For anyone with a day job, its going to take a while to see everything on Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film 18941941, a landmark box set, organized by New Yorks Anthology Film Archive and distributed by Image Entertainment, that contains 155 films totaling 19 hours spread over seven discs. More than enough surprises and delights abound, however, to spur intrepid film lovers on. Curator Bruce Posner has traveled far off the beaten cinematic path, drawing from the collections of over two dozen international archives, to shed new light on Americas first wave of avant-garde and independent filmmakers. Casting a wide net, Posner includes innovative and curious short works by amateur film enthusiasts, technicians, artists and studio professionals working around the country, from Manhattan to Taos to Hollywood. On disc six, The Amateur as Auteur, a pair of films by collage artist Joseph Cornell, who sutures shots of vaudeville and circus acts to scenes from a childrens party to playful effect, sit alongside home movies from average Americans. Windy Ledge Farm (19291934) features beautifully composed pastoral scenes shot by Elizabeth Woodman Wright at her family farm in Maine, while 1126 Dewey Ave., Apt. 207 (1939), by an unknown filmmaker, presents a series of shots in a Spartan apartment as haunting for its sterile anonymity as anything in David Lynch. On disc three, Light Rhythms: Music and Abstraction, Posner highlights the Hollywood work of editor Slavko Vorkapich famous for his dazzling montage sequences and choreographer Busby Berkeley. Other discs center around equally fascinating themes, including two dozen city films shot in pre-WWII New York and more than 40 films exploring the relationship between cinema and dance. In short, theres something here for everybody.
Other recommended new releases: Buster Keaton: 65th Anniversary Collection (DVD); The Rains Came (DVD).
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