Avant-Garde Cinema (October 28)

Stan Brakhage, Anticipation of the Night, 1958 (41 min)

It was quite difficult to make out what the various scenes in this rather lengthy film were showing.  The images varied from looking like the moon to a closeup of ice cream, which I’m assuming was just the sandy ground. I tried to analyze the film based on simplistic terms, but nothing really stuck or came to mind. This film appeared to be very random if anything.

Reflections on Black. 1955 (10 min)

Well, the woman in this film definitely broke one too many bowls. The humming noise we hear near the ending of the film was daunting. I was surprised by the use of the special effects used on the eyes on the men. It reminded me of chalk drawing on a chalk board and I kept trying to pinpoint it’s significance. All that I could really observe was that there were unhappy couples that kept imaging how their unhappy relationship would be if they were actually happy. I’m also assuming that the chalk eyes on the men signaled their anger or demonic side, because they were hurt by their significant other.

Mothlight. 1963 (3 min)

The various scenes in “Mothlight” reminded me of observing a disassembled moth through a microscope. Since the scenes were shown at such a rapid pace, they appeared to be a variety of different images or patterns. These new images and patterns also reminded me of other forms of wildlife. I saw glimpses of leaves, branches, twigs, and wood. It was a very simple film, but truly a unique interpretation of a moth under the special microscopic light, which revealed other aspects of it’s imagery.

Black Ice. 1994 (2 min)

Honestly, “Black Ice” was a really cool film. It was very simple, but so pretty to look at. I enjoyed the wide array of colors used. At times, the shapes of some of the colored imagery did remind of the way ice can appear if you look at it closely. Sometimes go about things the simple way allows the creator of the film and the audience to meet at a happy mediu, in terms of observing and analyzing avante-garde cinema. This is probably my favorite film to date. 

Robert Bree, A Man And His Dog Out For Air, 1957 (2 min)

First of all, the audio in this film reminded me of a rather wacky birdcall. Apart from that, I can only remember the actual man walking appearing at the end of the film. The images were rather repetitive, so I declined the idea of them eventually leading up to something meaningful. If anything, the man walking the dog appeared randomly. The images were interesting, but as I said before, they were repetitive and kind of misleading.

Jeff Keen, White Lite.  1968: 3 min

The reversed lighting used in this film was so creepy. It was almost as though everything was present, not exactly living, without a soul. Even inanimate objects, such a table or the stuffed rat still possess a quality in certain lighting that gives them a presence or a soul. It was unique how the “white light” could change that aspect so quickly.


Avant-Garde Cinema (Oct. 21)

Maya Deren, Meshes of the Afternoon,  1943: 13 min

The character in the black robe was somewhat unsettling if not startling.  I am not sure if Maya Deren purposely chose a mirror to be the robed character’s face, but it was unique to say the least.  The other woman was also randomly floating though windows and doorways along the ceiling of someplace.  It wasn’t until I saw the sleeping version of herself on the chair near the record player.  I couldn’t tell if we were observing the dream of the sleeping woman, or an out-of-body experience she was having.

A Study In Choreography For Camera. 1945: 2 min

While watching this film is silence, I somehow felt what the dancer was feeling.  The silence allowed the viewer to really focus on the grace and skill of the dancer.  At some point, it was quite suspenseful to watch the person move.  Almost every move was slow and timed correctly to truly expose a possible theme of the film.  The theme to feel what the character is feeling.

Kenneth Anger, Fireworks.  1947: 14 min

All that I can really say about this film is that it reminded me of a nightmare of sorts.  I seemed as though the young man was continually being haunted by marines.  Most of the time he was even being brutally beaten by them.  Perhaps this nightmare occurred when he burned packet of matches with ‘United States’ written in it.  The only this that somewhat made sense was the obvious placement on the firework on the young man toward the ending.  The firework was taken as comedic relief to such a depressing and violent film.

Eaux d’ Artifice. 1953: 12 min

This film had a very elegant and royal feel to it.  At times, the elegance and royalty gave an eerie feel to the audience,  Perhaps it was the distinctive blue coloring used to emphasize the nighttime that gave this eerie feeling.  It was so blue that everything looked metallic!  There was water flowing everywhere throughout the garden.  I was so impacted by the water and the metallic look in this film, that it simply distracted me from other important elements.

