Avant-garde cinema

I’ve been going through the excellent new 2-DVD release from Kino this week, Avant-garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and 30s (which I’ll review shortly), but I’m also reminded of Image Entertainment’s much larger 7-DVD box set, Unseen Cinema: Early Avant-Garde Film 1894-1941, to be released in October.

Before collapsing in a mass of consumerist tension, however, I should point out that the two sets are fairly distinct. Some of the films on the two sets overlap, like Man Ray’s Le Retour ‡ la raison (1923), Fernand LÈger’s Ballet mÈcanique (1924), Slavko Vorkapich’s The Life and Death of 9413, a Hollywood Extra (1928), and Orson Welles and William Vance’s The Hearts of Age (1934). But the Kino contains many more films by Ray and the Image contains many more films by Vorkapich. The Kino also includes such international classics as Joris Ivens’ Rain, Jean Epstein’s La Glace ‡ trois faces (1927), and Germaine Dulac’s La Coquille et le clergyman (1926). The Image emphasizes American films (but doesn’t exclude Norman McLaren, Alexandre Alexeieff, or Sergei Eisenstein) and offers Charles Sheeler & Paul Strand’s Manhatta (1921), Walker Evans’ Travel Notes (1932), and an excerpt from Strand and Hurwitz’s Native Land (1937-41).

My suggestion? Get them both. And until October, be sure to browse Image’s dedicated site, Unseen Cinema, which includes clips, stills, and links.

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