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Moving Forward, Looking Back

Moving Forward, Looking Back: The European Avant-garde and the Invention of Film Culture, 1919-1939

Malte Hagener
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Moving Forward, Looking Back
    Book Description:

    This first critical overview of the European film avant-garde ushers in a new approach and creates its own subject. Arguing that a European perspective is the only way to understand the film avant-garde of the 1920s and 1930s, Hagener provides a much-needed summary of the theory and practice of the movement. This incisive study also pioneers a new approach to the alternative cinema network that sustained the avant-garde, paying particular attention to the emergence of screening clubs, film festivals, and archives. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0167-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 7-10)
    Malte Hagener
  4. Introduction Avant-garde Culture and Technological Transformations
    (pp. 11-18)

    The title of this book –Moving Forward, Looking Back– points towards three crucial issues that I will discuss at length in the chapters that follow. Firstly, it takes its cue from two metaphorically condensed images related to the avantgarde: Walter Benjamin’s angel of history (inspired by Paul Klee’s paintingAngelus novus) and Niklas Luhmann’s oarsmen who are focussed on the place they are coming from.² Besides developing these condensed signs that have given me my title, I am deeply indebted to both theoreticians to whose writings I have returned time and again in my study of the avant-garde....

  5. 1 Reframing the Historical Avant-garde – Media, Historiography and Method
    (pp. 19-40)

    The avant-garde has often been conceptualised either as a movement or as a network – both metaphors point to its dynamic and malleable nature. Flow and change are defining characteristics of a phenomenon that had taken up the cause of transforming and revolutionising life and art. The energy thus generated within avant-garde circles did not circulate completely without channels or river beds, the flow did not run from a central summit down an evenly shaped cone in all directions with equal force. The avant-garde formed (semi-)permanent connections and it had nodes through which much of the current was channelled. These...

  6. 2 The Dialectics of Self-Conception – Film Avant-garde and Industry Around 1930
    (pp. 41-76)

    The avant-garde was – by the mid- to late-1920s – theoretically and practically well on its way toward aMedienverbundwhich can be conceptualised as a media offensive in keeping with the avant-garde motto of converting art into life and life into art.² There was no doubt that producing ground-breaking and innovative films was simply not enough, and that a concerted effort of publication, distribution, production, teaching, lecturing, exhibiting and networking was needed in order to create and win over a public toward their aims. One of the problems at the time was, as we shall see, that whereas there...

  7. 3 Strategic Convergence and Functional Differentiation – The Film Societies and Ciné-Clubs of the 1920s and 30s
    (pp. 77-120)

    Film clubs, film societies and ciné-clubs have not been high on the agenda of film historians. While, generally speaking, production has always generated more research than distribution and exhibition, circulation has largely been left on the margins. Ciné-clubs and film societies have either been dealt with in biographical works or in regional studies that concentrated on a specific city (and often a specific screening space or institutional context). Both approaches to these alternative outlets, on the one hand, neglect the national and international exchange of the initiatives; on the other, it has limited the scope to specific constellations thus never...

  8. 4 Mapping a Totality of Networks, Nodes and Flows – Discourses as Practice
    (pp. 121-158)

    This chapter will deal with a variety of practices: publishing and theorisation, teaching and event culture, and last but not least, one major part of this chapter will be devoted to an exploration of the various attempts by the avant-garde to overcome the increasingly limited screening situation of the traditionaldispositifof the cinema. In all of these practices we can recognise how the avant-garde worked toward a reintegration of art into life: art’s function should be different from the cult status of pre-modern art and from the bourgeois autonomous art of the modern period. The different examples discussed here...

  9. 5 Vanishing Point Soviet Union – Soviet Cinema and the West between Innovation and Repression
    (pp. 159-204)

    In the 1920s, the young and dynamic society of the Soviet Union appealed to avant-garde sensibilities everywhere. In the field of cinema, the Soviet Union did not only produce innovative and lasting works of art – retrospectively, often collectively grouped in formalist terms as » montage cinema « or more politically minded called » revolutionary cinema « –, but, more importantly for my purposes here, it also attempted to change cinema as an institution: its mode of production, exhibition and the reception process, as well as film criticism and censorship, acting style, exhibition practice and many other things. What was...

  10. 6 Melodies Across the Oceans – The Intersection of Documentary and Avant-garde
    (pp. 205-234)

    The year 1929, the mid-point between World War One and Two, is pivotal for several film historical trajectories that intersect and compete in astounding ways. In June 1929, Hans Richter curated an extensive program of avant-garde films to accompany a film and photo exhibition in Stuttgart, theFilm- und Fotoausstellung (FiFo)organised by theDeutsche Werkbund, with personal appearances by luminaries such as Dziga Vertov. In September of that same year, thecrème de la crèmeof the European film avant-garde met in an old castle in Switzerland near La Sarraz for theCongres International du Cinéma Indépendent(CICI), which...

  11. Conclusion – Bridging the Gaps, Connecting the Dots
    (pp. 235-242)

    Upon our return from this extensive tour that highlighted some of the features of the European avant-garde what remains to be done in the concluding remarks is to bridge the gap between the historiographic past and the current situation of film and media studies. By connecting some of the dots that delineate the field I hope to integrate this research into a bigger pattern and the wider context of film history. It is via two historicising detours that I want to approach the significance of my results beyond the confines of the historical avant-garde. On the one hand, I want...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 243-306)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 307-344)
  14. Filmography
    (pp. 345-352)
  15. Index of Names
    (pp. 353-360)
  16. Index of Film Titles
    (pp. 361-364)
  17. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 365-370)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 371-373)