Sunday, 17 March 2013

Mainstream Film vs. Avant Garde: More Similar Than We Think?

Experimental Cinema is often defined by how it opposes mainstream film rules and conventions, especially in terms of narrative structure and storytelling. This can be seen throughout its history and is the genre’s defining trait. Abandoning conventional aspects to experiment with new ideas and concepts. One example can be found in the productions of the French New Wave such as À bout de soufflé, the most conventional of Jean-Luc Godard’s films. It forgoes much of what would be found in a traditional crime plot in favour of emphasising focus upon the protagonists’ crisis of identity, as noted in Grunes (2001), and lacks the structure and pacing found in other films. Specifically spending a considerable amount of time with both characters talking to one another in an apartment rather than advancing what would usually be the film’s core; by having Michel search for what he needs to escape to Italy. It opposed what would usually be expected of the film and instead chose to display events in a different manner. Even more drastic oppositions to traditional film scripts can be found in the productions of other directors. Michael Snow’s Wavelength had the entire film take place with no emphasis placed upon the murder of the film, and many films which explore the materiality of the celluloid lack any definable story.

However, in spite of this many still contain narrative elements traditionally found in mainstream films or traditional storytelling. This can range from simple structure of events to basic narrative devices. To explore this idea the following essay will use a trio of example films under two questions:

How does experimental film use and influence traditional narrative devices and structure? And to what degree does it influence the mainstream?

The focus examples used to explore this will be Meshes of the Afternoon by Maya Deren, Cremaster 3 - The Order by Matthew Barney, and Blow-Up by Michelangelo Antonioni. It needs to be specified however that Blow-Up has been included in spite of its categorisation as an art film and specifically because of its close links to 1960s avant-garde and narrative structure. Many texts discovered during research referred to the film as being avant-garde in some way, notably Antonioni’s own book The Architecture of Vision: Writings and Interviews on Cinema.

Each of these is an experimental film containing narrative elements and structures which help to investigate the themes of this essay. Both due to their scripts and how some mainstream media have plots comparable with their stories.  These will however not be the only films focused upon and others will be used either as comparisons with these three or examples of mainstream productions they have influenced. It should be made clear that the subject matter of the films themselves will not always be a focal point in examining the films. This is especially true when it comes to comparisons with mainstream productions, and most comparisons will be of the presentation and how the story is told, not specifically the story itself. Even then concentrating upon focus elements of how they are told rather than overall examinations.

The final section of this essay will examine the opposite of the starting two, namely how avant-garde has influenced mainstream media. Namely in terms of the aspects already covered with structural details and unconventional storytelling devices being incorporated and appearing within mainstream media after they were created. It will detail what changes were made from the original, how widely accepted these aspects have become and how they have evolved over time.

To explore this question fully answers and research into it have been divided into the structure seen on the contents page, emphasising upon each aspect and subject in turn. Firstly how the films can be seen to conform to traditional narrative structure, followed by an examination of the devices present within the films and finally their impact upon mainstream cinema.

Narrative Structure:

Traditional narrative structure consists of a number of rules but ultimately hinges upon the film structuring itself around three acts in some way. The first way this can happen is by featuring a sequence of equilibrium, disequilibrium, and then a new equilibrium. Simply put a stage which is the status quo of the life of the protagonist or the film’s setting, an event or development which causes a disruption within this status quo and alters the life of the protagonist in some way.

The other is noted in Trottier (2010): the three act structure, something similar in many respects. With the first act being used to give exposition and outline the setting as a whole and establish the characters as its plot begins. An event will then take place on-screen which establishes three things: The end of the first act, a permanent change in the life of the protagonist and finally a question or dilemma which is to be solved or confronted by the film’s conclusion. The second act then consists of the protagonist’s attempts to solve the aforementioned dilemma and confront the problem they are facing. As they do, the situation begins to eventually worsen, traditionally at a mid-point reversal at the centre of the script. Further revelations are traditionally made during this second act or new information is given to the protagonist which helps alter their predicament. Either of themselves, their antagonist or the solution to their situation. The third and final act features a climax in which tension is taken to its most intense point and a second turning point within the plot. It builds towards a final resolution to what has been previously featured both in terms of main plot and any subplots. When the film is concluded the protagonist’s story is traditionally at an end and their world or perspective has been changed by what has taken place.

