Would that I could resist this, but no…
It’s probably a little dangerous to think of these films as “experimental” in
any strong sense of that term, since mostly the “experiments” on view in these
films are about cultivating film’s ability to tell stories; or else, formal
experimentation was about exploiting cinema’s novelty in the early years. Both
of these impulses are about making film/cinema a commodity, and developing a
degree of formal standardization (which paralleled attempts at
material/technological standardization that were underway by the mid-oughts).
Once early cinema was rediscovered, so to speak, as a paradigm of “roads to
taken,” something Gunning suggests in “The Cinema of Attractions,” the
historical link between it and experimental film “proper” was forged, I would
say. But not before.
This is not to put these films down, or to say they have no relevance to
genuinely Experimental/Avant-garde cinema. But the impulse was entirely
different than the ones animating experimental filmmaking beginning in the late
teens and early twenties. Early generations of experimental/avant-garde
filmmakers looked much more, I think, to the budding commercial cinema of the
teens for their inspiration (I’m thinking of Leger’s love for La Roue, for
example, or the Surrealists’ of slapstick comedy ala Chaplin and Keaton, or
Cornell’s for films like East of Borneo).
Gunning argues that the “cinema of attractions” “goes underground,” to be
revisited by the avant-garde decades later (he mentioned Jack Smith, for
instance). But this suggests a kindred spirit between someone like Smith or
Warhol and the earliest filmmakers, and that it was simply a matter of
returning to a way of doing things that existed before commercial cinema; both
claims are questionable.
Anyway, this has allowed me to avoid grading for a little while, which is nice.
Dr. Jonathan Walley
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Cinema
> On Dec 13, 2017, at 7:29 PM, Dave Tetzlaff <djte...@gmail.com> wrote:
>> thinking about how it ALL was that way by definition early on; an inventory
>> of tricks, effusions, failed and successful experiments.
> Do take a look at Gunning’s concept of "cinema of attractions”. You could
> argue that the whole idea of cinema was a trick. Against the conventional
> view that the Lumieres were proto-realists and Melies a proto-expressionist,
> take the famous anecdote about early audiences panicking viewing Train
> Approching A Station. That wasn’t people seeing the film as a representation.
> There’s also something connecting the early films of single take with locked
> down camera between later era formal works (e.g. Peter Hutton) that are in
> the Experimental canon.
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