Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

A subforum to discuss film culture and criticism both old and new, as well as memorializing public figures we've lost.
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vogler
Joined: Thu Jun 29, 2006 8:42 am
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#101 Post by vogler » Mon Dec 04, 2006 10:53 am

Gregory wrote:I haven't seen the four Harris films but from what I've read about his work I'm intrigued.
Thanks for the information Gregory. This does sound very interesting. The films of Norman McLaren and Maya Deren have led me to an interested in experimental films involving dance so I think I'll buy a copy of this dvd soon.

Amos Vogel speaks very highly of Hilary Harris:-
“Hilary is unquestionably one of the most original and talented filmmakers of the American independent cinema … he is in a class by himself, a master of his craft.â€

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vertovfan
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#102 Post by vertovfan » Wed Dec 13, 2006 9:13 am

Anyone noticed this new label? They've got a Hermann Nitsch DVD for sale now and one on Günter Brus coming up. Both are fairly pricey. I'm curious, though - the Vienna Actionists sound about as radical as you can get, content-wise.

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vogler
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#103 Post by vogler » Wed Dec 13, 2006 9:51 am

vertovfan wrote:Anyone noticed this new label? They've got a Hermann Nitsch DVD for sale now and one on Günter Brus coming up. Both are fairly pricey. I'm curious, though - the Vienna Actionists sound about as radical as you can get, content-wise.
I'd not seen that label before - looks very interesting. That Nitsch box is just way too expensive for me. The Vienna Actionists are VERY EXTREME. The only other thing I can think of that was similar was COUM Transmissions which was a performance group that preceded industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle. I think the Actionists must have been an influence on them. To most people the Vienna Actionist performances will be absolutely disgusting - a mixture of shit, piss, vomit, maggots, harcore porn, animal slaughter and worse. Many of these things are often combined in the most unimaginably disgusting manner. The Kren films of Actionist performances are very interesting for their technical and artisitic qualities. Have you seen the Kren dvd from Index? The other actionist films are a lot more rough although there are some, such as Sodoma, which have a certain sense of revolting poetry about them. You can download or stream a very large number of Actionist films hereat ubu.com. It's extreme stuff though and likely to offend and repulse almost everyone. The philosophy of the Actionists is actually rather interesting and worth reading about.

spencerw
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#104 Post by spencerw » Wed Dec 13, 2006 10:35 am

vertovfan wrote:Anyone noticed this new label? They've got a Hermann Nitsch DVD for sale now and one on Günter Brus coming up. Both are fairly pricey. I'm curious, though - the Vienna Actionists sound about as radical as you can get, content-wise.
The Ubu website allows you to download specimens of the work of Nitsch and some other Vienna Actionists

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vertovfan
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#105 Post by vertovfan » Wed Dec 13, 2006 4:51 pm

I have the Kurt Kren Index DVD, and for the most part I found it quite interesting and really not as disgusting as I'd expected (with the exception of 20 September). The quick editing gives the films a kind of abstract quality, and the destruction of narrative continuity could be read as paralleling the various bodily deformations or transformations. Apparently Otto Muehl didn't much care for this at the time, preferring a more straightforward documentation of his actions. I've also checked out the Ubu links, but I've only skimmed through the writings and I've been meaning to give them a more thorough read. They do seem like they would shed some light on the motivations and underpinnings behind the work.

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toiletduck!
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#106 Post by toiletduck! » Wed Dec 13, 2006 6:14 pm

vertovfan wrote:Anyone noticed this new label? They've got a Hermann Nitsch DVD for sale now and one on Günter Brus coming up. Both are fairly pricey. I'm curious, though - the Vienna Actionists sound about as radical as you can get, content-wise.
Merdre! I've been interested in the Vienna Actionists after seeing Vogel's coverage of Muehl in Film as a Subversive Art. These would be a great pickup, but they are far too rich for my blood (like most releases mentioned in this thread).

Sad face.

-Toilet Dcuk

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vogler
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#107 Post by vogler » Thu Dec 21, 2006 10:30 am

vertovfan wrote:I have the Kurt Kren Index DVD, and for the most part I found it quite interesting and really not as disgusting as I'd expected (with the exception of 20 September). The quick editing gives the films a kind of abstract quality, and the destruction of narrative continuity could be read as paralleling the various bodily deformations or transformations. Apparently Otto Muehl didn't much care for this at the time, preferring a more straightforward documentation of his actions.
The Kren films are mostly quite tame compared to some of the others. It gets much more extreme. I actually prefer Kren's non actionist films but they are all very interesting. Muehl was horrified when he saw the films Kren had made and he felt that they completely destroyed the effect of the actions with regards to the continuity and structure of the performance. I think he was right but what Kren created was a new work of art independent of the actions themselves. As you said, what Muehl really wanted was straight documentaries of his art. I think in a way you have to separate the films themselves from what was actually being filmed. By that I mean they are original artworks in themselves with the main element being the editing and structure. The actions only really provided the visual material for Kren to use in his films based on these formal elements.

