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I can't tell you haw many times I've sat down with folks to watch a few art films with friends and about a minute in had them go "Are they serious?" It's a problem, because when you're working within a vein of art that rejects traditional perspective and narraitve, it is easy to lose the thread and misunderstand what the attempt is, and the easiest explanation for most is to think that the filmmaker is being funny. A lot of Avant Garde film is deadly serious, though some humorous filmmakers have dome remarkable works.
While up bright and early with my Twins, I came across a film that had me going back and forth. Art Film - Enter the Mind Museum. Watching it, I was torn between considering it as an art film, all legit and stuff, and looking at it through the lens of a Zucker-Abrams-Zucker film using the art films of the 1960s and 70s as the target. There's a lot of Stan Brakhage in the film, with touches on the works of everyone from Jonas Mekas, Andy Warhol, and even Un Chien Andalou. The comedy comes not with mockery, but with respectful jibing, it seems. There's a lot to play with in the ideals of American Avant Garde filmmaking, and here, there is a joy and strange interplay between the comedy and the source material. If not for a bit of hyper-exaggeration, this could find a place in the collections of Canyon Cinema.
This brought to mind two CInequest films from early in my term programming. The first was a gentle mocking of French Art Films, or at least the American Film Student idea of what a French Art Film is. The film, Battleship Contempkin by Chris Brown, is two people, alone, in a room, playing the board game Battleship. There is the interaction between the both which is sly and over-the-top. At no point can you take this as a serious art film, it's too ridiculous, and at the same time, there are markers from the art film tradition that make you go "hmmmmmmm..."
The second, from about the same period, was La Puppe. Taking the legendary film La Jette by Chris Marker, director Timothy Greenberg plays with the concept, the still images and post-apocolyptic setting, and applies it to the story of a dog puppet. You have to know La Jette to get the most out of it, but even for the uninitiated, there's a lot of perfectly timed comedy.
Though these films run in the field of the Avant Garde as their setting, they are decidedly comedies, even when the line is blurred.
Klaus at Gunpoint
A Film Journal dedicated to all film.A segment of Office Supply Publishing.