This is a direct and linear method of storytelling which is commonly found in most mainstream films and media of multiple genres. Due to this and the fact that experimental cinema traditionally has an oppositional stance towards mainstream culture, many avant-garde productions frequently use non-linear methods of storytelling or abandon stages of this structure entirely. However this is not to say that aspects of traditional structure cannot be seen or applied to some avant-garde films.

Meshes of the Afternoon for example was specifically cited to have a “Chinese box narrative” in Rees (2011) and stated to be symbolic of the “new narrative avant garde” emerging when it was created. Examining it however reveals that it retains some basic aspects of a three act structure. The aforementioned text described the narrative as being a “spectator search for connecting threads, as the quest theme resonates equally in the film’s subject matter and its style.” This refers to how Meshes of the Afternoon uses and revolves around items and elements introduced, all of which become core to the plot. Specifically “a record plays in an empty room, a phone is off the hook” and the pursuit of a mysterious cloaked figure whose identity connects directly to the protagonist. The fact these are introduced within the first few minutes of the film, prior to any direct conflict between the protagonist or the figure makes this section of the film a textbook first act. Introducing things which will be core to what follows later on and ultimately act as plot developments as further truths will be revealed about them as the plot progresses. The actual groundwork of the film is done, establishing aspects of the film to build upon, the setting and even a form of antagonist for the protagonist to oppose. For all the film’s use of time loops, paradoxes and a, to quote Rees again, “spiral structure with pictorialist camerawork” it ultimately uses a very traditional introduction to the film. Something which would continue throughout as further developments were made and new plot revelations were created.

One of the reasons for the cryptic imagery and developments in the film originates from Maya Deren’s opinions on how film itself should be used. Unlike others who held onto “absolute non-figuration” such as the Witney brothers, Deren believed that film should not deny a camera’s ability to depict “the way things are” or its potential objective aspect which she believed other arts lacked. A statement which enforces this by her was that “the task of cinema or any other art form is not to translate hidden messages of the unconscious soul into art”. That the film itself should not explain what it is presenting and directly translate itself to its audience so much as leave its creator’s ideas to be interpreted and analysed in multiple ways rather than one vision simply dictated. As such when there are scenes of the protagonist confronting multiple versions of herself and the ever changing identity of the figure she is following, their exact meaning is left to the audience to determine. Their role and presence within the story however is not quite so cryptic. For example the film has a definitive mid-point reversal when the revelation of the figure’s identity is revealed. Both triggering a major step back for the protagonist and revelation in which the film takes its darkest turn. This directly follows on from when the last major elements have been introduced and the protagonist seems to be making headway in understanding her situation. This is exactly the same way in which a traditional script would use the first part of a second act prior to introducing a single element which makes events take a turn for the worse.

Similar elements of three act structures can be found within other avant-garde productions such as Cremaster 3 – The Order. As with Meshes of the Afternoon, while its exact content might be very different to what is found within mainstream film much of its presented structure and story follows a traditional scripted format. The opening minutes of the film while the protagonist climbs the tower, and the time prior to his start, serve to establish core characters, scenes and items which will become important to the plot. The second act after this establishment continues with the protagonist, the Entered Apprentice, progressing up the tower, facing the challenges in his path and overcoming them. Eventually reaching the top and seemingly having a revelation which causes him to return to previous levels.

Completing them in a different manner than before and overcoming the trials which he previously either avoided or barely escaped with his life from. The mid-point reversal can be seen to either come from the revelation, watching the 5th Degree (Richard Serra) plastering one wall with molten Vaseline and understanding the time limit to completing his tasks, or his encounter with the 3rd Degree (The Entered Novitiate). A half human half cheetah creature representing the Entered Apprentice’s dark self which he is required to slay.

