AVANT-GARDE CINEMA
CSCL/CSDS/CL 5910

THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA, TWIN CITIES
FALL 2006

CLASS INFO  
Instructor: Hisham M. Bizri Course hours: T 12:45 - 2:25 & TH 12:45-2:55
Voice: (612) 625-8460 Course location: Nicholson Hall 115
Email: hbizri@umn.edu Course url: hishambizri.com/teaching/umn/fall06/avantgardecinema/
Office hours: T&TH 3-4 & by appointment (231 Nicholson Hall) CSCL office: 235 Nicholson Hall

COURSE DESCRIPTION
In French avant-garde literally means "advance guard," a military term used for troops leading an attack across the battlefield. In film and art in general it is used to describe a work that breaks new ground in order to define a new way of seeing the world and thus of living in it.

In this course we will study the history and theory of 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 radical thought and emotion 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 what? Is seeing and beleiving the same thing? Do these films expand our understanding of what cinema is and thus our consciousness? What is the relationshipt between the old avant-garde (personal and exclusivist) and the new avant-avant-garde (public and institutional). 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 there iconocalm mock traditional morality? What is the role of time and narrative in "flatness"? What is the formal or symoblic truth of this cinema? What is the value and purpose of such films?and so forth.

Some of the filmmakers we will study are: Jean Epstein, Peter Kubelka, Joseph Cornell, Andy Warhol, Stan Brakhage, Jack Smith, Michael Snow, Jonas Mekas, Ernie Gehr, Ken Jacobs, George Landow, Robert Breer, Bruce Baillie, Hollis Frampton, Christopher Maclaine, Maya Daren, Harry Smith, and Kenneth Anger.

COURSE OBJECTIVES
To give the student an understanding of avant-garde cinema from the 1930's to the 1970's. Our goals here would be to:

    1.    Study the intellectual and filmic preoccupations of avant-garde filmmakers
    2.   
What are the relationships of avant-garde film to the societyrs
    3.   
What are 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 100 pages per week
    4.    Film viewing journal
    5.    One class presentation
    6.    Final research paper

REQUIRED READING (available at the U bookstore and reserved at Wilson Library; and a course packet available at Alpha Print at 1407 Fourth Street SE in Dinkytown, Tel: 612-379-8535)

SCREENINGS

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 15-20 pages (60%)

SCHEDULE

WEEK 1
September 5 & 7 [Introduction to the course and concepts]

Screenings:
LE TEMPESTAIRE (Jean Epstein, 22 minutes, 1941)
MOTHLIGHT (Stan Brakhage, 4 minutes, 1963)
UN CHIEN ANDALOU (Luis Buñuel, 16 minutes, 1929)
LE SANG D'UN POETE, aka THE BLOOD OF A POET (Jean Cocteau, 55 minutes, 1930)

WEEK 2
September 12 & 14 [
Early European Avant-Garde Cinema, part 1]

Readings:
The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "Introduction" by Sitney (pp. vii-x|v)
The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "Selected Writings" by Dziga Vertov (pp. 1-13)
The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "The Badly Trained Sensibility" by Hans Richter (pp. 22-23)
Film Culture Reader, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "The Film As an Original Art Form" by Hans Richter (pp. 15-20)
"Naming, and Defining, Avant-Garde or Experimental Film," by Fred Camper. Article is found at: http://www.fredcamper.com/Film/AvantGardeDefinition.html

Recommended:
Experiment in the Film, Roger Manvell, Editor. Read "Avant-Garde Film in Germany" by Hans Richter (pp. 219-233)

Screenings:
CHELOVEK S KINO-APPARATOM, aka MAN WITH THE MOVIE CAMERA, sequences only (Dziga Vertov, 80 minutes,1929)

BALLET MECANIQUE (Fernand Léger, 11 minutes, 1924)
SYMPHONIE DIAGONALE (Viking Eggeling, 7 minutes, 1924)
ENTR'ACTE, (René Clair, 22 minutes, 1924)
LE RETOUR DE LA RAISON, aka THE RETURN OF REASON (MAN RAY, 2 minutes, 1923)
EMAK BAKIA, aka LEAVE ME ALONE (MAN RAY, 16 minutes, 1926)
L'ETOILE DE MER, aka THE STARFISH (MAN RAY, 15 minutes, 1928)
RYTHMUS 21, aka FILM RHYTHM (Hans Richter, 3 minutes, 1921)
VIRMITTAGSSPUK, aka GHOSTS BEOFRE BREAKFAST (Hans Richter, 9 minutes, 1928)
ANEMIC CINEMA (Marcel Duchamp, 6 minutes, 1926)

WEEK 3
September 19 & 21 [
Early European Avant-Garde Cinema, part 2]

Readings:
The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "Visual and Anti-Visual Films " by Germaine Dulac (pp. 31-35)
The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "The Essence of Cinema: The Visual Idea" by Germaine Dulac (pp. 36-42)
The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "The Avant-Garde Cinema" by Germaine Dulac (pp. 43-49)
The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "Sorcery and the Cinema" by Antoine Artaud (pp. 49-50)
The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "The Essence of Cinema" by Jean Epstein (pp. 24-25)
The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "For A New Avant-Garde" by Jean Epstein (pp. 26-30)

