Monthly Archives: January 1982

Course File on Experimental Film (Part 2) (1982)

From AFI Education Newsletter (January-February 1982). Because of the length of this, I’ll be running it in two installments. — J.R.

Course File:

EXPERIMENTAL FILM:

FROM UN CHIEN ANDALOU TO CHANTAL AKERMAN (Part 2)

UNIT III: German and Soviet Experimentation in the Twenties

Part of the strategy of studying German and Soviet experimentation over roughly the same period is the striking contrast between these national film movements and their relationship to popular genres as well as their different themes and subjects. On the one hand, one finds the efforts of a Fritz Lang to experiment with the thriller format, and those of F.W. Murnau (and his scriptwriter Carl Mayer) to construct an essentially non-verbal visual language. On the other hand, one finds the relatively less script-bound experiments with montage and certain documentary principles provided by the Soviet filmmakers. An interesting topic to consider speculatively is the Soviet version of Lang’s first Dr. Mabuse film, which was re-edited by Eisenstein for Russian audiences.

Screenings:

Bronenosets Potemkin (The Battleship Potemkin) (1925, 65 min.) Directed by Sergei Eisenstein — Perhaps the most famous of all experimental films, including some 1300 shots, Eisenstein’s classic is structured in five “acts.” Along with Strike, made the previous year, this is the most accessible of  Eisenstein’s silent films, and might be contrasted with October (or significant portions thereof) in               terms of the different principles of montage at work.… Read more »

Course File on Experimental Film (Part 1) (1982)

From AFI Education Newsletter (January-February 1982). Because of the length of this, I’ll be running it in two installments. — J.R.

EXPERIMENTAL FILM:

FROM UN CHIEN ANDALOU TO CHANTAL AKERMAN (Part 1)

UNIT l: lntroduction

One distinct advantage to teaching a course in experimental film as opposed to avant-garde film is that it automatically gives one much more leeway in terms of screenings to be selected as well as overall teaching approaches. While “avant-garde cinema” can be regarded, by and large, as a distinct body of work with its own traditions, history and critical literature, “experimental film” is a rather more subjective and ambiguous category, and one that cuts across certain forms of commercial as well as avant-garde filmmaking. (There are many more references to various commercial forms of filmmaking, including Hollywood, in David Curtis’s Experimental Cinema, than there are in P. Adams Sitney’s Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde.)

Consequently, any teacher setting out to plan a course in experimental rather than avant-garde cinema automatically has a greater amount of material to select from, and substantially more freedom in defining the scope and limits of his or her subject. By the same token, the demands placed on one’s imagination, creative input and organizational capacities might also be significantly greater.… Read more »

Just Jost

From Film Comment (January-February 1982); reprinted in my book Film: The Front Line 1983. My thanks to Jon Jost himself for furnishing me with the frame grabs from Last Chants for a Slow Dance and Stagefright. — J.R.

http://s3.amazonaws.com/auteurs_production/stills/25330/original.jpg?1296433281

 

1. “This is a movie, a way to speak. It is bound, like all systems of communication, with conventions. Some of these are arbitrarily imposed, some are imposed by economic or political pressures, some are imposed by the medium itself. Some of these conventions are necessary: They are the commonality through which we are able to speak with one another in this way. But some of these conventions are unnecessary, and not only that, they are damaging to us, they are self-destructive. Yet we are in a bad place to see this. We are in a theater.” Jon Jost, addressing the camera and spectator in Speaking Directly (1974).

2. Despite five substantial and in many ways remarkable features under his belt since 1974, and nineteen shorts since 1963, Jon Jost at 38 is still a long way from becoming even an arcane household name in this country. Not that he makes it easy on anyone. His originality, technical virtuosity, and political sophistication have all tended to work against him by showing the rest of us up — thereby banishing him from most of the restricted genre and market classifications designed to protect us from his scorn, under avant-garde and mainstream umbrellas alike.Read more »