Jump to content

The avant-garde in narrative film.


M. Dale Prins
 Share

Recommended Posts

Inspired by Jeffrey, I've been trying to think of full-length narrative films that include a avant-garde scene or moment. I've managed two: American Beauty and Irma Vep. I'm sure you will think of many more, so help.

Dale

Metalfoot on Emmanuel Shall Come to Thee's Noel: "...this album is...monotony...bland, tripy fare..."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it was Mike D'Angelo who explicitly compared the opening moments of Irreversible to an avant-garde film.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yep. I had forgotten.

"Formally, the Rectum sequence is as exhilarating and challenging as anything you're likely to see in a movie theater this year, employing techniques usually found only in obscure corners of the avant-garde. For what seems like an eternity, No

Metalfoot on Emmanuel Shall Come to Thee's Noel: "...this album is...monotony...bland, tripy fare..."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think this is very close to what you're after, but Darryl Hanna does some so-called performance art in LEGAL EAGLES.

Ron

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it was Mike D'Angelo who explicitly compared the opening moments of Irreversible to an avant-garde film.

Unfortunately it is not just the beginning. The whole film is, due to the fact that even the final sequences of the film that are relatively normal serve a very avant-garde purpose. And the film itself closes with the most abstract experience that it is possible to have in the movie theater. (That one can only be truly experienced though in the theater I am sure.) Hyper-realism occurs often in the early da-da and then at the inception of avant-garde shorts. One of the best examples of this is Hammid's "The Private Life of a Cat". Brilliant short that follows a mother cat around for a month, seeing her give brith and find a home for her kittens. So there is precedent for seeing cinema verite as a tool of the avant-garde.

The best way to describe Irreversible's beginning in film historical terms is to say that it is like Brakhage's early party short with better technology. Noe is unashamedly avant-garde. I Stand Alone probably is the one film I have seen that makes sense of the better elements of the avant-garde in film.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just to add a few, we could probably list three or four classic Lynch scenes. The red room/dream sequences in Twin Peaks are just as much criticism of the avant-garde approach as they are an enlightenment into it.

The end of Kafka comes to mind.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just to utilize the only avant-garde thread ever on this board: I recently picked up the latest Maya Deren DVD. It is well worth seeing if you ever get the chance. Seeing her early stuff is such an experience because she was the first to do a lot of these things that are considered commonplace in film today.

Just a shameless plug...

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On a similar subject: For those of us who aren't lovers of avant-garde, what would be a good gateway drug? Someone like Peter Greenaway, perhaps? Or Kenneth Anger? (Except I am not particularly fond of the works I've seen of either.)

Dale

Metalfoot on Emmanuel Shall Come to Thee's Noel: "...this album is...monotony...bland, tripy fare..."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good question. I am with you, I would not recommend much of Greenaway. I am just not a big fan. Pillow Book is exceptional, but not for everyone. His more artful films tend towards the boorish anyway.

Obviously Lynch is a great access point. Wild at Heart is a great American film that verges so closely on the avant garde film but yet is eminently watchable. I am a fan of early Bunuel for this reason as well.

Quite frankly, tracking down the Criterion Brakhage set would be worthwhile. There is a lot of great extras and features on those discs and his films really are the only place to start, there are a lot of Camper's comments sown throughout. I have yet to see them on Netflix, but I am sure they will show up there soon. Netflix will soon have the Maya Deren documentary on DVD that I have heard is a wonderful intro to avant-garde film history. I haven't seen much Anger, but he certainly is out there in the field. Brakhage works in every ethos from the gratingly unbearable to the unsettlingly graceful, so his stuff is often times more worthwhile.

I am a newbie to the genre, but one I recently enjoyed is: Wax or The Discovery of Television Among the Bees. That was a wonderful little film.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 years later...

Kino has just released a 2 DVD collection of "avant garde" films from the 20's through the 40's. A lot of French "Impressionism" and minor Surrealist short films.

For me the standouts are two more Jean Epstein films, and films of Dmitri Kirsanoff, the famous Menilmontant, and Brumes d'Automne.

Menilmontant is really an amazing film -- the first few minutes viscerally suggest L'Argent, and Bresson's elliptical editing, as well as a fantastic, very modern naturalistic performance by Nadia Sibirskaya and the other actors.

Le Retour

Link to comment
Share on other sites

GG, I've been going through that set and I agree, it's wonderful. Unfortunately, it's going to get trumped by Image's 7-disc Unseen Cinema box set in October, not just because the forthcoming set is larger but also because the same films will be restored by David Shepard and have much more authentic/elaborate scores.

For example, the Image Ballet m

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I haven't gotten to Menilmontant yet, but my favorites so far include Ivens' Rain and Ray's L'Etoile de mer.  I'm a huge fan of Epstein's The Fall of the House of Usher, so I'm very much looking forward to his pieces.

I agree on L'Etoile de Mer, just forgot to mention it. The choice of pieces is really all over the place -- is it someone's collection? And the music -- in some cases, white noise would be an improvement.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

goneganesh wrote:

: Lot in Sodom

: (James Sibley Watson, Melville Webber, U.S., 1933, 27 min.)

Eh? Say more! Should we be adding this to our list of Genesis movies?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

goneganesh wrote:

: That is, if you like homoerotic Busby-Berkeley type stuff loosely based on the OT.

"Loosely based on the OT" covers a MULTITUDE of sins ... smile.gif

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Now, the story is basically all there, except for the drunken incest. It ends kind of abruptly. They even throw in some Bible-type quotes in the titles, but I'd say the directors were definitely rooting for the other team. When Lot's wife turns to salt, (I'm hoping that's not a spoiler) it's as if she's mesmerized by the memory of the homoerotic revels in the town, not the mystery of God's power.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

GG, I've been going through that set and I agree, it's wonderful.  Unfortunately, it's going to get trumped by Image's 7-disc Unseen Cinema box set in October, not just because the forthcoming set is larger but also because the same films will be restored by David Shepard and have much more authentic/elaborate scores.

I am absolutely beside myself to have all those Cornell films on my own shelf. I think J. Robert has seen a few of his shorts. The Kino disc though will still be invaluable for all the Ray, Epstein, and Kirsanoff films. Too bad they didn't squeeze in clips of L'Herbier's L'Inhumaine, which was all set designed by Leger. That was a riveting experience.

I don't quite understand why all of these collections of experimental shorts always short-change themselves. The only Deren disc misses a few of her best. Michael Snow refuses to release anything but snippets of his work. Brakhage only has about a tenth of his work on DVD. You can only see the Fluxus films in installation. There is a rumor that ReVoir is putting out the complete works of Kenneth Anger on a blue-ray disc, but I haven't seen that confirmed anywhere.

By the way, Prins. I have recently caught a few more things by Leos Carax, his films are seeded with "avant garde moments," as we have been calling them.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Doug, did you catch the LA Brakhage screenings?

-s.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 years later...

This thread seems like the most appropriate place to post this (and it's also time to revive it, methinks. I, for one, really appreciate the mention of the above dvd's!)

Kenneth Anger interview on the Guardian website.

"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...