The avant-garde, as suggested by its name, is a type of cinema that is always pushing ahead of established boundaries. Despite this, the description “avant-garde” continually refers to a set of, what some might say, easily identifiable films. What do you make of the decision to continue grouping films under this heading, even though they have come out over a span of eight decades, under the influence of many different artistic movements? Further, what does Peter Wollen’s attempt to divide the avant-garde into (only) two additional categories say about the film theory approach to avant-garde cinema?
In the Murray Smith article, David James’ view of the avant-garde is cited as a typical one, wherein it is a “‘reactive’ or ‘critical’ phenomenon, continually challenging and undermining both the established values of mainstream society and the norms of orthodox aesthetic practice.” If that, the avant-garde, is second cinema, and Hollywood-style is first cinema, then how does Third cinema fit into the categorization scheme, especially in terms of Apparatuses 1 and 2? How is this affected by, as Smith says, the fact that “The concept of the avant-garde is intimately related to those of modernity and modernism?”
Penley and Bergstrom’s article discusses the implications of viewing avant-garde cinema as the attempt at an exploration of consciousness. Specifically in terms of the films we saw last week, how does this interpretation play out? Keeping that in mind, are the rather unattractive elements of those films (the eye slicing, the sheer duration of Beauty No. 2, etc.) particularly reminiscent of Wollen’s virtues of counter-cinema in his earlier article? How does Catherine Russell’s “ethnographic impulse” differ from or change the way we understand films in relation to the “exploration of consciousness” model?