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"Masterworks of American Avant-garde Experimental Film 1920-1970"

Commencing in 1920 with Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand's creative collaboration on Manhatta, successive generations of experimental filmmakers and artists have worked in collaboration or alone to create a cinema capable of expressing dynamic unspoken concepts in totally abstract visual terms.

Flicker Alley and the Blackhawk Films Collection in cooperation with Filmmakers Showcase are proud to present this premiere collection of 37 films created by some of the most acclaimed names of American Avant-garde experimental filmmaking, including Charles Sheeler, Paul Strand, Fernand Le ger, Dudley Murphy, Rrose Se lavy (Marcel Duchamp), Robert Florey, Slavko Vorkapich, Ralph Steiner, Jay Leyda, James Sibley Watson, Jr., Melville Webber, Emlen Etting, Oskar Fischinger, Joseph Cornell, Mary Ellen Bute, Ted Nemeth, Rudy Burckhardt, Francis Lee, Maya Deren, Alexander Hackenschmied, Helen Levitt, Janice Loeb, James Agee, James Broughton, Kenneth Anger, Ian Hugo, Anai s Nin, Len Lye, Jim Davis, Hy Hirsh, Marie Menken, Francis Thompson, Hilary Harris, Bruce Baillie, George Landow, Jonas Mekas, Lawrence Jordan, Tom Palazzolo, Lawrence Janiak, Amy Greenfield, Phil Solomon, and Stan Brakhage.

To watch these films is to see the world anew through innovative cinematic interventions: fast cutting, expressive camerawork, abstract animation, surrealistic collage, distorted and superimposed imagery, and many more extraordinary techniques. Essentially the filmmakers ask us to open our eyes and see, to permit the reception of pure sensations uninhibited by any complex web of predetermined associations dominant in mainstream Hollywood film and television.

Collected from archives around the world, and beautifully restored in high definition, the majority of vintage silent films in Masterworks of American Avant-Garde Experimental Film 1920-1970 feature new musical scores and performances by innovative composers George Antheil, Louis Siegel, William O. Smith, Gene Forrell, Arthur Kleiner, Louis & Bebe Barron, Donald Sosin, Eric Beheim, Rodney Sauer, Gustavo Matamoros, Henry Wolfe, and Phil Carluzzo.

 

DVD Reviews

 

DVD Review: Flicker Alley -  Region FREE - Blu-ray

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Distribution Flicker Alley - Region FREE - Blu-ray
Runtime 3:27:36.318 + 3:30:43.922
  Blu-ray One Blu-ray Two
Video

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,275,052,203 bytes

Features Size: 48,094,089,216 bytes

Video Bitrate: 27.46 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video / 23.976 fps

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,437,583,788 bytes

Feature's Size: 47,192,414,208 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.49 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video / 23.976 fps

 

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

Disc 1 Blu-ray Bitrate:

 

 

Disc 2 Blu-ray Bitrate:

 

 

Audio

• DTS-HD Master Audio English 1803 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1803 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
• DTS-HD Master Audio English 1791 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1791 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

Features

The 37 Films in the digital retrospective include:

The 1920s

• Manhatta (1920-21) by Charles Sheeler, Paul Strand
2K digital restoration from 35mm 1.33:1 black & white silent 16fps, 11:41 minutes; new music by Donald Sosin

• Ballet Mechanique (1923-24) by Fernand Léger, Dudley Murphy
2K digital restoration from 35mm 1.33:1 black & white with color tints silent 20fps, 15:53 minutes; music by George Antheil from original 1924-25 score adapted and arranged by Paul D. Lehrman and remixed by Gustavo Matamoros

Anémic cinéma (filmed 1924-25, released 1926) by Rrose Sélavy a.k.a. Marcel Duchamp
35mm 1.33:1 black & white silent 20fps, 6:40 minutes; new music by Gustavo Matamoros

The Life and Death of 9413–A Hollywood Extra (1927) by Robert Florey, Slavko Vorkapich
35mm 1.33:1 black & white silent 20fps, 13:20 minutes; new music by Donald Sosin

Skyscraper Symphony (1929) by Robert Florey
35mm 1.33:1 black & white silent 24fps, 8:53 minutes; new music by Donald Sosin

The 1930s

Mechanical Principles (1930) by Ralph Steiner
35mm 1.33:1 black & white silent 20fps, 10:18 minutes; new music by Eric Beheim