Marie Menken, Lights. 1965:6 min

I felt like I was trapped inside of a Christmas tree for the film half of the film.  Once the camera lef the closeup light, and finally showed a full shot of an actual Christmas tree, I knew that my initial feeling was correct!  At some points, the shaking of the camera combined with the various lights, created a psychedelic feeling.  There were so many colors, textures, shapes and designs present.  Everything was bright, happy, and positive.

Willard Maas, Geography of a Body. 1943: 7 min

The commentary is this film truly made the human body seem as though it had its own geography.  The most unique part of the human map I observed, was when the commentator referred the tongue as a river.  The presence and observation of both a man and a woman was understandable, all while questioning.  It made the viewer wonder if it was purposely made to feel as though it was an intimate setting.  It was an intimate geographical of the male and female anatomy.

Avant-Garde Cinema (Oct. 14)

John Grierson, The Granton Fishing Trawler. 1934 (10 min.)

The Granton Fishing Trawler certainly gave the audience the feeling of being on a boat themselves.  There was plenty of emphasis on various objects through the use of close-up shots.  Grierson focus on ropes, nets, sails, and the fishermen themselves.  The reason why the viewer feels like their on the boat themselves is because typically the camera would remain stil, while the boat is rocking.  In this film, Grierson allowed the camera to rock with the boat, so it allowed for a more real feeling for the audience.

Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand,  Manhatta. 1921 (10 min.)

This is the first film in class I can remember actually offering a scenic landscape.  It really offers the true feeling of what it is like to live and work in Manhattan.  I have done if before, so I can truly feel the feeling of packs of people packed into pack of building. Manhattan is definitely the most crowded city in America, in my opinion.  The music was quite eerie throughout the film.  Although it was eerie, I thought it blended well with most of the film.  The shots involving the construction workers adding to the already packed building, by adding more buildings, resonated with me the most.

Dziga Vertov,  Man with a Movie Camera. 1929 (68 min.)

At first it was hard for me to determine how this film fits in the avant-garde genre.  In my opinion, it simply showed basic events in people’s everyday lives.  The film became more interesting to watch as it progressed.  I enjoy the slow motion scenes of the men doing various exercises.  Apart from that, Man with a Movie Camera appeared to be just what the title introduces it to be.  A man simply filming various people experiencing various events within their day.

Walther Ruttmann, Weekend. 1930 (11 min.)

Almost every sound you can imagine hearing in a city setting, you can definitely hear in this film.  In fact, it’s not even actually a real film, unless someone considers it a film of pure audio and audio only.  It is a breath of fresh air for the viewer’s sense.  Instead of using visual as a primary tool for observing a film.  The viewer must now use only their hearing.  It was pretty simple to follow the events in this audio film.  It was a nice change of pace.

Avant-Garde Cinema (Oct. 7)

Len Lye, Tusalava, 1929: 9 min

For at least half of film, the imagery reminded me of a bacteria. It felt as though the audience was looking through a microscope. As the film progressed and the the images evolved, they began to take on a new shape. The imagines combined and became almost machine-like. It was a very interesting transition from the cellular level to a machine. I also notice that the the machine appeared to have a human-like face. I am not very sure what to take of this aspect or of the transitioning, but it was intriguing to witness.

A Color Box, 1935: 3 min

The constant appearance of squiggled lines reminded me of a television with poor reception. This film possessed an abundant amount of colors and shapes. The combinations of these colors and shapes definitely provided the film with plenty of patterns. It was very randomized, but overall an interesting watch to the audience. 

Trade Tattoo. 1937: 5 min

Initially, I thought that the film would touch based on world trade of shipping of good by boat. The first scenes emphasized the role of workers in the industrial age at the dock. I noticed a random image of an envelope would appear and then disappear. I suppose the film summarized all of the methods that mail is transported. There were brief clips of an aeroplane, a train, ship, etc. I didn’t get anything else out of the film except for mail delivery.

Free Radicals, 1958: 4 min

Free Radicals reminded me of the films we watched last week for class. The words, as well as the various shapes and textures, in each clip had it’s own form or sound or rhythm. I was intrigued with the consistent movement of the words and various shapes. They all appeared to be in synch, although they each possessed their own clip.

Mary Ellen Bute,  Synchromy No. 4: Escape.  1938: 4 min

Mary Ellen bute created a very simple film. I only notice 3 different elements. The first was the blue smoke in the background. The second was the rotating black grate covering the blue smoke. The third and more complex element was the orange triangle. The triangle was the more complex element because it was the only one that was constantly changing. It had more personality because of it’s ability to duplicate itself and even move behind the grate.

