I pretty much agree with Jonathan here.

Two other elements: the avant-garde of the 1920s, and even more so I think the American movement beginning with Harry Smith and Maya Deren, operated simultaneously in opposition to the naive representationalism of the dominant commercial cinema and within the thinking that characterized modernism in the other arts. Thus Deren speaks of the "vertical" and opposed to the "horizontal" as ways of organizing a film, and was working with an obvious awareness of surrealism. Thus these later films make the viewer self aware of the viewing process in ways that might lead to a certain kind of intellectual reflection less likely to be engendered by the earliest films -- and I find this to be as true of Jack Smith as it is of Hollis Frampton. These later films put it to us that film viewing itself is something to think about.


Jonathan, I am in the same situation as you are with regards to grading. It is always nice by way of relief to read a bit of writing by someone who knows the difference between "its" and "it’s," that most sentences need both subjects and verbs, and when to use capital letters...

Fred Camper
Chicago

On 12/14/2017 10:02 AM, Jonathan Walley wrote:
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.

All best,
JW

Dr. Jonathan Walley
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Cinema
Denison University
wall...@denison.edu <mailto:wall...@denison.edu>

On Dec 13, 2017, at 7:29 PM, Dave Tetzlaff <djte...@gmail.com <mailto: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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