Sunday, November 23, 2014

Experimental films vol.7 - Abstract

This paper presents results of an in-depth research and  analysis of female experimental filmmakers and their work. For  an aspiring female filmmaker, it is important to know what are the components of a new visual language these film makers created,  and how these changes are reflected in their work . This research leans heavily on Laura Mulvey' s essay 'Visual pleasure and narrative cinema', in order to determine just what it is that was so strictly shaped in conventional narrative cinema, and how experimental film making allowed women to explore and break the conventions of a coded visual language and narration which were rooted within the viewer. Further analysis of films by Maya Deren, Vera Chytilova, Shirley Clarke, Chantal Akerman, and feminist film theories by Claire Johnson will serve as a pointer of how  women used the medium of experimental filmmaking to explore many issues, which could not have been represented in a classical narrative film. Furthermore, we will emphasize how these experimental film makers made it possible for a presence of  female film makers in the Hollywood film market today. On the other side, we will analyze the presence of leading female characters in  Hollywood narrative films, and aspects of feminist film theories which can be applied in these examples, in order to examine if these theories are exclusive for female experimental  filmmakers or not.  Overall , this paper will argue that experimental filmmaking is the essential element which  provided woman to integrate alternative forms, and manipulate techniques of filming and editing in order to  create a  counter cinema, which  represents an alternative model to traditional Hollywood film making.

Key words :   experimental film , feminism  , spectators gaze, woman's cinema

Monday, November 17, 2014

Experimental films vol.6

This paper presents results of an in-depth research and comparative analysis of female experimental filmmakers and their work. As an aspiring female filmmaker, it is important to know what exactly are those changes, that were made possible through experimental film making, and how these women shaped a new visual language .This research leans heavily on Laura Mulvey' s essay 'Visual pleasure and narrative cinema', in order to determine just what it is that was so strictly shaped in conventional narrative cinema, and how experimental film making allowed women to explore and break the conventions of a coded visual language and narration which were rooted within the viewer. Analysis of films and theories of Maya Deren will serve as a milestone which started an entire wave of women using the medium of experimental film to explore many issues, but in this regard, we will focus on women's cinema , gender issues and the visual language. The paper further explores women filmmakers such as Vera Chytilova, Shirley Clarke , Chantal Akerman , and how the roots in experimental filmmaking led to the creation of the counter cinema. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Experimental films vol.5

As we have already made the connections with the beginnings of experimental film and surrealism,dada and even cubism, we can further discuss how those associations were made possible through manipulations of form itself. Surrealist, dadaist and cubist artists conceived film as an art whose specific nature is visual, which led them to have various positions when it comes to the narrative component of it.

If we look into the work of surrealists, we can see the reasons why their work became seriously associated with experimental films. Luis Buñuel said, "The film seems to be the involuntary imitation of the dream", and that goes to show how surrealists were the first to take seriously the similarity between film's images and those of dreams and the unconscious. Surrealists were able to provide convincing illusions through experimental films, and to portray ridiculous as rational.Through liberating power of nonlinear, non-narrative aesthetic experiences that experimental films provided, surrealists were able to adapt this kind of film making to their goals and requirements, which strive to revolutionize the human experience.

But there is one problem that emerges with this. These experimental films are considered to be too eclectic, and they cannot be defined by style or form, but rather as results of the practice of surrealism. To quote Michael Richardson : "Within popular conceptions, surrealism is misunderstood in many different ways, some of which contradict others, but all of these misunderstandings are founded in the fact that they seek to reduce surrealism to a style or a thing in itself rather than being prepared to see it as an activity with broadening horizons." There is a problem when it comes to recognizing the distinctive qualities that make up the surrealist point of view. Trying to find a common theme, particular type of imagery, certain concepts that can identify as 'surrealist' in order to provide a distinctive criteria of judgement by which a film can be appraised is practically impossible.

If we look into the dada roots of experimental film making, the association between these two is made through artistic creativity which relies on randomness and imagination.Researching into the unconscious , using psychoanalysis with the automatic process of dada art, made the dadaist approach cinema as ready made objects. If we look into the work of Marcel Duschamp, especially his first experimental film Anemic Cinema, which consists of images of spiraling circles which are cut with nine verbal puns in french, we can see that it only problematizes the abstract character of  the film image. The is a co-relation between this and dadaist rejection of formal language of abstraction by creation of readymades and optical and kinetic experiments. To quote Duschamp : ' For me there is something else in addition to yes,no and indifferent- that is for instance , the absence of investigations of that type .' There is a critique of the visual experience and an indifference to aesthetics in experimental films, just like readymades are not merely an art object on display, but ones which display the constitution of the object as value and meaning.