Norman McLaren + Mary Ellen Bute,  Spook Sport. 1940: 8 min

The animation and coloring used in this film reminded me of a Halloween cartoon special for children. It is also the first time in this class that I can remember there being a cast of characters used. There was an actual story present. The story was simpler to follow and the audience didn’t really feel as though they had to fit certain pieces together to gain and understanding. I know that the point of avante-garde cinema is to not search for a reason, but I think it is a natural process for humans to partake in.

Norman McLaren, Boogie Doodle.  1940: 4 min

Boogie Doodle also also possessed it’s own rhythm and texture as music does. At first, I was reminded of the paint splotting techniques pyschologists were rumored to have used. There would be random paint colors poured onto the paper. The paper would then be folded in half. When you would open the paper, someone would ask you what you saw. Afterward, I noticed the black figure began to switch from a butterfly, to a heart, and then a set of lips. I wasn’t to sure of what else to observe of this.

Synchromy. 1971: 7 min

I was reminded of an early 80s video game. I don’t know if it was the music or the colors used, but that was the first thing that came to mind. It was a very simple film, but it did keep faithful to it’s title. All of the clips and imagery were synonymous with one another, creating a unique rhythm for the whole film.

Avant-Garde Cinema (Sept. 30)

Hans Richter,  Film is Rhythm: Rhythm 21 (Film ist Rhythmus: Rhythmus 21), 1921 (3 min.) 

At first, the audio set me off, but once the imaging began develop I was able to tune out the sound.  When people think of rhythm the first this to come to mind isn’t typically film.  So, I was surprised with Film is Rhythm.  I felt that this film reached its rhythmic peak near the end.  The speed and size of the various shapes altered and added more of a sound for itself.  The scenes were less repetitive, so it gave the audience a better understanding of what the overall message or theme of the film could be.

Ghosts Before Breakfast (Vormittagsspuk), 1928 (9 min.)

 I thoroughly enjoyed this film!  The opening scene of the clock followed by the flying hats was amazing.  I wonder if the scene with the target with the numbers 1-12, where the man was aiming the gun, was synonymous with clock in the beginning.  When he dropped the gun to the floor, it began to turn as the hands of the clock do.  Also, the scene where the men walk behind the light post and disappear was quite clever.  I really wonder how they were able to edit that scene as clean as they did.

Walther Ruttmann,  Lightplay: Opus I (Lichtspiel: Opus I), 1921 (11 min.)

 The shapes, coloring, and textures used in this film felt very organic.  Initially, the spherical colored shapes reminded me of the planets.  The red wavy motions resembled solar flares.  As the film progressed, the shapes began to evolve and the colors were integrated into the same scene while keeping their own individuality.  When the director did this, it added more personality to the theme of this film, while maintaining its organic feel.

Viking Eggeling, Diagonal Symphony (Symphonie Diagonale), 1924 (7 min.)

There was very little variety and differentiation of scenes in this film.  It was almost as if the entire film was one long drawn out scene.  It became a little difficult to watch after awhile because of this.  The viewer did not have much to get out of this film.  Perhaps the theme of this film is repetition or consistency of imaging.

Laszlo Maholy-Nagy, LightPlay: Black-White-Gray (Ein Lichtspiel schwarz weiss
grau), 1930 (6 min.)

Light Play: Black-White-Gray was a very slow moving and progressing film.  The director put an emphasis on the shadowing of the objects.  The shadowing was so specific that you could see and almost feel the texture of the object through its shadow.  The shadows and actual objects themselves began to overlap.  This gave more intensity to the coloring of the shadows.  Although black, white, and gray are the only colors found in shadows, the coloring combined with the texture and overlapping of the object gave the film more intensity.

Oscar Fischinger, Optical Poem, 1938 (7 min.)

Optical Poem was similar to music because of the speed and variety of its scenes.  The speed and variety gave the film its own form or rhythm.  The imaging in each scene consistently intrigued the human mind.  The background music was not necessary in this film because this film had the ability to given the audience feeling through its rhythm.  Near the end, the film almost reminded me of a Disney or fantasy type of appeal.

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, J. S. Bach, from Fantasia, (Visual Design: Oscar
Fischinger), 1940 (9 min.)

