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Experiments in Narrative Film

Organizing Committee:


There is experimental film and there is narrative film and between the two is an area that is still being explored. If you were always wondering what would happen if people really started experimenting with narrative in ways that are not "indiewood" but still indicate a story, then this could be a good class for you. We will look at many films that have pushed the boundaries of narrative storytelling conventions, including the works of people like Sissako (Waiting for Hapiness), Bela Tarr, Claire Denis (Trouble Every Day), Kiarostami, Monte Hellman (Road to Nowhere), Tarkovsky (Mirror), No Wave Cinema (Amos Poe, Richard Kern), Pat O'Neil, Raul Ruiz, Surkorov (The Second Circle), Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Robert Frank, Lucretia Martel (The Headless Woman), Veiko Ounpuu (The Temptation of St. Tony), and others. We will read and discuss Rual Ruiz's "The Poetics of Cinema", "Film Culture" magazine, Artaud, French Extremism, Michel Chion's texts on the philosophy of sound in cinema, the remodernist film manifesto, non-western approaches to performance, texts on film narratology, and other texts on narrative theory. More than a survey of what has already been done in the field, this is a chance to try to define what could or will be done. We may also draw on theories of experimental literature as a model for what the possibilites for improvising with narrative in a film context could be. Authors we will look at include Robbe Grillet, Laszlo Krasznahorkai (War and War, The Melancholy of Resistance), Joshua Cohen (Heaven of Others), Mark Danielewski (House of Leaves), Claude Simon, Blanchot, David Markson, Thomas Bernhard, Robert Walser, Jane Bowles, Sarduy (Cobra), Lund (Ergo), Hawkes, etc. A special emphasis will be placed on discussing work with a spiritual and/or transcendental focus. 

OK, so it looks like this class is actually happening, which is amazing! I'm glad (and surprised) that so many people are interested in this (especially in the shadow of Hollywood)! I think before the first class, it would be good for everyone to look at the Poetics of Cinema books by Raul Ruiz. They are easy to read, easy to find, and really get at the heart of the issue around film and narrative. Beyond that, I am open to having guest lecturers who are experts in a certain area we are covering come and talk. Jesse Richards from the remodernist movement can't make it out but is sending us some stuff to watch and notes to discuss. I'm open to ideas - people should email me if they think they know someone who would be a good fit for a guest lecture...  




Hey All,
Thanks for a great class. Here is a link to the blog I set up for the class:

Feel free to add to the blog!

First off, I’ll apologize for being rude and insulting, but to your credit your manifesto certainly got a rise out of me. I don’t know if I’d be able to share a definitive or correct discourse on either –ism because I suspect there isn’t one, and they seem to be progressive rather than oppositional, nor do I have perfect understanding of your manifesto. Nor can I be there tonight to answer to you.

But I will admit that my strong reaction really comes from the fact that I love all the same films that you do and have the same feelings about them and making films (I’m a super-8 shooter too) and was horrified to see what I love and do pinned down into a manifesto of “shoulds.” I come from experimental film, not feature film, and the modalities described as Remodernism (in particular “boredom”) I discovered years ago in structuralist films by, besides Warhol and Mekas, Benning, Snow, Frampton, Ackermann, Mencken, Schneeman, Brakhage, Gehr, Jacobs, Jarman, and others — and many others who have followed, employing in particular the long take and real time.

Structuralist film was important politically for the same reason Postmodernism was in all forms – it brought awareness to the way whatever medium conditions meaning. Film has powerful propagandistic qualities and one way to become awake as to how film is working on us, rather than be its tool, is by using the long take, imperfections, jump cuts, and other convention-breaking strategies.

From my understanding, the long shot — looking at something for a long time — is originally Postmodern in intention because it calls attention to the conventions of the “right” or “wrong” construction of film, yet may be what you, we, experience as the “spiritual” because the experience is, finally, not theoretical. It’s the experience of a human looking at a world rendered in images in time. And it seems that that's what hasn't been accounted for.

Thanks Dana for the critical, thoughtful analysis of the manifesto. I hope that you will take the time to share your proper understanding of both modernism and post-modernism with the class.

Los Angles Times article on Bela Tarr and Laszlo Krasznahorkai,0,49...

Nice article, John. I really enjoyed your thoughtfulness and thoroughness.

This "Remodernism" manifesto is idiotic. It misunderstands both Modernism and PostModernism. Born of the righteous Stuckists, who assert that the only true art is figurative painting and then protest the exclusivity of mainstream exhibitions. They remind me of the tea party governor who wants to ban bilingual education because "English was good enough for Jesus."

Most irksome is Jesse Richards' annexation of any film old or new as Remodernist because it contains some moment of stillness or reflection or simply looking, which he blankly deems "spiritual" because he lacks the depth to examine poetics. Homer Simson advises Lisa to remember that "anything hard isn't worth doing." Like thinking, apparently.

Hi, I was curious if I could get the readings for tomorrow's class? thanks!

Gus Van Sant's "Elephant" is mentioned in the "The New Personal Cinema: From Lyrical Film to Remodernism" by Jack Sargeant (pdf 3).

Here is a link to my essay on the film, published in Jumpcut in 2005.
It is long and has color stills.

Hi, I haven't been able join earlier to classes but would love to come for this next (and last?) if it's OK!

OK, I'm sending out the remodernist stuff. READ IT!!!!!!!!! The next class will be a combo of remodernist and no wave!!!!

hey john, I'd hold off. Though the book is an award winner!



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