What, Robert Breer died? Internet, you’re supposed to tell me these things!

This is what I get for no longer following the FRAMEWORKS mailing list. Robert Breer was never a household name, but he was an awesome animator and underground experimental filmmaker whose work I always enjoyed. His short film “Swiss Army Knight with Rats and Pigeons” (1980) deserves to be regarded as a classic for its name alone:

More of his work after the jump.

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Why I Hate the Avant-Garde, part 2

Part 1

Re: Johannes’s comment on my recent post, I first saw people using “avant-garde” to refer to work made today in the late 1990s, on the Frameworks mailing list, which is:

an international forum on experimental film, avant-garde film, film as art, film as film, or film as visual poetry; film’s expressive qualities, aside from or in addition to its storytelling capacity. Any genre of experimental film, such as film diary, found footage, abstract, flicker, lyric, subversive, expanded, etc., can be discussed, as well as those films which fall into the cracks between the genres, or those not covered by other lists.

All aspects, from filmmaking to criticism, are acceptable in this context, including unipersonal production, techniques, history and esthetics of avant-garde film, critical discussions, new directions, courses and teaching, festivals, announcements of world-wide events in film, retrospectives, exchanges of information, etc. This list is not intended for the discussion of narrative film, nor documentary film, nor video, nor video art.

I love the Frameworks list (or loved it as long as I followed it, 1998–2003). But it’s obvious right away that this is a very specialized use of the terms “experimental film” and “avant-garde film”—the description goes on to list which techniques make film experimental and avant-garde! For example, scratching and painting on film is avant-garde, because folks like Len Lye and Stan Brakhage did it, and because mainstream Hollywood narrative films rarely do it. And so anyone who’s scratching on 8mm film today, and screening it at some underground NYC venue—congratulations, you’re avant-garde. But Wes Anderson, you’re not, because you make narrative films on 35mm. (Narrative can’t be AG!) Never mind the fact that this usage of “avant-garde” has nothing to do with:

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