The original Muehl interview can be found here with images included.

In my opinion one of the most exciting avant-garde dvd releases since 'By Brakhage' (scroll down a bit).

Shoot Shoot Shoot: The London Film-Makers Co-op & British Avant-Garde Film of the 1960s & 1970s

LUX and Re:Voir are proud to announce the release of the DVD 'Shoot Shoot Shoot', the first time that works from this defining period in British artists' filmmaking have been made available on DVD or video. The 1960s and 1970s were groundbreaking decades in which independent filmmakers challenged cinematic convention. In England, much of the innovation took place at the London Film-Makers' Co-operative, an artist-led organisation that incorporated a distribution agency, cinema space and film workshop. Within this unique laboratory, filmmakers were able to control every aspect of the creative process, and the physical production of a film – the printing and processing – became vital to its form and content. Many of the films made at the LFMC explored the physical nature of the film material, using production processes that shaped the form and content of the final works.

The “Shoot Shoot Shoot" is 2 hours long and contains 13 complete films accompanied by bilingual English / French booklet written by project curator Mark Webber, with a foreword by A. L. Rees (author of “A History of Experimental Film and Videoâ€

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NABOB OF NOWHERE
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#108 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Thu Dec 21, 2006 12:46 pm

vogler wrote:[url=http://www.lux.org.uk/shop/video.htm]
These films are very important and I've been waiting a long time for this. It would be wonderful if they followed it up with more in-depth collections of some of the film-makers involved, particularly Le Grice and Gidal, two of the most important British avant-garde film-makers and theorists ever.
Coincidentally I was ordering the Margaret Tait dvd from Lux and they mentioned that a Le Grice collection would be issued on dvd next spring.

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vogler
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#109 Post by vogler » Thu Dec 21, 2006 1:16 pm

NABOB OF NOWHERE wrote:Coincidentally I was ordering the Margaret Tait dvd from Lux and they mentioned that a Le Grice collection would be issued on dvd next spring.
Thanks very much for the information - that is now one of my most anticipated dvd releases ever.
Have you received the Margaret Tait dvd yet? Any thoughts on it? I have been considering buying it for a while.

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toiletduck!
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#110 Post by toiletduck! » Thu Dec 28, 2006 12:41 pm

Back on the Vienna Actionists... I just discovered that Atlas Press, a vanguard favorite of mine, is responsible for what is probably the definitive collection of written work on the group. It's also available in a special edition signed by Muehl, Brus, and Nitsch with images censored by the printers.

And the whittling away of X-mas money begins.

-Toilet Dcuk

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NABOB OF NOWHERE
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#111 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Fri Jan 05, 2007 6:30 am

vogler wrote:Have you received the Margaret Tait dvd yet? Any thoughts on it? I have been considering buying it for a while.
Ok I got the Margaret Tait dvd. I think a lot depends on how you approach her work. Apart from being attracted to its ‘Scottishness' I noticed that a touring exhibition lumped her in with Dulac and Deren. Two particular favourites of mine. So I was at first somewhat dismayed by the lack of Surrealist flourishes that I had expected and put it down to a curator's convenience of gender assignment rather than them being style sisters.

So working through the collection I initially found them to be rather endearing ‘diarist' type little films. A sort of leisurely paced variant of some of Mekas' or Brakhage's personal projects. Maybe a dotty old Auntie that Jarman might have had cranking away with a super 8 up there in Scotland.

But as so often happens you find yourself flashing on certain images that come back and trip you up, that have little to do with nostalgic enjoyment or easy charm. So I got the Margaret Tait reader book also from Lux, which is a beautifully produced little number, and read about her. About her early influences and study with the Italian neo-realist school and early shorts that had definite Surreal motifs and intent. (Unfortunately these are not in the collection as it only holds those available to Lux for their touring exhibition). There are some little nods to McLaren et al in the use of stop frame animation and painting direct onto film stock but fundamentally it was her insistence on her film work being an adjunct of her written poetry that proves how invaluable the reader is, as it contains many of her out of print poems that contextualise the films. As she says herself in ‘Seeing's believing and believing's seeing'-“It's the looking that mattersâ€

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sevenarts
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#112 Post by sevenarts » Wed Jan 17, 2007 12:50 pm

Has anyone bought any dvds from re:voir?

