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Experimental Film

Parent categories: experimental - film

Related: abstract film - art film - avant-garde film - media arts - structural film - underground film - video art

EXPRMNTL was the largest festival dedicated to experimental cinema. It was conceived and curated by Jacques Ledoux and the Cinémathèque royale de Belgique in Knokke-le-Zoute. It was organized five times between 1949 and 1974. Attendees included Jonas Mekas and Peter Kubelka, Yoko Ono and Jean-Jacques Lebel, Jack Smith and Martin Scorsese, Holger Meins and Pierre Vermeylen. And Marguerite Duras, Marcel Broodthaers, Roman Polanski, Mauricio Kagel, Michael Snow, Hugo Claus, Pierre Clémenti, Martial Raysse, Nam-June Paik, P. Adams Sitney, Jean-Luc Godard and many other "flaming creatures".

Dreams That Money Can Buy (1947) - Man Ray, Hans Richter

Experimental film

An experimental film is a film nominally but not necessarily made to test an audience's reaction to certain performances or types of presentation not normally found in mainstream cinema. Such films are usually avant garde and may shock or surprise their viewers, intentionally or otherwise. Among the european pioneers of experimental film are Hans Richter and Victor Eggeling. The most famous piece of the art form is generally considered Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí's Un Chien Andalou.

Meshes of the Afternoon by Maya Deren is considered to be the first important american experimental film. Important north american experimental film makers include Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, Ernie Gehr, Michael Snow, Joyce Wieland. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_film [Feb 2005]

The European avant-garde of experimental film

Un Chien Andalou (1928) - Luis Buñuel [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Two conditions made Europe in the 1920s ready for the emergence of experimental film. First, the cinema matured as a medium, and highbrow resistance to the mass entertainment began to wane. Second, avant-garde movements in the visual arts flourished. The Dadaists and Surrealists in particular took to cinema. René Clair's Entr'acte took madcap comedy into nonsequitur, and artists Hans Richter, Jean Cocteau, Germaine Dulac and Viking Eggeling all contributed Surrealist shorts. The most famous experimental film is generally considered to be Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí's Un Chien Andalou.

Working in France, another group of filmmakers also financed films through patronage and distributed them through cine-clubs, yet they were narrative films not tied to an avant-garde school. Film scholar David Bordwell has dubbed these French Impressionists, and included Abel Gance, Jean Epstein, and Dimitri Kirsanov. These films combines narrative experimentation, rhytmic editing and camerawork, and an emphasis on character subjectivity.

The Soviet filmmakers, too, found a counterpart to modernist painting and photography in their theories of montage. The films of Dziga Vertov, Sergei Eisenstein, Alexander Dovzhenko and Vsevolod Pudovkin were instrumental in providing an alternate model from that offered by classical Hollywood. While not experimental films per se, they contributed to the film language of the avant-garde.

The U.S. had some avant-garde filmmakers before World War II, but as a whole pre-war experimental film culture failed to gain a critical mass. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_film#The_European_Avant-Garde [Aug 2005]

Distribution [...]

Finding an audience for experimental films can be just as difficult as making them. From 1947 to 1963, the New York-based Cinema 16 functioned as the primary exhibitor and distributor of experimental film in the United States. Under the leadership of Amos Vogel and Marcia Vogel, Cinema 16 flourished as a nonprofit membership society committed to the exhibition of documentary, avant-garde, scientific, educational, and performance films to ever-increasing audiences.

Vogel's selection did not please everybody. In 1962 Jonas Mekas and about 20 other film makers founded The Film-Maker's Cooperative in New York City. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_film [Feb 2005]

Experimental filmmakers

Experimental filmmakers are individual artists who use or used film as a visual art form rather than a storytelling or as a form of commercial media.

Developed on both sides of the Atlantic at such artist-run organizations as Anthology Film Archives, The Millennium Film Workshop, the Collective for Living Cinema and The Film Makers Cooperative in New York, the British Film Institute in London and the National Film Board of Canada.

Many of the artists involved in this movement remained outside of the mainstream commercial cinema and entertainment industry and became teachers at universities such as the State University of New York.

Prominent experimental filmmakers include Stan Brakhage, Hollis Frampton, Joseph Cornell, Kenneth Anger and Tony Conrad. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_filmmaker [Oct 2004]

Experimental Film Festival Knokke

Knokke-le-Zoute "Exprmntl 4" experimental film festival and competition in Belgium proves a watershed, whose influence leads to the LFMC establishing itself on an international level - 20 British films submitted, though only 5 shown in competition - Steve Dwoskin wins the Solvay Prize, and his films Chinese Checkers and Soliloquy are chosen by P. Adams Sitney for his New American Cinema tour - Wavelength (Michael Snow) wins first prize as Sitney begins to consider his pivotal definition of Structural Film - David Curtis regards the festival as a significant moment for London film-makers, though Dwoskin and Cobbing play it down, crystallising differences between Dwoskin's subjective view and Curtis' (and other's) increasing attention to process. --December 1967

KNOKKE 1963 1967 1974

Revue belge du cinéma n° 43 / par Xavier Garcia Bardon / préface de Nicole Brenez / 80 pages illustrées / format A4 / 10 euros / vient de paraître!

EXPRMNTL fut la plus importante manifestation jamais consacrée au cinéma expérimental. Conçu et organisé par Jacques Ledoux et la Cinémathèque royale de Belgique, le festival de Knokke-le-Zoute, qui ne connut que cinq éditions entre 1949 et 1974, jouit aujourd’hui d’un statut quasi-mythique. A juste titre, car cette initiative singulière et inclassable fut bien davantage qu’un simple festival de cinéma : un point de rencontre pour la création d’avant-garde et la pensée contemporaine, un événement placé sous le signe de l'imprévu, du désir et de la contestation, y compris celle du festival même. En somme : une manifestation ce point cohérente avec son objet qu'elle fut en elle-même une expérience.

