Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film

Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film

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Overview

Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film

The Image Entertainment seven-DVD set Unseen Cinema originated with a touring package assembled by Bruce Posner of Anthology Film Archives with contributions from some 60 film archives located worldwide. The original road show contained 19 programs devoted to American abstract and experimental films made before 1943, the year that witnessed Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid's trailblazer Meshes of the Afternoon. Of the 19 programs, seven have been included in the Unseen Cinema set, a generous and comprehensive, and thankfully not exhaustive, examination of the generally "unseen" category of avant-garde film in America. Unseen Cinema includes animation, documentaries, and actualité footage; relevant clips from commercial features; unusually well-made amateur films; films made by painters, photographers, and critics; camera test footage; formative efforts by future major directors; and anything else that seems to apply. Posner casts an extremely wide net for the types of films used to represent the avant-garde in America, going well beyond the established histories of this period. Although Unseen Cinema duplicates some content from Kino's set Avant Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and 30s, it is more complementary than competitive to it; educational institutions and serious collectors will want to own both sets. Only about 14 of Unseen Cinema's 155 films are available on other collections, and certain items will not be better seen elsewhere, for example Fernand Léger and Dudley Murphy's Ballet Mécanique, with its original soundtrack music, tints, sequencing, and even a few unfamiliar shots. Special effects and animation buffs will not want to be without the 1940s-era abstractions by Douglass Crockwell, of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame, plus additional animation is included by Mary Ellen Bute, Norman McLaren, and Oskar Fischinger. Unseen Cinema also provides the most generous selection ever offered from montagist extraordinaire Slavko Vorkapich, combining sequences gathered from Hollywood productions with some of his independent projects such as The Loves of Zero (1927) and Moods of the Sea (1942). Fans of pioneer documentarian Robert Flaherty will be amazed to find his experimental short 24 Dollar Island (1924) here, along with other expanded documentaries by Paul Strand, Walker Evans, and Henwar Rodakiewicz. Among the painters who also made films, the subtle and understated collages of Joseph Cornell demonstrate an approach to compiling loose, discarded footage that seems strangely contemporary. One completely amazing surprise is James Sibley Watson Jr. and composer Alec Wilder's hilarious short Tomato Another Day, a pithy satire featuring a well-heeled couple trading vapid generalities in a dull monotone, a send up of the conventions of early talkies. In terms of music, as such things generally go, the soundtracks added to silent films on Unseen Cinema range from terrific to terrible depending on one's tastes. To Posner's credit, and to that of DVD producer David Shepard, there is more of an effort made to incorporate vintage recordings to accompany silent films in this set than in most others. And there are films that are "intentionally silent," meant to be shown that way by the original filmmakers. This can be maddening for viewers who can't stand to watch anything that doesn't have sound, but this set is devoted largely to artists who felt that the image was the key raison d'être for motion pictures above all considerations, artistic, political, and commercial. While the learning curve may prove insurmountable to some viewers with certain selections, there is something in this set to please nearly every kind of film buff. Considering what one gets in this set, and what went into it, the asking price is almost absurdly reasonable, and no one with an even slightly better than average appreciation and understanding for filmmaking should do themselves the injury of missing Unseen Cinema.

Product Details

Release Date: 10/18/2005
UPC: 0014381059229
Original Release: 2005
Rating: NR
Source: Image Entertainment
Region Code: 0
Presentation: [B&W]
Sound: [Dolby Digital Stereo]
Time: 19:00:00

Special Features

Digitally mastered from newly preserved and restored 35 mm and 16 mm prints; New recordings of original music by George Antheil, Marc Blitzstein, and others; new film scores by Eric Beheim, Neal Kurz, Paul A. Lehrman, Guy Livingston, Rodney Sauer, Donald Sosin, and others; Film notes and filmmaker biographies by historians and scholars Kevin Brownlow, David Curtis, Robert A. Haller, Jan-Christopher Horak, David James, Scott MacDonald, Bruce Posner, David Shepard, Paul Spehr, Cecile Starr, and 32 others; Rare photos of the films and filmmakers; Essay by curator Bruce Posner

