AVANT-GARDE CINEMA
CSCL/CSDS/CL 5411

THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA, TWIN CITIES
FALL 2010

CLASS INFO

 

Professor: Hisham M. Bizri

Course hours: TH 2:30-5:15

Voice: (612) 625-8460

Course location: Nicholson Hall 155

Email: hbizri@umn.edu

hishambizri.com/teaching/umn/fall10/avantgardecinema/

Office hours: T&TH 1-2 (146A Nicholson Hall)

CSCL office: 235 Nicholson Hall

COURSE DESCRIPTION
We will study the practice and history of American avant-garde cinema from the classical to the post-war period. We will look at film prints because what makes an avant-garde film is the materiality of film itself, used partly as a way to demystify the filmic process but more importantly as a way to create new sensibility through the impact of the projected film on the retina.

The course will cover various avant-garde films, or what is sometimes called experimental, alternative, underground, absolute or abstract films from a variety of perspectives: What is specifically cinematic since many of these films are abstract and some did not even go through a camera? How do we "see" and is seeing and believing the same thing? Do these films expand our understanding of what cinema is and thus our consciousness? How does avant-garde film get incorporated in what is called "independent" cinema as well as commercial cinema and thus the relationship that arises between the marginal/radical in artistic practice and the dominant? What are the ethical paradigms and implications of avant-garde cinema? Does iconoclasm mock traditional morality? What is the role of time and narrative in "flatness"? What is the formal or symbolic truth of this cinema? What is the value and purpose of such cinema? And last but not least, what is the relationship between avant-garde cinema and the American philosophic, poetic and musical traditions.

COURSE OBJECTIVES
To give the student an understanding of American avant-garde cinema from the 1940's to the 1990's. Our goals here are:

    1.    Study the intellectual and filmic preoccupations of avant-garde filmmakers
    2.    Study the relationships of avant-garde film to the society
    3.    Study the social, historical, political, and artistic issues that gave rise to avant-garde film

COURSE REQUIREMENTS

    1.    Mandatory class attendance and participation
    2.    To see with one's own eyes
    3.    Readings: about 50 pages per week
    4.    Film viewing journal
    5.    One class presentation
    6.    One final research paper

SUGGESTED READING (available at the U bookstore; additional handouts in class)

