From: Fred Camper (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Jul 22 2010 - 22:51:44 PDT
Of course film is not dead, and of course you don't have to switch to
video, and of course it's a fine thing to work with something one loves.
I don't think the analogy of film with a person one loves works too
well. Even if one loves film, there are many different ways of using
it, depending on one's project(s); it is even less a fixed thing than
another person is.
My point, too, is that simply because a filmmaker loves handling film
doesn't mean the results of that love are worth showing. This is a
tricky issue, because I'm not saying that you should work to please
viewers, or to "communicate" (I word I think is wrong for any real
art), or anything like that. But what I'd like to read more of is what
the particular aesthetic qualities of projected celluloid are, for
viewers, that cannot be replicated on video and that someone feels are
essential to her art. If you love handling film, that may encourage
you to spend time making films, but it doesn't necessarily imply
anything about the result. Isn't the point of making a film to project
it, even if only for an audience of one, even if no one understands it
yet? Aren't we working toward a projected result?
The avant-garde film tradition was always, at its best, about
something very vital and very large: artists struggling to come to
terms with their particular visions, with the place of humans in the
world, with the place of nature, with the meaning of it all. Or, to
quote myself, many of the founders of Aerican avant-garde film made
films as a way of deciding whether, and on what terms, they could go
on living. The films of Markopoulos, Anger, Deren, Maclaine,
Brakhagge, Baillie and Rainer all have that quality for me, lone souls
struggling to grapple with self and world. These artists sought, if
not answers, then at least, possible pathways. As a viewer, I still
prefer films that seem vital, seem like they *had* to have been made.
Whether or not the artist does or does not love handling film doesn't
seem to me to be the main issue, if we are working toward results in
the world, rather than pursuing private hobbies. Steve Polta points
out that "Dog Star Man" was from a different time, but one doesn't
have to make heroic narratives to make films that engage the great
questions, and that offer the potential to liberate ourselves, and our
While some of its specifics are unique to gnosticism, I have long
loved the 2,000 year old Valentinian "formula," ""What liberates is
the knowledge of who we were, what we became; where we were, whereinto
we have been thrown; whereto we speed, wherefrom we are redeemed; what
birth is, and what rebirth." The investigation of such questions, even
with the knowledge that no final answers are possible, should, in my
view, be the task of the artist -- not simply making things one likes
to see, though, perhaps, that too.
Lest I be misunderstood, I am not here speaking negatively of any
specific filmmaker on this list.
Having seen the way Brakhage took to, and used, Polaroid's short lived
instant movie system, I don't think he is someone who would simply
"adapt," but rather, by "work with it," I would guess that he meant
something like, "See whether I can find things to do with this new
medium that are worthy of my own visions, and of the standards of
aesthetic beauty and meaning I have set for myself."
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