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OFF 4: Hollywood and the Avant-Garde – A Series of Experimental Films

Curator: Chen Sheinberg Funded by the Ostrovsky Family Fund

The tension and conflict between the cinematic medium’s artistic and commercial dimensions date from the very first days of the seventh art. Based on a production line model, Hollywood film industry has always represented the commercial and profit-oriented aspects of this art. On the other hand, the avant-garde movement, based as it is on personal, boundary-breaking endeavor, has always represented its artistic radical aspect. Other aspects refer to Hollywood-produced films with avant-garde formal and content traits, and former avant-garde and experimental filmmakers working with Hollywood found footage and investigating the cinematic and ideological mechanism underlying the Hollywood system. The series’ main aim is to introduce Israeli audiences to filmmakers, some of whom were relegated to the margins of history, as well as to ground-breaking lesser-known cinematic works that have inspired and influenced famous film directors working within the Hollywood system.

Hollywood and Found Footage June 15, Jerusalem Cinematheque, | June 18, Tel Aviv Cinematheque

One of the oldest and most prolific sub-genres in the history of avant-garde cinema is the found footage film, which uses and is edited with raw materials taken from preexisting films, namely: with cinematic ready-mades. Different filmmakers have been treating Hollywood preexisting materials in order to expose the cinematic mechanism and ideological underpinnings of mainstream films. Tonight’s program focuses on two contemporary Austrian filmmakers. Martin Arnold (b.1959) in his film Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy (1998) focuses on several scenes from the Hollywood popular Andy Hardy film series of the 1930s and 1940s that celebrated the American normative/conservative way of life represented by Judge James Hardy’s family. In Arnold’s film, the characters played by Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland seem like out of control marionettes in a black comedy that discloses the perverse oedipal urges teeming beneath the surface of America and Hollywood. Filmmaker Peter Tscherkassky (b. 1958), who works in Austria since the 1980s, in his film Outer Space (1999), which has become a hit at avant-garde film festivals all over the world, uses scenes from The Entity, a 1982 Hollywood horror movie starring Barbara Hershey in the role of a woman raped by an invisible ghost. He creates a modern-day ghost show, a bedazzling visual assault on the viewer, by employing innumerable superimpositions and removing details from the original frames and using a laser pen to recombine them with other frames. La Verifica Incerta (1965) is a collage made of excerpts from Hollywood films of various genres. Made by Alberto Grifi (1938-2000), a pioneer of Italian avant-garde cinema, and artist Gianfranco Baruchello (b. 1924), this film predates by forty years the contemporary mashup video. It exposes the rigid common practices and clichés of each genre by way of an ironic Dadaist deconstruction of the standard rules of Hollywood editing.

Martin Arnold, Alone. Life wastes Andy Hardy, 1998. 15 min. Peter Tscherkassky, Outer Space, 1999. 10 min. Alberto Grifi and Gianfranco Baruchello, La Verifica Incerta (Uncertain Verification), 1965. 30 min. Total: 55 min.

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