Interestingly besides adhering to a three act structure The Order also resembles another very common well-known structure; that of a hero opposing tasks and obstacles. As noted on the films’ fan website, almost all of the characters introduced serve as an obstacle to be overcome by the protagonist as well as symbolism for his development. This ranges from the 1st Degree (The Order of the Rainbow for Girls) serving as a simple tunnel, with the Entered Apprentice having to crawl beneath their legs, to the aforementioned Novitiate. As a result it resembles a Herculean narrative, with trials which the hero must confront, overcome or slay in a specific manner to progress and reach his final eventual goal. This is an even older and more basic form of story structure than the aforementioned three act structure, defining the manner in which a protagonist confronts and deals with his opposition to achieve a goal. The fact that the film retains this structure despite the series “cyclical narrative” and links into previous productions of the series shows how clearly entrenched such storytelling methods are within film and media. That they are basic and simple enough for even films attempting to subvert traditional forms of storytelling such as The Order to still integrate into themselves.

Further examples of how such narrative structures can apply to even films attempting to break all basic conventions can be found within Antonioni’s Blow-Up. As noted within Porcari (2010) “The sense of dislocation and anxiety in the film are acute but never fully articulated as they would be in a conventional narrative film.” The entire film is spent with the protagonist, Thomas, being largely unaware and outside of events which would usually be core to the plot of the film. Namely his discovery of evidence to a murder and the apparent cover-up which follows. Neither of which serve as the film’s core plot nor are they introduced until some way into the film, unlike the American remake Blow Out which made this the core plotline within its story. The point of Blow-Up being to display how life cannot truly be portrayed within film and information naturally delivered to the audience as well as giving “good helpings of the social metaphors and of the psychological dislocations that we have come to expect from “art” films, but then keeps them at play without resolving them.”

Where the film retains aspects of a traditional three act structure comes from how it introduces elements in the first act and then re-uses them later on. Both as an exploration of the themes of the film and as something for the characters to interact with. An example which Porcari directly refers to is Thomas buying a propeller on a whim, an action which seemingly has no meaning in the plot itself but serves for the character to work off of and to establish his personality. Especially when it becomes the subject of conversation with the film’s love interest. A second is the presence of the group of rag week students seen running about the city which serve to bookend the plot. Appearing at the beginning demanding donations from Thomas and then the conclusion with them miming a tennis match, Thomas eventually becoming involved with the game. Their final appearance serves as a key part in the plot as Thomas becoming involved with their miming is intended to sum of the film’s themes of, quote Gardner (2000), “commentary on the inevitability of illusion in art”.  Both are introduced to the audience within the first act with Thomas directly interacting with them only to come into greater importance later on. Despite the film’s attempts to subvert storytelling establishment and details, explaining information to the audience, Blow Out still introduces and refers back to plot elements as any traditional story would. Introducing and then utilising them in the acts they would be expected to be present in any story with a three act structure.

Even the events surrounding the murder can be seen to have some form of structure to them in a way, despite the film avoiding a resolution. The discovery of the murder and Thomas’ photograph of what he believes to have been a gunman heralds a shift in the film’s tone. While many scenes do continue as before, following previously introduced plot elements such as two models seeking Thomas’ attention he has more direction than before. Despite his distractions he does return to the site of the murder and attempts to get others to see the corpse for proof, desiring to give evidence of the death. Providing him with an objective to achieve. Furthermore the scene in which he takes the initial photographs is also at the exact point in its runtime where a mid-point reversal would usually be expected to be present.

Narrative Devices:

Whereas narrative structure is how a story paces itself and orders events to achieve a successful tale, narrative devices are how a story is told through certain means. Specifically how certain information is conveyed to the audience to further the story and plot. This can relate to the characters, the environment, future events, past backgrounds, effectively anything which the story is required to tell the audience. Meaningful information which will become important for future developments.

Due to this flexible nature and definition of what they truly are there are a vast multitude of different types of devices present in script form alone. These can be subtle and utilised in a variety of different ways such as foreshadowing, which can be exposited through both visual means and spoken word, or very direct methods which can only be implemented in specific ways such as flashbacks.  At its most basic information required for the audience to know can be relayed through spoken exposition. Either through characters directly talking about events already known or the presence of a narrator.