Recommended:
Experiment in the Film, Roger Manvell, Editor. Read "Experimental Film in France" by Jacques B. Brunius (pp. 60-112)

Screenings:
LA COQUILLE ET LE CLERGYMAN, aka THE SEASHELL AND THE CLERGYMAN (Germaine Dulac, 31 minutes, 1926)
LA GLACE A TROIS FACES, aka THE THREE-SIDED MIRROR (Jean Epstein, 33 minutes, 1927)
LE TEMPESTAIRE (Jean Epstein, 22 minutes, 1941)

WEEK 4
September 26 & 28 [Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid]

Readings:
Visionary Film, P. Adams Sitney. Read "Meshes of the Afternoon" and "Ritual and Nature" (pp. 3-42)
The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "Cinematograhy: The Creative Use of Reality" by Maya Daren (pp. 60-73)
Film Culture Reader, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "The Experimental Film in America" by Jonas Mekas (pp. 21-26)

Film Culture Reader, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "For Maya Daren" by Rudolf Arnheim (pp. 84-86)

Recommended:
Experiment in the Film, Roger Manvell, Editor. Read "Avant-Garde Film Production in America" by Lewis Jacobs (pp. 113-152)

Screenings:
MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON (Maya Daren in collaboration with Alexander Hammid, 14 minutes 1943)
AT LAND (Maya Daren, 15 minutes 1944)
A STUDY IN CHOREOGRAPHY FOR CAMERA (Maya Daren, 4 minutes 1945)
RITUAL IN TRANSFIGURED TIME (Maya Daren, 15 minutes 1945-6)

WEEK 5
October 3 & 5 [
Sidney Peterson]

Readings:
Film Culture Reader, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "Notes on the New American Cinema" by Jonas Mekas (pp. 87-107)

Visionary Film, P. Adams Sitney. Read "The Potted Psalm" (pp. 43-82)
The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "Cine Dance and Two Notes" by Sidney Peterson (pp. 74-79)

Film Culture Reader, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "A Note on Comedy in Experimental Film" by Sidney Peterson (pp. 398-403)
The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "Two Notes of Mother's Day" by James Broughton (pp. 80-82)

Screenings:
THE CAGE (Sidney Peterson, 28 minutes, 1947)
THE POTTED PSALM (Sidney Peterson with James Broughton, 18 minutes, 1947)

ENTR'ACTE, (René Clair, 22 minutes, 1924)
MR. FRENHOFER AND THE MINOTAUR (Sidney Peterson, 24 minutes, 1949)

WEEK 6
October 10 & 12 [Joseph Cornell]

Readings:
Visionary Film, P. Adams Sitney. Read "The Magus" (pp. 83-120):

Recommended:
The Untutored Eye: Childhood in the Films of Cocteau, Cornel, and Brakhage, Marjorie Keller. Read "Joseph Cornell: The Symbolic Equation" (pp. 98-178)

Screenings:
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)
ROSE HOBERT (Joseph Cornell, 19 minutes, 1936)
CENTURIES OF JUNE (Joseph Cornell / Stan Brakhage, 11 minutes, 1955)
ANGEL (Joseph Cornell, 3 minutes, 1957)
FABLE FOR FOUNTAINS (Joseph Cornell, 6 minutes, 1957)

WEEK 7
October 17 & 19 [Kenneth Anger]

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

Screenings:
FIREWORKS (Kenneth Anger, 20 minutes, 1947)
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 24 & 26 [Stan Brakhage, part 1]

Readings:
Visionary Film, P. Adams Sitney. Read "The Lyrical Film" (pp. 155-188)
Essential Brakhage, Stan Brakhage. Read "Selections From Metaphors on Vision" (pp. 11-72)
Film Culture Reader, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "Interview with Stan Brakhage" by Sitney (pp. 201-229)

Recommended:
Stan Brakhage, A Guide to References and Resources, Gerald R. Barrett and Wendy Brabner. Read "Biographical background (pp. 1-24)

Stan Brakhage, A Guide to References and Resources, Gerald R. Barrett and Wendy Brabner. Read "Critical Survey" (pp. 25-39)

Screenings:
THE WAY TO SHADOW GARDEN (Stan Brakhage, 10 minutes, 1954)
THE WONDER RING (Stan Brakhage, 6 minutes, 1955)
SIRIUS REMEMBERED (Stan Brakhage, 12 minutes, 1959)
THE DEAD (Stan Brakhage, 11 minutes, 1960)
PRELUDE: DOG STAR MAN, (Stan Brakhage, 25 minutes, 1962)
NOTEBOOK (Marie Menken, 10 minutes, 1963)
ANTICIPATION OF THE NIGHT (Stan Brakhage, 42 minutes, 1962); time permitting

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

WEEK 9
October 31 & November 2 [Stan Brakhage & Bruce Baillie, part 2]

Readings:
Essential Brakhage, Stan Brakhage. Read "Selections From Brakhage Scrapbook" (pp. 73-174)

