Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

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

#501 Post by zedz » Tue Jul 12, 2011 12:14 am

swo17 wrote:
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.
That analogy works for me.

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

#502 Post by abkino » Wed Jul 13, 2011 3:13 pm

Has anyone seen Ken Jacob's Star Spangled to Death? Is it the masterpiece/opus/masterwork/work of genius etc. every critic seems to be saying of it? It seems interesting but I'm reluctant to put down the 70 dollars to buy the DVD.

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

#503 Post by AlexHansen » Wed Jul 13, 2011 3:48 pm

abkino wrote:Has anyone seen Ken Jacob's Star Spangled to Death? Is it the masterpiece/opus/masterwork/work of genius etc. every critic seems to be saying of it? It seems interesting but I'm reluctant to put down the 70 dollars to buy the DVD.
I quite enjoyed it. After watching the first part on Mubi, I immediately ordered the DVD (mostly so I could catch all the flash texts). Definitely not the worst $70 I've ever spent.

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

#504 Post by zedz » Wed Jul 13, 2011 4:08 pm

It's a grand, exhausting film, and well worth owning, since it's the only way you're going to be able to catch all the texts, which is a whole extra dimension of the film. And that makes it an interesting counterpoint to the Dorsky discussion, since here's a film that - by design - can't be fully grasped in conventional projection. Be aware that freezing to read will add hours to the film's running time. In some patches five minutes of film can contain dozens of pages of hidden text, and you may have to step-frame the disc to find them.

In the same magnum opus vein, I give an even higher recommendation to the three disc + book edition of Mekas' Walden. A magnificent achievement with full annotations in a big paperback.

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

#505 Post by Gregory » Wed Jul 13, 2011 4:22 pm

I would certainly praise it highly. I voted for it as my #1 film from 2000-2009 in the list project poll a while ago. It's such an original personal work yet at the same time has deep social, cultural, and historical dimensions. It's the culmination not only of Jacobs's filmmaking career but many of his ideas as a teacher, as well. It has repaid repeat viewings to find the text, and I also have a great memory of immersing myself in the whole thing in one sitting, with only occasional pausing for reading.
To someone new to Jacobs, Jack Smith, etc. such an intensive viewing may not be the best way to see it the first time. The texts really are the key to following and tying together many of the threads in the film.

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

#506 Post by AlexHansen » Wed Jul 13, 2011 5:07 pm

The texts really put the film over the top for me. As Gregory says, they help add context to the hodgepodge of footage and, to me, make the film feel more like a conversation. By rewinding and step-framing (and going back again because you mistimed it) you become an active participant in the conversation, and when it's over, the whole experience feels incredibly rewarding.

And I second the (higher) recommendation forWalden. The film is one of my absolute favorites and the book is one of the most informative "special features" I've come across.

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

#507 Post by abkino » Wed Jul 13, 2011 5:16 pm

Thanks for the input everyone. I'm probably gonna buy the DVD now, because if there's anything I love more than good found footage work it's a 5+ hour marathon movie, and the films of Jacobs that I've seen were intimate and personal.

Speaking of that list project, what are everyone's favorite a-g films from the past decade? I recently saw Morgan Fisher's (), which impressed me more upon a second viewing. I've also heard good things about the Jonas Mekas "As I was Moving Ahead..." too. Nathaniel Dorsky's Song and Solitude was also highly praised, but is likely impossible to be seen unless you rent it out. What newer artists displayed a lot of potential in the last decade? Is there any good websites that keep up to date on a-g film? Has a true video art masterpiece been created yet?

Sorry for the excessive questions, I'm just recently getting into a-g film. The avant-garde has always been a window into the future of cinema, so keeping up to date seems to be the best way to get learn about cutting edge filmmaking techniques.

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

#508 Post by AlexHansen » Wed Jul 13, 2011 5:44 pm

To answer a couple, Michael Robinson does good work on the making side and Michael Sicinski does good work on the writing side.

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

#509 Post by SpiderBaby » Thu Jul 14, 2011 7:01 pm

Does anyone have any recommendations of Brazilian experimental films/shorts?

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

#510 Post by knives » Thu Jul 14, 2011 7:14 pm

Limite is the most obvious one.

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

#511 Post by SpiderBaby » Thu Jul 14, 2011 7:32 pm

Yeah I know of that one. Thanks. I was looking for more of a late 60's experimental, since there was a movement of alot of younger filmmakers at that time. I want to see "Killed the Family and Went to the Movies" but I can't find it with english subs.