More visual means of this exist within film due to the way cinematography can be used as a constructive tool and the camera used to emphasise upon certain things. Lingering on items which might become important later on or establishing certain emotions within scenes. One very notable example of this latter point can be found in certain forms of editing. More than once films have been praised in how the cinematography has used cropping in closely and only utilising certain shots to create a sense of clostrophobia. Schimidt (2012) goes into further detail. Listing its importance in terms of montage, which it details as “the splitting, combining and reassembling of visual segments) with the mix of sound elements and the choice of strategic points in space (angle, perspective)” and continuity editing (analytic montage) within scenes. Said latter point refers more to the use of filmmaking rules. Specifically refusing to let the camera cross a line of action and how editing together a reel in a certain style can reflect a certain vision of the world.

As with the previous section on narrative structure, many such rules established for the use of narrative devices are often broken. Usually to present a director’s vision in a unique light or to give the film a specific style. One clear example of this is the previously mentioned Godard film À bout de soufflé, which broke many conventions. Most notably the 180 degree rule and did not utilise many scenes which would usually be used as opportunities for exposition, plot development or the furtherment of characters such as the interview scene. At the same time however many were kept such as breaks in editing continuity and non-diegetic inserts to create Godard’s unique style of film.

The use of narrative devices within the core films of this document is focusing upon is best seen in the Cremaster 3 – The Order with its use of foreshadowing of characters and events core to its plot. The film introduces every character and element present before the Entered Apprentice truly encounters them or interacts with them properly. Either they are presented directly to the audience in the introduction, appearing on the turn-table pedestal when the film begins or with the camera focusing upon them on each level just prior to the Entered Apprentice encountering them. This is something which goes hand in hand with the use of repetition mentioned in the Narrative Structure section of this document and is used to give their later use or presence more meaning to those viewing the film.

In addition to this much of the exposition is only delivered in this way with no speech or even dictated information being used to inform of audience of what is taking place. The only times when a character is seen to speak at all is when the band is singing or the Initiated Novitiate is seen to roar, relying more upon the camera and visuals to act as a narrative device for the film. As is the case for another of the focus films for this document.

The use of the camera and editing as a device can be seen in Meshes of the Afternoon and the cinematography of Maya Deren. Similar to the example cited above, the film uses a very claustrophobic form of editing and close shots to create its desired emotions. As noted in Rees (2011), the film combines its “spiral structure with pictorialist camerawork and intricately crafted matte shots” and has rapid editing combined with slow motion effects. To create breaks in the flow of events but more importantly to evoke strangeness within the film’s scenes. Constantly creating a disconcerting emotion within the film which combined with its “time looped” story structure. This was frequently combined within the film with techniques such as “splits in vision as divisions in the self”, something which Meshes of the Afternoon achieved with a triple matte-shot portrait of the film’s protagonist. However the film’s style of presentation and the emotions it evokes never become so surreal they have gone beyond “acceptable limits”. To quote Teixeira (2001) “Deren’s film also defamiliarizes
the familiar world, but within an organic construction, in which there is an investment
on the psychology of the main character – her hallucinatory feeling of estrangement
and her being in a situation that seems to have gone beyond acceptable limits are
mainly conveyed by the consistent use of point-of-view shots.”

Blow-Up meanwhile can be seen to incorporate a number of very basic narrative devices frequently found within mainstream film. An obvious example of this is the film’s use of foreshadowing in which the character Bill effectively comments upon the plot itself and suggests the intentions Antonioni had about the film’s plot. Stating his paintings don't mean anything when I do them - just a mess. Afterwards I find something to hang onto -like that- like- like... that leg. […] And then it sorts itself out. It adds up. It's like finding a clue in a detective story.” 
Along with this Blow-Up also displays examples of direct audience exposition. While it does not detail the plot there are scenes of the characters speaking about themselves to give the impression of their character. One such example is when Thomas is speaking with Redgrave (one of the couple he photographed) and then begins to exposit about his life. Building upon what the audience had seen of his character before now and delivering further information upon unseen aspects such as apparently having a wife. Or potentially not as his dialogue suggests: “She isn't my wife, really. We just have some kids. No, no kids, not even kids. Sometimes, though, it feels as if we had kids. She isn't beautiful, she's... easy to live with. No, she isn't. That's why I don't live with her.” This information adds to the enigma of the character and gives some potential insight into his treatment of women as well as his attitudes towards them.

