Annette Michelson

  • Spread from Artforum, June 1973. Annette Michelson, “Rose Hobart and Monsieur Phot: Early Films from Utopia Parkway.”

    On the Eve of the Future

    MIT PRESS has just published On the Eve of the Future, a collection of essays on film written by scholar Annette Michelson over the course of three decades. Art historian Rachel Churner, the editor of the volume, spoke with Michelson to reflect on the development of this body of writing, from Michelson’s early encounters with avant-garde cinema in Paris in the 1950s and ’60s to her pioneering work establishing film as a subject of criticism and scholarship in America, first at Artforum and then as a founding editor of October.

    RACHEL CHURNER: On the Eve of the Future is a collection of essays


    Pauline Kael, the New Yorker’s film critic from 1968 until 1991 (save for a brief hiatus in 1978, when she took a short-lived job at a Hollywood studio), died on September 3, 2001. With all of the predictable eulogizing behind us, we asked five critics—Gary Indiana, Annette Michelson, Geoffrey O’Brien, Paul Schrader, and Craig Seligman—to step back and take the long view on Kael’s celebrated if contentious career. Contributing editor Greil Marcus leads off by introducing Kael’s first published essay—inexplicably excluded from her eleven collections of reviews—which we reprint here in its

  • A Conversation on Knokke and the Independent Filmmaker

    THE FESTIVAL AND INTERNATIONAL EXPERIMENTAL Film Competition held in Belgium became, at its initiation, in 1949, the most important international event in the world of the avant-garde cinema. We are speaking of a time when there were virtually no public screenings of independently made films in Europe, and no opportunity for filmmakers—those relatively few, isolated filmmakers who were working outside the established forms of production and distribution—to see each other’s work. The festival’s role was consequently multiple, enormous. It now seems interesting to consider the manner in which the

  • Beaubourg: The Museum in the Era of Late Capitalism

    A minor, living art is far more
    virulent than major, dead art.
    —André Malraux

    IT IS JUST 20 YEARS since there began in Paris the large and polyphonic debate now risen to crescendo around a vast construction site that dominates that section of the 4th arrondissement known as the Beaubourg plateau. Walking east these days through the street that gives its name to the neighborhood, one sees to north and south the proliferation of thoroughfares dense with shops, cafes and the vestiges of prerevolutionary architectural grandeur. Continuing past the Boulevard de Sébastopol, the main and lively artery

  • Contemporary Art and the Plight of the Public: a View from the New York Hilton

    Hilton Kramer, The Age of the Avant-Garde, An Art Chronicle of 1956–1972 (New York: Farrar, Straus And Giroux, 1973), 565 Pages.

    A DECADE AND A LITTLE more have passed since Leo Steinberg composed, for an audience at The Museum of Modern Art, the popular lecture which characterized the situation of the public for contemporary art as a “plight.”1 Postulating an immediately functional idea of a public as grounded in the most generally shared experience of attentive beholders, Steinberg restored the artist and the critic to their places within that very large community. Their “plight” he then

  • Yvonne Rainer, Part Two: “Lives of Performers”

    THE IMMEDIATE CONSEQUENCE OF Yvonne Rainer’s Indian voyage was Grand Union Dreams, performed in the very large and featureless gymnasium space of the Emmanuel Midtown YMHA in May, 1971. It seemed then and seems still her most problematic work, but it will interest us particularly as the generative source of future efforts and as a point of departure for that particular work which now mainly concerns us: Lives of Performers.

    In Grand Union Dreams, Rainer begins the use of something like fictional “characters,” and it is that use which will eventually solicit a space and structure of narrative.

  • Yvonne Rainer, Part One: The Dancer and the Dance

    THERE ARE, IN THE CONTEMPORARY renewal of performance modes, two basic and diverging impulses which shape and animate its major innovations. The first, grounded in the idealist extensions of a Christian past, is mythopoeic in its aspiration, eclectic in its forms, and constantly traversed by the dominant and polymorphic style which constitutes the most tenacious vestige of that past: expressionism. Its celebrants are: for theater, Artaud, Grotowski, for film Murnau and Brakhage, and for the dance, Wigman, Graham. The second, consistently secular in its commitment to objectification, proceeds

  • “Anemic Cinema,” Reflections on an Emblematic Work

    A little reflection was bound to show that it would be impossible to restrict to the provinces of dreams and nervous disorders a view such as this of the life of the human mind. If that view has hit upon a truth, it must apply equally to normal mental events, and even the highest achievements of the human spirit must bear a demonstrable relation to the factors found in pathology—to repression, to the efforts at mastering the unconscious and to the possibilities of satisfying the primitive instincts. There was thus an irresistible temptation and, indeed, a scientific duty, to apply the research

  • Rose Hobart and Monsieur Phot: Early Films from Utopia Parkway

    For Jonas Mekas

    TWO CHRISTMAS DAYS AGO I answered my ringing telephone and received the most generous of season’s greetings from a stranger. “My name is Joseph Cornell, and although we have never met, I believe we know of each other,” he said with an exact and deeply flattering tact. “I also know something of your interest in the films of Louis Feuillade, and I should like to offer you a Christmas gift. I have placed a short film of his on deposit in the Anthology Film Archives. It is yours to see and to do with as you please. It is called When Autumn Leaves Fall. I am not sure it is complete,

  • Camera Lucida/Camera Obscura

    For Jay Leyda

    WE CELEBRATE, AS THIS YEAR BEGINS, the birthdays of two master film makers: Eisenstein, were he living at this hour, would be 75 years of age and Stan Brakhage this month turns 40. Convergences and parallels of aspiration and achievement suggest themselves in such force and number as to strain the limits and categories, national and formal, which critical and historical discourse on cinema most generally employ. As one begins to think about the work of these two men, their kinds and intensities of energy, the trajectories which they describe through the culture of our time and, more

  • Screen/Surface: The Politics of Illusionism


    IN 1952 ANDRÉ BAZIN undertook to chart the course of film’s “New Avant-Garde,” beginning with an endorsement of narrative conventions in cinema that was to produce the orthodoxy of the ’60s and its attendant strategy, la politique des auteurs.

    We may use the abandoned concept of the avant-garde if we restore its literal meaning, and, thereby, its relativity. For us avant-garde films are those in the forefront of the cinema. By the cinema we mean of course the product of a particular industry whose fundamental and indisputable law is the winning, by one means or another, of public

  • “The Man with the Movie Camera”: From Magician to Epistemologist

    I add, as well, that it is not circular reasoning to prove a cause by several known effects and then, conversely, to prove several other effects by this cause. And I have included both of those two meanings . . . in the following words: As the latter reasons are demonstrated by the first which are their cause, so these first reasons are conversely demonstrated by the latter which are their effects. Wherefore I should not thus be accused of having spoken ambiguously since I have explained myself in saying that Experience rendering the greater part of these effects very certain, the causes from