Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

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life_boy
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2006 11:51 pm
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Re: More J. Cornell

#476 Post by life_boy » Thu Jun 11, 2009 10:18 pm

I just re-watched Rose Hobart for what may be the fourth or fifth time and it just slays me every time I see it. I am in AWE at what I am seeing. The whole thing works like a charm in transporting me to some place I've never been (and can only go when Brother Joe's the pilot, probably). I can't explain everything I see (why would I even want to?!?) but I am utterly captivated from the first frames/first strains of samba. Having worked some with appropriated footage myself, I watch it also thinking about the cuts: the choice of where to cut and how long to hold (certainly the brilliant choice to play it back at 18fps).....who is this guy? He is working against a natural rhythm that I feel, cutting where I don't "naturally" see a cut. But this movement over time, these cuts, become hypnotic. I can't help but wonder how he made some of his choices.

- Did he sense natural rhythms and play against them? (I'm sure this is a question we can NEVER answer)
- Did he have the music before or after cutting? This music choice is also a pertinent point against the whole Sosin style, "ooo look I'm A/G" synth tinkling that doesn't work in any way (that unfortunately gets synched to some of these films post-script).....but here, JC allows music that is not inherently "dramatic" or "mystical" (at least in any conventional sense of those words), it is an almost arbitrary score....ALMOST. I honestly can't say how planned or arbitrary it is/was but I can only take it as it is before me and man, does it work like magic. It was the music that was burned into my brain somehow (with that glorious slow-motion splash) that beckoned me back to this film after a ho-hum initial viewing in a school library (the AmArchives DVD). Come to think of it, it is the music that beckons me back every time (I'm at the grocery store and I just start hearing "pock-oo pock-oo pah pah" in my head!).

I have not had the chance to see any of Cornell's other films but after this most recent viewing, this needs to change and FAST.

[Why doesn't JC have his own director's thread yet?]

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zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

Re: More J. Cornell

#477 Post by zedz » Thu Jun 11, 2009 10:37 pm

life_boy wrote:I have not had the chance to see any of Cornell's other films but after this most recent viewing, this needs to change and FAST.
Your first stop should be the Unseen Cinema box, which has plenty of Cornell and would be essential even if it didn't.
[Why doesn't JC have his own director's thread yet?]
Because nobody has done it is the flippant answer, but a big factor is probably the vagueness / uncertainty of his filmography, which forms the backbone of the format here.

montgomery
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#478 Post by montgomery » Fri Jun 12, 2009 12:20 pm

There's also this which I don't have but keep meaning to get.

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denti alligator
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#479 Post by denti alligator » Fri Jun 12, 2009 12:23 pm

montgomery wrote:There's also this which I don't have but keep meaning to get.
It's well worth the investment.

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JAP
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#480 Post by JAP » Fri Jun 12, 2009 3:06 pm

Two questions:
- Is it still available?
- Can you get it somewhere else? (already tried Amazon, E-Bay, the SF MoMA, the Smithsonian and the Peabody Essex Museum online stores; all this because the Voyager Foundation doesn't reply to my e-mails...)

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RagingNoodles
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#481 Post by RagingNoodles » Tue Nov 24, 2009 8:39 am

A good buddy of mine recently recommended I see the films of Ernie Gehr. So I was wondering, where would one go to search for this work of Gehr? I noticed Serene Velocity is available on some streaming sites, but none of them are 23 minutes long.

Adam
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#482 Post by Adam » Tue Nov 24, 2009 1:43 pm

Gehr doesn't have a DVD, and most of his films really work only as films, meaning he is literally playing with physical & visual effects that are part of film as medium. Serene Velocity, for example, you might get a hint of, but it really only works when it is a big image that affects your optic nerve with after images that aren't apparent with some tiny image on a computer.

Not a very useful answer, but Ernie isn't concerned with large numbers of people seeing his films.
And meaning really the only way to see his films right now is to rent prints (or get a local film society to do so) from Canyon Cinema or Film-makers Coop.

