Thursday, October 1, 2009

Avant-garde cinema, part 2

Heaven and Earth Magic (1962)  A sixty-six minute animation piece by Harry Smith, made using cut-outs from old catalogs accompanied by sound effects not necessarily related to the visual activities.  I couldn't help but feeling that this may have been an inspiration for Terry Gilliam when he was creating those animated segments in Monty Python's Flying Circus. I found this title on Youtube (cut into 7 separate parts).  May not be the greatest video quality, but for this film I'm not sure it took too much away.

Dog Star Man (1962) Stan Brakhage's short film is an assault on the visual senses.  Full of flashes of light and color, this is 60 minutes of confusion that may or may not have something to do with a man walking his dog up a mountain.  This idea of the screen as a canvas for splashes of light used as paint got real old, real quick.  Something about having those pictures introduced so quickly just left me confused and a little disoriented.  By the time that an image is recognized of something that might be noteworthy (or maybe even interesting) it is replaced by another that you have scant seconds to register, recognize and react to before another takes it's place.  Short of the man walking up the mountain , the most interesting thing is that he looks an awful lot like one of the cavemen in the Geico commercials. By the time I had made it through the Prelude and the four parts (not sure what the reason for the part segments) I really could have cared less what was going on.

Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance (1983)  Part of a trilogy of films by Geoffrey Reggio, now this type of avant-garde is a bit more to my liking.  While story and motive is still a bit of a mystery at least I was able to get clear extended views of the relationship between man, technology and the natural world.  Brilliant, vivid photography leave you with no doubts of what you are seeing. None of those flashes that could possibly lead to epileptic seizure.  Well worthy of viewing, with Philip Glass's musical composition adds to a mood and styling.

Notable Exceptions: E. Elias Merhige's "Begotten". Upon first learning of this film (a trailer attached to the "Shadow of the Vampire" DVD),  I went on a frantic search for a place to view it.  Finding it posted, in it's entirity on the internet, I was transfixed by the story that played out, though not immediately understandable, the filming is mesmerizing.  The unconventional processing of black and white film creates images that keep you transfixed, not always sure what is going on, but does not allow you to turn away. Not for the squeamish, since the film depicts graphic human pain and suffering.

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