The Integration of Experimental Narrative into Mainstream Cinema:

History has shown that as with all things film evolves to incorporate new ideas and concepts into itself as it grows. With the presence of auteur directors within cinema, new ideas are constantly appearing within the medium ranging from the use of editing to cinematography to the presentation of character and layout. Some of these ideas can originate from experimental cinema where, unlike Hollywood, directors can be allowed a great deal more creative freedom to test new methods in filming. If a certain idea or concept is successful then it can be adopted by other filmmakers and further utilised within cinema, slowly becoming more widespread. Some can go so far as to have distinct impact upon some mainstream cinema itself to a certain extent. As much as the previous two segments of this document have detailed how mainstream cinema and contemporary ideas still have some presence within avant-garde films, the opposite can be seen to happen as well.

Some of the best examples of how such ideas have been passed on can be seen in David Fincher’s Fight Club. Along with embracing elements first seen in experimental cinema such as its narrative style and themes emphasising upon the rejection of mainstream and commercialism, the cinematic techniques displayed had clear origins within avant-garde film. Notable examples present within it were film burn and sprockets, even commenting upon the techniques and materiality of the film with its meta-referencing with the presence of the reel dots. These influences not only display a clear awareness of the film’s materiality but show Fincher was well aware of their origins when creating the film. He was famously quoted calling the production a “£75m experimental movie” in Waxman (2005). However, while the film visibly shows influences from avant-garde it does not take them from a uniquely specific film.

An example of passed on techniques closer to the core works being examined within this course would be the legacy of Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon. A production from 1943, trait elements of its unique narrative structure and plot were replicated in more mainstream media decades after its creation. First with the 1962 science fiction featurette La Jetee and then, to a much lesser extent, Terry Gilliam’s 1995 Twelve Monkeys. This was a direct translation of a visible specific aspect passed on and slowly diluted as it was further introduced into mainstream cinema.

The link between Meshes of the Afternoon and La Jetee is an extremely obvious one in terms of both the story’s structure and core elements. Displaying a visible influence from one film to the other despite the vastly different plots and methods of relaying information to the audience. While the former utilises only silent visual imagery and is a singular time-looped mystery located in a single place, and the latter requiring heavy narration and explores time-travel and a major crisis on a global scale, their structure is distinctively similar. Both utilising the repetition of time and events surrounding the protagonist to structure a story in which the eventual conclusion is the protagonist’s. Other very similar elements include mysterious figures whose identity directly links to the protagonist or are connected to him in some way and their use of repeated elements, in La Jetee’s case that of the time travel device, beings from the future and the jetty itself.

Many elements were visibly diluted when replicated in La Jetee to make the story more coherent for a wider audience and to allow more freedom with the plot, something which would be repeated again with the Twelve Monkeys. As stated before however, the core aspects and influences would remain present in each adaptation. In the case of the aforementioned film the final element of having the time loop of the protagonist already being dead at the film’s beginning was retained. Keeping La Jetee’s core aspect of it having the protagonist’s death already be witnessed by his younger self and, due to time travel, with events and the film’s antagonists directly linking into the earlier life of the protagonist and impacting upon his identity.

Another prominent example from Maya Deren would be in the works of David Lynch, specifically the 1997 film the Lost Highway. Similarities between the two have been noted in a number of sources especially Imber (1999) which detailed similarities between the two in their themes and presentation. The article listed Deren as producing films which “were filled with both deep psychological insights and rich mythological references. With their invocations of primal rituals and shamanic trance states they were highly evolved humanistic and aesthetic statements on the essential condition of civilization.” Backing it up with a quote from the DVD release Maya Deren: Experimental Films 1943–58 in which she stated “This film is concerned with the interior experiences of an individual. It does not record an event which could be witnessed by other persons. Rather, it reproduces the way in which the sub-conscious of an individual will develop, interpret and elaborate an apparently simple and casual incident...” Using this information the article claims that Lych’s production was heavily influenced by Deren’s films as it was concerned with the internal experiences of one person, something symbolised with one quote from the character Fred Madison within the film: “...I prefer things the way I remember them, rather than as they actually happened.” Even claiming that elements and certain details of the environment could be seen to be influenced from Meshes of the Afternoon, with “the hilly California architecture” being the same for both films.

