This site is intended to present ideas about media, and cinema in particular. The two facets of film which must be recognized is it is subversive, and it is seductive. If a film doesn't do one or both it isn't film that necessarily interests me, moves me, engages me or excites me. Which leads to asking what is "avant-garde" film? Is it the only film worth experiencing? No, but here is a master list of the films which are almost guranteed to make the bourgeoise and pop-meisters to run for the exits.
When the mass public's idea of "avant-garde" film is something like "Rocky Horror Picture Show" or "Donnie Darko", or when their idea of a "cutting edge" auteur is someone like Tim Burton, then, when (and if) they do get exposed to the real thing, the inevitable happens; shortly into the film, one hears grumbling, perhaps even aggressive anger, and eventually, the sight of patrons heading for the nearest exit. For the more inclined, take this as a good sign to stay for the challenge. "Elitism" in artistic taste has become a dirty word and frequently one hears the excruciatingly lame defense for not being to handle it, " Well, it's just my taste and it doesn't really matter". Actually, it does. Because, your "taste" is a reflection of your willingness to confront and evolve past tradition. Even the so-called "cult crowd" has it's limitations, and usually this crowd consists of mainly under thirty geeks who will inevitably become tommorrow's conservatives. Dispensing first of preconceived notions of "what film is " and "what film isn't" and mantling an attitude of being "boundlessly expansive" undoubtedly helps in shedding the possibilites of conservative infections. Have we become So inundated with post Star Wars/CGI affects laden movie making that we actually think Lars Van Trier's "Dogville" is 'Experimental' because the town is chalked out and because John Hurt narrates? Actually this brilliant allegory for Christ abounds in theatrical traditions.
E. Elias Merhige's "Begotten" has a texture of intensity unlike any other film. The fact that this film even made it's way into the so-called "art house circut"and "festival scene" amounted to a minor miracle. Unfortunately, Merhige's follow ups have been noble failures.
Guy Maddin may indeed be the new messianic voice crying in the wilderness. His films are a genre unto themselves. The Saddest Music in the World The Guy Maddin Collection (Twilight of the Ice Nymphs / The Heart of the World / Archangel) Dracula - Pages from a Virgin's Diary Careful Tales from the Gimli Hospital
For the more exploratory, Matthew Barney is a dazzling challenge and His "Cremaster Cycle" frequently illicits impassioned outbursts of criticism. The Order - From Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle 3
David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick and David Cronenberg are three who managed to make it within the system. Of course, aesthetically, there is a price to be paid for going to that point of 'entryism'. All three paid that price (with Kubrick,for example, that price was called 'Spartacus', which he wisely disowned and Lynch has consistently paid the highest price, ). Still, one cannot be too judgmental towards said artists in paying a miniscule amount for eventual artistic freedom. Kubrick's swan song "Eyes Wide Shut", is a highly intelligent and calculated work of brilliantly ice cold art which still manages to provoke the uninitiated. Cronenberg's "Crash" and "Naked Lunch" are barrier smashing works of this artist at his most compellingly provocative . Lynch's "Eraserhead" was very nearly the beginning of the end. Still, Lynch resurfaced with his homage to Kenneth Angerism in "Mulholland Drive". Try not to hold the Academy Award nomination against it. His latest , "Inland Empire" is a compelling and invigorating redemption for his particular method of raising questions that cannot be answered.
Nostalgia is poison and here is an all too short survey of innovative pioneers who refused to be held at bay by tradition and whose works are guaranteed to provoke .
Un Chien Andalou Luis Bunuel's L'Age d'Or
Belle de Jour
The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie - Criterion Collection
The Exterminating Angel
Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome
Scenes From the Surreal
Faust By Brakhage - Anthology - Criterion Collection
Maya Deren: Experimental Films
The Brothers Quay Collection: Ten Astonishing Short Films 1984-1993
Fando and Lis Devils
Russ Meyer's Vixen
Salome's Last Dance Salo - Criterion Collection
2001 - A Space Odyssey
The Last Temptation of Christ - Criterion Collection
Pier Paolo Pasolini Collection, Vol. 2 (Accatone / The Hawks and the Sparrows / The Gospel According to Saint Matthew)
Pier Paolo Pasolini Collection, Vol. 1 (Oedipus Rex / Porcile / Love Meetings)
The Fall of the Louse of Usher
Crimes of Passion
The Dreamers (Original Uncut NC-17 Version)
Last Tango in Paris
And taking delight in "knocking off" a few "accepted" psuedo-artists. Tim Burton; " Psuedo Avant-Auteur" is pure hype.The closest this Disney producer has come to anything remotely resembling art is his " Ed Wood", which, admittedly, has a peculiar milieu worth investigating. However, considering the rest of his output, once must consider it a happy accident, which, predictably, was his only film to lose money (take comfort in that).
Otherwise, Burton, despite the claims, is essentially, an auteur of a pop drivel which caters to very particular crowd consisting mostly of pulp, comic book hounds wallowing in their illusion of psuedo intellect.
Johnny Depp is another figure in Hollywood whose reputation is wholly undeserved. He is hopelessly complacent, as his resume indicates. Depp is hardly the actor of 'daring choices' that his publicists make him out to be. A short list disproves that. Pirates, Astronaut's Wife,Ninth Gate, Nick of Time, From Hell, and Sleepy Hollow all show an actor playing a Hollywood by the numbers game. He should succeed well, of course. His role in Jim Jarmausch's "Dead Man" is the only other film with any merit. Besides Ed Wood, one might turn to Sally Potter's "The Man Who Cried " which, at least, strives for "something". Hollywood's current equivelent to P.T. Barnum would almost certainly be Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino's much ballyhooed films are the product of a raging geek's libido and this filmmaker has yet to produce anything remotely resembling a challenge.
George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Oliver Stone, and Peter Jackson, if you haven't noticed, are all as dead as Walt Disney (who actually died right after the uneven, but worthwhile 'Fantasia'). Lucas died right after "THX 1138", his only venture into 'ground-breaking' cinema. THX 1138 - The Director's Cut (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Coppola died after the two "Godfather" films and "Apocalypse Now". Jackson, shortly after "Heavenly Creatures".
Apocalypse Now Redux
Stone has always been an unnecessary and inferior artist of predictable excesses (unlike the much maligned and brilliant Ken Russell of highly artistic and imaginative excesses). His work doesn't get more comical than watching Val Lewon writhe to the godawful "Carmina Burana". The closest Stone has truly come to 'hitting the nerve' was in the all too briefsitcom perverting, surreal vignette of "Natural Born Killers". The rest of the film wallows in it's desire to appease a groin focused action cult crowd, which was all done better by Gregg Araki in " Doom Generation" anyway. Carmina Burana indeed.
The Doom Generation
Natural Born Killers - Oliver Stone Collection
Her films may be found at Canyon Cinema, a noble enterprise which unfortunately limits itself by accepting only "films shot on film", and thus ignoring video art, which, admittedly, is the new and future medium. Despite championing high calibre artists, Canyon limits itself (and it's artists) to downright regressive 'conservative purities'.The so-called "purity of film" is yet another thinly disguised conservative barrier and ignores tommorrow's technology and potential. But, alas, that is for another list.
Let's hear it for authentic avant-garde filmmakers!