A Bronx Morning (1931) by Jay Leyda
35mm 1.33:1 black & white silent 20fps, 14:05 minutes; new music by Donald Sosin

Lot in Sodom (1930-32, released 1933) by J.S. Watson, Jr., Melville Webber, Alec Wilder, Remsen Wood, Bernard O’Brien.
35mm 1:20:1 black & white sound, 25:53 minutes; music by Louis Siegel

Poem 8 (1932-33) by Emlen Etting
16mm 1.37:1 black & white silent 18fps, 19:40 minutes; new music by Rodney Sauer

An Optical Poem (1937, MGM release 1938) by Oskar Fischinger
35mm 1.33:1 color sound, 7:02 minutes; music Hungarian Rhapsody, No. 2 by Franz Liszt

Thimble Theater (c. 1938, unfinished until 1968) by Joseph Cornell
16mm 1.37:1 black & white with color tint silent 18fps, 6:07 minutes; completed by Lawrence Jordan; new music:
vintage circus organ

The 1940s

Tarantella (1940) by Mary Ellen Bute, Ted Nemeth, animation Norman McLaren
35mm 1.37:1 color sound, 4:24 minutes; music by Edwin Gerschefski

The Pursuit of Happiness (1940) by Rudy Burckhardt
16mm 1.37:1 black & white intentionally silent 16fps, 8:09 minutes

1941 (1941) by Francis Lee
35mm from 16mm 1.37:1 color sound, 4 minutes; music by Igor Stravinsky

Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) by Maya Deren, A. Hackenschmied
16mm 1.37:1 black & white intentionally silent, 13:46 minutes

Meditation on Violence (1948) by Maya Deren
35mm enlarged from 16mm with 2K digital insert from 16mm 1.37:1 black & white sound, 12:27 minutes; music a mix of Chinese classical flute and drums recorded in Haiti by Maya Deren

In the Street (filmed 1945-46, released 1948, 1952) by Helen Levitt, Janice Loeb, James Agee.
16mm 1.37:1 black & white silent 18fps, 16:50 minutes; music by Arthur Kleiner

Disc 2

The 1950s

Four in the Afternoon (1950-51) by James Broughton
16mm 1.37:1 black & white sound, 14 minutes; music by William O. Smith

Abstronic (1952) by Mary Ellen Bute, Ted Nemeth
35mm 1.37:1 color sound, 5:45 minutes; music Hoe Down by Aaron Copland, Ranch House Party by Don Gillis

Eaux d’artifice (1953) by Kenneth Anger
16mm 1.37:1 black & white tinted color sound, 12:57 minutes; music “Winter” movement of The Four Seasons by
Antonio Vivaldi

Bells of Atlantis (1952-53) by Ian Hugo, Anaïs Nin, Len Lye
16mm 1.37.1 color sound, 9:27 minutes; electronic music Louis & Bebe Barron.

Evolution (1954) by Jim Davis
16mm 1.37:1 color sound, 8:01 minutes.

Gyromorphosis (1954) by Hy Hirsh
16mm 1.37:1 color sound, 6:40 minutes; music: Django by John Lewis, played by the Modern Jazz Quartet

Hurry, Hurry! (1957) by Marie Menken
16mm 1.37:1 color sound, 4:27 minutes.

N.Y., N.Y. (filmed 1949-57, released 1958) by Francis Thompson
35mm from 16mm 1.37:1 color sound, 15:10 minutes; music by Gene Forrell

The 1960s

9 Variations on a Dance Theme (1966/67) by Hilary Harri
16mm 1.37 black & white sound, 12:39 minutes; music by McNeil Robinson.

Castro Street (The Coming of Consciousness) (1966) by Bruce Baillie
16mm 1.37:1 color sound, 9:59 minutes

Film That Rises to the Surface of Clarified Butter (1968) by Owen Land, formerly George Landow
16mm 1.37:1 black & white sound, 8:26 minutes

Excerpt from Walden: Diaries, Notes and Sketches (1969) by Jonas Mekas
16mm 1.37:1; color sound excerpt end of Reel 5 and beginning of Reel 6, 13:05 minutes; music by Frédéric Chopin, Group Image

Our Lady of the Sphere (1969) by Lawrence Jordan
35mm from 16mm 1.37:1 color sound, 9:14 minutes

1970

Love It / Leave It (1970) by Tom Palazzolo
16mm 1.37:1; color sound, 14:07 minutes; music by Ray Whilding White

