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A Critical Cinema 5

A Critical Cinema 5: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers

Scott MacDonald
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 461
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  • Book Info
    A Critical Cinema 5
    Book Description:

    A Critical Cinema 5is the fifth volume in Scott MacDonald's Critical Cinema series, the most extensive, in-depth exploration of independent cinema available in English. In this new set of interviews, MacDonald engages filmmakers in detailed discussions of their films and of the personal experiences and political and theoretical currents that have shaped their work. The interviews are arranged to express the remarkable diversity of modern independent cinema and the interactive community of filmmakers that has dedicated itself to producing forms of cinema that critique conventional media.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93908-0
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    In the introductions to earlier volumes of the Critical Cinema project, I have focused on the “critical” function of the films that instigate my interviewing: their creation of an evolving critique of conventional media and the audience that has developed for it, their potentially “critical” educational function in expanding the awareness of teachers and students about the pedagogical opportunities of cinema. And I have discussed the extensive, varied history of critical cinema as a valuable aesthetic tradition in its own right, now endangered by modern technological developments (see especially the introduction toA Critical Cinema 4[2004]). In none of...

  5. Kenneth Anger
    (pp. 16-54)
    Kenneth Anger and MacDonald

    Unlike most filmmakers identified as avant-garde or experimental, Kenneth Anger never seems to have assumed that his filmmaking would be a marginal enterprise. Growing up in Hollywood, Anger was surrounded by the film industry during one of its most halcyon decades and from time to time was part of the excitement: at the age of four, he played the Changeling Prince in the Max Reinhardt–William Dieterle adaptation ofA Midsummer Night’s Dream(1935). He was making his own films by the age of seven, and ten years later, when it had become clear to Anger that the films he...

  6. Tony Conrad On the Sixties
    (pp. 55-76)
    Tony Conrad and MacDonald

    Despite the fact that hisfirstfilm,The Flicker(1966), was a major contribution to critical cinema—it remains the most impressive and engaging of all flicker films—Conrad has not been accorded the attention his work in film deserves. In part, this may be a function of the fact that, like Bruce Conner, Conrad has not defined himself solely, or even primarily, as a filmmaker. He has been at least as productive and accomplished in other areas of the arts as he has been in film. Conrad’s contributions to American minimalist music, during the 1960s in collaboration with La...

  7. Nathaniel Dorsky (and Jerome Hiler)
    (pp. 77-110)
    Nathaniel Dorsky, Jerome Hiler and MacDonald

    That cinema can be a meditative practice would come as a surprise to most casual filmgoers and even to a good many contemporary cineastes. For a generation, film critics, scholars, and teachers have honored accomplished auteurs and debated the possibility of authorship; they have explored genre conventions; they have policed cinema in the name of more progressive gender, ethnic, class, and sexual politics; they have used a wide range of approaches developed in other disciplines to expose how cinema functions in modern culture—and they have ignored virtually all forms of cinema that reflect a meditative sensibility on the part...

  8. Peggy Ahwesh
    (pp. 111-142)
    Peggy Ahwesh and MacDonald

    Tom Gunning’s “Towards a Minor Cinema: Fonoroff, Herwitz, Ahwesh, Lapore, Klahr and Solomon,” the lead-off essay in a memorable issue ofMotion Picture(vol. 3, nos. 1–2 [Winter 1989–90]), edited by Paul Arthur and Ivone Margulies, was to become a benchmark for a younger generation of filmmakers and the most articulate response to what was seen by some as the pretension of the “International Experimental Film Congress” that had been held in Toronto from May 28 to June 4, 1989. Adapting the term “minor cinema” from “minor literature,” coined by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guatari in theirKafka:...

  9. Alan Berliner
    (pp. 143-179)
    Alan Berliner and MacDonald

    Filmmakers interested in presenting critical alternatives to conventional cinema have evinced a variety of attitudes toward audiences. Many filmmakers have assumed that the work they are committed to producing will not appeal to anything like the conventional moviegoing audience and, like Gertrude Stein, have assumed that their audience is themselves and a few friends—though, of course, these “friends” might, in time, number in the thousands, the tens of thousands, or more. Stan Brakhage can serve as a preeminent instance here: Brakhage made his films entirely unconcerned with the conventional moviegoing audience, though he was well aware that some of...

  10. Robb Moss
    (pp. 180-198)
    Robb Moss and MacDonald

    For the better part of a century, critical cinema seemed to be made up of two major cinematic histories: what has usually been called “avant-garde” or “experimental” filmmaking, and documentary. Each of these histories has offered a varied set of critiques of conventional, commercial moviemaking and the audience that has developed for it, and each has developed a set of recognized traditions, landmarks, and pivotal moments. Nevertheless, the distinction between “avant-garde” and “documentary” has always been conceptually troubled: Robert Flaherty’s perfection of a new form of storytelling inNanook of the North(1921) was as “avant-garde” as any other cinematic...

