Monday, April 7, 2008

The Avant-Garde vs. Punk Filmmaking

What are some similarities and differences between the American avant-garde of the early 1970s and the Punk or No Wave filmmaking in the late 1970s? Address the following areas:

Aesthetic similarities and differences (which filmmakers do the cite as influences, which filmmakers do they reject?), Technological similarities and differences, Economic similarities and differences, Social similarities and differences.

As James Nares clearly states, "There was a conscious separation between ourselves and the Michael Snows and Jonas Mekases." Nares and the No Wave filmmakers, he says, were more ingrained in the punk music scene, and music in general. Where it seemed like the avant-garde at the time was art for art's sake, structuralist filmmaking, the No Wave filmmakers were out to get a rise out of people and make films that were meant to be seen as spectacles unto themselves.

The No-Wavers favored Super film not only because it was easy to use, but also because it was cheap to use. Coupled with relative inexperience and loose scripting, many of the No Wave films had a 'home movies meets 'forced naturalism'' feel to them. This is not unlike Jonas Mekas' diary films, despite the former being somewhat scripted. Each of these were shot seemingly haphazardly by design on cheap film stock. Due to budgetary restraints, each had to use what they had at the time.

Yet, while the No Wave filmmakers shared certain similarities with Jonas Mekas and others, they largely rejected Mekas' style of filmmaking in favor of the French New Wave and filmmakers like Andy Warhol. Amos Poe's "Unmade Beds" is a remake of Jean-luc Godard's film "Breathless", and Poe made the film with the intent of trying to replicate the French New Wave in New York.

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