Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

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planetjake

Re: Stanley Kubrick

#451 Post by planetjake » Fri May 29, 2009 4:07 am

Hm. You're kind of a psychopath aren't you? I seriously suggest that you seek help from someone if you're still getting hung up on this (I mean this seriously, dude. Up your meds... now). I've clarified my statement repeatedly. This conversation is taking place within the specific context (and in comparison to) of avant-garde filmmakers. Attempting to trap me and confuse the argument, Nothing later claimed that I stated that Kubrick and Antonioni had rudimentary grasps of cinema. Any sensible person (I think we can all agree Nothing is in no way a sensible person.) who takes the time to read the entire discussion will realize this is not the argument I was attempting to make.

My official (and final) reply is as follows:

My claim (though not well articulated at the time) was that Kubrick and Antonioni had comparatively rudimentary approaches (APPROACHES was the word I very carefully chose) to cinema. Yes, conceptually, compared to all the filmmakers we are discussing (Snow, Brakhage, Benning, Jack Chambers etc. etc.) they had pretty rudimentary approaches to the medium. This is in no way a negative criticism. In fact Kubrick himself confided to Steven Spielberg late in his life that he had regretted not being able to expand the language of cinema as much as he would have liked. I don't understand why Nothing want's to make a big drama out of all this nonsense.

I highly recommend the later pages of the thread if any of you want enjoy watching Nothing get verbally spanked by a bunch of forum members, though.

You really are a child, aren't you?

I feel so sorry for you right now. :(

Nothing
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Re: Stanley Kubrick

#452 Post by Nothing » Fri May 29, 2009 4:15 am

So, in other words, you can't defend it (beyond a third-hand, out-of-context Spielberg quote) and you're not really willing to discuss it.

planetjake

Re: Stanley Kubrick

#453 Post by planetjake » Fri May 29, 2009 4:19 am

Nothing wrote:So, in other words, you can't defend it (beyond a third-hand, out-of-context Spielberg quote) and you're not really willing to discuss it.
You no longer deserve any of my attention whatsoever.

I'm very truly sorry for you and (God help them) your family. :(

Please seek help Nothing. I'm serious.

Nothing
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#454 Post by Nothing » Fri May 29, 2009 4:22 am

planetjake wrote:You really are a child, aren't you?
This from the person who told me to "go fuck myself" a short while ago :roll:

I just think if you're going to make wild assertions then you should have the courtesy to follow them up. I've spent the last however many pages explaining myself in fairly painstaking detail, now it's your turn to do the same... But if you're not up to it then, by all means, continue with the ad hominems... :-"

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domino harvey
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Re: Stanley Kubrick

#455 Post by domino harvey » Fri May 29, 2009 5:07 am

You hope he seeks help for his problem with asking for clarification? He better call and check to make sure that's covered by his HMO firs--AWW DAMMIT

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MichaelB
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#456 Post by MichaelB » Fri May 29, 2009 5:58 am

Nothing wrote:I just think if you're going to make wild assertions then you should have the courtesy to follow them up. I've spent the last however many pages explaining myself in fairly painstaking detail, now it's your turn to do the same...
Well, I look forward to you restarting this discussion, in which you made numerous wild assertions, all of which were challenged in painstaking detail... and which you generally refrained from following up.

Indeed, I made the observation at the time that you seemed to be cherry-picking only those points you felt you could handle while fairly blatantly ignoring the rest - but that was fine with me, as that in itself strengthened my case.

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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#457 Post by Nothing » Fri May 29, 2009 8:00 am

It is still a buyers market, at this year's Cannes attests, and distributors have more power than ever. Some are asserting this power with regards to region coding - Artificial Eye, Masters of Cinema. Others are not - the BFI, Criterion. In any case, I've fairly lost interest in the issue, as it seems that region-free Blu-Ray is on the way - in fact, it has already arrived - so all of this is fairly irrelevent. The irony of course being, as the music business shows, that within a few years producers/distributors will have no choice but to release their work online in DRM-free digital copies anyway...

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Gregory
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Re: Stanley Kubrick

#458 Post by Gregory » Fri May 29, 2009 1:51 pm

The way I took planetjake's comment about directors such as Kubrick and Antonioni was that they had conventional approaches to film technique relative to Brakhage, Snow et al., i.e. using basic elements ("rudiments") of lighting, camera movement, etc. rather than exploding these or otherwise going back to the drawing board. I think it was meant to be a fairly non-controversial statement but the word choice of "rudimentary" (interpreted, pretty uncharitably I'd add, to mean "undeveloped") opened the door for Nothing to leap on it to an extent that repeated clarification will probably not help. From what I've seen in the avant-garde film thread, Nothing's approach to discussion seems to be to continually shift the basis of the argument so as to keep it going for its own sake, rather than seeking to understand others' positions in order to settle anything or find areas of agreement.

