Combustible Celluloid
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With: Marcel Achard, George Barker, Jean-Louis Barrault, Robert Benson, Bernard Blin, Blanchette Brunoy, Blaise Cendrars, Jean Cocteau, Taggart Deike, Daniele Delorme, Edouard Dermithe, Janice Dieckman, Yvonne Fair, Joyce M. Geary, Daniel Gelin, Harry Honig, Janice Hubka, Jean Isidore Isou, Lawrence Jordan, Albert J. LeGros, Pierre Lobreau, Andre Maurois, Donald Nelson, Eva Neumann, Walter Newcomb, Beatrix Perry, Armand Salacrou, Rodica Valeanu, Gilliane Sarno, Serge, Herbert Stern, Bernice Van Gelder, Victoria Vinugo, Hildegarde Watson, Melville Webber, Ann Whittington
Written by: Marc Ducouret, Jean Mitry, etc.
Directed by: Willard Maas, Ben Moore, Marie Menken, Sidney Peterson, James Broughton, Joseph Vogel, Gregory J. Markopoulos, Stan Brakhage, Paul Leni, James Watson, Melville Webber, Jean Mitry, Dimitri Kirsanoff, Jean Isidore Isou
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: French, various, with English subtitles
Running Time: 341
Date: 03/18/2013

Avant-Garde 2: Experimental Cinema 1928-1954 (2007)

3 Stars (out of 4)

'Garde' Dogs

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Kino Video has released this second collection of Avant Garde works, notably containing a few early films by Stan Brakhage as well as films by James Broughton and Paul Leni (the latter is perhaps better known for his horror film The Man Who Laughs). James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber's bizarre 1928 short The Fall of the House of Usher is also here, thought it's already available on a few other DVD sets. But the highlight is definitely Jean Isidore Isou's Venom and Eternity (1951), a feature-length film that makes claims for re-inventing cinema according to the Lettrist movement. Long portions follow the filmmaker himself around the streets, while off-screen we hear an argument at a cine-club about conventional cinema. Isou also uses discordant chanting on the soundtrack, as well as scratched, smeared and smudged images of people like Jean Cocteau. It's angry and abrasive but also has a definite passion for cinema, and praises previous geniuses like Bunuel and Stroheim. (Ironically, Isou passed away the same week this DVD came out.) It's difficult, however, to recommend this set to anyone other than those already prepared for it. Kino's two-disc set comes with notes by historian Elliot Stein and a theatrical trailer (and an Easter Egg) for Venom and Eternity.

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