Wednesday, February 25, 2015

BOOK REVIEW! LOVERS OF CINEMA, THE FIRST AMERICAN AVANT GARDE 1919-1945, edited by Ian-Christopher Horak (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1995)

Ever since I first discovered the concept and ideas behind the avant-garde (soon to be "underground") film via some tee-vee comedy skit where a skeptical Alan King was pitted against Paul Lynde as an Andy Warhol knockoff, I must admit that I've had the compulsion to wanna know more and more about them silly things. And rilly, if I had this book in the palm of my hands 'stead of something else back when I was a mid-teen mutant I might have been driven to the local art house (too young to drive myself) if only to see some of these self-produced wonders which certainly woulda had a bigger effect of me then than they do a good thirtysome years later.

Then again this book, being a collection of writings regarding the first era of the US of Whoa film avant garde (roughly early twennies to World War II), is about as erratic as you'd expect from such a compilation. Sure it's really info packed with little turdlets of history that I never knew of (such as the existence of an actual film studio that was to specialize in expressionist films 'n nothing else!), but it's also packed with loads of filmic insight here and cinematic gloss there to the point where you'd think that everybody connected with this book down to the gofer at the publishing house stilll drools uncontrollable strings o' sputum every they see Charlie Chaplin do that li'l dance with the forks and rolls in THE GOLD RUSH.

For those who've poured over Parker Tyler's UNDERGROUND FILM book and sat through a halfway-decent film history class which decided to deviate from the norm, you just might appreciate it at least a li'l smidgen more. Like I said, this book does fill in some of the gaps and mentions quite a few filmmakers who may have been wooshed over in previous books, and the interesting info that does pop up comes as a surprise especially considering some of the respect and ADMIRATION these movies, usually made by relative nobodies working on budgets about as skimpy as the Kuchar Brothers', were getting. Even to this day I can't imagine a film like Watson and Webber's LOT IN SODOM finding any sort of showing outside of a few film clubs, at least without the legion of old ladies picketing some screening because of the bare butts and flagrant fairies to be found therein.

Leaves you wanting to know more too such as what was the deal with Christopher Young whose OBJECT LESSON remains one of those early experimental films that seem ripped from your turdler years sense of addled wonder, and when will the films of Francis Lee be made available if they aren't already. But if you can still ooze early wonderment thrills from seeing SCORPIO RISING or some Warhol flick inna college basement a zillion years back you might have a reason to settle back 'n enjoy this 'un.

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