F - NSCAD Film

Week 8
The Post-War Avant-garde
The Post-War Avant-garde and Independent
Readings: Thompson & Bordwell Chapter 21
Documentary and Experimental Cinema in the
Postwar Era 1945-Mid 1960’s pp 478-507 and
pp536-555 (3rd Edition). Maya Deren p 490 & 4523 (3rd Edition)
Hayward, Key Concepts Feminist film theory
Supplementary Reading: Laura Mulvey “Visual
Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, (Braudy and
Cohen pp 833-844).
• Counter culture, Avant-Garde, Experimentalism,
Structural cinema.
• May 68 & The Society of the Spectacle (Guy
• Semiotic Theory (Saussure, Barthes, Pierce)
• The Mirror Stage: Psychoanalysis and cinema.
(Christian Metz; Jacques Lacan).
• Filmmakers: Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger
Warhol, Ackerman, Mekas, Snow, Varga,
Counter culture
Independent film makers c.w. more
commercial interests of Hollywood
Documentary film making
Avant-garde personal expression aided by
the introduction of cheaper portable 8mm
16mm cameras and projection equipment
Meshes of the Afternoon (1943-59) Maya
Deren/ Alex Hammid;
Fireworks (1947) Kenneth Anger;
Last Year at Marienbad (1961), Alain
Maya Deren 1917-1961
NYC Avant-Garde 1947-68
• Jonas Mekas: Important figure impresario of the
NYC Avant-garde (or neo-avant-garde) (Film
makers Cooperative founder and cofounder of
anthology film archives) Film Culture magazine
and writing for the Village Voice.
• Bruce Connor A Movie (1958)
• Jack Smith Flaming Creatures (1963)
Kenneth Anger (1927Fireworks (1947); Scorpio Rising (1964)
Important independent films
• Cleo from 5-7 (1961) Agnes Varda
Scorpio Rising (1964) Kenneth Anger
• Chelsea Girls (1966) Andy Warhol
Weekend (1967) Jean-Luc Godard
• Wavelength (1967) Michael Snow
• Performance (1970) Nicholas Roeg
• Privilege (1990) Yvonne Rainer
May 1968
Guy Debord (1931-1994) and Situationism
Society of the Spectacle Theses 1&4
“The entire life of societies in which modern
conditions of production reign appears as an
immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything
that was expressed directly has been distanced in a
representation.” (Thesis 1) The term had been first
used in print in L’Internationale situationniste 3 in
1959, in an article probably penned by Guy
Debord, which gave rare approval to Alain
Resnais’ film Hiroshima mon amour.
“Spectacle in general, as the
concrete immersion of life is the
autonomous movement of the nonliving. Spectacle is not a collection
of images, but a social relation
between people mediated through
images.” (Thesis 4)
“Among other possibilities the cinema
lends itself particularly well to
studying the present as an historical
problem, to dismantling the processes
of reification.”( René Vienet, 1959)
Debord and Godard were interested in a
“politicized Brechtian Cinema”
A Marxist cinema?
The Dziga Vertov Group
Importance of Cahiers du Cinema.
Semiology (Discourse on signs)
Ferdinand Saussure
Roland Barthes The Death of the Author
Semiology / semiotics
theoretical framework for the study of the
meaning of language, signs and symbols
Ferdinand Saussure
Charles Sanders Pierce
Semantics -- language and meaning
Pragmatics -- who says what to whom &
Syntactics – formal rules for use of language.
Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913)
Signs (dyadic)
According to Ferdinand Saussure the Sign
consists of:
(1) signifier -- the material form of the sign for
example the word red - and
(2) the signified -- the concept it represents i.e.
the colour red
Dark Clouds signify? In nature? In Culture?
Connotative & denotative
Denotation – denotative (indexical) plane
of meaning
r.e.d. = colour red
Connotation – connotative (iconic and
symbolic) plane of meaning
Red =
rose, love, passion, lust, hot, anger, blood,
communism… endless signification…… hence
“the arbitrary nature of the sign”
3 Categories (Saussure cw C.S. Pierce)
1. Iconic - a sign which resembles the signified (portrait,
photo, diagram, map)
2. Symbolic - a sign which does not resemble the signified
but which is purely conventional (the word stop, a red
traffic light, or a national flag)
3. Indexical - a sign which is inherently connected in some
way (existentially or causally) to the signified (e.g.
smoke signifies fire; and all the little symbols and
emoticons on web pages  -- mailboxes, speakers,
envelopes, arrows etc ^#@% ).