A supporting source which backs these claims can be found in Teixeira (2001) which directly compared each film’s use of narration in depth. Specifically through their adherence and relationship to David Bordwell’s theory of film narration. As well as confirming Lost Highway’s status as mainstream due to its star presence, content and music, the essay found a comparison in how the two films stating: “Apart from
their titles, which imply a state of confusion, of disorientation, most striking of all is, it seems to me, the dreamlike atmosphere that pervades both films.” Then further detailing similarities through the actions and loops in which the protagonists of each films go through, repeating their actions in turn and seeing them same events over and over again. In Meshes of the Afternoon this is displayed through time seemingly looping itself whereas Lost Highway presented this through a single reoccurring event: “every morning,
Renée – or her husband Fred – finds an envelope containing a video tape, lying on the
steps of the staircase leading to the front door of their house. The first tape shows
only the façade of the house, whereas the other tapes show, each time, a little more of
the inside area, even the bedroom with the couple asleep in bed.” Furthermore both major female characters in each film meet a similar end, leading to a very clear comparison which can be made between the events of the two stories as well as atmosphere.

A further example of a widespread influence over film can be found in the time loops present in Meshes of the Afternoon. Many stable time loops are present within the film and feature the protagonist being the originator of many events within the film or witnessing what has come before, I.E. the actions of her past self, or time repeating itself,. While the idea of this originates within stories as far back as mythology, Krishna being one noted example, Meshes of the Afternoon was one of cinema’s earliest films to utilise this as a narrative device. Specifically by films such as 2001’s Donnie Darko, and even many prominent literary examples of the subject like Robert Heinlein's "—All You Zombies—“ were created over ten years after Maya Deren’s film. As such while it is not the originator of such an idea many films which followed on from Meshes of the Afternoon could be seen to be incorporating the time travel aspect first introduced into the film industry by Maya Deren.

A very obvious influence an avant-garde film has had upon a mainstream release can be found in the 1981 production Blow Out which was visibly influenced by the murder plot and elements of Blow-Up. The most direct proof of this can be found in Desbiens (2009) which displayed how an entire sequence from the latter had been repeated in the former. Using almost identical sequences of shots and using a similar lack of sound to present a similar atmosphere to the film. What is especially notable about this besides the direct influence between the scenes is that it displays awareness of the film’s own materiality. Showing the methods behind the construction of the film and the techniques behind editing, creation of sound reels and matching it with the film footage. Displaying things step by step and even the process of decision making directly behind choosing new vocal talents for certain scenes. All of which is far more detailed and displays more open awareness of the process on screen many other mainstream productions of the time. Possibly even more so than Blow-Up due to its relevance to the film’s actual medium rather than photography,

Furthermore while Blow Out did not embrace the same message envisioned by Antonioni as Blow-Up and emphasised upon the murder plot which the latter film made a point to trivialise and never solve, there are a number of similarities to be found in the protagonist’s stories. Jack Terry, said protagonist, similarly never gains closure over the murder plot and despite his efforts he never learns of the reasons behind the murder or gains any headway in his attempts at bringing any evidence to light. Much as how Thomas’ evidence of the crime was destroyed and the murder covered up before he could act upon his knowledge. Similarly Jack is as much in the dark as Thomas, and the audience only learns of the antagonist’s through the film cutting away from him and displaying moments in the murderer’s life. Despite their different methods of presentation each concludes his involvement with the murders with a similar lack of knowledge and loss.


From these comparisons and details it can be shown that there is a clear degree of influence the avant-garde and mainstream have over one another. Despite the latter’s very definition being to break mainstream conventions and traditions in almost all forms then attempt new ideas. Both use aspects of and influence one another’s storytelling tropes, structure and methods and have a clear degree of impression upon one another.

Examinations of the selected films’ structures and storytelling devices it is clear that many elements of traditional storytelling are retained. At least within some avant-garde works. Despite having very different narratives and avoiding some methods which would traditionally be used by mainstream films to give information to the audience, they do not completely break away from all film conventions.

