avant-garde




Enjoy a chilled-out Sunday with a short dose of avant-garde fungal strangeness. I HATE THIS FILM muses:

Film by Vic Atkinson, who has proven that to make a dope movie, all you need is a damp forest of fungi and Chappell’s TVMusic 101-104 on wax. Throw in a few bugs and dead leaves for added ambience, and you’ve got yourself an instant classic.



Avant-garde filmmaker Pramod Pati created luscious, poetic, beautifully-scored short films on behalf of the Indian government (sometimes with social-educational purposes such as promoting family planning). Highlights include Abid, below, and 1968’s symbolism-rich Explorer. The Seventh Art provides some background:

Pramod Pati, who died an untimely death at the age of 42, worked for the Films Division of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in India, which commissioned feature-length and short documentaries as well as short animation films for the purposes of cultural archiving and nationwide information dissemination. The documentaries generally consisted of profiles of artistes practicing traditional forms, educational films for adults, and simple moral tales and basic literacy courses for children.

Although there was an obvious restriction on the type of subjects filmmakers can choose, the Films Division, like the Kanun in Iran, was free from commercial concerns and thus presented a higher scope for formal experimentation for directors.



The Center for Visual Music on under-seen, under-known pioneer Jordan Belson, who sought to create films that could convey formerly unrepresentable ideas and be experienced like music, via psychedelic, kaleidoscopic light manipulation performances. Belson’s work has been added to the Library of Congress, but there has been general difficulty in preserving it:

Between 1957 and 1959, Belson collaborated with composer Henry Jacobs on the historic Vortex Concerts, which combined electronic music with moving visual abstractions projected on the dome of Morrison Planetarium in San Francisco (and also the Brussels World Fair in 1958). These pioneer Light Shows used filmed imagery as well as multiple projections of geometric and polymorphous light phenomena. The Vortex experience inspired Belson to abandon traditional painting and animation in favor of creating visual phenomena in something like real time, by live manipulation of pure light. Many of the films share certain images which Belson regards as “hieroglyphic-ideographic” visual units that express complex ideation not easily stated in verbal terms.


In the mood for a lost landmark? The Smiling Madame Beudet, from 1922, may be the prototype of feminist cinema. Directed by Germaine Dulac, the lone female figure among the notable French avant-garde filmmakers of the 1920s, it’s an impressionistic, surrealist, silent tale of a woman’s psychological imprisonment. Her primary source of release is playing her piano, to which her husband holds the keys. Futher explanation available at The House of Mirth and Movies:


BREER1-obit-articleLargeHis style was followed by everyone from Monty Python to MTV, but for sheer optical pleasure, Robert Breer’s short avant-garde animations can’t be beaten. The New York Times eulogizes:

Robert Breer, an animator whose use of novel techniques opened up a new language for film, died on Aug. 11 at his home in Tucson. He was 84. Mr. Breer, a painter by training, early on saw the potential for breaking with the narrative sequences and anthropomorphic forms that defined the medium [of animation].

Viewers were bombarded with wiggling lines, letters, abstract shapes and live-action images that jumped and flashed, zoomed and receded. “He was a seminal figure in the new American cinema and the American avant-garde beginning in the 1950s and continuing right up to the present,” said Andrew Lampert of the Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan.