Amos Vogel: Film as a Subversive Art

Jan Nemec – O slavnosti a hostech AKA The Party and the Guests (1966)

Distinguished as being ‘banned forever’ in its native Czechoslovakia, Nemec’s film is a masterpiece of barbed, darkly sinister wit. As a biting satire of governmental and institutional power and with its astute observations of human nature and conformity, it is a film whose relevance continues to this day.
Considered the most politically dangerous film made during the short flowering of the Czech New Wave in the 1960s, this is its first-ever release on DVD. Read More »

Kaneto Shindô – Onibaba AKA Devil Woman (1964)

Synopsis:
In the Fourteenth Century, during a civil war in Japan, a middle-aged woman and her daughter-in-law survive in a hut in a field of reed killing warriors and soldiers to trade their possessions for food. When their neighbor Hachi defects from the war and returns home, they learn that their son and husband Kichi died while stealing supplies from farmers. Soon Hachi seduces the young widow and she sneaks out of her hut every night to have sex with him. When the older woman finds the affair of her daughter-in-law, she pleads with Hachi to leave the young woman with her since she would not be able to kill the warriors without her help. However, Hachi ignores her request and continues to meet the young woman. Read More »

Agnès Varda – Lions Love (1969)

Quote:
Agnes Varda directed this drama which combines formal dramatic structures with the openness of improvisational cinema verite. Independent filmmaker Shirley Clarke plays an avant-garde film director attempting to work with a major studio to finance her next project, in which she hopes to collaborate with James Rado and Jerome Ragni, creators of the musical Hair (who play themselves). She also wants to use Andy Warhol superstar Viva (who also appears as herself) as her leading lady. However, after much give and take between herself and the moneymen, the director learns that the plug has been pulled on her project, pushing her to the brink of suicide. Read More »

Walter Heynowski – O.K. (1964)

Quote:
This fascinating and unique film is unfortunately almost entirely unknown in the West. The girl Doris S. leaves East Germany in 1961 to join her father in West Germany. Three years later, she returns and tells the camera why she returned. The reason is simple: West Germany is a country or moral and sexual corruption, full of bars, American soldiers, American cars, alcohol, and prostitution. Doris S. succumbed to both commercial sex and drinking, but finally decided to return to clean living in East Germany. Clearly designed to discourage actual or potential emigration from East into West Germany, the film nevertheless operates on a second, unintended level as well. For in this lengthy interview, Doris reveals non-verbal and unmistakable signs of fear and coercion, reinforced by the stentorian, Prussian style of the interviewer (rather, cross-examiner). Read More »

Stephen Dwoskin – Naissant (1964)

Experimental film which attempts to communicate in strictly cinematographic terms the emotions of a pregnant woman alone.
Music composed and played by Gavin Bryars. Read More »

Santiago Álvarez – Now (1965)

Using morgue photos, newsreel footage, and a recording by Lena Horne, Cuban filmmaker Santiago Alvarez fired off ‘Now!’, one of the most powerful bursts of propaganda rendered in the 1960s. Read More »

Bruce Conner – A Movie (1958)

Quote:
The singular title of Bruce Conner’s A Movie positions this avant-garde short as though it were a prototypical example for the entire medium. In fact, Conner’s film is the self-conscious inheritor of a particular tradition within the movies, a particular use to which moving pictures have been put: the filmic spectacle. Where Conner’s film, constructed entirely from a wide variety of found footage, diverges from this tradition is in its recognition that in spectacle, the content hardly matters so much as the sensations conveyed through the film. Read More »