The more obscure, the better, since I'm not looking for Rocha type answers back.

EDIT: I think what I'm looking for is an era called "BRAZILIAN MARGINAL CINEMA" around the same time of Cinema Novo, but more experimental. So anybody with recommendations would be great.

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

#512 Post by zedz » Thu Jul 14, 2011 9:48 pm

I think Szangerla's Red Light Bandit is available on DVD, but that's really not much more experimental than most of Rocha's stuff (and way less radical than something like Cancer).

This disc may be what you're looking for, though it's a survey of Latin American experimental cinema in general. I have it, but haven't liberated it from my kevyip yet. Will report back when I do.

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

#513 Post by SpiderBaby » Thu Jul 14, 2011 10:30 pm

Awesome, thanks zedz. I know about Red Light Bandit and Rogério Sganzerla in general. That link/disc, I believe should be a great start as to what I am looking for. So far, Brazilian cinema for me is only Rocha to José Mojica Marins' Coffin Joe films. I am a huge fan of experimental cinema so of course I kind of wanted to just jump right into that portion of Brazilian cinema. Thanks for your help again.

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

#514 Post by abkino » Sat Jul 23, 2011 2:15 am

What books about a-g film, historical, theory or otherwise, do people enjoy? I'm reading through Sitney's Visionary Film and Rees' History of Experimental film and both are fascinating. Is there any book which comprehensively covers the foreign avant garde? What is the definitive "History of the Avant Garde" book?

Also, what works of film theory engage the avant garde the best? As a fan of Gilles Deleuze's philosophical work, I'm finding his cinema books extremely applicable to the a-g, in a sense almost supplying a rationalization for it's existence (even if Deleuze's experience is more European art house). I've heard Beller's Cinematic Mode of Production and Rosen's Change Mummified are good too.

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

#515 Post by Adam » Sun Jul 24, 2011 2:40 am

abkino wrote:What books about a-g film, historical, theory or otherwise, do people enjoy? I'm reading through Sitney's Visionary Film and Rees' History of Experimental film and both are fascinating. Is there any book which comprehensively covers the foreign avant garde? What is the definitive "History of the Avant Garde" book?

Also, what works of film theory engage the avant garde the best? As a fan of Gilles Deleuze's philosophical work, I'm finding his cinema books extremely applicable to the a-g, in a sense almost supplying a rationalization for it's existence (even if Deleuze's experience is more European art house). I've heard Beller's Cinematic Mode of Production and Rosen's Change Mummified are good too.
There is no definitive book.
There is an email list called Frameworks dedicated the experimental film in which the topic of books just passed. Here are replies to that, in addition to the two you already mentioned. These are all cut & pasted until the end:

Chuck Kleinhans had a good start:

Berger, John. "The Moment of Cubism," in Berger, The Moment of Cubism and Other Essays.
This is a useful key essay on modernism(s)

Rees, A. L., A History of Experimental Film and Video (London:British Film Institute, 1999) paperback
excellent brief history of US and UK, and both film and video art

Sitney, P. Adams. Visionary Film, Third edition (NY: Oxford UP, 2002) paperback
classic study on US New American Cinema avant garde, Deren on.

Kirby, Michael. "The Aesthetics of the Avant-Garde," in Kirby, The Art of Time. 1969
another useful reference point essay on modernism across the arts

It is especially useful to do some in-depth close studies (though you also need access to the films in some form)

Such as:

Roy Grundmann, Andy Warhol’s Blow Job, Temple U Press, 2002.
Outstanding close study, with terrific context

James Peterson, Dreams of Chaos, Visions of Order: Understanding the Ameican Avant-Garde Cinema (Wayne State)
careful and detailed close analysis of a small number of films

Wees, William C. Light Moving in Time: Studies in the Visual Aesthetics of Avant-garde Film (Berkeley: U of CA Press, 1992)
very careful studies of key films

For large alternatives to the above titles:

James, David E. Allegories Of Cinema: American Film in the Sixties. Princeton: Princeton U.P., 1989.
an important contrast to and corrective of Sitney

Tyler, Parker, Underground Film: A Critical History (DaCapo 1995)
Tyler is often forgotten nowadays, but excellent for the period he covers

Macdonald, Scott. A Critical Cinema: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers. Berkeley: U of California, 1988.
This is the first of a series of interview books he has done: Macdonald does outstanding preparation forthe interviews which produce very illuminating discussions in most cases. Many filmmakers find this kind of work the most illuminating thing to read. The whole series is great.

