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What is an Avent – Garde film

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“This film “Meshes of the afternoon” is still based on a strong literary-dramatic line as a core, and rests heavily upon the symbolic value of objects and situations. The very first sequence of the film concerns the incident, but the girl falls asleep and the dream consists of the manipulation of the elements of the incident. Everything which happens in the dream has its basis in a suggestion in the first sequence-the knife, the key, the repetition of stairs, the figure disappearing around the curve of the road. Part of the achievement of this film consists in the manner in which cinematic techniques are employed to give a malevolent vitality to inanimate objects. The film is culminated by a double-ending in which it would seem that the imagine achieved, for her, such force that it become reality.”

-Maya Deran

“The film produced the effect that I wanted, and it plunged like a dagger into the heart of Paris as I had foretold. Our film ruined in a single evening ten years of pseudo-intellectual post-war advance- guardism. The foul thing which is figuratively called abstract are fell at our feet, wounded to the death, never to rise again, after having seen “a girl’s eye cut by a razor blade” – this was how the film began. There was no longer room in Europe for the little maniacal lozenges of Monsieur Mondrian.”

Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel ( Un Chien Andalou – 1928)

(Visionary Film – The American avant-garde 1943-1978 page:3 and 9)


Since I felt there was no clear and clear understanding of the avant-garde films, I have added information that I have found. They are trying to figure out what an avant garde movie should be and follow the same principles. In Sri Lankan cinema, “Dharmasena Pathiraja” (98% he directed films are some kind of avent gard – “Swarupa”) and “Budi Kirtisena” (“Sinina Deshayen” and “Nimnayaka Hudakalaawa” ) have made such avant garde films.

Avant-garde

The term avant-garde refers to innovative or experimental concepts or works, or the group of people producing them. Pushing boundaries with his development of Cubism, Pablo Picasso was part of the early 20th-century art world’s avant-garde.

In French, avant-garde means the “vanguard” or the “advance guard” — basically the people and ideas that are ahead of their time. Usually it refers to a movement in the arts, like Dadaism, or in politics, like anarchism. Avant-garde can also be used as an adjective to describe something that’s cutting-edge. You might have enjoyed that avant-garde dance piece in which the performers threw marshmallows at each other, even though it was confusing at times.

Modern art and silent cinema were born simultaneously. In 1895 cezanne’s paintings were seen in public for the first time in twenty years. Largely scorned, they also stimulated artists to the revolution in art that took place between 1907 and 1912, just as popular film was also entering a new phase of development. Crossing the rising barriers between art and public taste, painters and other modernists were among the first enthusiasts for Amaerican adventure movies, Chaplin and cartoons, findings in them a shared taste for modern city life, surprise, and change. While the influential philosopher Henri Bergson criticized cinema for falsely eliding the passage of time, his vivid metaphors echo and define modernism’s attitude to the visual image: ‘from is only the snapshot view of a transition’.

European avant garde film was reborn surprisingly soon after the war from the 1950s with the provocative neo-Dada of Fluxus, Lettrisme and Action-Art in the original cabaret Voltaire, and for similar reasons, mockery and excess were weapons of social and cultural protest. But film as an aspect of ‘bomb culture’ was often defiantly marginal, even after the aptly named Underground surfaced to public view in the 1960s. only one film by the situationist Guy Debord has been shown in Britain, for example at the Institute for Contemporary Arts in 1952.

Along with the revival of synthetically abstraction, American film-makers reinvented the narrative film-poem. The ‘psychodrama’ (or ‘trance-film’) was modeller on dream, lyric verse, and contemporary dance. Typically, it enacts the personal conflicts of a central subject or protagonist. A scenario of desire and loss, seen from the point of view of a single guiding consciousness, ends either in redemption or death. Against the grain of realism, montage editing evokes swift transitions in space and time. The subjective, fluid camera is more often a participant in the action than its neutral recording agent.

(The oxford History of World Cinema – page: 95-539)

It’s 1952 are very excited to attend a concert of new music. First there are some pieces by Stravinsky and Milhaud. They are lovely works. Next on the program is something called 4’33” by John Cage. Curious, you pay close attention. To your utter surprise, no one plays a note. The entire piece is silence. The audience is outraged. Some even boo. How could this be music? Welcome to the world of the avant garde!

Avant garde is French for ‘advance guard’ or ‘vanguard.’ Avant garde music is on the cutting edge and challenges expectations. The term is typically used to describe the musical styles that evolved after 1945, sometimes referred to as post-World War II music. There are numerous branches of the avant garde movement. We will look at the most prominent ones.