In any case, members trying to branch arguments into other threads is not a good idea, especially after they've already turned unpleasant.

Nothing
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Re: Stanley Kubrick

#459 Post by Nothing » Fri May 29, 2009 2:22 pm

Looking at some of the filmmakers you and PJ mention, these are directors about whom the term rudimentary really could apply. Wavelength - a series of zooms across an unlit space, shot on 16mm, plonking filters and such in front of the camera on occassion, sometimes flipping to negative or pulling off a cheesy optical effect. Benning - I love the guy, but he is the most rudimentary (and elemental) filmaker alive. He has a Bolex camera, the most basic 16mm camera, and he puts it down on a tripod and films, whilst recording natural sound, and - that's it. No lighting, no movement. An editing rhythm that is usually limited by a structuralist principal (eg. 2m30secs for each shot, or the time it takes for a train to cross the frame). Compare this to the complex individual film languages and meticulous camera & lighting set-ups of Kubrick & Antonioni (Antonioni, in particular) and your claim simply shrivels into the ludicrous acorn of stupidity that it really is (in any case, does PJ really need you to defend him, can't he speak for himself?)

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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#460 Post by MichaelB » Fri May 29, 2009 4:38 pm

Nothing wrote:It is still a buyers market, at this year's Cannes attests, and distributors have more power than ever. Some are asserting this power with regards to region coding - Artificial Eye, Masters of Cinema. Others are not - the BFI, Criterion.
Surprisingly enough, I can respond to this and get back on topic at the same time - because of course a key reason that the BFI is the only one of those four to have released genuinely avant-garde and experimental titles on Blu-ray (namely the Jeff Keen and Kenneth Anger sets) is because it subsidises these riskier titles by licensing far more lucrative films from the majors - and accepting the contractual inevitability of region-coding as a by-product.

You'd never credit this from your sweeping generalisations, but in fact the BFI has actually released as many region-free Blu-ray titles as Artificial Eye. And remind me how many Blu-rays MoC has put out to date, despite entering the market at more or less the same time last autumn?

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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#461 Post by Nothing » Fri May 29, 2009 9:23 pm

The sole reason the BFI can release a Jeff Keen Blu-Ray is because it is a publically-funded charity organisation with no obligation to conform to market realities.

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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#462 Post by Nothing » Fri May 29, 2009 10:07 pm

Hey - who just fucking removed those posts from the Stanley Kubrick thread? Sausage? That is completely fucking mendacious. It's obvious that planetjake can lurk around this avant-Garde cinema thread, filled with avant-garde cinema obsessives, and make as many ludicrious remarks and ad hominem attacks as he likes without the slightest rebuke or moderator restraint. The only way to move the debate on with regards to Kubrick & Antonioni therefore, is to open it up to posters who actually understand those filmmakers - ellipsis7, david hare, etc - many of whom are unlikely to look at this thread.

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kinjitsu
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#463 Post by kinjitsu » Fri May 29, 2009 10:23 pm

Unless I'm mistaken, they weren't removed but merged into this thread.

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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#464 Post by Nothing » Fri May 29, 2009 10:36 pm

The intention was to take it out of this thread, to open up a debate on *drum roll* Stanley Kubrick to people who had actually seen a Stanley Kubrick film, or, rather, to those who had paid attention.

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Mr Sausage
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#465 Post by Mr Sausage » Fri May 29, 2009 11:41 pm

Nothing wrote:Hey - who just fucking removed those posts from the Stanley Kubrick thread? Sausage?
Nope. Wasn't me.
Nothing wrote:obvious that planetjake can lurk around this avant-Garde cinema thread, filled with avant-garde cinema obsessives, and make as many ludicrious remarks and ad hominem attacks as he likes without the slightest rebuke or moderator restraint.
Hah! You have got to be kidding me.

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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#466 Post by MichaelB » Sat May 30, 2009 5:44 am

Nothing wrote:The sole reason the BFI can release a Jeff Keen Blu-Ray is because it is a publically-funded charity organisation with no obligation to conform to market realities.
I can assure you that the DVD publishing arm most certainly does have an obligation to "conform to market realities", being not only one of the BFI's bigger income-generators but expected to improve on that position as overall running costs grow while public subsidy remains frozen at the same level that it has been for years. Which is why the catalogue has to intersperse big names like Pasolini, Antonioni and Kurosawa with the likes of Chris Newby and Andrew Kötting - an inescapable by-product of those pesky "market realities".

Of course, one bonus of being partially publicly funded is that you have the option of checking the figures for yourself - or just read the introduction, in which the DVD arm is singled out for "undergoing a remarkable renaissance in the range of titles it offers and the financial returns to the BFI" (italics mine).

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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#467 Post by Nothing » Sat May 30, 2009 7:49 am

I think you're willfully missing the point, Michael. No matter how profitable the BFI's wider DVD business may or may not be, the fact is that no truly commercial entity could justify an inherently unprofitable release such as the films of Jeff Keen on Blu-Ray. Look at Artificial Eye or Masters of Cinema, as you yourself have pointed out. Take Criterion, even - they have a much larger territory, a much larger following, they shift far more units per title and, yet, even they are extremely selective about what gets the upgrade. Neither Brakhage anthology is getting a Blu-Ray from Criterion, even though Brakhage is a far larger name than Keen.

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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#468 Post by MichaelB » Sat May 30, 2009 9:21 am

Nothing wrote:I think you're willfully missing the point, Michael. No matter how profitable the BFI's wider DVD business may or may not be, the fact is that no truly commercial entity could justify an inherently unprofitable release such as the films of Jeff Keen on Blu-Ray. Look at Artificial Eye or Masters of Cinema, as you yourself have pointed out.
Both distributors have released several titles that more than justify the label "inherently unprofitable" - just look at MoC's latest, an obscure Godard title with an 80-page book that was a labour of love that apparently took nine months to assemble. Or Artificial Eye's Sátántangó, a three-disc release of a seven-hour black-and-white Hungarian film that was previously all but unknown in Britain (screened twice, I think).

Don't get me wrong - I'm not denying that the BFI has certain advantages regarding upfront risk-taking, not least the fact that ambitious/risky projects can be spread across many different outlets and media. But it isn't remotely missing the point to say that your claim that they have "no obligation to conform to market realities" is flat-out absurd. Put it like this, if the head of DVD Publishing used that excuse to justify missing sales targets, he'd be out on his ear - and quite rightly.
Take Criterion, even - they have a much larger territory, a much larger following, they shift far more units per title and, yet, even they are extremely selective about what gets the upgrade. Neither Brakhage anthology is getting a Blu-Ray from Criterion, even though Brakhage is a far larger name than Keen.
Criterion's approach to Blu-ray has generally been pretty conservative - more of a cautious dip into unfamiliar waters than a wholehearted plunge. But that's always been true of that company - remember how long it took them to add anamorphic enhancement?

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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#469 Post by Nothing » Sat May 30, 2009 1:47 pm

You can't compare Blu-ray and DVD releases, I don't have the figures to hand but the market for Blu-Ray is still much much smaller. Beyond this, Godard and Tarr are huge names compared to Keen, and Satantango is widely regarded as the most important film of the 90s, however few UK screenings it has received. I'm also sure they've shifted many units of Satantango far beyond the shores of the UK, given that their edition is superior to - and cheaper - than the Facets.

I'm not saying it's a bad thing that the BFI can release insanely obscure Blu-rays (the recent Richard Lester being another!), but you know... speaking of which, a friend has been saying to me: what about Il Gattopardo?

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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#470 Post by foggy eyes » Mon Jun 01, 2009 8:40 am

Mark Webber's review of the Treasures IV set has some interesting things to say about the exhibition/distribution argument that has consumed this thread. I'm particularly intrigued by the last comment:
A historical problem that has led to a lack of understanding and exposure of independent artists’ cinema has been the invisibility of the work. This absence could be attributed to several factors: the scarcity of good exhibition prints and the constitutional passivity of distribution collectives, the accumulative cost of rental fees and shipping (considerable for screenings of multiple works) which restricts programming, the lack of serious commitment from exhibiting institutions, and the weight of impenetrable theoretical writing against almost non-existent coverage in the popular media.

Changes are taking place as film leaves the academy for the art world and new technologies develop. The commercial availability of these films was something unimaginable 10-15 years ago, and though the format is compromised when compared to the experience afforded by good quality cinema presentation, it is hopefully balanced by increased access, and the potential for quick reference or repeated viewings. This proliferation is in step with the current desperation to have everything on demand, and unfortunately it is that convenience that makes it harder to appreciate the value in something.

We can’t, and probably shouldn’t, attempt to hold back the tide. It may be optimistic to assume that this increased accessibility will encourage more people to attend screenings and see works as originally intended. Cinema projection (on film) may become even more of a specialist pursuit but will likely survive as the only way to appreciate the essential qualities of such work, and as a preservation material ‘analogue’ film remains significantly more durable than any digital format.

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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#471 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Jun 01, 2009 10:24 am

It is an interesting argument. Releasing films on home video formats may compromise the 'purity' of the theatrical image but it might at the same time build understanding and recognition among the audience who might otherwise not attend a theatrical screening for many reasons (lack of awareness, unwilling to pay a high ticket price, difficulty of reaching limited and not widely publicised screenings). At least with home video it would work to give people a taster of the theatrical experience (along with the only chance people from outlying territories will ever have of experiencing such films), while emphasising that it is a pale shadow of the 'true' experience.