If we take a look into cubism ,especially the works of Picasso and Braque, we can see the association with experimental films when it comes to the usage of position of objects which are fading into each other or the neutral ground of the image. İn conventional films, this approach is used to represent the discontinuity of space, but in experimental films and cubist paintings it is an attempt to obtain an integration of discordant orders.İn both cubism and experimental films there is an invention of a new form of space and the way it is presented, where the reality is viewed from multiple angles at once.

To conclude, we can quote a passage from Metaphors on Vision, by one of the most prolific experimental film makers, Stan Brakhage's : "Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception." This passage not only explains the aesthetic dogma which Brakhage created , but it also perfectly summarizes how the previous associations with all the art movements are made. The recurring theme which we can see that though the very manipulation of form, these artists are presenting a distorted version of reality, experimenting with the fundamental rules of perception and exploring and re-evaluating the field of human experience of reality and rationality. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Experimental films vol.4

On a further exploration of experimental films and how they break the conventions and why, we can mention semiotics and  the 'grammar' of cinema. We can say that there are four main things which determine viewers response to films,and they are perception,cognition,narrative understanding  and emotion. Narrative understanding is guided by camera movement and placement, dialogue, sound effects and editing. This factor is the one which experimental films distort, and what this distortion provides is a completely different visual experience and perception of what is seen. Manipulating cinematic techniques ,using non-linear narrative structure,open ends makes the viewer unable to construct and maintain internal visual representation. Without the temporal continuity and with the change of the visual system, the viewers find it impossible to filter out the discontinuities. But what is  the intention behind this,and why do the experimental filmmakers break conventions like this is an important question to be answered . These filmmakers strive to create a fim which doesn't manipulate the viewer,instead it is supposed to keep them constantly aware of the fact that they are watching a film.Experimental filmmakers want to make it impossible for the viewers to immerse themselves, so they can have less control over their brain activities,which is a complete opposite of what Hollywood films do. Experimental filmmakers want to make the viewer aware of every single frame and semiotics with which it is presented. By creating a visual dispersion and illustration of the absurd, these filmmakers want to point out how much more they value the representation of inner content and                The subconscious. Making irrational visual content is the perfect way to point out just how much irrational our reality is, and how much the emotional responses value more over intellectual. Annother reason for using such approach to film is that there is a mutual connection between a completely individualistic visual representation  and the viewers individualistic response to it. By creating a distorted image of reality, experimental filmmakers want to give the viewer an opportunity to analyze the film they saw in a way that requires them to first re-evaluate everything they think is rational and even their own psychology. 

Key words : Semiotics, viewer manipulation, visual representation
Drawing conclusions from the previous post,we can observe that the visual content of experimental films is very simmilar to the the one we experience during dreams.This fact is the thing mentioned in the previous post,when we said that experimental films present a superior reality. Presenting a story with no clear beggining,middle and end with a visual language which breaks the regular conventions,is the same process with which our subconscious communicates with the sleeper during dreaming.We can relate this observation with Freud's dream analysis technique,where it is said that the material and symbols in out dreams are meant to confuse us and distract us from the real meaning,just as experimental films do by using a distorted visual language,abstract stories and unexpected story twists. Experimental films often present a story in a way that it is a digression upon digression,and although the images that appear may innitialy appear bizzare  and nonsensical, their analysis can reveal an underlying meaning.It seems that experimental films have found a way to tap into the language of the subconscious, which is exactly why viewers have a hard time making clear sense out of them.Analyzing an experimental film would therefore be the same as analyzing dreams,which means focusing on symbols which appear and relating them to one's individual psyche.This means that experimental films should be analyzed from each viewer'a perspective,because the do not carry a generalized idea,but relate to every individual in different way,according to their psychology.