In terms of structure elements are established in the first act. A mid-point reversal occurs signalling a major shift in the direction or tone in the story for the worse. Finally the third act either resolves this element or reflect upon it in some way. Each film followed this structure to varying degrees, introducing concepts and elements in the first act and then concluding with them in some way. Many directly using basic points within a script reserved for revelations and new developments in turn such as the end of the first act and the mid-point reversal.

In terms of storytelling methods the selected films show that along with the new styles and methods the films utilise, at least some more traditional forms are retained. Examples ranging from the style of editing to evoke a type of emotion within a scene to the way in which a character can relay information to a film’s audience through direct methods of exposition. Despite their surreal nature each of the focus films retained methods found within the mainstream and typically used within films intended for a wide audience.

Furthermore just as how traditional film has impact upon avant-garde productions, it can be shown that they similarly have influence over what is produced by more mainstream media. Either by influencing the story structures, narrative flow or minor elements within individual films or by having impact upon the directors themselves. Serving as inspiration to them and filtering ideas into mainstream consciousness. The greater awareness of the materiality of film being one example of such ideas becoming more prevalent, others mimicking specific aspects or whole scenes of avant-garde films to replicate their ideas and themes. This latter point proves to be more common than most with a number of the examples listed being direct remakes in some way of previous films but display how mainstream productions none the less embraced some of the themes and ideas of their avant-garde counterparts.


Meshes of the Afternoon, 1943. [Film] Directed by Maya Deren. USA: Mystic Fire Video.

À bout de soufflé, 1960. [Film] Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. France: UGC.

La Jetee, 1962. [Film] Directed by Chris Marker. France: Independent.

Blow-Up, 1966. [Film] Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. United Kingdom: MGM.

Blow Out, 1981. [Film] Directed by Brian De Palma. USA: Filmways Pictures.

Twelve Monkeys, 1995. [Film] Directed by Terry Gilliam. USA: Universal Pictures.

Fight Club, 1996. [Film] Directed by David Fincher. USA: 20th Century Fox.

Lost Highway, 1997. [Film] Directed by David lynch. USA: October Films.

Cremaster 3 – The Order, 2002. [Film] Directed by Matthew Barney. USA: Palm Pictures.

Triangle, 2009. [Film] Directed by Christopher Smith. United Kingdom: Icon Entertainment International.

Doctor Who: Space/Time 2011. [Television Program] British Broadcasting Centre, United Kingdom, March 18.


Dennis Grunes. (2001). À bout de souffle (1960). Available: Last accessed 5th January 2012.

Doeringer, E. (2009). Cremaster 3 Characters. Available: Last accessed 20th December 2012.

Desbiens, R.. (2009). Blow Out/Blow-Up. Available: Last accessed 1st January 2013.

Gardner, C. (2000). Antonioni’s Blow Up And The Chiasmus Of Memory.Available: Last accessed 7th January 2013.

Imber, D. (1999). David Lynch: Mainstream Subterranean. Available: Last accessed 1st January 2013.

Porcari, G. (2010). A Walk in the Park. Available: Last accessed 19th December 2012.

Rees, A.L (2011). A History of Experimental Film and Video. 2nd ed. London, 21 Stephen Street: Palgrave Macmillan. 60-63.

Schimidt, J. (2012). Narration in Film. Available: Last accessed 7th January 2013. Teixeira (2001)

Teixeira, A. (2001). NARRATION IN MAYA DEREN’S MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON AND DAVID LYNCH’S LOST HIGHWAY. UniLetras. 23 (1), 9-24. Maya Deren: Experimental Films 1943–58

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Waxman, Sharon, ed. (2005), Rebels on the Backlot: Six Maverick Directors and How They Conquered the Hollywood Studio System, HarperEntertainment.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for such an compelling article. I always been intrigued in how Avant Garde cinema have pioneered the creative filming techniques that are later applied to Commercial Films. Part of the research I'm working on at the moment is analysing how experimental filming techniques relate to audience engagement in terms of evoking emotion. Hopefully I can find enough journals and other information to piece together a case study as good as this! Thanks again anyways! :) x