Stan Brakhage: Correspondences, Chicago Review, No. 47:4 & 48:1 (Spring 2002). Read Fred Camper's "Brakhage's Contradictions" (pp. 69-96)

Recommended:
Allegories of Cinema, by David James. Read "Stan Brakhage: The Filmmaker as Poet" (pp. 29-57)

Screenings:
AQUARIEN (Stan Brakhage, 5 minutes, 1965)
THE RIDDLE OF LUMEN (Stan Brakhage, 14 minutes, 1972)
ARABICS, #13 & 19 (Stan Brakhage, 250 minutes, 1981)
PERSIAN SERIES, #17 & 18 (Stan Brakhage, 10 minutes, 2001)
CASTRO STREET, (Bruce Baillie, 10 minutes, 1966)
VALETIN DE LAS SIERRAS , (Bruce Baillie, 10 minutes, 1971)

WEEK 10
November 7 & 9 [Harry Smith & Robert Breer]

Readings:
Visionary Film, P. Adams Sitney. Read "Absolute Animation" (pp. 231-268)
The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "Harry Smith Interview" by Sitney (pp. 201-229)

Screenings:
EARLY ABSTRACTIONS (Harry Smith, 23 minutes, 1939-'57)
HEAVEN AND EARTH MAGIC (Harry Smith, 66 minutes, 1962); time permitting
A MAN AND HIS DOG OUT FOR AIR (ROBERT BREER, 3 minutes, 1957)
69 (ROBERT BREER, 5 minutes, 1968)
FUJI (ROBERT BREER, 8 minutes, 1974)
SWISS ARMY KNIFE WITH RATS AND PIGEONS (ROBERT BREER, 6 minutes, 1980)

WEEK 11
November 14 & 16 [Peter Kubelka]

Readings:
Visionary Film, P. Adams Sitney. Read selections from "The Graphic Cinema: European Perspectives" (pp. 283-292)
Film Culture Reader, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "Interview with Peter Kubelka " by Jonas Mekas (pp. 285-299)
The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "The Theory of Metrical Film" by Peter Kubelka (pp. 139-159)
A Critical Cinema 4: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers, Scott MacDonald, Editor. Read "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)
ARNULF RAINER (Peter Kubelka, 6.5 minutes, 1958-'60)
SCWECHATER (Peter Kubelka, 1.5 minutes, 1956-'57)
UNSERE AFRIKAREISE, aka OUR TRIP TO AFRICA (Peter Kubelka, 12.5 minutes, 1961-'66)

WEEK 12
Novermber 21 [Christopher MacLaine
]

Readings:
Visionary Film, P. Adams Sitney. Read sections of "Apocalypses and Picaresques" (pp. 293-297)
Film at Wit's End: Eight Avant-Garde Filmmakers, Stan Brakhage. Read "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:
THE END (Christopher MacLaine, 35 minutes, 1953)
SCOTCH HOP (Christopher MacLaine, 7 minutes, 1953)
THE MAN WHO INVENTED GOLD (Christopher MacLaine, 23 minutes, 1957)

Novermber 23

NO CLASS -- THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY

WEEK 13
November 28 & 30 [Jonas Mekas, Ken Jacobs, Jack Smith]

Readings:
Visionary Film, P. Adams Sitney. Read "Recovered Innocence " (pp. 315-345)
The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "The Diary Film" by Jonas Mekas (pp. 190-198)
Film at Wit's End: Eight Avant-Garde Filmmakers, Stan Brakhage. Read "Ken Jacobs" (pp. 149-170)

Screenings:
REMINISCENCES OF A JOURNEY TO LITHUANIA, selections (Jonas Mekas, 88 minutes, 1971-'72)
BLONDE COBRA, (Ken Jacobs, 33 minutes, 1963)
FLAMING CREATURES (JACK SMITH, 45 minutes, 1963)

WEEK 14
December 5 & 7 [Structural Film: George Landow, Michale Snow, Hollis Frampton, Ernie Gehr]

Readings:
Visionary Film, P. Adams Sitney. Read "Structural Film" (pp. 347-370)
The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "Toward Snow" by Annette Michelson (pp. 172-183)
The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice, P. Adams Sitney, Editor. Read "Two Letters and Notes on Films" by Michael Snow (pp. 1184-189)

Screenings:
WAVELENGTH (Michal Snow, 45 minutes, 1967)
LEMON (Hollis Frampton, 8 minutes, 1969)
SERENE VELOCITY (Ernie Gehr, 23 minutes, 1969)
REMEDIAL READING COMPREHENSION (George Landow, 5 minutes, 1970)

For Gehr please check: http://fredcamper.com/Film/GehrL.html

WEEK 15
December 12 & 14 [Andy Warhol]

Readings:
Allegories of Cinema, by David James. Read "Andy Warhol: The Producer as Author " (pp. 58-84)

Screenings:
SLEEP, selections (Andy Warhol, 6 hours, 1963)
SCREEN TEST #2, selections (Andy Warhol, 70 minutes, 1965)
CHELSEA GIRLS, selections (Andy Warhol, 195 minutes, 1966)

WEEK 16
December 18

Final paper is due