Ce nouveau numéro de la Revue belge du cinéma présente la première étude de fond sur EXPRMNTL. Elle aborde l'histoire de la manifestation dans son ensemble et sous ses aspects les plus divers : organisation, financement, projections, activités parallèles, happenings, débordements, etc. Elle est plus particulièrement consacrée ses trois dernières éditions (1963, 1967 et 1974), les plus riches en découvertes et en scandales. Ce texte dense se fonde sur les archives du festival, jusqu’ici inexplorées, sur les comptes rendus parus dans la presse de l’époque et sur des entretiens avec plusieurs acteurs et spectateurs de l’événement. Il est illustré de nombreuses photographies et de documents inédits.

On y croisera Jonas Mekas et Peter Kubelka, Yoko Ono et Jean-Jacques Lebel, Jack Smith et Martin Scorsese, Holger Meins et Pierre Vermeylen. Et encore Marguerite Duras, Marcel Broodthaers, Roman Polanski, Mauricio Kagel, Michael Snow, Hugo Claus, Pierre Clémenti, Martial Raysse, Nam-June Paik, Jean-Luc Godard et beaucoup d'autres " flaming creatures ".

American Experimental Film

by Tom Hyland & Jonathan Marlow
with critical contributions from Fred Camper and Kerry Laitala
http://www.greencine.com/static/primers/experimental.jsp [Oct 2004]

Like many of the predominant art movements in the Twentieth Century, American Experimental Film, one could argue, saw its birth in New York City. Conversely, one could easily claim that the movement began on the opposite coast (in San Francisco, for instance, where truly significant developments were made, or in the shadow of Hollywood, where several filmmakers got their start.

Regardless, though heavily influenced by the German Expressionists (F.W. Murnau, Fritz Lang, Robert Wiene), the Soviet Constructivists (Alexander Dovzhenko, Sergei Eisenstein, Vsevolod Pudovkin) and the early French Trick-Filmmakers (Georges Melies, Emile Cohl, Ferdinand Zecca), experimental work in the 1950s and 1960s grew out of a desire to expand beyond the rules of conventional narrative and invent a new language for film.

Indifferent to the labels of "avant-garde," "underground" or "non-narrative" film, the "experimental" genre (as a unifying term), has two qualities that distinguish itself from other forms of filmmaking: a desire to deconstruct, or entirely ignore, the Hollywood aesthetic and a complete exploitation of the range of tools available to filmmakers. Fundamentally, experimental films provide a new way of seeing the world that is free from the traditional sense of "storytelling" and, instead, communicate in a purely visual manner. Much like today, the foundation for the medium found its roots in relatively inexpensive materials. In the early 1960s, price reductions in film stock and equipment aided the movement. Presently, the relative ease and availability of digital video and the appropriation of culturally obsolete equipment (such as Super-8 and PixelVision) has regenerated interest in the form. -- Tom Hyland & Jonathan Marlow, http://www.greencine.com/static/primers/experimental.jsp [Oct 2004]

A History of Experimental Film and Video (1999) - A. L. Rees

A History of Experimental Film and Video (1999) - A. L. Rees [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Art Monthly
"excellent... a considerable achievement." --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.

"[A] handy guide to both the avant-garde and the thickets of modernism from which the cinema avant-garde grew." --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.

Book Description
56 b&w illus. Avant-garde film is almost indefinable. It is in a constant state of change and redefinition. In this book A.L. Rees tracks the movement of the film avant-garde between, on the one hand, the cinema, and, on the other hand, modern art (with its post-modern coda). But he also reconstitutes the film avant-garde as an independent form of art practice with its own internal logic and aesthetic discourse.

This is the first major history of avant-garde film and video to be published in more than twenty years. Ranging from Cezanne and dada, via Cocteau, Brakhage and Le Grice, to the new wave of British video artists in the 90s, this remarkable study will introduce a generation of new readers to avant-garde film as well as provoking students and specialists to further reflection and debate. --via Amazon.com

Experimental Cinema (1971) - David Curtis

Experimental Cinema (1971) - David Curtis [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Film is: The international free cinema (1975) - Stephen Dwoskin

Film is: The international free cinema (1975) - Stephen Dwoskin [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Experimental Cinema, The Film Reader (2002) - Wheeler Winston Dixon, Gwendolyn Audrey Foster

    Experimental Cinema, The Film Reader (In Focus: Routledge Film Readers) (2002) - Wheeler Winston Dixon, Gwendolyn Audrey Foster [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    This volume provides a comprehensive guide to the long tradition of American avant-garde cinema, from its origins in the 1920s to the work of contemporary film and video artists. It addresses major movements and key figures of the avant-garde, including filmmakers.--Synopsis

    Experimental Cinema, The Film Reader brings together key writings on American avant-garde cinema to explore the long tradition of underground filmmaking from its origins in the 1920s to the work of contemporary film and video artists. The Reader traces the development of major movements such as the New American Cinema of the 1960s and the Structuralist films of the 1970s, examining the work of key practitioners and recovering neglected filmmakers. Contributors focus on the ways in which underground films have explored issues of gender, sexuality and race, and foreground important technical innovations such as the use of Super 8mm and video. Each section features an editor's introduction setting debates in their context. The book concludes with a valuable filmography of key films available.--Product Description

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