Today's Shorts: Film As Subversive Art: Amos Vogel And Cinema 16 (2004), Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back (1967), Joe Rogan: Triggered (2016), Truth (2016), Unenelightenment Supercut (2016), Schwechater (1958), 69 (1969), Three Transitions (1973), Butterfly Of Love (2003)
A, by and large, not very well made documentary that has a lot of character and a great subject, Film As Subversive Art briefly explores a significant organisation in American film history: Cinema 16. Run by Amos Vogel this was a groundbreaking cinema club that showed avant-garde, experimental, scientific and surreal films/documentaries (amongst a plethora of others). Not only did this put into the public eye great works of art, but it rebelled against the censors from the late 40s to the late 60s and redefined what film is and could do for many people when no one, or anything, else would - a notion and concept that easily goes over our heads in the modern age.
For anyone interested in experimental films and cinematic history, definitely give this one a go.
Though I know very little of Bob Dylan and his music, this is an intriguing look into the life of a celebrity on the road juggling media obligations whilst struggling the idea of his perceived self. The observational, direct cinema, aesthetic and approach can be slightly mundane at points which gives rise to problems with pacing, but I never felt the film become completely disinteresting or boring.
If not out of simple interest, maybe check out Don't Look Back as an example of direct cinema and an attempt to observe reality like a fly on a wall may. Whilst I don't think this is at all feasible nor managed in the film, there is a strong sense of realism and shades of truth in Don't Look Back as a film about Dylan as a figure constantly in the public eye - and a so constantly performing - which makes this a particularly interesting example of the direct cinema movement.
Through and through hilarious. With minimalist camera work and editing, Rogan delivers powerful, yet meandering and often complex, bit after bit that merges comedy and stoned existential observations masterfully - the dolphin segment is especially ingenious. Having seen this special time and time again, I can confidently say that it doesn't wane or lose a smidgen of energy or intensity; it's just as funny as the first watch.
No critique from me, just watch if you haven't seen it already.
Not very well made, and not extremely profound, this experimental short plays with the artifice of film in a digital realm, reducing a screen to mere pixels, exposing animation and computer generated imagery for what it really is: just information; 1s and 0s. The injection of reality into this with the shots of an early morning - all of which seem to be exposed or colour graded differently - reveals further artifice in regard to what digital cameras capture. In short, this short asks a question that has been asked since the birth of cinema: what is true on cinema screens?
This is interesting, but doesn't say anything more or add much to that which someone such as Epstein was questioning in the 1910s and 20s with his term 'photogénie'.
Unenlightenment Supercut. Another experimental short by Cloutier, this time one that's a little more interesting - though a little too long with an off sound design. Sustaining a contemplation on the digital image, this short seems to ask the worth of a frame when it can be manipulated, made transparent, or superimposed - in a certain sense, unenlightened. We think of screens as holding images that can be powerful, lasting and significant, but, with a little manipulation, this all goes entirely out of the window. If cinema is just light and we can control that electromagnetic signal, what exactly separates this short from other digital films with powerful imagery? Is it just people? Audiences? Editors? If so, does that take the magic of cinema away ever so slightly?
Schwechater is somewhat funny when you read a little into it. As most synopsis could tell you, Kubelka, the director, was commissioned to make a commercial for a beer company: Schwechater. He didn't really do this though. He shot people and beer without a viewer then took months to cut together an incomprehensible deconstruction of a beer commercial that, to me, serves as little more than a bit of a middle finger to commercial film.
Like complex moving machinery can be beautiful and mesmerising, so is Breer's 69. In such, it really plays with the mechanical aspect of cinema; flickering frames and the motion it has the ability to imply. Through repetitive animated figures moving in time and synchrony, 69 almost revels in the control that technology allows humans to demonstrate. And having seen Jonas Mekas' quote in this film's description...
“It’s so absolutely beautiful, so perfect, so like nothing else. Forms, geometry, lines, movements, light very basic, very pure, very surprising, very subtle.”
... I can only really agree.
This is a pretty ingenious film that speaks for itself with its imagery as it sees the video taped cinematic realm contorted and twisted just like film was in cinema's early days by figures like Méliès.
For the most part, pure spectacle, but with some inherent ideas of the human body and psyche in relation to this kind of cinema, you could choose to see Three Transitions as more profound. Personally, I really like the creativity of the effects, play with colour and Campus' deadpan stare.
Butterfly of Love. Wow... what the fuck? This is an absolutely stunning experimental film that manipulates Kurosawa's Rashomon with split screen to produce an indescribably beautiful, sometimes horrifying, special effects scene.
Looked at through the guise of the original picture, this short expands upon Kurosawa's manipulation of truth, human behaviors and reality through mesmerising cinematic language. Whilst I wouldn't want to see this effect applied to the entire movie, this short is certainly a poignant companion piece to a masterpiece that has completely blown me away.
Battleship Potemkin/Empire - The Short-Hand Arduous Story
Don Jon/Sunrise - The Two Modes Of Wish Fulfillment
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