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Treasures IV: American Avant-Garde Film, 1947-1986

 

In the years following World War II, a new generation of Americans began experimenting with cinema. Some came to filmmaking from painting or sculpture; others from music, anthropology, photography, or political activism. A few took up the camera to create art with friends. Armed with inexpensive 16mm and 8mm equipment, these filmmakers started from scratch and pushed film in directions it had never gone before. Treasures IV: American Avant-Garde Film, 1947-1986 presents 26 films by artists who helped to redefine cinema. It is the first anthology of the period available on DVD.

The new 5-1/4 hour, 2-disc anthology, released on March 3, 2009 by Image Entertainment, samples an array of film types and styles, from abstract animation to documentary and balances acknowledged classics with rediscoveries. The films are drawn from the preservation work of five of America's foremost avant-garde archives—the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Anthology Film Archives, the Museum of Modern Art, the New York Public Library, and the Pacific Film Archive. None of the titles has been available before on good-quality video in the United States.

The anthology was produced with the full support of the filmmakers and estates. Funding was provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts; telecine services were donated by Film Technology, Inc. John Zorn contributed new music; Martin Scorsese wrote the foreword to the program notes. AMPAS generously gave technical assistance. Net proceeds from Treasures IV will support further film preservation. Click HERE for a brochure.

Made on a shoestring, avant-garde films have always existed at the margins of commercial distribution. Over the last two decades film archives stepped forward to save what they can. They have collaborated with artists, compared alternative versions, tracked down the best surviving source material, and preserved scores of works. There are still many more films awaiting preservation and the process continues only thanks to public support.

DVD Review: Image Entertainment -  Region 0 - NTSC

 

Cover

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Distribution Image Entertainment -  Region 0 - NTSC
AudioMostly Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
Time Over 5 hours of material on 2 DVDs
Intertitles None
FeaturesRelease Information:
DVD Production: Image Entertainment

Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Bruce Baillie, Here I Am (1962)
• Wallace Berman, Aleph (1956–66?)
• Stan Brakhage, The Riddle of Lumen (1972)
• Robert Breer, Eyewash (1959)
• Shirley Clarke, Bridges-Go-Round (1958)
• Joseph Cornell, By Night with Torch and Spear (1940s?)
• Storm De Hirsch, Peyote Queen (1965)
• Hollis Frampton, (nostalgia) (1971)
• Larry Gottheim, Fog Line (1970)
• Ken Jacobs, Little Stabs at Happiness (1959–63)
• Lawrence Jordan, Hamfat Asar (1965)
• George Kuchar, I, An Actress (1977)
• Owen Land, New Improved Institutional Quality: In the Environment of Liquids and Nasals a Parasitic Vowel Sometimes Develops (1976)
• Standish Lawder, Necrology (1969–70)
• Saul Levine, Note to Pati (1969)
• Christopher Maclaine, The End (1953)
• Jonas Mekas, Notes on the Circus (1966)
• Marie Menken, Go! Go! Go! (1962–64)
• Robert Nelson & William T. Wiley, The Off-Handed Jape...& How to Pull It Off (1967)
• Pat O’Neill, 7362 (1967)
• Ron Rice, Chumlum (1964)
• Paul Sharits, Bad Burns (1982)
• Jane Conger Belson Shimane, Odds & Ends (1959)
• Harry Smith, Film No. 3: Interwoven (1947–49)
• Chick Strand, Fake Fruit Factory (1986)
• Andy Warhol, Mario Banana (No. 1) (1964)

• Newly recorded music by John Zorn
• 72-page illustrated book of program notes, with a foreword by Martin Scorsese
• More than 200 interactive screens
• Portraits of the artists
• 2 postcards from the films

DVD Release Date: March 3rd, 2009
Cardboard Sleeve Box with 2 Keep Cases and one 72-page book

Comments:

We are so fortunate to have another wonderful eclectic mixture of rare and newly preserved films from the National Film Preservation Foundation. Two dual-layered, progressive DVDs, coded for region 0 in the NTSC standard, and one 72-page book in an exciting package for films fans everywhere - not only those keen on some of the evolution of the Avant-Garde in the US.

The' Film images' below are were supplied in my package from the NFPF and give a decent overall indication of what to expect visually. I should note that the quality can appear 'rough' at times (noise, damage and sometimes heavy grain) - as indicated by the 'programme' I received; "Avant-Garde works are created by artists seeking individual expression through the medium of film. Produced on a shoestring, these personal projects are rarely safeguarded by the creation of preservation masters. Few filmmakers have access to environmentally controlled vaults for safe storage of unique production materials. Thus within a few short years of their premiere, significant films can drop from public viewing. Stories abound about the works lost through lab closures or storage in wet basements." Suffice to say that these 27 works look, in this DVD set, as good as they ever will after the painstaking efforts utilized bringing them to digital. I don't expect fans indulging in this will have expectations any more advanced than what the package offers, but it should be noted that the images are limited by their source and age.

