welcome mat

This is a journal I keep to record all things I do within the realm of filmmaking.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Hello all,

I just created a new film group so that others can help in future projects. If you want to join (pleasepleasePLEASE do), then either go to http://groups.google.com/group/film-collaborations to check us out, or just enter your email address on the right and submit.

Thanks! :)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Assignment #3

LCC 2720, Assignment #3, Font: Helvetica

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Music for the Deaf, by Jared Caldwell

By 1924, Viking Eggeling had completed what most consider his masterpiece: Diagonale Symphonie, or “Diagonal Symphony”. Diagonale Symphonie is a black and white film created solely out of linear animated lines and curves. This “symphony” of line movement creates what some consider to be “visual music”. Diagonale Symphonie is one of the first in a wave of Dada films that uses abstract animation through film to capture a symphony of music through visual means.

Eggeling, originally a painter, committed most of his life's research to the “theory of art based on a language of linear forms”. He would take elements found in nature, such as rocks, grass, trees, and the sky, and distill their forms into basic geometric shapes. Eggeling used these basic derived elements of nature to create a kind of pictorial language through abstraction. His research became a progression of using these elements with the “notion of counterpoint of linear elements”. The pictorial “language” he created juxtaposed with elements with opposite meaning (i.e. Large to small, few to many, increasing to decreasing), formed a “'creative marriage of contrast and analogy'”. The use of counterpoint within these linear hieroglyphs were intended to create expression. The final element to achieve in Eggeling's work was the sense of temporality.

In Diagonale Symphonie, Viking Eggeling brings his paintings and drawings to life in animated sequences. “One motif follows another, each presented with the diagrammatic clarity of a blackboard drawing, all arranged along a diagonal axis.” Eggeling takes his pictorial language of lines and curves and presents them in a way to convey rhythm, contrast, temporality, and counterpoint. The pictographs and gestures start of small, slow, and simple; then, the rhythm picks up, and the images and gestures become more exaggerated. These gestures compose a song and dance of sorts with these “curves and straight lines [that] sprout and retract in a regular rhythm, one answering the other”.

According to Richter, both he and Eggeling believed that “'music became the model...every action produces a corresponding reaction”. The thought of counterpoint is well integrated into music. The gestures of counterpoint in Diagonale Symphonie, along with rhythm, create the sense of visual music. A musical structure is solidly in place. A beat or pulse is created by the rhythm of the movement of the pictographs. Crescendo, decrescendo, and accents can be seen with the ebb and flow of the counterpoint gestures. Legato and staccato are composed by the duration of the images in the film. One can experience a visual symphony without the use of any music.

Diagonale Symphonie is an important venture into the realm of avant-garde filmmaking. Not only is Diagonale Symphonie constructed in a way completely different from the normal conventions of film, other genre's such as painting and music are incorporated to create a meaningful visual experience. Diagonale Symphonie is an atypical approach to filmmaking and succeeds in creating music through a visual symphony.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Manhatta and The Avant-Garde Cinema, by Jared Caldwell

In Germaine Dulac's The Avant-Garde Cinema, the term avant-garde is used to describe “any film whose technique, employed with a view to a renewed expressiveness of image and sound, breaks with established traditions to search out, in the strictly visual an auditory realm, new emotional chords” (Dulac 43). Though Manhatta breaks a few of Dulac's “proofs” of pure cinema, Manhatta in spirit and mostly in form meets the ideas of avant-garde filmmaking presented by Dulac.

According to Dulac, an avant-garde film “considers nothing else” but art, unlike commercial cinema that seeks a monetary profit. Towards the beginning of its inception, the cinema went into the direction of “literature”, or narrative. Film was simply another means of communicating ideas in the same form. Most films were fictional stories, represented by the cinema in almost the same way a play would be represented, had it been recorded on film. Dulac speaks of three considerations essential to the cinema as a whole: movement, rhythm, and life. Dulac uses this quote: “'To strip the cinema of all those elements which did not properly belong to it, to find its true essence in the understanding of movement and visual values: this was the new aesthetic that appeared in the light of a new dawn'”. With these narrative films, the cinema was only mimicking other existing arts in a visual way. Dulac suggests that the film medium be used in ways separate from the other arts.