Robin Blaetz, ed. Women's Experimental Cinema Duke: 2007)
essential corrective to the usual boys club version of the avant garde

These aren't "also rans" but equal but different than the previous titles:

LeGrice, Malcolm. Abstract Film and Beyond. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1977.

Macdonald, Scott. Avant-Garde Film: Motion Studies. Cambridge, Cambridge U.P. 1993.

Macdonald, Scott. The Garden in the Machine. U of California, 2003

Marks, Laura. The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses. (U of Minn?) 2000

Mekas, Jonas. Movie Journal: The Rise of a New American Cinema, 1959-1971. NY: Collier, 1972.
interesting collection of his weekly reviews, allows you to see historical progression week by week.

Russell, Catherine, Experimental Ethnography: The Work of Film in the Age of Video. 2000.

Sitney, P. Adams, ed. Film Culture Reader. NY: Praeger, 1970.
great collection of essays from the key magazine of the US experimental movement

Sitney, P. Adams, ed. The Essential Cinema: Essays on the Films in the Collection of Anthology Film Archives. Vol. 1. NY: New York U. P., 1975.

Sitney, P. Adams, ed. The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Criticism. NY: New York U. P., 1978.

Youngblood, Gene. Expanded Cinema. NY: Dutton, 1970.

You should be aware that experimental film and video are often clumsily nation bound for several reasons. If you are in the US, it's very enlightening to make an extra effort to find out about Canadian, UK, European, Japanese, and other national traditions in both film and video

And video is its own complicated case, with an older single channel history now being overwhelmed by gallery pieces from people who tend to see themselves as "artists" rather than "video makers."
I'm sure others on this list would have other suggestions and refer to their own work: e.g. Fred Camper's writings on his website (there's a lot there), Jackie Hatfield's anthology Experimental film and video, etc.
-------
I added this:
James, David, The Most Typical Avant-Garde: History and Geography of Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles

Anker, Steve, Kathy Geritz, and Steve Seid, ed., Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945-2000

Both eminently readable.
--------
David Tetzlaff:
It's hard to make a beginners bibliography for this field since most of the books have a fairly narrow focus, and thus fall in the 'good, but not essential' category. The only concensus 'must read,' I know of is Visionary Film by Sitney, a book you may love, or love to hate. It's not that user friendly. But that would be where I would send someone to start.
Next on my list would be two books Chuck didn't mention in his otherwise exhaustive list. "Film at Wit's End" by Stan Brakhage (highly readable reminiscences of other filmmakers), and "Bike Boys, Drag Queens, and Superstars: Avant-Garde, Mass Culture, and Gay Identities in the 1960s Underground Cinema" by Juan Suarez (for an intellectual approach very different from Sitney). Following those, I would go to Sitney's Film Culture Reader anthology, and one of the Critical Cinema volumes.

As I recall, there were some pretty good essays on experimental film published in 'Jump Cut' back in the day. Chuck's being modest not mentioning them. Perhaps he could point us to some of his faves from that corpus? And do read Peter Wollen's essay "The Two Avant Gardes".

good luck

djt

The documentary bios of Brakhage (by Jim Shedden), Deren, ("In the Mirror of...") and Jack Smith ("... and the destruction of Atlantis,") are also useful. I'd go with the one on Smith first for a newcomer.
--------------
Matt Helme:
http://www.amazon.com/Free-Cinema-Jonas ... 0691078947" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
--------------
Fred Camper:
I know you asked about books, but in my view any understanding of film
must start with viewing many key films, many times, and on film if at
all possible. Perhaps you have already done this, but I know of many
students who spend more time reading about cinema than viewing it.
There's a lot to be said for seeing key films three or six or ten
times. There's a lot to be said for seeing everything you can by key
filmmakers. The too-often-used approach of developing a sophisticated
"methodology" and then applying it to films not seen very many times
strikes me as highly dubious.

I endorse all of Chucks' and David's suggestions, or at least, all of
the ones that I know. The "Critical Cinema" volumes are especially
useful because they are interviews with filmmakers. And, do not
neglect other writings by filmmakers about their own filmmaking.
Specifically: "Brakhage Scrapbook," with its very good selections, and
all of "Metaphors on Vision" if you can get it; Kubelka's talks in the
Avant-Garde Film Reader of Theory and Criticism (which Chuck mentions)
and his interview in Film Culture (there's also one in one of the
Critical Cinema volumes that's quite good); all of Robert Breer's
"Film Culture" interviews, the great Film Culture interview with Ernie
Gehr, Maya Deren's essays (and her statements in the "Poetry in Film"
symposium published in "Film Culture").

