Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A lazy night of film theory and French avant-garde

I have spent the evening thus far sipping one leftover glass of wine, casually revisiting Radiohead's Kid A (which I think grows more beautiful every few months I pull it from my shelves), and reading film theory. If I can't be a grad student yet, dammit, I'll take a stab at its most pleasurable aspects.

The readings for tonight were Noël Burch's article on avant-garde and primitive cinema (particularly its first half), and Dominique Noguez on French avant-garde cinema in an early issue of Millennium Film Journal (second time I've read it). Burch's work is absolutely fascinating, rigorous but expansive in the way I identified before with the likes of Willemen and Brenez--I should go through and give his books a serious read as they deserve. Too many classics of film theory to catch up with, and which I can't believe we weren't required to read in my time as an NYU student. (Amos Vogel's Film and a Subversive Art comes back into print in two weeks, as well. Another one that's no doubt essential.) At any rate, reading Noguez, I'm very excited to one day see some of these works. I'm kicking myself for letting the Lettrist films go by when they showed at Anthology a while ago. (Come to think of it, I'm kicking myself for letting tonight's MoMA screening of Dick Higgins' The Flaming City pass by, too. Forgot about that. I should be in the theater right now! Damn. I think it's playing once more this weekend though.) The figure who seems to come up a lot is Patrick Bokanowski. Noguez mentions him in connection to both "contemporary" (i.e., 1970s) strains of French avant-garde cinema. Brenez mentions him. Super-dense and -allusive Middle Eastern theorist Jalal Toufic once dedicated an article (in the journal Discourse, I believe) to Bokanowski.

Have I mentioned before on this blog how great Bokanowski's L'Ange (which I've only seen on the ReVoir video) is? About five absolutely riveting segments which seem impossibly timeless, incredibly fluent with the film medium. An explosion of spilled milk that (as in Tarkovsky) is full of ineffable suggestive meaning. A fencer. A woman trapped in a room beset by attackers. A stairway. It's such a bizarre, singular experience. I can't do it justice on one viewing. I look forward to visiting his early short films on video at the NYPL.


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