This represents some of the seminal alternative history of an unbound movement that continues to evolve to this very day. None of these films have been available prior to the release of this marvelous set. Personally, I stayed up alone, rather late last night (Friday) to indulge in this and strongly recommend this manner of undistracted viewing for maximum impact. Wow.  

With the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities and Film Technology, Inc., the NFPF is offering this DVD project that helps reclaim some of this movement's little-known history. The 5 hour set with book, seems a must-own for so many of the devout cinema fans that I converse.

Menu navigation remains a bit of an ordeal with options for each film (play new music, sometimes 'silent etc.) and to read the text menus screens that mimic what is available in the included book (my preferred way of accessing the information). The works can often be short so the best option is the "Play All" where you can simply sit back and soak it in as it unfolds in front of you. Unlike Treasures 3 - there appears to be no available commentaries and there are no subtitles (nor a necessity for any). 

This DVD Boxset is presents works that quickly grow on you and each has its own individuals history and conceptual story. I realize this is early in the year but so far it is definitely one of my favorite releases so far. It was great to see more Brakhage and Warhol as well as so much from artists that I was unaware of. It is really unexplainable and it is best to simply watch it - with an open mind. The discs are divided as follows:

Content:
Disc 1 - Harry Smith, Film No. 3: Interwoven (1947–49), Jonas Mekas, Notes on the Circus (1966),  Bruce Baillie, Here I Am (1962), Chick Strand, Fake Fruit Factory (1986), Jane Conger Belson Shimane, Odds & Ends (1959), Robert Breer, Eyewash (1959), Storm De Hirsch, Peyote Queen (1965), Pat O’Neill, 7362 (1967), Wallace Berman, Aleph (1956–66?), Saul Levine, Note to Pati (1969), Joseph Cornell, By Night with Torch and Spear (1940s?), Stan Brakhage, The Riddle of Lumen (1972) and Christopher Maclaine, The End (1953).

Disc 2 -
Shirley Clarke, Bridges-Go-Round (1958), Marie Menken, Go! Go! Go! (1962–64), Ken Jacobs, Little Stabs at Happiness (1959–63), Ron Rice, Chumlum (1964), Andy Warhol, Mario Banana (No. 1) (1964), George Kuchar, I, An Actress (1977), Robert Nelson & William T. Wiley, The Off-Handed Jape...& How to Pull It Off (1967), Owen Land, New Improved Institutional Quality: In the Environment of Liquids and Nasals a Parasitic Vowel Sometimes Develops (1976), Lawrence Jordan, Hamfat Asar (1965), Standish Lawder, Necrology (1969–70), Larry Gottheim, Fog Line (1970), Hollis Frampton, (nostalgia) (1971) and Paul Sharits, Bad Burns (1982).

Just to reiterate, the image is... as the image is. Production age, preservation, and other limiting factors can obscure visuals - often intentionally though - with an array of film types and styles, from abstract animation to documentary. It can make your head spin. This is one set that needs to be experienced rather than reviewed. We encourage those cinephiles and DVD fans, even remotely, interested - to indulge and partake of the pleasures of history and expressive individualism. This is something else.

NOTE: More on the Avant-Garde should check out Daryl Chin's article for DVDBeaver; At Home and Abroad - Some Views From the Avant-Garde on DVD.  

 

Gary W. Tooze

The 'Treasures Collections' - #1 - 50 films preserved by America's premier archives, #2 - More Treasures from American Film Archives 1894-1931, Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film 1900-1934, Treasures IV: American Avant-Garde Film, 1947-1986 and Treasures 5: The West, 1898-1938.

 

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate samples

Video

Average Bitrate: 5.56 mb/s
NTSC 720x480  


DVD Menus
Samples (Disc 1 only)

 


Film Images From the NFPF's DVD Set

 

Joseph Cornell, By Night with Torch and Spear (1940s?)

 

 


Christopher Maclaine, The End (1953)

 

 


Jonas Mekas, Notes on the Circus (1966)

 

 


Pat O’Neill, 7362 (1967)

 

 


Shirley Clarke, Bridges-Go-Round (1958)

 

 


Ron Rice, Chumlum (1964)

 

 


Robert Breer, Eyewash (1959)

 

 


Chick Strand, Fake Fruit Factory (1986)

 

 


Harry Smith, Film No. 3: Interwoven (1947–49)

 

 


Larry Gottheim, Fog Line (1970)

 

 


Lawrence Jordan, Hamfat Asar (1965)

 

 


Ken Jacobs, Little Stabs at Happiness (1959–63)

 

 


Owen Land, New Improved Institutional Quality: In the Environment of Liquids and Nasals a Parasitic Vowel Sometimes Develops (1976)

 

 


Hollis Frampton, (nostalgia) (1971)

 

Avant-Garde DVDs as discussed in Daryl Chin's article At Home and Abroad - Some Views From the Avant-Garde on DVD HERE

 (CLICK COVERS FOR MORE)

 

 


 

Cover

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Distribution Image Entertainment -  Region 0 - NTSC




 

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Gary Tooze

Mississauga, Ontario,

   CANADA

Many Thanks...