ON (EXPERIMENTAL) FILM
MEMORIES I (16mm b&w, sound 10 minutes ) has just been completed
by filmmaker Gary Popovich.
The film has three sections corresponding to periods in Nietzche's life: 1844-62 his birth until he abandoned theology; 1863-82 a period of travel, relationships with various people are important to him, the beginnings of his mature philosophy. This period ends with breaks with Wagner, his mother and sister and with Lou Salome. 1883-89 is a time of more travel, his mature works of philosophy, loneliness and a need for friendship and his final collapse. Moments in Nietzche's life are tied in with moments in the history of the cinema (images from Muybridge and Lumiére). Sounds interesting...let's see it!
I just finished reading an article by J. Hoberman about the film and video components of the Whitney Biennial (Village Voice, June '87) and, while there is much I found myself nodding my head in agreement with, there are a few premises, stated and unstated, to which I take exception. When he recreates for us his first adolescent experiences of underground film-going "in cruddy storefronts and the even wierder basement of a midtown skyscraper," I felt, along with him, the nostalgia for those adventures with experimental—then 'underground' film. Hoberman's adolescent beatnik days of madness, drugs, sexual liberation are equated with greatness and all else pales in comparison. But when Hoberman continues to judge film (and life?) through that adolescent's eyes, although I'm tempted to agree (yes, that energy, that demanding honesty, that naivety) I wonder if there isn't more to be said for viewing work with knowledge, experience, maturity of age. We can't stay adolescents forever, nor should we expect experimental film and its makers to. Interestingly, later in the article Hoberman cites two films in the Whitney Biennial as being 'challenging films by firt-rate artists, Yvonne Rainer's THE MAN WHO ENVIED WOMEN and Ernie Gehr's SIGNAL-GERMANY ON THE AIR '. Both of these films are by mature filmmakers and neither has the kind of shock/titillation/popular appeal of SCORPIO RISING (the film Hoberman repeatedly cites as exemplar of the golden days of the American Underground movement). These are slow-moving films, the first more of the 'theoretical' film Hoberman later laments and the second of the 'intellectual' structural movement.
article continues. Hoberman goes on to state that
'Individuals (filmmakers) persevere, but the movement seems moribund.' (Is 'death' the hot word right now, and continuing to live day to
day just ho-hum...) Who is it that needs an identified movement? And who says
that the movement need be avant-garde in its impulse? Must experimental film be
seen/judged only in so far as it challenges the
establishment? Why do we even look to the mainstream cinema to note the effects
of or to compare experimental film with, anyway? We know that, though both are
film, the '
article seems to bemoan the marginalization of experimental film - reviewers
won't cover "the crazy movies at the Whitney", 'the starvation and
squalor of ghetto life' - and yet when Hoberman
reports the inclusion of this film within 'academic bulwarks' it is only with
regret that 'Where once raving madmen became filmmakers, it was now the turn of
genteel professors.' We just can't win! But how much and for how long has
avant-garde film been taught in film schools? Is it not, within academia, a fringe?
Most film schools teach the popular culture of movies and now T.V. (of the 51
panels at the last joint
There may have been little strong work in the Biennial or just out there at the moment, perhaps because of the tendency to show immediately everything one makes, but let's discuss/write about what is interesting - and not worry what to name the movement!
article originally appeared in Cinema