SCREENINGS

  • LA GLACE A TROIS FACES, aka THE THREE-SIDED MIRROR (Jean Epstein, 33 minutes, 1927)
  • LE TEMPESTAIRE (Jean Epstein, 22 minutes,1941)
  • MOTHLIGHT (Stan Brakhage, 4 minutes,1963)
  • ROSE HUBERT (Joseph Cornell, 19 minutes, 1936)
  • THE CHILDREN'S PARTY (attributed to Joseph Cornell, 1938)
  • THIMBLE THEATER (Joseph Cornell, 1938)
  • CAROUSAL: ANIMAL OPERA (Joseph Cornell, 1938)
  • JACK'S DREAM (Joseph Cornell, 1938)
  • BY NIGHT WITH TORCH AND SPEAR (Joseph Cornell, 8.5 minutes, 19??)
  • CENTURIES OF JUNE (Joseph Cornell, 11 minutes, 1955)
  • ANGEL (Joseph Cornell, 3 minutes, 1957)
  • FABLE OF FOUNTAIN (Joseph Cornell, 6 minutes, 1957)
  • ADEBAR (Peter Kubelka, 1.5 minutes, 1956-'57)
  • SCWECHATER (Peter Kubelka, 1 minutes, 1957-'58)
  • UNSERE AFRIKAREISE, aka OUR TRIP TO AFRICA (Peter Kubelka, 12.5 minutes, 1961-'66)
  • VISUAL VARIATION ON NOGUCHI (Marie Menken, 4 minutes 1945)
  • ARABESQUE FOR KENNETH ANGER (Marie Menken, 4 minutes 1961)
  • GO! GO! GO! (Marie Menken, 11.5 minutes 1964)
  • ANTICIPATION OF THE NIGHT (Stan Brakhage, 42 minutes, 1962)
  • SINCERITY IV (Stan Brakhage, 36 minutes 1979)
  • SINCERITY V (Stan Brakhage, 39 minutes 1980)
  • DUPLICITY III (Stan Brakhage, 22.35 minutes, 1980)
  • FLAMING CREATURES (JACK SMITH, 45 minutes, 1963)
  • FIREWORKS (Kenneth Anger, 20 minutes, 1947)
  • PUCE MOMENT (Kenneth Anger, 6 minutes, 1949)
  • RABBIT'S MOON (Kenneth Anger, 7 minutes, 1950)
  • EAUX D'ARTIFICE (Kenneth Anger, 12 minutes, 1953)
  • SCORPIO RISING (Kenneth Anger, 30 minutes, 1964)
  • KUSTOM KAR KOMMANDOS (Kenneth Anger, 3 minutes, 1965)
  • LUCIFER RISING (Kenneth Anger, 29 minutes, 1972)
  • CHRISTMAS, U.S.A. (Gregory J. Markopoulos, 13 minutes, 1949)
  • THE END (Christopher MacLaine, 35 minutes, 1953)
  • SCOTCH HOP (Christopher MacLaine, 7 minutes, 1953)
  • RUDE AWAKENING (Warren Sonbert, 36 minutes, 1975)
  • DIVIDED LOYALTIES (Warren Sonbert, 22 minutes, 1978)
  • KISS, (Andy Warhol, 50 minutes, 1963)
  • BLOW JOB, (Andy Warhol, 35 minutes, 1963)
  • CRITICAL MASS: HAPAX LEGOMENA III (Hollis Frampton, 25.5 minutes, 1971)
  • DRAFTS & FRAGMENTS STRAITS OF MAGELLAN (Hollis Frampton, 51.25 minutes, 1974)
  • THE WAY TO SHADOW GARDEN (Stan Brakhage, 10 minutes, 1954)
  • SIRIUS REMEMBERED (Stan Brakhage, 12 minutes, 1959)
  • THE DEAD (Stan Brakhage, 11 minutes, 1960)
  • PRELUDE: DOG STAR MAN, (Stan Brakhage, 25 minutes, 1962)
  • VISIONS IN MEDITATIONS I-IV, (Stan Brakhage, 64 minutes 1990)

ASSIGNMENTS & GRADING (assignments must be completed on time; late assignments are not permitted)

    1.    A viewing journal (20%)
    2.    In class paper presentation (20%)
    3.    A final research paper 10 pages (60%)

SCHEDULE

WEEK 1
September 9 [Introduction to the course and concepts]

Screenings:
LA GLACE A TROIS FACES, aka THE THREE-SIDED MIRROR (Jean Epstein, 33 minutes, 1927)
LE TEMPESTAIRE (Jean Epstein, 22 minutes, 1941)
MOTHLIGHT (Stan Brakhage, 4 minutes, 1963)

Readings:
The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. "The Essence of Cinema" by Jean Epstein (pp. 24-25)
The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. "For A New Avant-Garde" by Jean Epstein (pp. 26-30)

WEEK 2
September 16 [Joseph Cornell]

Readings:
The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. "Introduction" by Sitney (pp. vii-x|v)
"Naming, and Defining, Avant-Garde or Experimental Film," by Fred Camper. Article is found at: http://www.fredcamper.com/Film/AvantGardeDefinition.html

Screenings:
ROSE HUBERT (Joseph Cornell, 19 minutes, 1936)
THE CHILDREN'S PARTY (attributed to Joseph Cornell, 1938)
THIMBLE THEATER (Joseph Cornell, 1938)
CAROUSAL: ANIMAL OPERA (Joseph Cornell, 1938)
JACK'S DREAM (Joseph Cornell, 1938)
BY NIGHT WITH TORCH AND SPEAR (Joseph Cornell, 8.5 minutes, 19??)
CENTURIES OF JUNE (Joseph Cornell, 11 minutes, 1955)
ANGEL (Joseph Cornell, 3 minutes, 1957)
FABLE OF FOUNTAIN (Joseph Cornell, 6 minutes, 1957)