I'd be very interested in Philippe Garrel's Le Revelateur and Isidore Isou's Traite de Bave et d'Eternite, but I don't see any information about how English-friendly the releases and booklets are, and I'm curious about the quality. Are their releases generally English subbed at all? That wouldn't matter on the silent Garrel, of course, but what about the Isou film?

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Cobalt60
Joined: Fri May 13, 2005 8:39 pm

#113 Post by Cobalt60 » Wed Jan 17, 2007 3:21 pm

Carsten Czarnecki wrote:Jonas Mekas really must rank among art history's major visionaries. What he does right now with his 365 diary-films reinvents cinema once again, and almost no one notices it. I am passionately following these films and am downloading them regularly. As today's film (Jan. 5th) proves once again, Mekas may be one of the last true beat poets that made Downtown Manhattan so famous in the 60s. For me, this man really represents life, living it in a way that we all should aspire to.
I just wanted to thank you for posting that link, I have never checked out his site but it has some amazing content.

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#114 Post by David Ehrenstein » Wed Jan 17, 2007 9:35 pm

Jonas tells me he's planning to put a new movie each day on his site.

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sevenarts
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#115 Post by sevenarts » Wed Jan 17, 2007 11:40 pm

Tonight I watched four short films by Hilary Harris, from the Mystic Fire DVD. Definitely a very interesting set, from a filmmaker who I previously knew nothing about. I'm not even sure if this is a definitive picture of a small ouevre, or just a sampling of a larger one, since there doesn't even appear to be much info around online. From the little I can find, in addition to the 4 films here he apparently directed an anti-war short in 1966 called The Draft Card Burner, two other shorts called Polaris Action and Generation, a feature about Sudan called The Nuer (only $225 here!), and handled the camera on some films by Amy Greenberg. It's a bit disappointing that the 3 additional shorts aren't included, since the disc isn't too long as is, but the 4 films that are here are worthwhile on their own.

Of the four, Organism is the top-billed, and it's definitely a major work (although I personally prefer 9 Variations to it). It was recorded in New York between 1959 and 1974, using time-lapse photography, and edited together into 20 compact, powerful minutes. Harris presents the city as a living thing, changing and evolving through time, and his footage is incredibly compelling. As a portrayal of modern urbanity, it's probably unrivalled, capturing the rhythms and continual motion of city life from a distanced perspective that places the film outside of individual concerns. At times, it verges on academic documentary, but it has too much of a strong aesthetic and visual sense to venture too far in that direction. Definitely worth seeing for fans of experimental film or city symphonies.

Two of the other films, 9 Variations on a Dance Theme and Longhorns, focus entirely on Harris' interest in motion. The latter film is the earliest here, from 1951, and was strangely hypnotic and compelling despite its utter simplicity. It consists of a pair of long disembodied bull horns by a lakeside, and apparently attached to an apparatus that makes them rotate. Harris caressingly films the rotating horns, which at times look like a dancer's legs thrust into the air, gracefully intertwining and turning. It's a wonderful minimalist exploration of movement and abstraction.

9 Variations (1966) incorporates dance even more explicitly -- as the title implies, it features 9 takes of a dancer performing a series of simple motions, starting and ending with her on the floor. But the title is also misleading, since the "variations" are not in the dance itself, which remains basically the same with each iteration, but with the method of filming. Harris' first take is a slowly revolving single shot which circles patiently around the dancer as she completes her cycle. The next take is composed of a series of slow zooms in and out, while other takes chop the movements up into quick cuts and fragments, or break the timeline by repeating certain motions. On one take, the camera simply caresses the dancer's body in extreme eroticized close-up, while another distances her by shooting from below, making her stately dance look like the the movements of a giant. The film is simultaneously a meditation on human movement and on the ways in which filming itself alters perception. Each of the 9 takes included in the film serves to alter the viewer's perspective on the dance, often to completely contrary effect -- some emphasize the grace and beauty of the dance, while others draw attention to the tremendous strain and exertion behind the seemingly effortless movements. It's a lovely and affecting film, definitely my favorite here -- and this from someone who usually doesn't even like dance films much.

