Avant-Garde Cinema

This is the place to talk about films from around the world.

Avant-Garde Cinema

Postby wpqx » Mon Jul 10, 2006 2:46 am

Thanks in part to Kino's Avant-Garde and Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and '30s I have been seeing some rather interesting films. Kino had released a similar collection on VHS several years back which contained several of the films here, however that collection was around two hours, and this one is over six.

Starting the set off are four films from Man Ray, the American born experimental filmmaker who made his mark in France as a leader in the Dada-ist movement. Le Reour a la Raison, Emak-Bakia, L'etoile de Mer, and Les Mysteres du Chateau du de are all featured here in chronological order. They certainly set the pace for the set with their dreamlike narratives, superimosed images, and conflicting editing patterns. Although the films range from 2-20 minutes they all are in a very similar stylistic trend, dealing with shapes, patterns, and juxtaposed images.

The first American film on the set is The Life and Death of 9413 A Hollywood Extra, from Slavko Vorkapich and Robert Florey. Florey had a rather long career in Hollywood in various tasks including a screenwriter on the original Franknestein. Here they assign actors and actresses with their own numbers, including the bright eyed optimistic but ultimately doomed title character. The film is remarkable for its use of sets, as the ascension to heaven is done with small mechanical devices ina distorted perspective. A rather clever and well made satire and a much more logical narrative than one would typically associate with an experimental film, just a very lively presentation.

As I watch more I'll try and comment on them here.
wpqx
 


Re: Avant-Garde Cinema

Postby wpqx » Mon Jul 10, 2006 3:14 am

Menilmontant (1926) - Dimitri Kirsanoff

This film is slightly longer than the others, but certainly not a feature. Kirsanoff's film is told very much in the Impressionist style characteristic of many French films of the era. The story is logical, and there are no real abstract themes, but through various tricks and devices the language of film is used to represent psychological states of his characters. The story for the sake of argument is about a poor man and woman who can't afford to feed themselves let alone their child. The ever popular dream sequence appears, and of course what dream sequence is complete without superimposed random nudity? That said this film is a treasure considering how very few Impressionist films ever have been released in the US, let alone on DVD, so for once you'll actually have a point of reference when the next film textbook starts talking about how important the movement was. Considering this occured simultaneously with the Soviet Avant-Garde movement its hard to say if the editing patterns here were influential there.
wpqx
 

Re: Avant-Garde Cinema

Postby wpqx » Mon Jul 10, 2006 3:45 am

btw way to change the title of this subforum arsaib, maybe we'll get a little more love in here, because no one seems to watching much silent cinema and those of us that do can't seem to find much to say about it.
wpqx
 

Re: Avant-Garde Cinema

Postby arsaib4 » Mon Jul 10, 2006 4:08 am

No problem. I fall in the latter category, but now that we have a place to assemble our thoughts in, I'll certainly try to make a contribution from time-to-time.
arsaib4
 

Re: Avant-Garde Cinema

Postby wpqx » Mon Jul 10, 2006 2:37 pm

Two from Dimitri Kirsanoff, the aforementioned Menilmontant, and the later Brumes D'Automne (1929). A more rhytmic film but very similar, and even featuring the same lead actress. A similar heavy empshasis on superimposition and dreamlike narrative structures.

Lot In Sodom (1933) is another prominent experimental US film co-directed by James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber. This one takes the decadence one would expect from the title and makes it a surreal sort of ballet, one instantly recalls the dance films of Maya Deren. Slightly longer than most of the films here, it is a profoundly evocative film set upon a heathen decadence. Lot in Sodom is one of the few films on the set to retain its original music.

Rhythmus 21 (1921) is the first Avant-Garde offering from Germany, and an interesting inclusion, because german films of the period were generally not associated with any of these movements. The film was directed by Hans Richter and features nothing but shapes, and blocks all animated and punctuated to a musical score. There is no narrative at all, but the formal structure of it certainly fits into many of the artistic trends in Europe of the era, particularly Cubism and Dadaism. Therefore I can't say I was surprised to find that Richter actually came from a painting background, and you guessed it Dada. Richter also made two other Rhytmus films one in 1923, and another in 1925, but since neither are available to me I cannot comment on them at all.

Also from Richter is the better known and more influential Vormittagsspuk (Ghosts Before Breakfast). Again Richter uses animation, but this time he comines it with live action and actual actors. The story might not be a clear one, but there is some general stream of events, contrary to the simple random assortment of shapes and blocks in Rhythmus. Actions repeat and Richter constantly intercuts a moving clock between most shots. Many of the actions are similar to magicians tricks apparently symbolizing the "ghosts" of the film. Like most avant-garde films this would probably benefit from about 12 repeated viewings, but for the first reation I'll just stick with obersvations.
wpqx
 

Re: Avant-Garde Cinema

Postby wpqx » Mon Jul 10, 2006 2:52 pm

Anemic Cinema (1926) - Marcel Duchamp

Painter and sculptor Duchamp makes a film consisted almost entirely of spirals. The films juxtaposition is rather simple. There is a neutral spiral or spirals, and then the next shot is of a stone wheel with dialogue written on it. There isn't a hell of a lot more to add ot it then that.

Ballet Mecanique (1924) - Fernand Leger

Ballet Mecanique is one of the few films on this set I know I saw several years ago. It is also one of the most written about films of the period. Leger got his start as a Cubist painter, although that is not the dominant style here. Leger does have a tendency to reverse images, showing things upside down and backwards. The editing is about the wildest of any of these avant-garde films. It fluctuates from unmoving shots, to several shots lasting no more than one frame long creating various contrasts between shapes. Leger uses his frame to manipulate space and show only what he's interested in. He'll isolate a mouth, or an eye, or hand and block off the rest of the shot. Like most of these films images and patterns repeat, and actions go on and on. As for the title, the film intercuts rhytmically with machine parts operating, in a style that would later be used to more symbolic effect in Dziga Vertov's Man With a Movie Camera.
wpqx
 

Re: Avant-Garde Cinema

Postby arsaib4 » Tue Jul 11, 2006 2:56 am

I'm not sure how you'd want to do it but I think we need an index for the films mentioned in these threads.
arsaib4
 

Re: Avant-Garde Cinema

Postby wpqx » Tue Jul 11, 2006 3:27 am

Perhaps, there's a lot more to come. I've actually watched a few more, but couldn't really put anything down about them.
wpqx
 

Re: Avant-Garde Cinema

Postby trevor826 » Tue Jul 11, 2006 6:32 am

You could easily put an intro and index as the first post on this thread or have an index for the whole Silent / Avant-Garde Movie board where even shorter comments could be listed, the comments deserve to be read especially as there was so much interesting and truly inventive cinema during the earliest years of cinema.

Cheers Trev.

Please feel free to delete this post.
trevor826
 

Re: Avant-Garde Cinema

Postby wpqx » Sun Jul 30, 2006 7:23 pm

Uberfall (1928) - Erno Metzer

This impressionistic film ironically came from Germany. It uses all the psychological tricks it can think of to tell the tale of one man's assault. Metzner plays with distorted perspectives, and in several shots shows the characters reflected in curved lamps and pianos, making their bodies and faces warped and distorted. Somewhat straight forward in its narrative, but the way its told makes it worth the watch.
wpqx
 

Next

Return to Film Talk

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Yahoo [Bot] and 2 guests