Avant-Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and '30s(Kino Video 10.10.2005)
If David Lynch manages to whet your appetite for left-of-center, stream-of-consciousness filmmaking, you might want to go ahead and pick up Kino's excellent compilation Avant-Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and '30s. When you see the work of filmmakers like Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, and Jean Epstein collected in this 2-disc set, you realize that Lynch's wild style didn't just spring full blown from the head of Zeus, but is part of a tradition that has been around for as long as the movies themselves.
Even Hollywood directors like Orson Welles (The Hearts of Age) and Robert Florey (The Life and Death of 9413 A Hollywood Extra, a film that was, interestingly, shot by Gregg Toland of Citizen Kane fame) are represented in this survey of non-linear thinking from the early days of cinema.
The print quality of these films is somewhat uneven, but the prints of Anemic Cinema, Ballet Mecanique, and La Coquille Et Le Clergyman are far cleaner than the prints featured in the DVD compilation Anthology of Surreal Cinema, Vol. 1 that came out last year. In fact, in keeping with Kino's high standards of print quality, most of the films look the best I've ever seen them in any format. In particular, the transfer of The Life and Death of 9413 is so good that some of its cutout animation sequences look almost three-dimensional on the screen.
Some of the titles, like Sergei Eisenstein's Romance Sentimentale, are duplicated from other Kino titles (in that case, their disc of Eisenstein's Que Viva Mexico), but some of these titles (like Hans Richter's Rhythmus 21) are new to the DVD format and make this collection well worth its perfectly reasonable $29.95 price tag.
After all this exposure to experimental film, you might even feel adventurous enough to pick up Criterion's By Brakhage collection and try your luck with the man who is to the movies what Jackson Pollock is to painting. But trust me, Dog Star Man will still confuse the hell out of you. -- Christopher Hyatt