He does have some recent video work that might be more obtainable, but for example, when I had him as a guest at Filmforum a few years ago, he needed a particular video projector because the video was based on effects created by interlaced fields, so for example a progressive projector couldn't project it. There was even more to it than that, and he didn't let me know ahead of time, so we weren't able to screen it.

Adam
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Re: More J. Cornell

#483 Post by Adam » Tue Nov 24, 2009 1:46 pm

zedz wrote:I have not had the chance to see any of Cornell's other films but after this most recent viewing, this needs to change and FAST.
Your first stop should be the Unseen Cinema box, which has plenty of Cornell and would be essential even if it didn't.
There is a set now of restored prints, distributed by Anthology Film Archives, done by Jeanne Liotta and, heck, I'm blanking on the name of person #2. We showed them in LA at REDCAT and Filmforum a couple of years ago (to packed houses. One can rent those as well. But many of them are making their way to DVD, as indicated in above. In addition, Rose Hobart is on the first Treasures from American Film Archives.

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gyorgys
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#484 Post by gyorgys » Thu Mar 25, 2010 12:22 pm

Pdf. download of the The Brakhage Lectures.


yoshimori
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#486 Post by yoshimori » Tue Dec 14, 2010 1:11 am

Coming from The Netherlands on 1/24/11, the IFFR Shorts Compilation 2005-2010 caught my interest because of the Jeanne Liotta piece, one of my favorite experimental films of the past few years. Full contents - all 217 minutes of it - below:

Joost van Veen - Interlude (Nederland 2005, 3 min.)
Thomas Köner - Nuuk (Duitsland 2005, 6 min.)
David Lammers - Veere (Nederland 2005, 10 min.)
David Shrigley & Chris Shepherd - Who I Am and What I Want (Engeland 2005, 7 min.)
Joke Liberge - Meander (België 2005, 14 min.)
Roy Villevoye - Beginnings (Nederland 2006, 19 min.)
Vipin Vijay - Video Game (India, 2006, 30 min.)
Köken Ergun – The Flag (Turkije 2007, 8 min.)
Geoffrey Boulangé – Hinterland (Frankrijk 2007, 28 min.)
Jeanne Liotta - Observando el cielo (VS 2007, 19 min.)
David Dusa – Amin (Frankrijk 2007, 8 min.)
Ho Yuhang - As I Lay Dying (Maleisië 2007, 10 min.)
Joe Lawlor & Christine Molloy (desperate optimists) - Joy (Engeland 2008, 10 min.)
Mati Diop – Atlantiques (Frankrijk/Senegal 2009, 15 min.)
Galina Myznikova & Sergey Provorov - Despair (Rusland 2009, 18 min.)
Ying Liang – Condolences (China, 2009, 19 min.)

abkino
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#487 Post by abkino » Fri Jul 08, 2011 9:01 pm

I don't know if this is reviving a dead thread, but I didn't really see anywhere better to post this.

I'm an aspiring filmmaker who has recently gotten into avant garde film. For someone dissatisfied with the state of narrative filmmaking, a-g cinema was a revelation. Michael Snow's Wavelength and Hollis Frampton's Zorns Lemma blew my mind and left me hungry for more.

Unfortunately, for someone like me who doesn't live in new york or LA my ability to access majority of these films is limited. I understand that film is a superior medium to view these works on, but I see a certain injustice for someone like me, not exactly from a lucrative background, being forced to sell a kidney to fly to new york in order to see mothlight or serene velocity 'properly'. Is my input completely worthless unless I see these films in their highest quality? The common assertion that it is not a 'right' of the viewer to be able to see films when they desire so is the very logic that cripples the avant garde's potential. Ernie Gehr not being concerned with how many people see his work is the exact reason so many film students love Kubrick and Coppola. This may be ideological, but I see the a-g as being far more important to the future of the medium. Sure, it may not be to the exact standards Gehr desired to release on DVD, but in doing so more potential contributors to the discourse of film are born. As terrible as UBUWEB's quality is, without them, I would have no desire to continue my pursuit of avant garde film. DVD releases help foster the original works as well. What should be my motivation to spend a lot on money to go see films I haven't the slightest clue of? If I know dog star man is quality, I will be more motivated to go out and see original brakhage works on film.

