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How I miss Avant-Garde cinema
Beyond the usual complaints of how horror/science-fiction/fantasy have their best days far behind them, there stands a cinematic art movement - integrally related to the genres just mentioned - that has also languished: The Avant-Garde film.
The Avant-Garde movement actually dates back to 1863, before the days of cinema, and birthed (rightly) in the worlds of art and stage. It's a French term, given to experimental and innovative approaches of "art and politics". The fusion of art and cinema happened relatively quickly in wake of the invention of the medium as American and European filmmakers, most notably Salvador Dali and Sergei Eisenstein, forged strange and unique visions highly divergent from typical mainstream offerings.
This underground movement continued gradually into the '40s and '50s, the most groundbreaking artists at the time being Maya Deren (Meshes in the Afternoon) and a personal favorite, Kenneth Anger (Invocation of My Demon Brother, Scorpio Rising). These films, still shown in art houses today, were to shape and mold the work of a new generation of filmmakers who many of us on Crazed Fanboy have come to revere: Sam Peckinpah, George A. Romero, David Lynch, etc.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly my own introduction to the Avant-Garde, though I would say that the early days of VHS and cable TV provided many memorable moments of experiencing the weird and wonderful things this movement had to offer the viewer - especially the great all-nighter tour-de-force Night Flight. It's important to note that aside from movies, music videos (and the music artists themselves) were highly influenced by the Avant-Garde.
Some of very influential Avant-Garde films I've seen over time have been:
- The Forbidden Zone (1980): Directed by Richard Elfman (Danny's brother) and starring The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. A surreal, stage play mind trip.
- Eraserhead (1977): A film that describes description, and so unabashedly admirable for the isolation it creates within the viewer. Best viewed alone in a dark, silent room. This is the groundbreaking work that led to a prosperous and prolific career for director David Lynch.
- The Films of Kenneth Anger: I was introduced to Anger while attending a celebration of his works at the long-gone Beaux Arts Gallery in Pinellas Park, once screened by legendary local artist Tom Reese. I saw them around Halloween time, and I can't tell you what an impression they made. I strongly encourage all Crazed Fanboys to pick up the DVD boxed sets of ALL of Anger's work - there's simply nothing else like them.
- Awakening of the Beast (1970): JosÚ Mojica Marins (better known as Coffin Joe) is a Brazilian director with a vision as unique and expressive as Kenneth Anger's. I'm half-way through it, and have been stunned at such a mastery of visual imagery Marin displays.
- Asparagus (1979): An Avant-Garde short film screened while attending film school. Animated in different mediums, and midnight circuit hit.
- The Pit (?): A B&W short film I caught on USA's Night Flight. Not sure of the date of this one, but it features a woman (a Queen?) sitting in a throne above a large pit in where two strange-looking men dwell. I recall her throwing down beans and chicken legs for them to eat. A very strange, silent film.
Thought you'd like this little excursion into the great world of Avant-Garde filmmaking, and let's encourage its revival as a dominant influence in today's mainstream, mass-market cinema.
"Oddservations" is ©2008 by Andy Lalino. The Oddservations banner is a creation of Andy Lalino. All other graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.