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Unseen Cinema: The Mechanized Eye
1. "Paris Exposition Films" [1:27]
2. Eiffel Exposition Palace [1:02]
3. Palace of Electricity [:49]
4. Champs de Mars [1:13]
5. Panorama of Eiffel Tower [1:21]
6. Scene From Elevator Ascending Eiffel Tower [1:43]
7. Captain Nissen Going Through Whirlpool Rapids, Niagara Falls [2:02]
8. Down the Hudson [2:55]
9. The Ghost Train [:39]
10. Westinghouse Works, Panorama View, Street Car Motor Room [2:28]
11. In Youth, Beside the Lonely Sea [5:20]
12. Melody on Parade [5:48]
13. La Cartomancienne [11:42]
14. Pie in the Sky [21:14]
15. Travel Notes [12:41]
16. Oil - A Symphony in Motion [7:51]
17. Poem 8 [19:46]
18. Storm [7:53]
19. Portrait of a Young Man [1:34]
20. Movement One [17:17]
21. Movement Two [17:28]
22. Movement Three [16:10]
Disc #2 -- Unseen Cinema: The Devil's Plaything
1. Jack and the Beanstalk [9:34]
2. Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend [8:23]
3. The Thieving Hand [6:34]
4. Impossible Convicts [3:21]
5. When Clouds Roll by [8:52]
6. Beggar on Horseback [7:05]
7. The Fall of the House of Usher [13:08]
8. The Life and Death of 9413 - A Hollywood Extra [13:24]
9. The Love of Zero [15:05]
10. The Telltale Heart [24:50]
11. Tomatos Another Day [7:24]
12. The Hearts of Age [8:19]
13. "The Enigmatic World of Joseph Cornell" [:22]
14. Unreal News Reels, Nos. 1 & 2 [7:59]
15. The Children's Jury [9:03]
16. Thimble Theater [6:21]
17. Carousel - Animal Opera [5:49]
18. Jack's Dream [4:19]
Disc #3 -- Unseen Cinema: Light Rhythms
1. Le Retour a la Raison [4:17]
2. Ballet Mecanique [17:01]
3. Anemic Cinema [7:05]
4. Looney Lens: Anamorphic People [2:21]
5. Out of the Melting Pot [2:21]
6. H2O [11:36]
7. Surf and Seaweed [13:00]
8. "Vorkapich Montage Sequence" [:13]
9. "The Furies" [2:52]
10. "Legacy of a Hollywood Extra" [:23]
11. "Skyline Dance" [:27]
12. "Money Machine" [:09]
13. "Prohibition" [1:35]
14. The Firefly "Vorkapich Edit" [1:59]
15. The Firefly "MGM Release Version" [1:35]
16. Maytime [4:42]
17. "Light and Abstraction" [:15]
18. So This is Paris [5:10]
19. Light Rhythms [5:37]
20. Nuit Sur le Mont Chauve [8:24]
21. Rhythm in Light [5:01]
22. Synchromy No. 2 [5:40]
23. Parabola [8:48]
24. Footlight Parade "By a Waterfall" [10:59]
25. Glens Falls Sequence [7:38]
26. Simple Destiny Abstaractions [1:50]
27. Abstract Movies [10:54]
28. Scherzo [1:34]
29. Composition No. 1: Themis [4:22]
30. Composition No. 2: Contrathemis [4:49]
31. 1941 [4:09]
32. Moods of the Sea [10:02]
Disc #4 -- Unseen Cinema: Inverted Narratives
1. The House With Closed Shutters [17:53]
2. Suspense [10:32]
3. Moonland [11:20]
4. Lullaby [10:12]
5. The Bridge [10:03]
6. Little Geezer [11:38]
7. Black Dawn [:22]
8. "Titles" [1:17]
9. "Plowing" [10:58]
10. "End of Day" [8:49]
11. "A Night to Remember" [10:01]
12. Native Land [2:15]
13. "Bought and Paid For" [2:14]
14. "On the March" [1:47]
15. "Millions of Little People" [3:45]
16. "Murder One Man" [3:00]
17. Black Legion [5:55]
18. Even as You and I [11:49]
19. Object Lesson [9:38]
20. "Sredni Vashtar" [11:11]
Disc #5 -- Unseen Cinema: Picturing a Metropolis
1. "Early Views" [1:07]
