Maya Deren, one of the first and most innovative of American experimental filmmakers, made this, her last complete film, in 1958 — one of her best. Still hopeful of making new films, Deren left unfinished Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti, which was shot between 1947 and 1954, and only completed by Teiji and Cherel Ito in 1985, many years after her death in 1961, at the age of 44.
The Very Eye of Night has gotten a bad rap over the years, when compared to her landmark Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), but it doesn’t deserve it. In The Very Eye of Night, Deren finally figures out how to effortlessly make bodies float through space, to mesh the camera with the bodies of the dancers she records, and to create an ethereal, otherworldly series of images that lead the receptive viewer into her own personal dream world. Continue reading
Alexander Hammid’s intimate study of a female cat and the birth and maturation of her five kittens. Continue reading
In Search of an Altered State
“During the witchcraft persecutions in Europe, Inquisitors are said to have sometimes put an accused witch in a bag, which was strung up over the limb of a tree and set swinging. When witches’ learnt about this punishment they experimented with it themselves and found that the sensory deprivation or confusion of senses induced hallucinatory experiences. A similar swinging motion has long been used by shamans and dervishes and is sometimes known as ‘dervish-dangling’.”
- Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology
“The transgression and confrontation is re-enacted in this brilliant fuguelike film by Dana Plays constructed of found footage, and concerning both American involvement in oversees conflict and the resultant unseen plight of the child refugee. Subverting state-sponsored informational films on such issues as war bonds and highway safety, Plays transforms these agit-prop rhetorics into a celluloid mirror of transgression as a larger cultural pathology. In Zero Hour, the results – the products of war return to the initial cite of production: an assumed audience of Americans, middle–class citizens of an ideal suburban dream who have somehow foregone the immediate experiences and repercussion of mass destruction and displacement. The gaze rests on us. We are the sugar-stated, hyper and unaware violator, an audience whose relationship to world events is nowhere more homogenous than in or communal incubation and guilt.” – William Tester
“David Bordwell” wrote:
Warnings about gay sadomasochism to the contrary, this doesn’t offer much you can’t see in Warhol or Waters. What it does provide is three shots. The first, nearly 45 minutes long, provides virtually a one-act play about a motel tryst between a businessman and his teenage lover. The second shot shifts us to an anonymous sexual encounter that is admittedly fairly off-putting, but handled with the mix of casual framing and off-kilter suspense we find in, again, Warhol. The very last shot is very brief and puts the other two into a new context. Continue reading
The movie was banned from the Festival in 1968. The Festivalleitung refused showing the film and movie provided a scandal. Costard became one of the most prominent representatives of the German experimental film, but earned problems with financing projects in future.
Pornography in the service of politics. An outrageous provocation, this attack on reactionary German legislation discriminating against young film directors, features head-on, close-up shots of a penis ‘mouthing’ the parliamentary defence of the law by its author. This is followed by masturbation of the organ by an anonymous female hand, ending with ejaculation into the camera and a close-up of a nude behind ‘blowing’ out a candle (with appropriate sound). A landmark in political pamphleteering, the film was selected for the 1968 Oberhausen International Short Film Festival by a committee of leading German critics, and promptly banned by the (social-democratic!) city government, causing the withdrawal of almost all German directors from the festival and a national scandal. The title satirically refers to the official certificate of ‘Particularly Valuable’ given each year to the best film shorts by an Establishment selection committee.
- Amos Vogel, Film as a Subversive Art
Even more so than The Orchid Gardener, this film anticipates Lars von Trier’s later work. The cross-wielding figure who emerges in the final shot before the end title in The Orchid Gardener appears here as “the Jew” who keeps the garden in the cloister where Menthe’s would-be mistress attempts to make her “remember” the things that they have lived together in a series of images that play with expectations about dominance. Continue reading