DL2 (Disintegration Line #2) (1970) by Lawrence Janiak
16mm 1.37:1 color sound, 11:46 minutes; music Bumblebees Sip Honey by Peliatan Gamelan

Transport (1970) by Amy Greenfield
16mm 1.37:1 color sound, 5:43 minutes; music by Indiran

Legacy Bonus Films

• Sappho and Jerry, Parts 1-3 (1977-78) by Bruce Posner
35mm 2.55:1 reformatted to 1080 color sound, 5:35 minutes

Ch’an (1983) by Francis Lee
16mm 1.37 black & white sound, 6:08 minutes; music by Christopher Atwood

Seasons… (2002) by Phil Solomon, Stan Brakhage
16mm 1.37:1 color silent, 16:00 minutes

Manhatta (1920-21) by Charles Sheeler, Paul Strand
See first entry – new music composed and performed by Henry Wolfe and Phil Carluzzo.


• 28-page booklet featuring an essay and extensive notes on restorations by curator, filmmaker, and film historian Bruce Posner

2 NTSC DVDs!

 

Chapters: 1 per film

Blu-ray Release Date: October 6th, 2015

 

 

 

Comments:

NOTE: These Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

 

ADDITION: Flicker Alley - Region FREE - Blu-ray (September 2015):  DVDBeaver are quite interested in the avant-garde on digital as referenced by our reviews of Avant-Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and 30s, Treasures IV: American Avant-Garde Film - 1947-1986, Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Films and Daryl Chin's article for DVDBeaver At Home and Abroad - Some Views From the Avant-Garde. But I believe this is our first Blu-ray in the genre.

 

NOTE: The case inaccurately states that the discs are region 'A'-locked. I have verified that they are, indeed, region FREE (as their website indicates).

 

My general overview is that for lovers of he Avant-garde - this Blu-ray package is absolutely incredible. Seeing works by the likes of Oskar Fischinger, Joseph Cornell, Mary Ellen Bute, Ted Nemeth, Maya Deren, James Agee, James Broughton, Kenneth Anger, Jonas Mekas, Stan Brakhage and more is like taking a mind-expanding drug. I watched both straight through - just shy of 7-hours of endlessly interesting, almost hypnotic, viewing. The set has 4 discs - 2 dual-layered and stacked Blu-rays and 2 DVDs (same content). The first Blu-ray encompases the 20's, 30's and 40's and the second the 50's, 60's and 70's plus the Curator’s Carte Blanche 4 bonus features including a repeat of Manhatta (1920-21) by Charles Sheeler, Paul Strand with new music composed and performed by Henry Wolfe and Phil Carluzzo.

 

The restorations and transfers (ex 2K) are described before each film (and above) with curator, filmmaker, year and running time as well as other incidentals. I also appreciated the brief text (usually a paragraph) describing the effort: An example would be:

 

 

The transfers are all 1080P and being avant-garde they is no real way to critic quality. They are what they are but I can say contrast in the black and white films is notably layered and colors (in the color entries) exhibit bold strength and depth. This very positively adds to the film experience, IMO.

 

There are scores in DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel by people like innovative composers George Antheil, Louis Siegel, William O. Smith, Gene Forrell, Arthur Kleiner, Louis & Bebe Barron, Donald Sosin, Eric Beheim, Rodney Sauer, Gustavo Matamoros, Henry Wolfe, and Phil Carluzzo and sounding wonderful.

The nature of avant-garde states that there are no bona-fide dialogues for the films (a few text screens) so there is no requirement for subtitles. The two Blu-ray discs are Region FREE.

The digital supplements are on Blu-ray disc two - described as Curator’s Carte Blanche. Which include 4 more shorts by Bruce Posner, Francis Lee, Phil Solomon, Stan Brakhage plus the aforementioned 1921 Manhatta with new music. The package also contains 2 NTSC DVDs (same content as the Blu-rays) and a 28-page booklet featuring an essay and extensive notes on restorations by curator, filmmaker, and film historian Bruce Posner.

This is, obviously, unconventional cinema and not for all tastes but if you open-yourself up and expose yourself to these films - it can be a very rewarding experience. Unique, rich, poetic visuals that draw you into an exceptional world massaging your senses. To the right crowd this is a 'must-own' but to everyone else it is still very strongly recommended!            

 Gary W. Tooze





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Blu-ray Two

 

 

 

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Disc 2

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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Gary Tooze