Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Avant-gardes and new cinema

By way of Matthew Clayfield, today I came across the academic blog Digital Poetics, where there was this fascinating recent entry: The Abstract and the Real. This post does something rare and very valuable in both scholarship and online commentary--finding an obscure connection between images, thus throwing the question on the table as to whether this is a 'Zeigeist burp' (a phrase that, after applying it elsewhere, I realize I liked and may have coined) or perhaps a hidden authorial continuity. Who knew that The Ring was so connected to Man Ray's cinema (or maybe the press packet gave this fact a small proud bullet, who knows!?).

I'm not very well versed in digital cinema or interactive/online contributions to the expanding borders of the moving image, although I would like to be, and "support" or "endorse" research and theory on this front. I think that the appropriation of avant-garde techniques, hashed out especially in the comments to the blog entry, are an important 'dulling' factor for a lot of avant-garde cinema. (However: I saw Un Chien andalou probably ten times in NYU classes, and the sliced eye never ceased to draw gasps.) That said, I think that not all avant-garde elements have been appropriated--only those which can lend a hand to the selling of a product (to put it cynically and crudely) are appropriated. What about patience, and looooong slooow chunks of time which encourage contemplation, which insist that we don't pull a nugget of information out of an image or a cut, but instead exist with these things? I don't believe Michael Snow has been "appropriated" in any significant way. What about painstaking recreation which squarely emphasizes some kind of truth content over dramatics--as in the work of the Straubs, but also Francesco Rosi? It seems to me not that the avant-garde gets neutralized but that it gets recontextualized, so to be "truly" cutting edge, formally, yes, one must always try something new. But some effects are not amenable to a commercialist/capitalist ethos and aesthetics, and will not be taken up by it at all. So the avant-garde will--or can--always retain its resonance.

* * *

I am pretty certain I saw Armond White perusing the sale shelves of the Donnell Library today.

9 comments:

Maggs said...

Nice Blog! Hope you will come visit our Blog/Ezine. An online ezine
with Sports forums as well as other social commentary forums. New members are welcome!

Matthew said...

"That said, I think that not all avant-garde elements have been appropriated--only those which can lend a hand to the selling of a product (to put it cynically and crudely) are appropriated."

A very good point. Your example of Michael Snow is a good one. I would add James Benning.

Zach Campbell said...

Matt--I don't know James Benning work (his reputation, yes, obviously), so I didn't want to mention him, but from what I know he would definitely apply.

Here's an assignment. Is Sadie Benning (whose work I've seen and like a lot) better than her father? Who else aside from her and Sofia Coppola might be better film artists than their illustrious fathers ... ?

Matt said...

I'll have to chase up some of Sadie Benning's work and get back to you!

Filipe said...

Samira Mahkmalbaf, but I'm not very fond of either her or her father's work.

Some ould start along discussion between the merits of Jacques and Maurice Tourneur.

Jaime said...

I wouldn't say Sofia Coppola...

Zach Campbell said...

Well, *I* would say Sofia, Jaime! And almost entirely for The Virgin Suicides, alone. But maybe it'd be evened up if I finally saw One from the Heart.

I don't know Samira M.'s work, Filipe, thanks for reminded us of it though. As for Maurice Tourneur, I'm waiting for the DVD that (I think!?) the public library has of The Blue Bird to show up on the shelves ...

Jaime said...

I think you might enjoy ONE FROM, Zach, esp given Gabe K.'s endorsement.

Unfortunately I am one of those myopic souls who's categorized SC's output as "possibly suspect" after LOST IN TRANSLATION - although I guess I enjoyed that film well enough. I am nearly afraid of seeing SUICIDES again, out of fear that it won't mean as much to me as it did after my 1st and so far only viewing.

The current political discussion on a_film_by might turn out to be more interesting than anything I've seen from (nothing against him) Bill Krohn's film & politics spin-off. I keep hoping Fred Camper and Brian Dauth will get in a shouting match about how This Mode of Thinking treats a film as a commodity and so forth. It's been a while since that place had a halfway decent disembowelment, IMO, although M. Coursodon always seems to be trying, and god bless 'im for it.

Jaime said...

Also, THE RING (2002) reminded me of another experimental filmmaker, Nathaniel Dorsky. Just throwin' that out there.