Manhatta, a short film collaboration between Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand, is a film that meets most of Dulac's pure cinema “proofs”. Proof number one states “that the expression of a movement depends on its rhythm”. In Manhatta, the rhythm of machines, workers, and the crowds of the city move the film along. The constant inclusion of steam throughout the city creates a kind of visual pedal to drive the film. Proof two comments “that the rhythm in itself and the development of a movement constitute the two perceptual and emotional elements which are the bases of the dramaturgy of the screen”. Manhatta holds this to be true as well. Manhatta starts off with a water sequence, which then segways into the landing of the barge filled with people. The flow of people move into a different piece with workers and machines, and the film continues this flow of continuity driven by movement and rhythm. The focus in Manhatta is real life. Manhatta's documentary style also captures the people in their surroundings, which is made apparent by scenes of water, the surrounding city, and the relationship nature has with the people.

The main proof that Manhatta does not follow is ”that the cinematic work must reject every aesthetic principle which does not properly belong to it and seek out its own aesthetic in contributions of the visual”. Manhatta does not solely use visual elements to progress the film. Music is used in Manhatta, and a poem by Walt Whitman is inter cut into the film. Though these elements are in Manhatta, it seems as if the written poem is used as a contrast to the visual aspects of the film. It is as if the poem is just made up of bland words compared to the powerful tableaux and imagery used throughout the visual components of the film. Even though these elements do not meet Dulac's standards for “pure cinema”, it is as if Manhatta is arguing the case that “pure cinema” is all that is needed, and that the written word in film does not have the meaning that the image has. Though Manhatta does not meet all of Dulac's criteria, Manhatta at heart contains the spirit of true cinema.

The Significance of Kitsch in Modern Culture, by Jared Caldwell

What is kitsch? According to Clement Greenberg in “Avant-Garde and Kitsch”, kitsch is what is considered the “rear-garde” to the avant-garde. The avant-garde is considered to be at the forefront of advancement in the realm of art, exploring and furthering art in different ways that may be unconventional. If the avant-garde is considered to expand “high art”, then kitsch is the commercialized art that has become the rear-garde in the present, consisting of articles such as: Hollywood movies, magazine covers, pop art, commercialized music, etc.
Greenberg speaks of a time before this mass of commercialized culture “kitsch”was formed, when art was created for the high elite of society. During these times in history, there would be the few (the aristocrats) who were versed in reading, writing, literature, language, and art, and then there would be the many (the common peasants) who were subservient to the aristocrats. These commoners were not well educated, due to social class and the fact that there was no extra time to be had to learn and appreciate the arts. Therefore, “high art” was created for and appreciated by the aristocrats, and marveled after by the ignorant commoner.
In recent history, “global literacy” had reached out to most people, especially in the West. With literacy and education, the chasm between the upper class and the lower class had started to close drastically. The fact that the commoner could read, write, and had some education rendered the once prestigious position of being a well read, educated person an easy one to obtain. According to Greenberg, since the new lower class did not have the leisure of not working or living in an aristocratic environment, the appreciation of high culture and high art was lost on this new generation of “intellectuals”. This depreciation of the high arts created a demand for a new kind of culture: kitsch.
In Wallace Steven's “Art, Entertainment, Entropy” and in Greenberg's “Avant-Garde and Kitsch”, both agree that imitation plays a big role in art. Greenberg states “that avant-garde culture is the imitation of imitating”. Imitation to the avant-garde is the relationship that the artist forms with the medium he is working in. This imitation is based around the concept that art is created by the idea of creating art, and that art stands on its own without any other need. Steven's describes the rear-garde, kitsch, as an imitation of what is known. With kitsch, there is no exploration or development of new material. Everything that has passed as “culture” in previous history is rechurned and regurgitated into this “mass culture”. It is as if kitsch is being presented as a new cereal box, whose cardboard sides are made up of old recycled cardboard boxes. Even with a new logo and different colors, ultimately all that is still left is a cereal box. Stevens even quotes Krishnamurti, “'One of the fundamental causes of the disintegration of society is copying, which is worship of authority'”. What does this foreshadow for future generations?
In response to the authors, it would seem to me that this mass culture, kitsch, is the first part in a long cycle of culture development. Though I am no expert on the history of culture, nor the study of culture, “high art” and “aristocratic society” have not always been placed on a pedestal that it once was on years ago. Some of the earliest known works were no doubt performed by the first humans: gatherers, cavemen, wanderers. These paintings on caves and stones were not considered “high art”, but rather means of story telling. This time period was developed long before a high social order like the aristocrats of old were formed. Though social structures were formed for different reason then, later groups of people like the Native Americans didn't have that higher class to perform and study this “high art”. It seems likely that art and the exchange of ideas during these time periods could find some parallels with today's modern kitsch. Maybe when there are times of equalization, the rear-garde takes presidence over the avant-garde until an elitist class forms again. “High art” could then form again out of the mechanized “mass culture” when the masses are no longer in power.