WEEK 3
September 23 [Peter Kubelka]

Readings:
Visionary Film, P. Adams Sitney. "The Graphic Cinema: European Perspectives" (pp. 283-292)
Film Culture Reader, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. "Interview with Peter Kubelka " by Jonas Mekas (pp. 285-299)
The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. "The Theory of Metrical Film" by Peter Kubelka (pp. 139-159)
A Critical Cinema 4: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers, Scott MacDonald, Editor. "On Unsere Afrikareise (Our Trip to Africa" by Peter Kubelka (pp. 158-178)

Screenings:
ADEBAR (Peter Kubelka, 1.5 minutes, 1956-'57)
SCWECHATER (Peter Kubelka, 1 minutes, 1957-'58)
UNSERE AFRIKAREISE, aka OUR TRIP TO AFRICA (Peter Kubelka, 12.5 minutes, 1961-'66)

WEEK 4
September 30 [Marie Menken]

Readings:
Eyes Upside Down, P. Adams Sitney. "Marie Menken and the Somatic Camera" (pp. 3-20)
Eyes Upside Down, P. Adams Sitney. "Introduction" (pp. 21-47)

Screenings:
VISUAL VARIATION ON NOGUCHI (Marie Menken, 4 minutes 1945)
ARABESQUE FOR KENNETH ANGER (Marie Menken, 4 minutes 1961)
GO! GO! GO! (Marie Menken, 11.5 minutes 1964)

WEEK 6
October 7 [Stan Brakhage #1]

Readings:
Visionary Film, P. Adams Sitney. "The Lyrical Film" (pp. 155-188)
Eyes Upside Down, P. Adams Sitney. "Stan Brakhage's Autobiography as a Cinematic Sequence" (pp. 70-82)
Essential Brakhage, Stan Brakhage. "Selections From Metaphors on Vision" (pp. 11-72)
Film Culture Reader, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. "Interview with Stan Brakhage" by Sitney (pp. 201-229)

Screenings:
ANTICIPATION OF THE NIGHT (Stan Brakhage, 42 minutes, 1962)
SINCERITY IV (Stan Brakhage, 36 minutes 1979)
SINCERITY V (Stan Brakhage, 39 minutes 1980)
DUPLICITY III (Stan Brakhage, 22.35 minutes, 1980)

Check Fred Camper's extensive articles on Brakhage: http://fredcamper.com/Film/BrakhageL.html

WEEK 6
October 14 [Jack Smith]

Readings:
On Smith, TBA

Screenings:
FLAMING CREATURES (JACK SMITH, 45 minutes, 1963)

WEEK 7
October 21 [Kenneth Anger]

Readings:
Visionary Film, P. Adams Sitney. "The Magus" (pp. 83-120)
Film Culture Reader, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. "Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising" by Carolee Schneemann (pp. 277-279)

Screenings:
FIREWORKS (Kenneth Anger, 20 minutes, 1947)
PUCE MOMENT (Kenneth Anger, 6 minutes, 1949)
RABBIT'S MOON (Kenneth Anger, 7 minutes, 1950)
EAUX D'ARTIFICE (Kenneth Anger, 12 minutes, 1953)
SCORPIO RISING (Kenneth Anger, 30 minutes, 1964)
KUSTOM KAR KOMMANDOS (Kenneth Anger, 3 minutes, 1965)
LUCIFER RISING (Kenneth Anger, 29 minutes, 1972)

WEEK 8
October 28 [Gregory J. Markopoulos and Chrirstopher Maclaine; depends on availability of prints]