  11. Phil Solomon
    (pp. 199-227)
    Phil Solomon and MacDonald

    Like so many filmmakers of his generation (like Alan Berliner, he studied filmmaking at the State University of New York at Binghamton in the early 1970s), Phil Solomon has been most interested in recycling films made by others into new works that are distinctly his own. While many filmmakers use recycled cinema as a means for satirizing dimensions of American culture or of modern life in general, Solomon’s approach was, from the beginning, simultaneously lyrical and elegiac. As a student at SUNY-Binghamton, he studied with Ken Jacobs, whoseTom, Tom, the Piper’s Son(1969, revised in 1971), which uses rephotography...

  12. James Benning On His Westerns
    (pp. 228-254)
    James Benning and MacDonald

    James Benning made his reputation as a major contributor to independent cinema in the 1970s in11 X 14(1976) andOne Way Boogie Woogie(1977) with his depiction of the Midwest and his inventive uses of composition and sound-image relationship, but he has continued to surprise those of us who have followed his career by confirming the accomplishments of his youth with decade after decade of interesting work. When I interviewed Benning forA Critical Cinema 2in 1986,American Dreams(1984) andLandscape Suicide(1986) had made the 1980s nearly as memorable a decade for his work as...

  13. J. Leighton Pierce
    (pp. 255-280)
    J. Leighton Pierce and MacDonald

    During the 1970s, feminists called for a reorganization of domestic politics, questioning the assumption that child care is biologically determined “women’s work” and demanding that men learn to function as true domesticpartnersin the quest for economic stability and personal fulfillment, rather than exclusively as “breadwinners.” That the domestic round was the new frontier in cultural development was clear in the landmark film by Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen,Riddles of the Sphinx(1977), which argued that who takes care of young children istheissue on which the organization of society turns.

    While domestic partnership has evolved, at...

  14. Matthias Müller
    (pp. 281-310)
    Matthias Müller and MacDonald

    During the early decades of film history, European and American filmmakers attempted to give their new medium economic and aesthetic legitimacy by incorporating elements of the more established arts, particularly photography, magic, theater, and literature. During the past few decades, as some traditional forms of cinema have seemed increasingly endangered by new technologies, filmmakers have often worked to maintain the legitimacy of cinematic art by celebrating film’s own history: by reviving and rethinking genres, by remaking earlier films, and—this is especially true of critical filmmakers—by recycling various dimensions of cinema’s now extensive archive. Critical filmmakers have found a...

  15. Sharon Lockhart
    (pp. 311-332)
    Sharon Lockhart and MacDonald

    Sharon Lockhart’s films function within two different worlds. First, they are contributions to the history of critical cinema—inheritors, in particular, of the formalist-conceptualist tendency instigated during the 1960s and 1970s by such filmmakers as Michael Snow, Yoko Ono, Hollis Frampton, Ernie Gehr, Taka Iimura, J. J. Murphy, Morgan Fisher, and James Benning. Indeed, Lockhart counts Fisher and Benning among her mentors.

    Like Benning, Lockhart engages place with a formalist rigor and with considerable wit. InTeatro Amazonas(1999),we are presented with a thirty-minute, 35mm shot of the opera house in Manaus, Brazil, made famous by Werner Herzog’sFitzcarraldo(1982),...

  16. Jennifer Todd Reeves On Chronic and The Time We Killed
    (pp. 333-346)
    Jennifer Todd Reeves and MacDonald

    In 1995–96 Jennifer Reeves achieved recognition as a talented young filmmaker (she was born in 1971) for two films:The Girl’s Nervy(1995), a contribution to the tradition of painting directly on the filmstrip (Len Lye, Harry Smith, Stan Brakhage, and Carolee Schneemann are among the important contributors to this tradition), and her first longer film,Chronic(1996), a thirty-eight-minute narrative about a troubled adolescent, based roughly on Reeves’s own experiences. What seemed particularly accomplished aboutChronicwas its effective combination of formal experiment and compelling storytelling. Her protagonist, a rural Ohio teen named Gretchen (played by Reeves herself)...

  17. Shiho Kano
    (pp. 347-357)
    Shiho Kano and MacDonald

    In 1980 the American Federation of Arts asked the film scholar Donald Richie to create a traveling show focusing on the history of experimental film in Japan. Richie worked with Katsue Tomiyama, then the director of Image Forum in Tokyo, to produce “Japanese Experimental Film 1960–1980,” two programs of short films that toured the United States in the early 1980s. My memory of these programs has faded, but I do remember that the most pleasant surprise wasKiri(Mist,1972) by Sakumi Hagiwara, an eight-minute, single-shot film during which a misty landscape slowly clears, revealing a bit of a...

  18. Ernie Gehr
    (pp. 358-404)
    Ernie Gehr and MacDonald

    For nearly forty years, Ernie Gehr has been making cinematic magic, often from the least likely materials. Indeed, Gehr’s most famous film,Serene Velocity(1970), in which the filmmaker transforms an institutional hallway in the basement of a classroom building at the State University of New York at Binghamton into a nexus of visual and conceptual energy, merely by adjusting his stationary camera’s zoom lens every four frames for twenty-three minutes, can be read as Gehr’s manifesto. For Gehr the most everyday spaces and the most mundane actions offer the imaginative filmmaker the most interesting potential. No other filmmaker, with...

  19. Filmography
    (pp. 405-422)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 423-430)
  21. Index
    (pp. 431-451)