Key words: Visual language, dream analysis, symbols,subconscious

Monday, October 13, 2014

Experimental films vol.3

As we continue to delve more into the subject of experimental films,we see that they go beyond mere illogical visual experience, although it may not seem so to the common viewers,who can hardly make sense of what they see. In order to produce such a visual experience, the experimental filmmaker must first master the rules and conventions,in order to break them and pursue innovation.
İn order to answer the question why are experimental films made in the first place,we can look back on the previous post, and make some connections with the historical context in which experimental films shaped themselves. Film was a new and emerging art of the 20th century,but it went through many structural changes and redefinition  as the other arts did,which brings us back to the point of how experimental films came in the first place. Experimental film making came as a response to many political,social and cultural aspects, and it had its most prolific periods after World War I and World War II, as these filmmakers were trying to portray a new state of the world and its consciousness through the visual medium.The idea and the intention of these filmmakers was to ridicule norms and conventions of a normal human experience, as much as these wars did.The imagery of these films, subjects, characters were abstract and did not make much common sense, as it was the general idea to create meaning out of non- meaning, to create sense through nonsense. So we can say, that experimental films are actually anti- films, because they completely reject  reason and logic, and are a representation of intuition ad irrationality more than anything, which is the product of embracing the  chaos and the irrationality of the time. Another very important aspect of experimental film making was the breakthrough in psychology and dream analysis,which provided the filmmakers better insight and a broader range of imagination, that resulted with illogical and startling visual experiences.The imagery resolves the condition between dreams and reality,which is unnerving, strange and surprising for the viewer.So in  a way, by playing with abstract visual representation of reality, experimental films create an image of superior reality.This kind of imagery requires a much more of  intellectual stimulation from the viewer, as it never allows them to fully immerse themselves into the medium,making them question the meaning of every single frame and its meaning as oppose to having a generalized idea of the entire work. During the course of time, these films have evolved,and maybe today we can speak more in an aspect of video art rather than experimental films. But why these films are still relevant and being made more than ever is an important thing we have to look at. Every innovation becomes a norm during the course of time,but what these films keep on doing is constantly evolving and pushing the boundaries of visual expression,standing up against intellectual and cultural conformity,creating false rationality and presenting a reality which is detached from the normal human experience.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Experimental films vol.2

As we take a further look into experimental films, we discover that there is actually a rich history and tradition to it, which we would not expect, since it is not a part of mainstream culture, and it is  not known among many people outside of the film practitioners .We can say that the beginning  of experimental cinema has its roots  among European film makers, most notably in France and Russia. Film makers in France which are known as a part of the avant- garde movement were the first ones who pushed the boundaries and norms of  film making  when it comes to editing ,camera positioning and character subjectivity. Many of these filmmakers  also belonged to  Dadaist  and Surrealist art movements, and this combination led to a production of what is considered to be one of the best and most influential experimental films of all times, Un chien andalou ,by Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel. When it comes to Russia, it's cinema contributed the most when it comes to editing, since many of the film practitioners developed significant  theories about it, most significantly Sergei Eisenstein, Lev Kuleshov, and Dziga Vertov. Any aspiring experimental filmmaker can take a look at a film The man with a movie camera by Dziga Vertov, as a basic manual for what editing contributes to experimental film making and film making in general . As time went on, much of experimental films were produced in America, and it's the place where this kind of film making actually established its self through an institution, most notably The Film- Makers'  Cooperative. Most notable artists include Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, and later on  Jack Smith and Andy Warhol. But let's put the history aspect aside, and take a look at the  other  elements which make an experimental film.
One of the most important things when it comes to experimental films is that  they are made completely outside of commercial cinema and entertainment industry. These productions are usually made on very low budgets , and they are either self- financed or made with some kind of small grants. They crew is minimal ,and it is very common that these kind of  productions are driven by a one individual, in a kind of a 'one - man show ' , where one person is in charge of organisation, writing, filming,editing often even distributing the project. This aspect provides a complete individualistic expression, and we can say that it also had a deep impact on  independent cinema . This kind of approach buys complete independence, and the artist is free to choose  the subject and theme of the film with no constraints, which gives the viewers a full sense of the individual consciousness of the filmmaker.
Another very important aspect when it comes to experimental films, is that they are rare not considered to be very popular. This is due to two  reasons. One of them is that there is no regular place to showcase these films, if one wants to get acquainted with this kind of cinema, they would have to pay attention to small film societies, microcinemas , museums or art galleries,  because they are not available in  movie theaters which  most  of people turn to  in our day to day life. Another reason is  what these film represent to a regular movie viewer , and that is mostly a wonderfully strange world which makes no common sense. Experimental films play with the basic values of film, and their attention is to ridicule the very notions of plots, characters and settings. They use abstract techniques and abstract imagery, avoid verbal content and disfigure the sound component, which produces a piece of work which has no clear, univalent message, and this is something which a regular movie viewer is not used to. When it comes to cinema, there is a set of firm rules when it comes to making a film, with a goal to make to viewer completely unaware that they are actually watching a film, and this is not possible when it comes to experimental film, which demands a more active participation of the viewer, and constantly reminds them that they are actually seeing a film.
Although these film aren't very popular outside of the world of film practitioners, they have influenced the medium itself and the whole cinema immensely. We can take the movie Scorpio Rising by Kenneth Anger  as an example, which is the first movie to use the rock' 'n roll soundtrack, and we can say that this film was the anticipation of the music video. Besides influencing the music videos, experimental films have influenced cinematography,visual effects,editing and even television commercials.
Today, when we have far more opportunities to find any information we want, anyone who wants to explore the world of  experimental films can do so, as  many of these films are  available on YouTube. It is a strongest recommendation to everyone to gain a perspective when it comes to experimental cinema, not only in order to know that there are a very different kind of films, but to   also understand the visual medium with which we are surrounded in the present.