October 26, 2000

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

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I’m definitely the product of a die hard capitalist society. I was raised getting what I wanted, when I wanted, and where I wanted it. Hey, it was the eighties.

The beauty of this United States of America is that instant gratification is not only a possibility, but a requirement for most consumers. We don’t have bread lines here. We don’t have foreigners smuggling Levis into our country because they aren’t available to us (not that Levis have survived the six month trend cycles we follow like rabid sheep). This society of material fulfillment isn’t bad, per say, it’s down right American. It’s the right to choice. Choose from any flavor, color, texture, or size you want.

So how come I can’t choose what films I want to see, when I want to see them, and where I want to see them? I mean, I like the pyrotechnically impressive, toothache-caliber romance, knee-slapping high school satire blockbusters as much as the next person. But, what about the experimental film? The personal film? The avant garde film?

The mega-million dollar movies that are churned out of Hollywood every day are great for telling stories and spinning tales. In fact, it might be safe to say they’ve virtually taken the place of Mother Goose and Charles Dickens in the classic narrative department. Although this saddens me, I can understand that times change and society evolves, but experimental film has never even been given its forum.

Experimental film is to art what narrative or commercial film is to literature. Picture a cubist painting given three dimensional space, given time, but a space and time not of the realistic world — instead, of a filmic world. It’s unreal. And it needs to be made available to the consumer!

You, yes you, are being deprived of the mind-awakening, soul-moving experience of the experimental film. It is possible to count the number of experimental film venues in the entire world on one hand. That’s pathetic. We live in a country filled with art galleries, art museums, Hoyts 24 screen cinemas, a million malls, households with four television sets, and Blockbuster video stores on every corner. But somehow, in some fluke of probability and statistics, I made it through twenty years without even knowing experimental film existed.

I can honestly say that my life is richer and several more neural pathways now exist in my brain because of films like Stan Brakhage’s Anticipation of the Night, Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon, and Leighton Pierce’s 50 Feet of String. I’ve probably spent over $1000 on movies whether in the theatre or at the video store over my life. Sure, plenty of these films have opened my mind, but not a single one has blown the top off my head like the experimental films I have seen in the past month.

I’m considerably pissed that I wasn’t allowed access to these films until now. The avant garde has been around since the birth of moviemaking and amazingly it has managed to remain underground. Most personal filmmakers can’t find distributors and can’t find an audience. They may want it that way, but I feel deprived. I’m a capitalist consumer with needs and they are not being fulfilled. It’s not that experimental film should replace commercial film, but it should at least be given its forum, its place on the shelf of American consumerism.

Archived article by Laura Thomas