Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Structure of Avant Garde Film

This week was all about structure, and to some extent deconstruction and the differences between these two different types of forms. There are many specific techniques that go into a structural film which are used to make the film more complex in structure than the average avant garde film.
1). Kiss, Andy Warhol (1963)
This film was the only film of the week to represent deconstruction. Warhol's process was mostly indifference to cinema; he believed in "turning on the camera and walking away" (Sitney 349). Kiss shows Warhol's disregard for cinema because it does not use any classical cinematic or avant garde techniques. The film is solely images of different couples kissing. It is awkward to watch because the viewer feels like they are intruding into these personal moments. However, there is also something beautiful in the watching of the couples expressing their love for each other.
2.) Wavelength, Michael Snow (1966)
This film by Snow was very different than that of Warhol's; there was a definite structure and technique that went into the film. One of the most important elements that Snow brought into his film was the sound of the sine wave. In the beginning of the film the sound is a deep buzzing noise that lulls the viewer into a trance. I found myself watching the film, but not really focusing on anything in particular. The action on the screen was occurring without me being mentally present. However, when the pitch changed I was immediately jolted back into watching the film. The higher sound pierced my consciousness and made me pay attention to what was going on.
As the camera moved closer and closer to its final objective I was slightly disappointed at having done the reading. I knew that at the end of the film came a picture of the waves. While I was still tense with anticipation to actually see this picture, the fact that I knew what it would be made it less exciting. When the picture finally did come and was accompanied by silence and I could almost imagine the sound and smell of the waves crashing. It was a very calming moment that seemed like it took years to get to.
3.) Lemon, Hollis Frampton (1969)
I honestly did not expect this film to be so literal. It was very representative of one of the main ideas that expressed through film: cinema is light. Your eyes automatically are attracted to the light that is the lemon, the one bright spot on the black background. As the picture gets darker with the shadow moving across the screen, the image resembles the phases of the moon. The eye goes to the piece of light that is the remaining part of the lemon.
4.) (Nostalgia), Hollis Frampton (1971)
This film seemed to be one of the few we've seen this semester that actually has a narrative structure. However, the way Frampton went about it was very unique. I did not realize until halfway through the film that the images and sound were not synchronous. When that happened there was a very jarring effect, almost like when you are trying to remember something but realize that your memory is wrong. As soon as I became aware of the change, I wanted the picture he was describing to burn so I could see the actual image he was describing. The film created a strange mix of language and image that lead to the image matching what was being said even though they were dissimilar.
Also, the burnt pictures themselves seemed to take on a life of their own. As they burned, they moved and disintegrated in different way. It seemed like a much more final process than deleting a picture from a camera; burning them made the memories come alive for an instant and then die in front of another camera. It was interesting subject matter for a film because it seems to be about the destruction of memory. By creating a film out of this material it seems paradoxical because the film will be a memory in and of itself. 

5.) T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G, Paul Sharits (1969)
This was my first experience with a flicker film and I have to say it was a very unique one. I felt that the feelings created by the film were akin to those of being brainwashed or what Alex had to go through with the Ludovico Treatment in A Clockwork Orange. The images assaulted your eyes and induced a trance like state; I could not look away. Despite the fact that the reading said that the film, "represents the viewing experience of erotic violence" that is not what I experienced (Sitney 362). To me, the film was more about a personal experience, I don't think it could be said that everyone saw the same things. The way the images flash before your eyes creates this dream-like state where the images and words began to lose meaning and everything began to blend together. The word repeated over and over in the film was apparently only said "destroy" but throughout the course of the film I heard many different things from "you must be strong" to "it's gone"; sometimes I heard nothing intelligible at all.
Source: Sitney, P. Adams. "Structural Film." Visionary Film: the American Avant-Garde, 1943-2000. 3rd Ed. University Press: Oxford, 2002. 348-370.

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