Charles Sanders Pierce (1839 – 1914)
Roland Barthes: The Death of the Author
“the death of the author
ensures the birth of the reader”
Christian Metz (1931 – 1993)
The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema
The Lacanian Mirror Stage
The Imaginary, the Symbolic and the Real
The dyad and split subjectivity. The one who
is not one …yet seeking the other un petit
autre le petit object a in Lacanian terms.
Subjectivity, identity formation and…..
misrecognition. I am….. another to myself?
I seek an other to myself. Jouissance!
I am necessarily incomplete until I bond
with another…. and yet this bonding occurs
in the realm of the imaginary or the
Implications for cinema
1. Spectatorship Desire/Fetishism…..
2. Narrative construction - The Oedipal
Trajectory in classical narrative cinema.
3. Character formation and identification.
You become what you desire……
Jean-Luc Godard (1930-)
Weekend (1967) released in 1968
Begins: “ a film found on a scrap heap”
Ends with “the end of cinema”
Francis Ford Coppola (1939-)
The Conversation (1974)
Robert Altman 1925 –2006
Nashville (1975)
Chantal Ackerman (1950 --) Je Tu Il Elle;
V2_: Je Tu Il Elle
Claude Jutra (1930 – 1986)
Mon Oncle Antoine (1971)
Alain Renais (1922-)Last Year in
Marienbad (1961).
Alain Robbe-Grillet Le nouveau roman
Stan Brahkage (1933-2003)
“ Brahkage is one of the four or five most authentic
film artists working in cinema anywhere, and
perhaps the most original film maker in America
today” (Mekas, J 1961 Village Voice column)
Dog Star Man (1961-64)
Mothlight (1963)
“My most active part in this process is to
increase all my sensibilities (so that all films
arise out of some total area of being or full
life) AND, at the given moment of possible
creation to act only out of necessity. In
other words, I am principally concerned
with revelation.” -letter to P Adams Sitney,
Agnes Varda (1928-)
Cleo from 5-7 (1961)
Andy Warhol (1928- 1987)
Sleep (1963) 6h
Empire (1964) 8h
The Factory productions
with Paul Morrissey
Chelsea Girls (1966)
Lonesome Cowboys
Chelsea Girls (1966)
“I love to be bored”
“In the future
everyone will be
world famous for 15
Michael Snow
(1929Wavelength (1967) 45 minute slow zoom to a
photograph of waves attached to the wall of his
loft apartment/studio in NYC
Structuralist film
(P. Adams Sitney “The film insists on its shape and what
content it has is minimal and subsidiary to its outline”
Other early Structuralist Films:
Hollis Frampton (Zorns Lemma 1970)
Ernie Gehr (Serene Velocity 1970)
George Landow Remedial Reading Comprehension
Hollis Frampton (1936-1984) Zorns
lemma (1970)
Zorns Lemma
Performance Nicholas Roeg (1928-)
Women’s Political films
Geri Ashur Janies Janie (1971)
Jim Klein and Jukia Reichart Union Maids
Connie Field The life and times of Rosie the Riveter
The Personal is political” (Confessional
Carolee Schneeman Fuses (1964)
Joyce Wieland Reason over Passion (1969)
Michelle Citron Daughter Rite (1978)
Sue Freidrich The Ties that Bind (1984)
Trin te Min ha Surname Viet, Given Name
Nam (1989)
Carolee Schneeman (1939-) Fuses
Yvonne Rainer (1934-)
Lives of Performers (1971)
Film about a woman who… (1974)
The man who envied women (1985)
Privilege (1990)
Ref. NSCAD Press Book 1974
Week 9
Contemporary Cinema Since the 1960’s;
Crime, Horror and Suspense. The Hollywood ‘B’
Readings: Thompson & Bordwell Chapter 22
Hollywood’s Fall and Rise pp 505-533;
Hayward, Key Concepts Horror pp174-178.
Screening: Bucket of Blood (1960) Roger
Corman, Night of the Living Dead (1968) George
Romero; Breathless (1960) Jean Luc Godard.