Each great filmmakers defines and uses cinema in a different way, so I
don't think there's any one approach that works for all.
---------------
Ekram Serdar:
This one's a whole lotta fun to read: On the Camera Arts and Consecutive Matters <http://www.amazon.com/Camera-Arts-Conse ... 701&sr=1-1> by Hollis Frampton.

For example, for experimental cinema from India, or rather, Cinema of Prayoga, this would be appropriate: Cinema of Prayoga <http://www.amazon.com/Cinema-Prayoga-In ... 370&sr=8-1>

An older (than Visionary Film) overview of the scene is actually a free pdf now on archive.org <http://archive.org> - An Introduction to American Underground Film <http://www.archive.org/details/introductiontoam00rena>  by Sheldon Renan

This is a thick tome of a book, with lots of writings by all the folk who were once or still are there, purdy pictures, and makes a good weapon: Buffalo Heads <http://www.amazon.com/Buffalo-Heads-Pra ... 412&sr=1-1> .

This is a short, sweet essay: Devotional Cinema <http://www.amazon.com/Devotional-Cinema ... 666&sr=1-1> by Nathaniel Dorsky.
--------------------
Ken Paul Rosenthal:
I, for one, am always a sucker for the poetic, over the historical, and thus strongly endorse these slender yet sublime manifestos:

Devotional Cinema by Nathaniel Dorsky
Making Light of It by James Broughton

and two eminently readable books which blend the poetic with the theoretical:

Sculpting in Time: Reflections on Cinema by Andrey Tarkovsky
The Tactile Eye: Touch and the Cinematic Experience by Jennifer M. Barker (my personal favorite)
------------------
And Jacob made a list:
http://making-light-of-it.blogspot.com/ ... -list.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
-----------------
Nicky Hamlyn:
A revised and updated edition of Al Rees' book is due out later this year. I would also recommend Rudolph Arnheim's Film as Art, which beautifully and simply sets out some key features of what film is and how it works. Malcolm LeGrice's Experimental Cinema in the Digital Age is an excellent collection of his writings, covering a large range of topics. I would also like to plug a new journal, Sequence, whose first issue was published by No.w.here, in London, and a second issue of which is due out later this year. Regarding Blow Job, which was mentioned in a previous post, Peter Gidal's monograph, published by Afterall in their "One Work" series, is excellent, as is the volume on (nostalgia) by Rachel Moore.
-------------------
Jonathan Thomas:
Nicky Hamlyn's 'Film Art Phenomena' is an excellent book. 'Essential Deren: Collected Writings' was a book I found inspirational as a student. Also, 'Art and the Moving Image' (published by Afterall) contains a fine selection of essays about work that leans more towards fine art.
------------------
James Kreul:
I don't know if anyone posted this yet, but Lux compiled this list of commercially available DVDs (let's not start a thread about the word "essential"):

http://www.lux.org.uk/blog/50-essential ... image-dvds" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Two older books have recently been posted in PDF form for easy access (regardless of legality):

Peter Gidal's Structural Film Anthology:
http://www.ubu.com/historical/gidal/index.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Sheldon Renan's Introduction to the American Underground Film:
http://www.archive.org/details/introductiontoam00rena" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
---------------
And I'd like to mention a few more. There's a brand new collection on Ken Jacobs:
Optic Antics: The Cinema of Ken Jacobs. edited by Michele Pierson, David E. James, and Paul Arthur
A Line of Sight: American Avant-Garde Film Since 1965, by Paul Arthur
Feelings Are Facts: A Life, by Yvonne Rainer
Women's Experimental Cinema, ed. by Robin Blaetz
This Is Called Moving: A Critical Poetics of Film, by Abigail Child

And there are three books on exhibitors & distributors by Scott MacDonald. His A Critical Cinema series of interviews is now five books.

That's all mostly American. Would love recs of books on Japanese, Brazilian, and Canadian experimental film.

I'd say the three leading American scholars on American experimental film are Sitney, James, and MacDonald, certainly in terms of amount published, and they are all thoughtful. Lots more.

That should keep you busy for a month or two.

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

#516 Post by Perkins Cobb » Sun Jul 24, 2011 9:23 am

Anyone seen Adolfas Mekas's Hallelujah the Hills, available on DVD in France from Re:voir? Mentions of it in obits for Mekas sound intriguing. Is it worth 31 euros?