A few posters previously mentioned the avant garde community is still strong, and that the community won't die if DVD releases aren't widely available, but the film world at large does not reflect the innovations artists like Snow and Frampton introduced. It is only now, in 2011, that commercial cinema is making an effort to confront New American Cinema, albeit somewhat half-assed, in the form of Malick's Tree of Life. Extreme film purism is tantamount to bourgeois elitism; don't live in New York or LA? Fuck you. Artists who sequester their work are doing a disservice to the medium and every effort possible should be made to convince artists like Gehr and Snow that the sooner DVDs of theirs are released, the better.

I don't want to exude a combative tone like the discussion before this seemed to have. If I'm completely wrong, please point that out. I'm just disturbed with the idea that I will be constrained to lesser quality cinema purely due to geographical and fiscal circumstances.

More on topic, are there any good places to view a-g cinema in Austin? I know UT has a film library of some kind, but it doesn't seem to be accessible to the public and I'm uncertain how good their selection is.

moltenlava
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#488 Post by moltenlava » Sat Jul 09, 2011 2:25 am

I loved your post, but let's start here:
"Michael Snow's Wavelength and Hollis Frampton's Zorns Lemma blewmy mind and left me hungry for more."
I am at the opposite end of A-G appreciation. I like what Sitney calls "absolute animation" more than what he unfortunately calls "Structurlism." Nevertheless, there are a great number of so-called structural films on DVD I would recommend.
Oh, wait-DVD is inferior to projection in a NY or LA theater? Hmmm. I'm 62 years old and have seen hundreds of A-G films projected at the San Fransico Art Institute and Pacific Fim Archives. I saw my first projected A-G film when I was 17 in Kansas City,Mo. Is there a difference between projected and DVD? Of course. Is it significant? Given today's home formats, I do not think so, having seen many of the same films on DVD I saw originally projected. If you want to believe the "true believers,' that is your perogative. Regardless, here are some DVDs I think you would appreciate.
From Index of Austria:
Kurt Kren has three magnificent DVDs, one labeled "Structural." Disregard the label and enjoy all three.
VALIE EXPORT has two from Index, both exceptional.
Mara Mattuschka
Peter Tscherkasskey
Martin Arnold
Manfred Neurwirth
Sonic Fiction
Gustav Deutsch
Dariusz Kowalski
..and many others not covered by the NY/LA cognoscenti.

From BFI:

William Raban
Chris Welby
Shoot Shoot Shoot
Lis Rhodes
S. Dwoskin

..and more.

What I am trying to say, is forget other people's biases and self promotion and start your personal education.

abkino
Joined: Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:31 pm

Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#489 Post by abkino » Sat Jul 09, 2011 3:10 am

I have looked into Tscherkassky and Arnold and I'm definitely willing to explore all corners of the avant garde world. But, it's really frustrating when filmmakers triumphed as seminal like Gehr, Benning and Snow are completely inaccessible to someone like me. Every critic and theorist discusses these filmmakers and it seems like to contribute to a-g film and the discourses about a-g film one must have an opinion on them. I find someone like Peter Kubelka saying he is fine with letting his films die with him to be highly disturbing, especially for an artist who had such an impact on the medium.

It seems like with digital technology getting better and better feasibly in the future video could match film. If Fred Camper can approve of the brakhage collection release, then maybe there is hope yet. I'm curious as to why there isn't a more concerted effort to get these filmmakers to budge?

Thanks for the recommendations. I'll have some shopping to do in the future. Luckily art cinema is a big place.

