expansive cinema at the agnsw

wim wenders film

passing along this info!

Programme at the AGNSW for all fans of experimental cinema
Saturday 16 June 2pm
Saturday 23 June 12noon
Saturday 7 July 12noon
Saturday 21 July 2pm
Domain Theatre, Lower Level 3

This series focuses on the enduring traditions and lasting influence of experimental and avant-garde filmmaking. This is so-called formalist cinema, using film in ways that are comparable to the aims of modern painting and sculpture, foregrounding the medium itself, emphasising the film strip, the frame, montage, projection, and even the chemical and technological processes. The rejection or subversion of Hollywood-type storytelling generates works with a loose or non-linear narrative, making unexpected dislocations of time and space, permitting personal explorations and poetic or ironic juxtaposition. Taken together, these journeys of colour and sound demonstrate the sheer dynamism of experimental cinema over the past 85 years.

the programme:

Saturday 16 June
Expansive Cinema 2: Visual music

Emulating and augmenting specific musical compositions, the films in this collection are a meditation on musical form, seeking a graphic, cinematic equivalent.


Opus 1
Dir: Walter Ruttman 1921 Germany
7 min. 16mm b&w (tinted) silent (with musical accompaniment)
Considered the first abstract, animated film ever to be shown publicly, the Opus series led to Ruttman’s association with Walt Disney and work on the groundbreaking animation Fantasia in the late 1930s.

Colour flight
Dir: Len Lye 1938 Great Britain
4 min. 16mm colour sound
Made as an airline commercial, celebrated filmmaker Len Lye painted image patterns directly onto the celluloid film strip for this abstract interpretation of the popular tune ‘Honolulu Blues’.

Polka graph
Dir: Mary Ellen Bute 1952 USA
5 min. 16mm colour sound
Making her first film in 1934, Mary Ellen Bute spent much of her pioneering career making short, abstract films. Using a laboratory oscilloscope, this animation refracts electronic patterns through colour filters in counterpoint to Shostakovich’s polka from The Age of Gold.

Charlemagne 2: Piltzer
Dir: Pip Chodorov 2002 France
22 min. 16mm colour sound
Pip Chodorov shot raw Super 8 footage at an opening at the Gerald Piltzer Gallery in Paris, where the pianist, Charlemagne Palestine, was performing. His completed work is at once a diary, a document of the concert, a lyrical flicker and a graphic representation of music.

Swinging the Lambeth Walk
Dir: Len Lye 1939 Great Britain
4 min. 16mm colour sound
Direct painting on film is combined with the use of the optical printer and colour mattes in another of Lye’s abstract animations synchronised to music.

Light play
Dir: Dirk de Bruyn 1984 Australia
7 min. 16mm colour sound
Created by scratching, drawing and painting directly onto the film strip, Light play is an abstract flow of light, colour and patterns synchronised to music by Michael Luck.

(10 min. intermission)


Thirty-two short films about Glenn Gould
Dir: François Girard 1993
93 min. colour 35mm Rated G
Celebrated pianist Glenn Gould had all the hallmarks of genius – perfectionism, exceptional talent and tenacity. His legendary status resulted from his reshaping of classical musical texts (principally the works of Bach) with an electrifying combination of technical mastery and creative daring. In Thirty-two short films about Glenn Gould, director François Girard makes a playful and eccentric homage using a myriad of experimental and documentary film techniques to imagine Gould’s curious and often troubled inner universe.

Saturday 23 June
Expansive Cinema 3: Alchemy

These works can be viewed as vehicles for exploring the material properties of the film strip. Many visual effects have been created through the ‘alchemy’ of direct manipulation: scratching, drawing, painting and hand-colouring onto clear or opaque film, ‘shadowcasting’ onto raw film stock, or deliberately degrading existing images. Some filmmakers have used unusual processing and exposure techniques (radical use of chemicals, home processing and forced processing) to create unique effects.