I really appreciated the combination of the special effects and the orchestra in this film.  There was plenty of personality and them in Fantasia to adequately receive the message being given.  Fantasia is definitely a classic and people that are not too familiar with avant-garde cinema, like myself, can appreciate its mystique.  I believe that Fantasia is an inspiration to earlier forms of our modern-day cartoons.  The use of colors and special effects is extremely similar to the earliest forms of cartoons.

Avant-Garde Cinema (Sept. 23)

This week, our class viewed The Seashell and the Clergyman by Germaine Dulac.  At first, I was taken aback by the film because it was similar to the other films we’ve viewed in the class.  The only difference I noticed was that it had a longer running time.  My professor sent us an email to think of a dream we’ve had for our next class, then I began to think outside of the box.  I sort of forced myself to think and interpret things more creatively.  I rewatched The Seashell and the Clergyman and noticed that most of the film is in a dream-like state itself.

Avant-Garde Cinema (Sept. 17)

Man Ray, The Return to Reason (La Retour a la Raison), 1923 (2 min.)

The most intriguing aspect of The Return to Reason is the scene of the nude female body.  In previous films, directors would often cast shadows of objects onto blank walls.    May Ray casted shadows of different designs and patterns onto the nude body of the woman.  I am not too sure how to accurately define this tactic, but I do not think it along the lines of a rayograph or shadow play.

Man Ray, The Starfish (L’Etoile de Mer), 1928 (15 min.)

While viewing The Starfish, I noticed that most of the scenes were shot through frosted glass.  It appeared as though Man Ray was attempting to blur out certain images, which was predominately the images of a couple walking outside.  I didn’t really understand the concept of the starfish, but the usage of blurring out images made sense in the scene when another man was introduced into the film.  In one of the final scenes of the film, the word “belle” was written on a piece of glass with a clear shot of the woman on the other side of it.  The glass with broke shortly after the woman walked away with the other man.

Fernand Leger & Dudley Murphy, Ballet Mecanique, 1924 (11min.)

In Ballet Mecanique, the directors filmed scenes both upright and upside down.  This aspect in particular separated Ballet Mecanique from the other short films in class.  It added a more dramatic twist to the film.  Leger and Dudley also incorporated a lot of same shots, but in different sequences and for a different amount of times.  For instance, there a a single shot of a hat between certain scenes.  At other times, they would show the same shot but repetitively, so it appeared as though that it was in motion.  A final aspect of the film worth noting, was the usage of mirrors.  The mirrors were another aspect that provided the sense of motion.

Marcel Duchamp, Anemic Cinema, 1926 (6 min.)

The film Anemic Cinema was one of the more difficult short films to understand.  The scenes in the film were of an ever-changing spiral.  The only things the audience could gain and understanding of the film for were the quotations.

Sergey Eisenstein & Grigory Alexandrov, Sentimental Romance (Romance Sentimentale), 1930 (16 min.)

In the beginning of Sentimental Romance, the themes of “autumn, sadness, and dead love” were introduced.  Since the themes of the film were provided from the beginning, it was easier to understand the overall concept of the film.  Sentimental Romance was another film that included upside down shots of particular scenes, but it differed from the other short films because it included sound effects in these scenes.

Lous Bunuel & Salvador Dali, An Andalusian Dog (Un Chien Andalou), 1929 (16 min.)

Since the eye slicing scene was shown early on in An Andalusian Dog, my interpretation for the duration of the film was that of a horror story.  In my opinion, the slicing of the eye closely resembled a gore scene.  Although this is an older film, I was amazed at the props and special effects used in that particular scene.  To be honest, I had to watch it a few more times to make sure it wasn’t real.

Henri Chomette, Five Minutes of Pure Cinema (Cinque Minutes de Cinema Pur), 1926 (5 min.)

The placement of the objects and lighting used throughout Five Minutes of Pure Cinema  is what sets this film apart from most others.  It appears to be almost like an instruction manual to basic lighting and set production.  Each object had light hitting it from all appropriate angles, and the lighting effects acted a the transition from scene to scene.

Rene Clair, Entr’acte, 1942 (20 min.)

Entr’acte was the first film in class I believe to have adequately depicted slow motion.  There were two scenes in this film where this effect was highlighted the best.  The first scene was early in the film, when the two men were jumping near railroad tracks.  The second scene, was the ground shot or underneath shot of the ballerina dancing.  The usage of slow motion was very appropriate for these particular scenes because it captured the energy of the film as a whole.