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SternDiet
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#490 Post by SternDiet » Sat Jul 09, 2011 5:53 am

abkino wrote:It seems like with digital technology getting better and better feasibly in the future video could match film. If Fred Camper can approve of the brakhage collection release, then maybe there is hope yet. I'm curious as to why there isn't a more concerted effort to get these filmmakers to budge?
Quite simply because most a-g filmmakers absolutely refure to show their films on anything but actual film. I know that can be frustrating because of lack of availabilty, but on the other hand a lot of these films do keep something of an 'aura' (to paraphrase Walter Benjamin) and when you finally get around to seeing these films after years of reading about them, it can be a pretty amazing and special occasion - more than when the films would be widely available.

I saw a retrospective of Nathaniel Dorsky earlier this year (which was the first time I had been able to see his films after years of frustrating curiosity) and someone actually asked him how he felt about DVD and he simply said he would never think of showing his films on DVD, because it could never match the experience of celluloid film. Then, when someones asked how he felt about blu-ray, he said he felt blu-ray could be better and perhaps a possibilty, but that he hadn't really looked into it enough to make a judgement. In any case, blu-ray was just too expensive to make it feasible right now, he said. So there's definitely a big economic factor also. Cindy Keefer (Centre of Visual Music) recently said to me that if someone would make money available they certainly would want to release Jordan Belson on blu-ray, but that without that kind of help it was just not possible. So unless a Criterion or BFI steps in, these things are sadly not going to happen. But, as you may know, Criterion is planning to release a Hollis Frampton set, either on SD or hi-def - or possibly both - so you have something to look forward to.

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AlexHansen
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#491 Post by AlexHansen » Sat Jul 09, 2011 10:09 am

SternDiet wrote:(which was the first time I had been able to see his films after years of frustrating curiosity)
Having been in the same situation, I finally broke down and rented prints of a few of Dorsky's films myself, along with a couple Tscherkasskys and Sharits' Apparent Motion. It was definitely an amazing and special occasion. Despite having seen Outer Space (on DVD) and Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine (streaming), seeing them projected was a treat, especially Instructions. It was spendy but not incredibly so, so that's a route you might want to consider abkino. If you're in Austin, I imagine finding a projector and someone to run it would be fairly easy. Probably could find a few others to chip in and lower the cost some as well (which sadly wasn't really an option here in Boise). As for one of your examples of inaccessible filmmakers, Benning's work can be found online pretty easily and Edition Filmmuseum is putting some out on disc at the end of the year.

My advice would be to not worry about things you can't control (the accessibility of some filmmakers work) and simply seek out what is available. Filmmakers seem to be putting their work up on Vimeo more and more. A bunch of stuff is available on DVD. There's plenty to keep you busy until the opportunities to see the Gehrs or Snows of the world present themselves.

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Gregory
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#492 Post by Gregory » Sat Jul 09, 2011 12:29 pm