Dog Star Man
Dir: Stan Brakhage 1961-64 USA
78 min. 16mm colour silent
Complete version of the much-revered but rarely seen film by prolific director and key figure of American experimental cinema, Stan Brakhage. Often regarded as his masterpiece, this intensely mythic work, structured around a spiritual quest, was made in five parts over a four year period. Freely dispensing with story and representational imagery, the silent film explores nature and creation through a mosaic of stunning, swirling, abstract imagery applied directly to the film strip.

(25 min. intermission)


Particles in space
Dir: Len Lye 1979 USA
4 min. 16mm b&w sound
Len Lye’s American films developed his pioneering techniques in stunning new directions. Concerned with the energy of free movement, this work is synchronised to African drumming.

Colour cry
Dir: Len Lye 1952 USA
4 min. 16mm colour sound
Lye’s innovative ‘direct’ film is inspired by Man Ray’s ‘shadowcast’ experiments in which film stock is exposed without the use of the camera, patterns being created by placing stencils and coloured gels over the unexposed film.

Faint echoes
Dir: Paul Winkler 1988 Australia
17 min. 16mm colour & b&w sound
Newsreel footage from the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin is ‘re-worked’ using radical techniques including piercing the film strip with nails and burning it with a soldering iron. A powerful emotional response to images of Hitler by filmmaker Paul Winkler.

Rote movie
Dir: Dirk de Bruyn 1994 Australia
11 min. 16mm colour sound
Dirk de Bruyn’s experimental road movie depicts the emotional landscape of a traveller as he contemplates his loneliness and the incoherence of his life. His state of mind is evoked by increasingly fragmented images – direct-on-film animation collage, rotoscoped animation and reworked photographic images.

Black trip
Dir: Aldo Tambellini 1966 USA
4 min. 16mm b&w sound
A bombardment of black and white images – some etched by hand, others by controlled light sources. A film ‘sculpted’ by Aldo Tambellini without the use of a camera.

Free radicals
Dir: Len Lye 1979 Great Britain
4 min. 16mm b&w sound

Free radicals is the companion to Particles in space. A kinetic dance of white lines and angles meticulously scratched onto black and white film and synchronised to field recordings of drumming performed by the Bagirmi tribe of Africa.

(10 min. intermission)


Happy together
Dir: Wong Kar-Wai 1997
96 min. 35mm colour Rated MA15+
Leslie Cheung, Tony Leung
Cantonese with English subtitles
Follows the volatile romance between two gay Chinese expatriates living in Buenos Aires. Wong Kar-Wai’s elliptical exploration of crazy love, loneliness and dislocation is simultaneously delirious, intimate and hyperkinetic. Features the expressionistic, stylised brilliance of Christopher Doyle’s cinematography, employing radical film processing techniques to provide the high-key colours, grain and visual textures which are pivotal to the films emotional ambience.

Saturday 7 July
Expansive Cinema 4: Portraits, poems, places

These cinematic portraits explore notions of identity, personality and place, encountering reality via experimental film techniques.


Portrait of Ga
Dir: Margaret Tait 1952 Great Britain
4 min. 16mm colour sound
An affectionate portrait filmed in Orkney of Scottish filmmaker, Margaret Tait’s grandmother.

Dir: David Caesar 1987 Australia
8 min. 16mm colour sound
Filmmaker David Caesar reveals the humanity of customers and workers in a large suburban shopping mall by encouraging his subjects to confront the film camera directly.

Chewing gum girl
Dir: John Smith 1976
United Kingdom
12 min. 16mm b&w sound
A nondescript street scene shot on a grey day in Hackney appears to be controlled by voice-over instructions from an unseen film director.

Passionless moments
Dir: Jane Campion 1984 Australia
13 min. 16mm b&w sound
Jane Campion’s celebrated early short film is a collection of cinematic portraits, giving a quirky slant to everyday human experiences.

The drift back
Dir: Margaret Tait 1957 Great Britain
11 min. 16mm b&w sound
Scottish filmmaker Margaret Tait documents a farming family returning to the island of Wyre in the Orkneys after relocating for some years due to economic difficulties.

Dir: Mike Hoolboom & Steve Sanguedolce 1992 Canada
35 min. 16mm colour sound
A poetic essay that sets out to understand the travel bug. The voice-over offers the viewer an air-tight experience of a Third World holiday, while images of an archaeological museum, a bullfight and an auto factory establish the related contexts of tourism and Free Trade.