2. The Blizzard [1:56]
3. Lower Broadway [1:12]
4. Beginning of a Skyscraper [:48]
5. Panorama From Times Building, New York [2:05]
6. Skyscrapers of NYC From North River [1:58]
7. Panorama From the Tower of the Brooklyn Bridge [:50]
8. "Tricks of the Trade" [:10]
9. Building Up and Demolishing the Star Theatre [3:38]
10. Coney Island at Night [3:17]
11. Interior New York Subway, 14th St to 42nd Street [5:37]
12. Seeing New York by Yacht [3:18]
13. Looney Lens: Split Skyscrapers [1:31]
14. Looney Lens: Tenth Avenue, NYC [1:51]
15. Scenes From Ford Educational Weekly [:24]
16. 8th Avenue Elevated Train at 112th Street [:19]
17. The Trellis - Work of Sunshine and Shade [:16]
18. View of Herald Square Station [:20]
19. Aerial View of Sixth Ave Train at 28th, 26th, 24th [:20]
20. Manhatta [11:03]
21. 24 Dollar Island [13:13]
22. Skyscraper Symphony [11:16]
23. Manhattan Medley [10:28]
24. A Bronx Morning [14:26]
25. Footnote to Fact [8:10]
26. "Seeing the World," Part One: A Visit to New York, N.Y. [10:23]
27. The Pursuit of Happiness [8:22]
28. Gold Diggers of 1935 "Lullaby of Broadway" [13:35]
29. Autumn Fire [19:40]
Disc #6 -- Unseen Cinema: The Amateur As Auteur
1. Case Sound Tests [1:16]
2. Theodore Case [1:14]
3. Man and Harmonica [:50]
4. Man and Harp [2:12]
5. Gus Visser and His Singing Duck [1:56]
6. Theodore Case [1:06]
7. Man and Ukulele [1:41]
8. Theodore Case [:34]
9. Windy Ledge Farm [16:32]
10. A Day in Santa Fe [30:16]
11. Stewart Family Home Movies [33:34]
12. "Joseph Cornell's Children Trilogy" [:18]
13. Children's Party [9:48]
14. Cotillion [8:57]
15. The Midnight Party [3:55]
16. Haiti [15:06]
17. Tree Trunk to Head [36:16]
18. Bicycle Polo at San Mateo [4:56]
19. 1126 Dewey Ave., Apt. 207 [4:02]
Disc #7 -- Unseen Cinema: Viva La Dance
1. "Annabelle Dances and Dances" [1:31]
2. Annabelle Butterfly Dance #1 [:32]
3. Annabelle Butterfly Dance #3 [:11]
4. Serpentine Dance by Annabelle [:28]
5. Annabelle Serpentine Dance #1 [:18]
6. Annabelle Serpentine Dance #4 [:24]
7. Crissie Sheridan Serpentine Dance [:33]
8. Annabelle Serpentine Dance #4 [1:09]
9. Serpentine Dance [1:06]
10. "Early Superimpositions" [:24]
11. Davy Jones' Locker [:26]
12. Neptune's Daughter [:31]
13. A Nymph of the Waves [:26]
14. Diana the Huntress [4:33]
15. The Soul of the Cypress [9:24]
16. Looney Lens: Pas de deux [4:25]
17. Hande: Das Leben and Die Liebe Eines Zartlichen Geschlechts [1:01]
18. Part 1: Prelude [1:36]
19. Part 2: Der Einzelne [8:15]
20. Part 3: Ausgleich [2:06]
21. Mechanical Principles [10:37]
22. Tilly Losch in Her Dance of The Hands [7:01]
23. Sergi Eisenstein's Mexican Footage [:22]
24. "Dance of the Heads" [5:54]
25. "Day of the Dead" [3:56]
26. Oramunde [9:59]
27. Hands [4:16]
28. Joie de Vivre [9:18]
29. Wonder Bar "Don't Say Goodnight" [10:32]
30. Dada [1:16]
31. Escape [4:27]
32. An Optical Poem [7:08]
33. Abstract Experiment in Kodachrome [3:11]
34. NBC Valentine Greeting [1:55]
35. Stars and Strips [2:21]
36. Tarantella [4:30]
37. Spook Sport [7:53]
38. Danse Macabre [6:55]
39. Peer Gynt [:19]
40. Opening Titles [3:39]
41. Pagan Dance [3:18]
42. Introspection [6:28]

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