Discussion: early film experiments and early avant-garde

Write a short (roughly 250- to 300-word) discussion post responding to one of the following prompts. Whichever prompt you choose, please ground your discussion in references to images, shots, sequences, or timestamps in the film. You might also include a screengrab in your post.

1. The City and Technology

What specific formal strategies or techniques do Manhatta or The Life and Death of 9413: A Hollywood Extra use to depict urban space? How is the city framed and how are humans framed? How would you describe the rhythm of the editing? How long are the shots, and how are they editing together?

Based on these observations, what is the film’s stance toward the technological the city? How does the film position humans in relation to urban environments? Jan-Christopher Horak argues that the film “attempts a visual symbiosis of city and country, man and nature”; do you agree with this claim?

2. Lyrical Nature

What are some of the different ways that Ralph Steiner films water in H20? How would you describe the rhythm of the editing? Are the shots roughly of the same length or do they vary in length? How is technology present in these various depictions of water? How is the human present? Alternatively, you might focus on the concept of “lyrical nature” in Emak-Bakia. What relationship does the film imagine between humans and nature?

Based on your observations, what do you think the film is saying about water and/or nature, or how is the film inviting us to see and perceive water/nature differently?

3. Focus on Editing

Un Chien Andalou, Ghosts Before Breakfast, Emak-Bakia, and The Life and Death of 9413: A Hollywood Extra all experiment with montage and the editing or juxtaposition of shots. Focusing on one or two examples, discuss how one of these films uses editing and juxtaposition. What kind of relationship exists between the shots? For example, is the film wanting to emphasize symbolic contrast, or similarity, or just produce a sensation of shock or surprise? How are the shots framed similarly or differently? Is there a logic to the editing (even if it’s a kind of dream logic)?

Films:

The Life and Death of 9413: A Hollywood Extra https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnAEHFhxuQI 

Paul Strand, Manhatta (Links to an external site.), 11 min. (1921)

Ralph Steiner, H2O (Links to an external site.), 12 min. (1929)

Man Ray,Emak-Bakia (Links to an external site.)16 min. (1926)

Hans Richter,Rhythmus 21 (Links to an external site.)3 min. (1924)

Hans Richter, Ghosts Before Breakfast (Links to an external site.), 9 min. (1928)

Luis Bunuel, Un Chien Andalou (Links to an external site.), 16 min. (1929)

Dwinell Grant, Composition I (Themis) (Links to an external site.), 4 min. (1940)

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