abkino wrote:I'm an aspiring filmmaker who has recently gotten into avant garde film. For someone dissatisfied with the state of narrative filmmaking, a-g cinema was a revelation. Michael Snow's Wavelength and Hollis Frampton's Zorns Lemma blew my mind and left me hungry for more.
Unfortunately, for someone like me who doesn't live in new york or LA my ability to access majority of these films is limited.
Folks in NY and LA don't have access to the majority of avant-garde cinema, especially if you look at the international scope of it. We're all constrained by geography, finance, and the challenges of distributing something that's generally unprofitable on any medium. Is the notion here that we should have unencumbered access to all existing cultural products, or all avant-garde cinema, or certain preordained "key works" or what? I would say just see what you can and take inspiration from any available sources. You can also find like-minded people and pool your money to rent and project prints, many of which are quite affordable.
I think we're all pretty spoiled by how much is available now, and it can lead to a sense of entitlement that we should be able to see literally everything. I can understand frustration over something not getting a DVD or Blu-ray release if it's a major studio like Universal keeping things locked up in the vaults, but it's another matter when a filmmaker her/himself does not wish to see the work transferred in a way that fundamentally compromises it. I know there was a lot of obfuscation and bickering to wade through in previous pages here, but there were lots of valid points here about how films by Snow and many others are about the material properties of film and film projection, and so on.
SInce this earlier discussion, the Brakhage films have been released on Blu-ray, and this gives us an opportunity to compare the original DVDs and show what some of us were talking about when we said those DVDs were a real compromise vis-a-vis seeing prints of the films properly projected. To a great extent, I think the differences among these media work in ways we can't be consciously aware of, so it difficult to sell anyone on the importance of these differences. But surely there's enough of a "tip of the iceberg" of what we do know to see where filmmakers, curators, distributors, etc. are coming from when they stipulate certain conditions under which the work should be seen.
Is my input completely worthless unless I see these films in their highest quality?
Certainly not, and you shouldn't pay attention to anyone who would say that.
The common assertion that it is not a 'right' of the viewer to be able to see films when they desire so is the very logic that cripples the avant garde's potential. Ernie Gehr not being concerned with how many people see his work is the exact reason so many film students love Kubrick and Coppola.
I don't understand this statement. Avant-garde cinema itself is esoteric not just by virtue of its distribution. I think if prints of Gehr could be shown to every film student in the land, the vast majority of them would still prefer Kubrick and Coppola. And some who liked Gehr would still love Kubrick et al. as well.
DVD releases help foster the original works as well. What should be my motivation to spend a lot on money to go see films I haven't the slightest clue of? If I know dog star man is quality, I will be more motivated to go out and see original brakhage works on film.
It's a double-edged sword, for sure. Criterion's Brakhage releases have hurt Canyon's revenue for those particular films, but the hope is that by leading more people to be aware of Brakhage, it increases interest in his other works not included in the set, leading those to be rented and projected more. Has it worked that way? Not as far as I've seen, but someone from Canyon or Filmmakers Cooperative could give a much better answer. Film projection will only be able to survive as long as people value it and support it, and there's no shortage of troubling signs of increasing pressures for everyone to go digital.

abkino
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#493 Post by abkino » Sat Jul 09, 2011 12:35 pm

Thanks for the advice everyone. I have a couple more a-g related questions;

1, Where is a good place to start with foreign a-g works? I'm aware of the experimental film scene in Austria, I've been told the Swiss avant garde is quite prominent too, and I know of the historical avant garde (absolute film, un chein andalou, maya deren etc.), though my knowledge is certainly lacking. What are some names that haven't been listed yet that are must sees?

2, Are there any plans by criterion to release full cycles by Brakhage?

3, What seems to be the direction of the avant garde? Like, video art is obviously the biggest addition of the last 10 years, but what trends and movements define the modern avant garde? Which artists should I look into?

e; to respond to the above post, do you think artists like Dorsky and Snow would be more willing if in every DVD release of their work there is a message beforehand informing the viewer that what they're seeing is merely a digital reproduction, and the quality of the film release is significantly better? I think the biggest problem is education, ie most people don't realize the division between video and film.

moltenlava
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#494 Post by moltenlava » Sat Jul 09, 2011 5:09 pm

I think your questions are interesting and address fundamental issues in regards to A-G.
Let me first dispense with my biases, so you can read my opinions without worry about tendentious ideas.
I hate the book Visionary Film, and regard P. Adam Sitney as too close to many of the filmmakers he examines to have any critical value. I dislike his categorical terms such as Trance, Lyrical, and Mythopoeia. I wish I (or anyone) could find better terms to describe the various "types" of A-G. I also dislike his arbitrary line of demarcation of classical A-G as ending with Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon. I agree, it's convenient, but I think he has polluted the fertile minds of thousands of viewers with this arbitrary line. Meshes is an interesting, but hardly unique, film. And,yes,I've seen it projected.

On the other hand, I respect and like "A History of Experimental Film and Video" by A. L. Rees as a clear minded and informative guide to A-G. Rees lets you, the viewer, decide, after he points you in the prominent direction. No, he doesn't get all wobbly about the "New American Cinema," but he does give it the requisite nod.

