that I have taped some experimental films from TV some months ago. Maybe I'll write something if i find them.

Btw, Uberfall (1928) sounds very interesting. Could you write a bit more about it wpqx? Is the story told in real time, or do get several perspectives through "timeshifts". How long is the film? I haven't heard of Metzer before...

Re: Avant-Garde Cinema

PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 3:20 pm
by wpqx
It's basically about an assualt, and told somewhat straightforward. I believe it is linear, but shot in distorting ways. Having watched nearly 30 of these films within a week, I can't say any particularly stand out now in hindsight, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to get some comments down here.

Re: Avant-Garde Cinema

PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 9:47 pm
by wpqx
I can't believe how useful this thread is. I know I watched all those films but don't remember next to anything about them, glad I wrote something down while they were still fresh. Has anyone seen the new Kino Avant-Garde set? I promise to check it out as soon as I wrap up these directors (which should be very soon).

Hold Me While I'm Naked (1966) - George Kuchar

I've heard a lot about Kuchar's work, and in particular this film. Last night I finally watched it. Although the audio seemed to be recorded at top volume I blame the transfer rather than Kuchar. This fifteen minute gem is basically an allegory for sexual frustration as Kuchar (essentially playing himself) is trying to finish a film that happens to require a lot of nudity. In the process everyone but him seems to be getting laid and no women are willing to fill in the vacated spot in his film. Kuchar was known for creating a world completely off balance, and along with his brother they influenced a whole generation of experimental filmmakers. This film incorporates several framing tactics explored more in depth by Roger Vadim, and to contribute to our frustration and therefore identification with Kuchar nearly all shots of nudity are hidden behind stained glass or staged in a way that hides what we see. A few more of his films are available on ubuweb, so hopefully I'll get a chance to get acquainted with him a little more.

Re: Avant-Garde Cinema

PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 9:50 pm
by wpqx
Surfacing on the Thames (1970) - David Rimmer

The avant-garde movement of the late sixties got to be so large that various subgenres began to emerge. David Rimmer, along with contemporary Michael Snow were considered the leaders of the structuralist movement. Here the notion is of playing and experimenting with film itself, and they usually require manipulating the work of others. Rimmer took a ten second clip of two ships sailing past each other during WWII on the Thames and broke it down frame by frame. He photographed each individual frame for several seconds then dissolved it into the next frame, making a slow hypnotic movement where two ships seem to cross each other like the hands on a clock. The film is quite mesmerizing but if you're looking for great content, this film by its very nature might leave you empty.

Re: Avant-Garde Cinema

PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 1:44 am
by wpqx
Erection (1971) - John Lennon and Yoko Ono

It's really hard to call what Lennon did here directing, but well who knew the Beatle could make movies? Lennon heard of the construction in London of the International Hotel and decided to document it. With a time lapse camera he set up to take pictures of it throughout its construction. What occurs is a gradual (roughly 17 minutes) of the building from foundation to completed hotel. Now I'm unaware of any hidden meaning behind the film, but if it was simply a means of testing out the equipment it certainly worked. I also applaud Lennon on the very ironic title for the film. The soundtrack was from one of those Lennon/Ono albums that no one ever listened to because its intolerable nonsense.

Re: Avant-Garde Cinema

PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2007 1:48 am
by wpqx
Un Chant D'Amour (1950) - Jean Ganet

One of the problems when watching avant-garde and experimental films is that most of them can be a little boring. They are non-narratives that deal with exposures, or cinematic puzzles. So when you get a chance to see a film of true poetic brilliance with even a faint hint of a story, it really seems a treat. Jean Ganet made only one film, infamous in its day, but that picture still holds up remarkably well. Gay or straight this film has to win you over, with so many images that will stay with you. To think of a love story developing between two inmates who are in separate cells, expressing their love through a long straw and shared cigarettes. Most of the films (all of it actually) notoriety came from the images of nude men engaging in some masturbation and a few acts of tastefully executed homosexual activity has made this a curious entry, but sex aside this film is well worth checking out.

Re: Avant-Garde Cinema

PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2007 1:52 am
by wpqx
Zorns Lemma (1970) - Hollis Frampton

Yeah, this is a bit of a head scratcher. I wonder sometimes if people make too much out of this. Frampton himself has offered interpretations that he wasn't even consciously aware of while filming. The picture has three main acts, a pictureless intro of narration, a very long segment of a 24 letter alphabet, and then finally a very long static shot of a couple walking their dog through a snow covered field while six different female voices recite another story. That is the essential structure but things do get somewhat interesting. During the alphabet letters are subtracted and replaced with images (fire, sea waves crashing, fields of wheat, etc) and as the segment progresses more and more letters are removed for these images creating something of a guessing game as to what the next letter shall be. Everything is regimented, a second of an image and a second of blackness, next letter, etc. It is easy to fall asleep for this segment though as no sound or dialogue overlaps here, and really who can sit through words representing the alphabet for 40 minutes? This is still the best known film of Frampton's and apparently is one that embodies most of his obsessions. He seemed intrigued by puzzles and forms, and this would suit that somewhat well.

Re: Avant-Garde Cinema

PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2007 1:55 am
by wpqx
The Bridge (1927-28) - Joris Ivens

The work of Joris Ivens still remains relatively obscure and hard to find, but that is changing just a little. The Bridge was one of his earliest films, an abstract study of an iron bridge in Rotterdam. Ivens uses graceful dissolves a varying editing pace and a great deal of montage principles to construct the picture. Through the mechanical movements of the bridge, the raising and lowering, and eventual crossing by a train give the film something of a plotline, albeit in a very simplistic manner. It did however set to establish Ivens as not just an experimental figure but one of non-fiction, and one who undoubtedly was drawn to the outdoors and marvels of modern man.

Re: Avant-Garde Cinema

PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2007 10:23 pm
by wpqx
Soundings (1978) - Gary Hill

Basically Gary hill photographed a speaker. He recorded his voice coming through the speaker, and then proceeded to do various things to the speaker to alter the sound. Punching holes in it, pouring water on it, moving it, and physically altering it, thus illustrating the relationship between sound and image and vice versa. The result is somewhat interesting, but no more so than a guitar player getting a new effect pedal and seeing what new sounds he can make from it.

Re: Avant-Garde Cinema

PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2007 10:37 pm
by wpqx
Variations on a Cellophane Wrapper (1970) - David Rimmer

My second Rimmer film is even more impressive. He took an eight second shot of a female factory worker moving a piece of cellophane. Then things got interesting, first he changed the contrast, then start alternating with the negative image, finally adding some color, and eventually blocking out parts of the image until it went to total blackness. The sound provided by Don Druick helps make the film as it brilliantly compliments the abstract imagery. Luckily the film stays relatively short so there isn't a great deal of time to get too bored, and the variations are all delightful. Definitely feels a little like a kid playing with a whole new bunch of toys, but a minor symphony was composed of such tools by Rimmer, who I most certainly am on the lookout for more work from.