(20 min. intermission)


Dir: Wim Wenders 1985
91 min. 16mm colour
A poetic portrait of Tokyo and a melancholy homage to the Japanese filmmaker, Yasujiro Ozu (1903-63). Using a loose, diary format, Wenders explores the Japanese city most affected by the impact of postwar Western values, searching for traces of the lost world so affectionately observed in Ozu’s feature films. Includes interview with Ozu’s regular cameraman, Yuhara Atsuta.

Saturday 21 July
Expansive Cinema 5: Found footage

Since the 1930s, found film footage has been sourced as raw material by experimental filmmakers. The imagery of archival film can have a spellbinding effect on the viewer. Relishing this quality, filmmakers have ransacked documentaries, newsreels and instructional films. Evoking nostalgia, stimulating memory, deconstructing cinematic language or establishing the aesthetic textures and registers of reality, this raw material is used to forge new meanings and associations.


At the Academy
Dir: Guy Sherwin 1974 Great Britain
4 min. 16mm b&w sound
Playing on the repetitive mechanical nature of a countdown leader (known as an Academy leader), Guy Sherwin obsessively reprints to create a fascinating and hypnotic effect. The image of the leader gradually builds up in layers, slightly out of phase and generating a wild variety of rhythms and patterns.

Midnight party
Dir: Joseph Cornell USA 1947
4 min. 16mm b&w Silent

Dir: Joseph Cornell USA 1947
8 min. 16mm b&w Silent
Indebted to basic Surrealist principles, artist Joseph Cornell created some of the first films constructed from found footage. Midnight party and Cotillion form part of his Children’s Trilogy – fantasy worlds created from early, silent cinema footage scavenged from the shops of 1930s Manhattan. The films are purely associative, following Cornell’s poetic instincts and cutting freely and intuitively from one subject to another.

Valse triste
Dir: Bruce Conner 1974 USA
5 min. 16mm colour/sepia sound
A young boy dreams of farm life, school scenes, railroad trains, cars. The found source material depicts Kansas in the 1940s and Conner’s assemblage suggests highlights of the boy’s imagined life.

Time out for sport
Dir: Paul Winkler 1996 Australia
17 min. 16mm colour sound
A short piece of found footage is optically reworked as text versus image versus spoken narration. The story of a famous golf player becomes ‘curiouser and curiouser’.

Dir: Bruce Conner 1978 USA
4 min. 16mm b&w sound
A parody of American life composed of hilarious instructional diagrams, old television commercials, and found footage to the sound track of ‘Mongoloid’ by the American punk-rock group DEVO. Conner was among the first to use pop music for short experimental films, which are now considered to be precursors of the music video genre.

Dir: Naomi Uman USA 1999
7 min. 16mm colour sound
Using ‘found’ sections of an old porn film, nail polish remover, bleach and a magnifying glass, filmmaker Naomi Uman has physically erased the image of the woman from a standard pornographic scenario. In her hilarious deconstructed version, only the leering men (who now respond to a pulsating white space on the film strip) and the original dialogue track remain.

A movie
Dir: Bruce Conner 1958 USA
12 min. 16mm b&w sound
One of Bruce Conner’s most powerful films is a montage of found materials, including newsreels and old western movies. The humorous juxtapositions and associations slowly build to horror.

(15 min. intermission)


The thin blue line
Dir: Errol Morris 1988
103 min. 35mm colour Rated PG
Errol Morris’ groundbreaking film is an investigation into the conviction of a young drifter, Randall Adams, for murder in Texas in the 1970s. At once a documentary, a drama, an interrogation and a poetic reverie, Morris uses a mix of filmed interviews, staged reconstructions and iconic imagery (guns, clocks, empty streets and newspaper headlines) to explore the nature of memory and the shortcomings of the legal system. Shot specifically for this production, but styled to provide the ambience of archival or found footage, the iconic imagery provides a powerful metaphor for the disturbing revelations uncovered by Morris’ 30 month investigation.

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