Amos Vogel: Film as a Subversive Art

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 »

Peter Whitehead – Wholly Communion (1965)

Whitehead’s breakthrough film, the documentation of the great Albert Hall Poetry Festival in ’65, which won him acclaim and awards. Shot handheld with only 45 minutes of stock (the finished film is 33 minutes), and presumably closely distilling much of the tension and event-ness of the celebrated ‘happening’. Verse luminaries include a bill-topping Allen Ginsberg (who reclines into his adoring entourage like a decadent monarch), the gruff, pipesmoking compere Alec Trocchi, an incendiary Adrian Mitchell, and most memorably the stoned heckler who disrupts the wired Harry Fainlight to the delight of the massive crowd. Read More »

Vittorio De Sica – Ladri di biciclette AKA Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Quote:

A crowd forms in front of a government employment agency, as it does every day, waiting – often in vain – for job announcements. Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani), one of the unemployed laborers who participates in this daily ritual, is selected to hang posters in the city, a job requiring a bicycle, which he has long sold in order to sustain his family’s meager existence for a few more days. He and his wife, Maria (Lianella Carell), return to the pawn shop with a few remaining possessions, their matrimonial linen, in order to redeem the bicycle. During his first day at his new work, his bicycle is stolen. He combs the city with his young son, Bruno (Enzo Staiola), in search of the elusive bicycle. Read More »

Fritz Lang – M [Universum, 80th Anniversary Edition] (1931)

Quote:
The horror of the faces: That is the overwhelming image that remains from a recent viewing of the restored version of “M,” Fritz Lang’s famous 1931 film about a child murderer in Germany. In my memory it was a film that centered on the killer, the creepy little Franz Becker, played by Peter Lorre. But Becker has relatively limited screen time, and only one consequential speech–although it’s a haunting one. Most of the film is devoted to the search for Becker, by both the police and the underworld, and many of these scenes are played in closeup. In searching for words to describe the faces of the actors, I fall hopelessly upon “piglike.” Read More »

Juraj Jakubisko – Kristove roky AKA The Crucial Years (1967)

Quote:
Jakubiskos debut, by many considered his best movie. The title can be translated as “The Crucial Years”, but literally it is “The Christ Years”, based on the idiomatic notion that a man should accomplish something in life before he reaches the age of Jesus when he was crucified. The film surely has some autobiographical elements, as it is about a beginning artist from Eastern Slovakia who lives and works in Prague. Read More »

Walter Heynowski – Aktion J (1961)

Quote:
Compilation film, tracing the political career of Dr. Hans Globke, allegedly a former Nazi, now Secretary of State in West Germany.

Included in Amos Vogel’s classic book Film as a Subversive Art. Read More »

Michael Snow – La Région Centrale (1971)

Quote:
«La Région Centrale» was made during five days of shooting on a deserted mountain top in North Quebec. During the shooting, the vertical and horizontal alignment as well as the tracking speed were all determined by the camera’s settings. Anchored to a tripod, the camera turned a complete 360 degrees, craned itself skyward, and circled in all directions. Because of the unconventional camera movement, the result was more than merely a film that documented the film location’s landscape. Surpassing that, this became a film expressing as its themes the cosmic relationships of space and time. Cataloged here were the raw images of a mountain existence, plunged (at that time) in its distance from civilization, embedded in cosmic cycles of light and darkness, warmth and cold. Read More »