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

#517 Post by zedz » Sun Jul 24, 2011 5:59 pm

Not much to add to Adam's exhaustive bibliography, except the books I keep returning to are MacDonald's A Critical Cinemas. The interviews are almost all superb and revealing (and tantalising), but he's also excellent at providing critical commentary on the filmmakers in his introductions, so these volumes also serve as valuable biographical and critical resources for the filmmakers involved. Plus, MacDonald's definition of the 'avant-garde' is refreshingly Catholic.

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

#518 Post by matrixschmatrix » Sun Jul 24, 2011 6:14 pm

Haha, I'm assuming you mean small-c catholic there

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

#519 Post by zedz » Sun Jul 24, 2011 6:53 pm

Yes indeed. (The alternative would make for a very peculiar book, but one I'd like to read!)

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

#520 Post by Adam » Mon Jul 25, 2011 2:26 am

Overlooked by me & others above, for British work:

A History of Artists' Film and Video in Britain, by David Curtis (BFI Publishing, 2007)

And Millennium Film Journal has lots of good essays from years past & present.

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

#521 Post by adamhh » Tue Sep 13, 2011 3:10 pm

Great and comprehensive booklist Adam!

The only ones I'd add are:

Stephen Dwoskin's 1975 Film Is... (now out of print - but a great thrift find!)
Michael O'Pray's Avant Garde Film: Form, Themes and Passions (Wallflower, 2003)
I also like Wheeler Dixon Wheeler's book on 60's experimental work.

I highly recommend the lux dvd list you cite. (Even if some of the suggestions do cost hundreds of pounds/dollars/euros)

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

#522 Post by perkizitore » Tue May 01, 2012 6:15 pm

Since Markopoulos doesn't have a dedicated thread, I thought I should post it here:
Kickstarter campaign for Temenos

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

#523 Post by MichaelB » Wed Sep 19, 2012 3:21 pm

abkino wrote: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.
I interviewed Kubelka earlier today, and that absolutely remains his position. He made it very clear, in considerable detail, that he will never authorise the transfer of his films to any other medium, and is fully aware that this means not only that they might die with him but that they might be unshowable well before that unhappy day, thanks to fewer and fewer venues being able to handle 16mm and 35mm. He is also fully aware that this will impact on his income.
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?
Kubelka is completely unbudgeable - he believes so firmly that the medium is an integral part of his work (to the extent that he encourages audience to physically handle the film and exhibits his films as three-dimensional gallery pieces) that he simply doesn't recognise the notion that a digital version can in any way substitute for it - and this very much applies to a film like Arnulf Rainer, which one would have thought would be a perfect "digital" film in that it consists exclusively of "on" and "off" states in terms of image and sound (i.e. the image is either black or clear, the soundtrack either silent or white noise).

By way of illustrating his position, he was telling me about his latest piece, Antiphon, a companion piece to Arnulf Rainer that is its perfect opposite - the same number of frames, but if the older film has a clear frame, the newer one has a black frame, and the soundtracks are similarly inverted. When he screens them, they're shown separately, then together side by side, then one overlaying the other. Notionally, the end result should be a permanent clear screen and continuous white noise - but it doesn't work like that because every projector bulb's colour temperature is slightly different, and the same is true of every speaker.

In other words, this notionally flawless "digital" film is graphically revealed to be decidedly analogue - but the projection situation simply can't be replicated digitally. It's hard enough to bring off live, since you need two perfectly synchronised 35mm projectors - Kubelka hasn't performed the piece to an audience yet (it's touring various cities over the next few months), though he had a technical runthrough the other day and was thrilled with the result.

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

#524 Post by swo17 » Wed Sep 19, 2012 3:54 pm

Kubelka (whom I highly respect) is of course entitled to present his work as he sees fit, though I do wonder if this is a case of the perfect being the enemy of the good. People want to see these films, and though some remain elusive, bootlegs exist and end up serving as the authoritative versions for those without access to theatrical screenings for these types of films. Granted, some films just won't work at all in the digital realm, but it's a shame that for something like Wavelength, the only option widely available to the curious viewer is a crappy YouTube video (as opposed to, say, a lavish Criterion Blu-ray set à la Brakhage or Frampton).

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

#525 Post by warren oates » Wed Sep 19, 2012 3:59 pm

swo17 wrote:I wonder what artists like this think of Criterion's excellent Brakhage and Frampton sets...
They haven't seen them because they aren't on film! The time for purity in these matters has long since passed. Hopefully for the few filmmakers who hold out like this, when they're no longer with us their estates will find the good sense to disregard their wishes and Max Brod their work onto video.

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