The final film in the set, Highway, was the only one I found unsatisfying -- trite shots of roadways and street signs set to a bouncy jazz score. The only thing I can think of, given its time, is that this short provided much of the territory for Hollywood films to mine for cliches in the time since, but even if that's the case it doesn't really redeem the film.

Anyway, other than Highway these are three very interesting shorts, and I'm certainly glad Mystic Fire gave me the chance to see them. As with their Maya Deren DVD, the presentation leaves a bit to be desired, but you have to take into account the age and obscurity of the films, which would otherwise probably not be out at all. The prints are OK, considering their age, but nothing spectacular. Organism, which is in color, looks fantastic -- the other b&w films have some speckling and damage but it didn't detract at all from the experience. There's a half-hour interview with Harris on the discs also, but I haven't watched that yet. This is a very nice set of little-known films that definitely deserve some revisiting. I know I'll be going back to 9 Variations almost right away, at the very least.

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#116 Post by acquarello » Thu Jan 18, 2007 9:58 am

sevenarts wrote:Has anyone bought any dvds from re:voir?
I've only ordered PAL tapes from Re:Voir, and as far as the booklets go though, they're pretty good at having bilingual texts, although not every essay in the booklet written in French is translated (they'll often substitute a different English-language essay with "similar" content). The best thing to do is contact them through the info@revoir email, they're pretty good about responding. I usually email them first to make sure that the films are in stock before I place the order, otherwise, they just cancel what's not in stock and ship the remaining order.

Incidentally, my DVD of Garrel's Le Révélateur isn't from Re:Voir but I think they're the DVD authors anyway. It came as part of the Les voyages du spectateur book. It's available from Amazon.fr. All the text/menus are French only. Not sure if the one available directly from them has a booklet.

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sevenarts
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#117 Post by sevenarts » Thu Jan 18, 2007 10:37 am

Regarding the Garrel and Isou, I contacted Re:Voir. They didn't answer my question about booklets, but they did say that the Isou film will be out in "some months" and WILL have English subtitles. So that's good news! In the meantime I think I'll get the Garrel from them.

Anonymous

#118 Post by Anonymous » Thu Jan 18, 2007 2:51 pm

Does anyone know a program with which one can transform .avi files into .vob files, that is DVDs? Because that way one could make DVD-Rs out of the .avi files from UBU WEB.

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MichaelB
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#119 Post by MichaelB » Thu Jan 18, 2007 6:19 pm

Carsten Czarnecki wrote:Does anyone know a program with which one can transform .avi files into .vob files, that is DVDs? Because that way one could make DVD-Rs out of the .avi files from UBU WEB.
I haven't tried it myself, but I don't see why this wouldn't work with MPEG Streamclip (converting .avi files to Quicktime or DV) which could then be assembled and encoded by DVD Studio Pro.

But only the first of those programs is free, and they're Mac-only.

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david hare
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#120 Post by david hare » Thu Jan 18, 2007 6:36 pm

Carsten if you google divx (avi) to DVD (Vob) you'll come up with several programs that can do it but they all charge an online fee. Apparently you can do it with vlc but that's beyond me Im afraid.

fred
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#121 Post by fred » Fri Jan 19, 2007 12:15 am

There are also dvd players which will pay divx files directly, from cd or dvd.

Greathinker

#122 Post by Greathinker » Sat Jan 20, 2007 12:25 pm

Are there certain DVDs one would recommend for a newcomer? I just acquired a netflix account and haven't been interested enough to blind buy the unseen cinema or american film archives boxes.

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sevenarts
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#123 Post by sevenarts » Sat Jan 20, 2007 12:43 pm

Greathinker wrote:Are there certain DVDs one would recommend for a newcomer? I just acquired a netflix account and haven't been interested enough to blind buy the unseen cinema or american film archives boxes.
Depends what you want to explore... The Kino Experimental Films of the 20s & 30s is great for classic, early experiments, some early surrealist films, etc. Unseen Cinema covers some of the same ground but is probably a bit too broad and far-ranging to really serve as an avant-garde primer.

If it's just experimental film in general that you want to get into, By Brakhage and the disc of Maya Deren's experimental films will introduce you to two of the masters.

Anonymous

#124 Post by Anonymous » Sat Jan 20, 2007 12:44 pm

davidhare wrote:Carsten if you google divx (avi) to DVD (Vob) you'll come up with several programs that can do it but they all charge an online fee. Apparently you can do it with vlc but that's beyond me Im afraid.
I did google that, but all of the programs are shareware that leave watermarks in the frame.

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The Fanciful Norwegian
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#125 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Sat Jan 20, 2007 4:06 pm


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