That's the answer to question one. Check out Rees' book. There is a good foundation of A-G (1) on DVD. I wish you lived in my city so I could lend DVDs to you.

I couldn't care less about the Criterion A-G plans. I am the master of my own viewing.

3) Great question, and one I have been struggling to answer since January of this year. I have watched, mostly on DVD, 1,200 A-G films, in chronological order in the hopes of answering it. My conclusion? I wasted my time. Most A-G artists do not conform to a "bigger picture." They have a normal, individual creative arc, of good, great, diminished. I love the new A-G artists, such as Stratman, Tochka, Mizue, Kowalski, Maxwell, Renwick, and especially G. Deutsch. Not so big on Nagler,Rose, or Fotopoulas. As expected, Su Friedrich was great until, well, she got old.
I can tell you what I like, but it hardly points in a direction, or means you'll like them too.

And finally, I give up on artists who refuse to show their work to the largest possible audience. Three of my most valued DVDs are from Bruce Baillie, a founder of Canyon Cinema. I've watched all three multiple times, even though I had seen them projected when they were released. Sincerely, I've seen things on repeated viewings I never expected to see. Quick Billy..ohlala!

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SternDiet
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#495 Post by SternDiet » Mon Jul 11, 2011 8:50 am

abkino wrote:e; to respond to the above post, do you think artists like Dorsky and Snow would be more willing if in every DVD release of their work there is a message beforehand informing the viewer that what they're seeing is merely a digital reproduction, and the quality of the film release is significantly better? I think the biggest problem is education, ie most people don't realize the division between video and film.
Well, Dorsky was quite clear on this point: he doesn't want people to see his work on DVD, because he doesn't want to compromise the integrity of his work. I don't think education helps that much, actually, because a lot of people simply dismiss the differences between video and film. And in a way, I guess you can't blame them, because if you have never experienced the actual difference (and most people haven't), it all probably sounds like a lot of hooey. And such disclaimers are mostly ignored anyway.

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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#496 Post by whocansay » Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:17 pm

And in the particular case of Dorsky, he's been clear about the speed he wants his films to be projected at, since he seems to want visible or semi-visible flicker to be present. I haven't seen any of his films (or for that matter, any film projected at less that 24fps) so I can't comment on how apparent the difference is, but assuming he's right than it's a pretty compelling case for not releasing his films on DVD.

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zedz
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#497 Post by zedz » Mon Jul 11, 2011 10:02 pm

I've been fortunate enough to see Dorsky's films on film and, yes indeed, a very large part of their effect derives from the speed, the flicker and the overwhelming presence of silence in a public space. If his work were available on DVD, you might think you've seen it, but there's a good argument to be made that you would have missed most of what he was actually trying to do with the material.* It's hard to find analogies, but maybe it would be like claiming to have experienced Tony Conrad's 'dream music' because you'd heard a 30 second ringtone extracted from a live performance. You literally don't know what you're not hearing / seeing.

But, on the other hand, there is plenty of experimental work that does work very well on DVD and BluRay, and there's plenty out there to track down. That doesn't mean you shouldn't go out of your way to see the real films really projected, if only so you can better understand those additional dimensions that home video formats can't reproduce.

* Just one more reason to abhor American Beauty, if any were needed.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#498 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Jul 11, 2011 10:11 pm

What's the American Beauty connection?

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zedz
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#499 Post by zedz » Mon Jul 11, 2011 10:20 pm

The me-so-soulful 'art video' that one of the characters makes (the dancing plastic bag) is a rip-off of a sequence from a Dorsky film.

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swo17
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#500 Post by swo17 » Mon Jul 11, 2011 10:34 pm

zedz wrote:It's hard to find analogies
Maybe this is stupid, but the first thing that occurred to me was listening to The Flaming Lips' Zaireeka on a single mp3 player.

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