Tag Archives: The Art of Vision

On the 3 that got away (Or why I’ll never be free of “The List”)

As I talked about briefly here, I spent the better part of the last 2 and a half years working on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They 1000 Greatest Films list. I’ve virtually completed both 2007 and 2008 permutations and will probably plow through the 2009 update when it happens this December.

Anyway I thought I’d explain a bit about the 3 films that got away…or the films I just couldn’t find anywhere:

1. Tih Minh (Louis Feuillade, 1918)

This serial about anarchist gangs trying to run Paris (or at least I assume so…given the subject matter of Feuillade’s prior films Fantomas and Les Vampires…and the lack of synopsis anywhere). Feuillade is a wonderful filmmaker, full of fun and invention. Les Vampires is a fascinating and compelling film, and the film’s villainess Irma Vep (played with gusto by the oddly sexy Musidora) might be the first great female character in all of cinema. She’s smart, devious, charming, and well-rounded.

As for Tih Minh, I know very little about this film other than Feuillade is an awesome director and Jonathan Rosenbaum loves the shit out of it.

I will add that I do have an incomplete copy (it’s 350 minutes when it should be 410 or so) of this film that’s unsubbed (if only I could read French or Belgian)…maybe someday I’ll try and watch it. But I’ve learned that it’s better to wait sometimes and see a film in a relatively good form, rather than try and suffer through for completion’s sake.

The film was also left off the 2008 update.

Chances of an official DVD release: Good, as the French company Gaumont has release 3 of Feuillade’s serials, and a newly restored version of Tih Minh has been shown in the past few years. Though I might be like 50 when it happens. Gaumont is bloody slow.

2. The Art of Vision (Stan Brakhage, 1965)

Brakhage is possibly the most lauded and written about American avant-garde filmmaker. His career spanned almost 50 years, and his reputation is unquestioned.

This film is a 4.5 hour re-working of his earlier avant-garde film Dog Star Man, incorporating the same footage, but through looping it, re-editing, and using multiple projectors creating an intense and immersive experience (or boring I guess).

I’ve seen Dog Star Man…and it still resonates with me…the rhythm of the imagery still appears to me occasionally. Dog Star Man is readily available having been released on the Brakhage DVD set put out by Criterion a couple years ago.

Chances of an official DVD release: Almost nil. 4.5 hour avant-garde films just don’t have commercial prospects. Even by a name such as Brakhage, it’s just too long to release on DVD. Furthermore I don’t even know when this was last screened…it seems to be one of those pictures that gets screened every 10 years or so. I suppose I might be able to track down a print somewhere…but for the time being this one is out of reach.

3. Scenes From Under Childhood (Stan Brakhage, 1967-70)

Hey more Brakhage, this one is composed of 4 sections each about 45 minutes long. I don’t know much about the film or its content. I’m just going to assume there’s some flashing and disjointed images.

Chances of an official DVD release: Like 100%, my understanding is that there will be a second Brakhage collection put out by Criterion in the future and that Scenes… will be included. Fingers crossed.

So there you have it…the 3 films that will keep me searching.