Serialism

Avant garde was originally used to describe serialism, also known as tone-row, 12-tone, or dodecaphonic music, which is music that treats all twelve notes of the scale as having equal importance and assigns each of them a place in a row of notes. This row becomes the foundation for all melodic and harmonic development in the piece. An early and influential advocate of serialism was Arnold Schönberg. His students Anton Webern and Alban Berg were also important dodecaphonic composers. Their innovations carried into the second half of the 20th century through composers such as Milton Babbit and Pierre Boulez.

Some of Popular Avent – Garde film makers

AMERICAN DIRECTOR AND ACTRESS

Maya Deren, original name Eleanora Derenkowsky, (born April 29, 1917, Kiev, Ukraine—died Oct. 13, 1961, New York, N.Y., U.S.), influential director and performer who is often called the “mother” of American avant-garde filmmaking. Her films are not only poetic but instructive, offering insight into the human body and pysche and demonstrating the potential of film to explore these subjects.

Deren immigrated to the United States with her parents in 1922. Although the family settled in Syracuse, New York, Deren attended secondary school at the League of Nations School in Geneva, Switzerland. She then studied journalism at Syracuse University (1933–35), where she became active in the socialist movement. She graduated from New York University in 1936 and received an M.A. in literature from Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1939.

Having become interested in modern dance, Deren began working for choreographer Katherine Dunham. In 1941, while on tour in Los Angeles with Dunham and her dance troupe, Deren met Alexander Hammid, a Czech filmmaker. Deren and Hammid married the next year, and in 1943 they codirected Meshes of the Afternoon. They shot the film in their own home, with Hammid serving as cinematographer and Deren playing the central character (Hammid appears in a smaller role). The film’s innovative camera work and narrative structure depict a web of dream events that move between subjective and objective experience. One of the most influential works of American experimental film, it has been credited with establishing the avant-garde film movement in the United States.

Deren completed five more short films before her death and left several unfinished works. Her first film as sole director was At Land (1944). As in Meshes, Deren appeared as the protagonist and used imaginative editing and camera techniques to express a trance state in which time and space are transformed. She described A Study in Choreography for Camera (1945) as a pas de deux for one dancer and one camera and characterized Ritual in Transfigured Time (1946)—which also utilized dance and in which she appeared—as being about the nature and process of change. She continued to explore the concept of creating a truly cinematic form of dance (as opposed to simply recording a performance) in her last two films, Meditation on Violence (1948), a study of movement in Chinese martial arts and her first picture with sound, and The Very Eye of Night (1954), which features choreography by Antony Tudor.

Deren’s interest in dance and ritual led her to travel to Haiti in 1947 to research and film voudoun culture. She actively participated in voudoun rituals and became convinced of the integrity and reality of voudoun mythology. Although she never completed her planned film on the subject, her book, Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti (1953), was a well-regarded ethnographic study.

In addition to her filmmaking, Deren lectured, taught, and wrote extensively on independent film. As part of her dedicated promotion of film as an art form and of avant-garde film, she founded the Creative Film Foundation, which provided funding and support for independent filmmakers. Her major theoretical work, An Anagram of Ideas on Art, Form and Film, was published in 1946.

James Stanley Brakhage

AMERICAN FILMMAKER

James Stanley Brakhage, (“Stan”; Robert Sanders), American filmmaker (born Jan. 14, 1933, Kansas City, Mo.—died March 9, 2003, Victoria, B.C.), created hundreds of unique experimental films and was considered a leading figure of the American experimental cinema. Brakhage’s goal in his films was to free the act of seeing from the constraints of representation and expectation. He used a variety of methods, creating films that ranged in length from a few seconds to several hours and showed visions ranging from those produced by cinematography to those made by gluing objects to the celluloid and scratching and painting the celluloid. He also taught filmmaking at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1969–81) and at the University of Colorado at Boulder (1981–2002). His best-known film, Dog Star Man (1964), is considered a key work of the American avant-garde.

Jonas Mekas

Jonas Mekas, a filmmaker, curator, archivist, critic and all-around evangelist for independently made movies in general, and for those variously known as experimental, underground or avant-garde in particular, died on Wednesday at his home in Brooklyn. He was 96.

His son, Sebastian, confirmed the death.

It is rare to have consensus on the pre-eminence of any person in the arts. But few would argue that Mr. Mekas, who was often called the godfather or the guru of the New American Cinema — his name for the underground film movement of the 1950s and ’60s — was the leading champion of the kind of film that doesn’t show at the multiplex.

A Lithuanian immigrant who, with a younger brother, Adolfas, arrived in New York City in 1949 speaking little English, he became within a handful of years an effective spokesman for avant-garde film. (Adolfas, who died in 2011, became an influential filmmaker, writer and educator in his own right.)