Readings:
Visionary Film, P. Adams Sitney. "Apocalypses and Picaresques" (pp. 293-297)
Film at Wit's End: Eight Avant-Garde Filmmakers, Stan Brakhage. "Christopher MacLaine" (pp. 115-128)
Chicago Reader Movie Review, Fred Camper's "Mad Genius: The Films of Christopher MacLaine."The article is found at: http://fredcamper.com/Film/Maclaine.html

Screenings:
CHRISTMAS, U.S.A. (Gregory J. Markopoulos, 13 minutes, 1949)
THE END (Christopher MacLaine, 35 minutes, 1953)
SCOTCH HOP (Christopher MacLaine, 7 minutes, 1953)

WEEK 9
November 4 [Warren Sonbert and Andy Warhol; depends on prints availability]

Readings:
Eyes Upside Down, P.Adam Sitney. "Warren Sonbert's Movements in a Concerto" (pp. 220-242)

Screenings:
RUDE AWAKENING (Warren Sonbert, 36 minutes, 1975)
DIVIDED LOYALTIES (Warren Sonbert, 22 minutes, 1978)
KISS, (Andy Warhol, 50 minutes, 1963)
BLOW JOB, (Andy Warhol, 35 minutes, 1963)

Recommended screenings:
SLEEP, (Andy Warhol, 6 hours, 1963)
EMPIRE, (Andy Warhol, 485 minutes, 1964)
SCREEN TEST #2, (Andy Warhol, 70 minutes, 1965)
CHELSEA GIRLS, selections (Andy Warhol, 195 minutes, 1966)

WEEK 10
November 11 [Hollis Frampton]

Readings:
Eyes Upside Down, P. Adams Sitney. "Hollis Frampton and the Specter of Narrative" (pp. 98-122)
Eyes Upside Down, P. Adams Sitney. "Frampton's Magellan" (pp. 259-270)

Screenings:
CRITICAL MASS: HAPAX LEGOMENA III (Hollis Frampton, 25.5 minutes, 1971)
DRAFTS & FRAGMENTS STRAITS OF MAGELLAN (Hollis Frampton, 51.25 minutes, 1974)

About Hollis Frampton: http://hollisframpton.org.uk/bio.htm

WEEK 11
November 18 [Ernie Gehr]

Readings:
Visionary Film, P. Adams Sitney. "Structural Film" (pp. 347-370)
Eyes Upside Down, P. Adams Sitney, "Ernie Gehr and the Axis of Primary Thought" (pp. 197-220)
Ernie Gehr on the Web, a reference guide by Fred Camper: http://fredcamper.com/Film/GehrL.html

Screenings:
SIDE/WALK/SHUTTLE (Ernie Gehr, 41 minutes, 1991)

WEEK 12
November 25

NO CLASS -- THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY

WEEK 13
December 2 [Stan Brakhage #2]

Readings:
Essential Brakhage, Stan Brakhage. "Selections From Brakhage Scrapbook" (pp. 73-174)
Stan Brakhage: Correspondences, Chicago Review, No. 47:4 & 48:1 (Spring 2002). Fred Camper's "Brakhage's Contradictions" (pp. 69-96))
Eyes Upside Down, P. Adams Sitney, Brakhage Meditative Cinema (pp. 321-248)

Screenings:
THE WAY TO SHADOW GARDEN (Stan Brakhage, 10 minutes, 1954)
SIRIUS REMEMBERED (Stan Brakhage, 12 minutes, 1959)
THE DEAD (Stan Brakhage, 11 minutes, 1960)
PRELUDE: DOG STAR MAN, (Stan Brakhage, 25 minutes, 1962)
VISIONS IN MEDITATIONS I-IV, (Stan Brakhage, 64 minutes 1990)

WEEK 14
December 9 [Final Review]

Readings:
Eyes Upside Down, P. Adams Sitney, "Meditative Cinema " (pp. 321-348)

Final papers are due in class ONLY and in hard copies ONLY.