The other aspect brought up, as I think Jonathan Rosenbaum talked about once in one of his columns, is how this affects the critical reputation of, and received wisdom about, a canon of work (e.g. if the only Ozu available was Floating Weeds and not Tokyo Story would the reputation of one be considered higher than another - or if Story of Floating Weeds was the only silent Ozu available for home viewing would that come to be considered the silent Ozu film over and above the others?)

It might be quite frightening for critics who have staked their reputations on telling the general public about how one film in particular is the masterpiece of a career, or encapsulates everything about an artist, to then have this work more widely available and finding their comments being challenged. It might also be frightening for artists themselves to suddenly find their reputations being suddenly buffeted by a wider range of opinions. That is the problem with inclusivity, I suppose!

This is probably even more troubling with regard to non-narrative, experimental or avant garde film which can depend a lot on the meaning an audience member brings to it to decide whether it is a 'success' or 'failure' in those limited terms.

Then add to that the lack of education or fostering of interest in such items that would enable audiences to build up the critical facilities to understand and place them in context (or at least appreciate why they feel something does not work for them!) As well as a sense (however justified or misguided) of protection of the work and the artist from the non-understanding outsiders allied to inaccessibility increasing worth and a sense of mystique.

The most interesting idea the Treasures avant-garde set raises is the decision to make accessible the more obscure works by major filmmakers - maybe as an experiment in seeing how this affects thinking on this subject? (Or at least a gratefully accepted approach that emphasises the more overlooked works and tries to widen the access to, and themes of, the debate a little)

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Matt
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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#472 Post by Matt » Mon Jun 01, 2009 12:11 pm

Mr_sausage wrote:
Nothing wrote:Hey - who just fucking removed those posts from the Stanley Kubrick thread? Sausage?
Nope. Wasn't me.
It was me. One toxic thread is enough, so those posts were moved into this thread.

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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#473 Post by MichaelB » Mon Jun 01, 2009 2:12 pm

I'd probably best not name him, given ongoing litigation, but I know of at least one filmmaker who deliberately held back from suing people who claimed to represent his work until after a comprehensive DVD was released, because he thought it was more important that the work was out there.

Presumably if his litigation is successful he'll receive backdated dues anyway, so it seems a pretty sensible move - and if he doesn't... well, the work's still out there, which is obviously better for everyone than it being tied up in legal red tape for years.

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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#474 Post by MichaelB » Mon Jun 01, 2009 3:18 pm

Nothing wrote:You can't compare Blu-ray and DVD releases,
True, but Blu-ray is still in its mewling infancy in the UK arthouse market, so it's impossible to draw meaningful comparisons at the moment.
Beyond this, Godard and Tarr are huge names compared to Keen, and Satantango is widely regarded as the most important film of the 90s, however few UK screenings it has received. I'm also sure they've shifted many units of Satantango far beyond the shores of the UK, given that their edition is superior to - and cheaper - than the Facets.
Yes, but that doesn't ignore the fact that they were both considerable commercial risks (especially the Tarr, as I don't think he'd had any significant commercial impact to speak of in the UK). And of course both catalogues contain plenty of other obscure titles that clearly weren't put out with the bottom line in mind - as each distributor has its own cash cows to subsidise the riskier material: it's absolutely standard (and sensible) practice. In fact, many of the BFI's riskier titles are effectively subsidised by the trainspotter market thanks to the British Transport Films catalogue.
I'm not saying it's a bad thing that the BFI can release insanely obscure Blu-rays (the recent Richard Lester being another!), but you know... speaking of which, a friend has been saying to me: what about Il Gattopardo?
This depends entirely on whether Fox wants to carry on letting the BFI license it - I'm not privy to the negotiations (if indeed there've been any).

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Re: Avant-Garde, Experimental & Non-narrative Films

#475 Post by Nothing » Tue Jun 02, 2009 5:43 am

MichaelB wrote:they were both considerable commercial risks... each distributor has its own cash cows to subsidise the riskier material: it's absolutely standard (and sensible) practice.
Yes it is... There's a difference between a risk and a non-starter, however. As I recall, AE were very cautious about releasing Satantango; they released the Werckmeister Harmonies / Damnation set first, to see how that would perform before going ahead. Further, the risk would seem to have paid off (the reason a commercial company takes such risks in the first place): almost three years after release, Satantango is ranking at 5,781 on Amazon. By comparison, the Dardennes' latest snore-fest, The Silence of Lorna, release barely a month ago, is ranked at 7,898. Your Jeff Keen DVD, released in Feb '09, is ranking at 18,373 (in which case, I beggar to think how many units of the Blu-Ray have been shifted - is it in three figures?)... Not that that's a bad thing, as I say.

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