In addition to making his own movies and writing prolifically about the movies of others, Mr. Mekas was the founder or a co-founder of institutions that support and promote independent filmmakers, including, in New York, the influential journal Film Culture, published quarterly from 1955 to 1996; Film-Makers Cooperative, a distribution network; and Anthology Film Archives, the leading library and museum for experimental film. (The critic Andrew Sarris published his influential essay on the auteur theory in Film Culture.)

Kenneth Anger

Kenneth Anger (born Kenneth Wilbur Anglemyer, February 3, 1927) is an American underground experimental filmmakeractor and author. Working exclusively in short films, he has produced almost forty works since 1937, nine of which have been grouped together as the “Magick Lantern Cycle”. His films variously merge surrealism with homoeroticism and the occult, and have been described as containing “elements of erotica, documentary, psychodrama, and spectacle”. Anger himself has been described as “one of America’s first openly gay filmmakers, and certainly the first whose work addressed homosexuality in an undisguised, self-implicating manner”, and his “role in rendering gay culture visible within American cinema, commercial or otherwise, is impossible to overestimate”, with several being released prior to the legalization of homosexual acts between consenting adults in the United States. He has also focused upon occult themes in many of his films, being fascinated by the English gnostic mage and poet Aleister Crowley, and is an adherent of Thelema, the religion Crowley founded.

Hans Richter

Hans Richter’s pioneering Dada work Filmstudie was an early attempt to combine Dadaist aesthetics and abstraction. Made in 1926 Richter’s film presents the viewer with a disorientating collage of uncanny false eyeballs, distorted faces and abstract forms… Hans Richter’s pioneering Dada work Filmstudie was an early attempt to combine Dadaist aesthetics and abstraction. Made in 1926 Richter’s film presents the viewer with a disorientating collage of uncanny false eyeballs, distorted faces and abstract forms (none of these themes is treated constantly). It’s similar to Man Ray’s work in its ballet of motion which combines a playful tension between figurative and abstract forms, both in negative and positive exposure.

Filmstudie is essentialy a transitional work of mixed styles. A number of devices drawing attention to the technical specificity of photography (multiple exposures and negative images) are also included and enter into a successful fusion with the remaining elements.

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol ( August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987) was an American artist, film director, and producer who was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art. His works explore the relationship between artistic expression, advertising, and celebrity culture that flourished by the 1960s, and span a variety of media, including painting, silkscreening, photography, film, and sculpture. Some of his best known works include the silkscreen paintings Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962) and Marilyn Diptych (1962), the experimental film Chelsea Girls (1966), and the multimedia events known as the Exploding Plastic Inevitable (1966–67).

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Warhol initially pursued a successful career as a commercial illustrator. After exhibiting his work in several galleries in the late 1950s, he began to receive recognition as an influential and controversial artist. His New York studio, The Factory, became a well-known gathering place that brought together distinguished intellectualsdrag queens, playwrights, Bohemian street people, Hollywood celebrities, and wealthy patrons. He promoted a collection of personalities known as Warhol superstars, and is credited with inspiring the widely used expression “15 minutes of fame“. In the late 1960s he managed and produced the experimental rock band The Velvet Underground and founded Interview magazine. He authored numerous books, including The Philosophy of Andy Warhol and Popism: The Warhol Sixties. He lived openly as a gay man before the gay liberation movement. After gallbladder surgery, Warhol died of cardiac arrhythmia in February 1987 at the age of 58.

Warhol has been the subject of numerous retrospective exhibitions, books, and feature and documentary films. The Andy Warhol Museum in his native city of Pittsburgh, which holds an extensive permanent collection of art and archives, is the largest museum in the United States dedicated to a single artist. Many of his creations are very collectible and highly valuable. The highest price ever paid for a Warhol painting is US$105 million for a 1963 canvas titled Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster); his works include some of the most expensive paintings ever sold. A 2009 article in The Economist described Warhol as the “bellwether of the art market”.

References:

expcinema.org/site/en/videos/hans-richter-filmstudie-1926

www.nytimes.com/2019/01/23/obituaries/jonas-mekas-dead.html

www.google.com/search?q=Kenneth+Anger&source=lmns&bih=675&biw=1517&hl=en&ved=2ahUKEwiCm5i_nPToAhXN8jgGHYsfCb4Q_AUoAHoECAEQAA

lightcone.org/en/filmmaker-220-marie-menken

Dinesh Ekanayake
Dinesh Ekanayake
B-Tech of UoVT / DRTJ Colombo University. Sri Lanka Film Sound Designer/Music composer/Foley Artist/Video Editor/ Dubbing Directing / Screenplay Writer and Director.

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