Avant Garde Film – You either Love it or you Hate it.

What do you think about Avant Garde film?

Initially I think everyone’s answer is ‘damn this pisses me off.’

A lot of people, on first glances, do not understand Avant Garde film, it scares them… so they hate it.
This, I can assure you, is not the attitude to have. I must admit some of the films are somewhat… confusing and bothersome. Some are downright outrageous.

Return to Reason
Man Ray 

I don’t blame you if you take one look at Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon and laugh, or say: ‘what the hell is this?’

But, I can guarantee one thing, you will be sucked in. Whether you’re sucked in by the strange, captivating music, the symbolism behind the solitary flower or the never ending cycle of dream sequences – whatever it is… by the end of the film you will be yearning to know more. Don’t let that scare you. Don’t let that put you off. Cinema is supposed to make you ask questions. If you spend the rest of your life going to the cinema to watch films where even how you’re supposed to be feeling is laid out for you… then you are not truly experiencing cinema.

If Meshes of the Afternoon proves too ambiguous for you (like it has myself) then go for something more aesthetically pleasing.

Len Lye’s films such as Kaleidoscope and A Colour Box are some of the most entertaining films I have ever seen. If they do not put a big grin on your face as you watch them and you don’t feel like you’ve been transported to another world then, my friend, you are missing out.


Kaleidoscope – Len Lye


A Colour Box – Len Lye

This animation is not just a moving picture, it is moving art! Len Lye quite simply sat down and painted over the film strip and it created a form of animation that was ground breaking. There is something about these films that remind me of Dumbo the Disney film. When Dumbo drinks the wine by mistake, gets drunk and has a dream about pink elephants? Do you see what I mean?

Personally, I feel this sort of film was ground breaking and Lye was perhaps one of the greatest animation influences of all time. But that might just be me.

Another aesthetically pleasing form of Avant Garde film is Andy Warhol’s screen tests. It may just be that I have a girl crush on Edie Sedgwick, but I feel these screen tests are a modern form of portraiture… much like the moving paintings at Hogwart’s School of Wizardry.

If I could have some of Warhol’s screen tests running on a permanent loop in a picture frame in my house – I assure you I would. (In fact I might set that up….)

Take a look at Edie Sedgwick’s Screen Test now:



Do you see how even the simplest batting of her eye-lids become captivating. Because there is so little movement, things like a “blink” become as charged and exciting as the main action scene of a film!

If you’re still interested in watching more Avant Garde film a director called Man Ray is particularly influential. Man Ray’s films are slightly different as they started around 1916 and were inspired from different causes. For example, due to the war artists didn’t feel like painting pictures of picturesque houses and happy citizens were representative of real life anymore. So they resorted to what I suppose can be called ‘ugly art,’ to become more like real life:


And if you haven’t already I feel Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon is a particularly intriguing Avant Garde film to check out! You cannot truly appreciated Avant Garde film without appreciated Maya Deren, as if it had not been for her the film movement would not have been brought together into a network and would never have been showcased the way it has. We have Maya Deren to thank for that.


Meg Ash.


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