Experimental Films

Did I really say that I’ve been procrastinating in preparing this semester’s syllabi because I’ve taught all of this semester’s courses before? That’s not entirely true. It turns out that the first two courses this week and next are new to me. The first class, which starts in two days, is Experimental Film at Pratt Institute. I’ve based this class on an undergraduate class I took at UCSB, taught by Constance Penley. This introduction to non-narrative experiment film truly changed my life, exposing me to films that were radically different from what we had studied in other classes. It helped me make sense of film theory, a challenging course in its own right, because I saw what was possible with film when not constrained to telling stories. And in some significant way, it lured me to New York because a great deal of these films were made and continued to circulate in the vibrant film culture of this city.

Sheeler and Strand, Manhatta (1921)

I’ve relished the opportunity to teach an experimental film class somewhere, but it’s been difficult because the subjects I’ve been teaching have little connection to the avant-garde. My classes at Fordham are geared towards communication students looking for jobs in the media industrial complex and, at Queens College, I teach the core curriculum for media studies and film students. However, when I started teaching at Pratt last year, I proposed the course on the historical film avant-garde and they accepted the course for this fall semester. When I first taught an early film history class last fall, we covered a section on the European avant-garde, and the students responded really well to the films of Fernand Leger, Rene Clair, and Marcel Duchamp. Perhaps it had to with the fact these particular filmmakers were artists first, and their aesthetic came from their experience in other art forms. It was an exciting revelation.

Anemic Cinema

The syllabus is still not done. I’ve been working on locating films for the screening list. It’s a long list, covering about ninety films, and I’m still grouping them into a coherent fourteen-week schedule.

Here’s the list so far, subject to time and budget constraints:

  1. Manhatta (Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand, 1921, 11 min.)
  2. Rhythmus 21 (Hans Richter, 1923, 3 min.)
  3. Retour a la Raison (Man Ray, 1923, 3 min.)
  4. Entr’acte (Rene Clair, 1924, 15 min.)
  5. Ballet Mecanique (Fernand Leger, 1924, 19 min.)
  6. Symphonie Diagonale (Diagonal Symphony) (Viking Egglund, 1924, 5 min.)
  7. Anemic Cinema (Marcel Duchamp, 1926, 7 min.)
  8. Twenty four Dollar Island (Robert Flaherty, 1926, 12 min.)
  9. Un Chien Andalou (Luis Buñuel, 1927, 12 min.)
  10. Etudes des mouvements a Paris (Joris Ivens, 1927, 4 min.)
  11. La Glace à trois faces (The Three-Sided Mirror) (Jean Epstein, 1927, 45 min.)
  12. Berlin: Symphony of a City (Walter Ruttman, 1927, 65 min.)
  13. Looney Lens: Split Skyscapers (Al Brick, 1927, 2 min.)
  14. Looney Lens: Tenth Avenue (Al Brick, 1927, 2 min.)
  15. La Coquille et le Clergyman (The Seashell and the Clergyman) (Germaine Dulac, 1928, 41 min.)
  16. Life and Death of 9413: A Hollywood Extra (Florey and Vorkapich, 1928, 11 min.)
  17. Rain (Joris Ivens, 1929, 15 min.)
  18. H20 (Ralph Steiner, 1929, 13 min.)
  19. Mechanical Principles (Ralph Steiner, 1929, 11 min.)
  20. Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929, 68 min.)
  21. Symphonie der Wolkerkratzer [Skyscraper symphony] (Robert Florey, 1929, 10 min.)
  22. L’Age d’Or (Luis Buñuel, 1930, 63 min.)
  23. A Propos De Nice (Jean Vigo, 1930, 45 min.)
  24. Philips Radio (Joris Iven, 1931, 36 min.)
  25. A Bronx Morning (Jay Leyda, 1931, 11 min.)
  26. 145 W 21 (Rudy Burckhardt, 1936, 10 min.)
  27. Rose Hobart (Joseph Cornell, 1937, 18 min.)
  28. Lambeth Walk, Nazi Style (Charles Ridely, 1941, 2 min.)
  29. Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren, 1943, 14 min.)
  30. At Land (Maya Deren, 1944, min.)
  31. Study in Choreography for Camera (Maya Deren, 1945, 4 min.)
  32. Ritual in Transfigured Time (Maya Deren, 1946, 15 min.)
  33. Fireworks (Kenneth Anger, 1947, 15 min.)
  34. Puce Moment (Kenneth Anger, 1949, 6 min.)
  35. Interwoven (Harry Smith, 1949, 3 min.)
  36. Rabbit’s Moon (Kenneth Anger, 1950, 16 min.)
  37. Eaux des Artifice (Kenneth Anger, 1953, 13 min.)
  38. Under the Brooklyn Bridge (Rudy Burckhardt, 1953, 15 min.)
  39. Inauguration of the pleasure dome (Kenneth Anger, 1954, 38 min.)
  40. Desistfilm (Stan Brakhage, 1954, 7 min.)
  41. Wonder ring (Stan Brakhage, 1955, 5 min.)
  42. Gnir Rednow (Joseph Cornell, 1955, 6 min.)
  43. The Aviary (Rudy Burckhardt, 1955, 5 min.)
  44. What Mozart Saw on Mulberry Street (Burckhardt, 1956, 6 min.)
  45. Rhythm (Len Lye, 1957, 1 min.)
  46. Bridges Go Round (Shirley Clarke, 1958, 4 min.)
  47. Window Baby Water Moving (Stan Brakhage, 1959, 13 min.)
  48. Cat’s Cradle (Stan Brakhage, 1959, 6 min.)
  49. East Side Summer (Rudy Burckhardt, 1959, 11 min.)
  50. Eyewash (Robert Breer, 1959, 3 min.)
  51. Allures (Jordan Belson, 1961, 8 min.)
  52. Mothlight (Stan Brakhage, 1963, 4 min.)
  53. Blonde Cobra (Ken Jacobs, 1963, 33 min.)
  54. Blow Job (Andy Warhol, 1963, 28 min.)
  55. Little Stabs at Happiness (Ken Jacobs, 1963, 15 min.)
  56. Scorpio Rising (Kenneth Anger, 1964, 28 min.)
  57. Prelude: Dog Star Man (Stan Brakhage, 1964, 25 min.)
  58. Kiss (Andy Warhol, 1964, 34 min.)
  59. Empire (Andy Warhol, 1964, 69 min.)
  60. Go Go Go (Marie Menken, 1964, 11 min.)
  61. Kustom Kar Kommados (Kenneth Anger, 1965, 3 min.)
  62. My Hustler (Andy Warhol, 1965, 66 min.)
  63. Sins of the Fleshapoids (Mike Kuchar, 1965, 40 min.)
  64. Peyote Queen (Storm De Hirsch, 1965, 9 min.)
  65. Hold Me While I’m Naked (George Kuchar, 1966, 17 min.)
  66. Castro Street (Bruce Baillie, 1966, 10 min.)
  67. Fuses (Carolee Schneeman, 1967, 22 min.)
  68. Chelsea Girls (Andy Warhol, 1967, 180 min.)
  69. Wavelength (Michael Snow, 1967, 45 min.)
  70. Square Times (Rudy Burckhardt, 1967, 6 min.)
  71. Zorns Lemma (Hollis Frampton, 1970, 60 min.)
  72. Nostalgia (Hollis Frampton, 1971, 36 min.)
  73. The Wold Shadow (Stan Brakhage, 1972, 3 min.)
  74. Baldessari sings [Sol] LeWitt (John Baldessari , 1972, 4 min.)
  75. Undertone [Excerpt] (Vito Acconci, 1972, 9 min.)
  76. Vertical Roll (Joan Jonas, 1972, 20 min.)
  77. Television Delivers People (Richard Serra, 1973, 6 min.)
  78. Five-Minute Romp Through the IP (Dan Sandin, 1973, min.)
  79. Female sensibility (Lynda Bengalis, 1973, 15 min.)
  80. Triangle in front of square in front of circle in front of triangle (Dan Sandin, 1973, 2 min.)
  81. Boomerang (Richard Serra/Nancy Holt, 1974, 10 min.)
  82. Performer/Audience/Mirror (Dan Graham, 1975, 23 min.)
  83. Sodom and Gomorrha, New York 10036 (Rudy Burckhard, 1976, 6 min.)
  84. New Improved Institutional Quality (Owen Land, 1976, 10 min.)
  85. Cycles of 3s and 7s (Tony Conrad, 1976, 3 min.)
  86. I, An Actress (George Kuchar, 1977, 9 min.)
  87. Sweet light (Bill Viola, 1977, 9 min.)
  88. Vital statistics of a citizen, simply obtained (Martha Rosler, 1977, 39 min.)
  89. Valse Triste (Bruce Connor, 1978, 5 min.)
  90. Wonder Woman (Dana Birnbaum, 1978, 5 min.)
  91. Cerveza Bud (Rudy Burckhardt, 1981, 22 min.)
  92. Bad Burns (Paul Sharits, 1982, 6 min.)

The course starts on Thursday, August 29, at 5:30 PM. The syllabus will be live on the web then…or at least it better be!

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