David E. James

  • CLOSE-UP: THE MIRROR AND THE VAMP

    To hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature.

    Hamlet, III.ii

    THE CLASSIC ERA of American avant-garde cinema—a tradition exemplified by Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, and Jonas Mekas—was dominated by filmmakers who forged practices outside and opposed to the institutions and styles of the film industry. But within experimental-film circles, the same period also witnessed various dialogues and other productive relations with Hollywood, and Andy Warhol was, no doubt, the poster child of this tendency. His entrée into the world of avant-garde film was secured with Sleep (1963), which

  • IT’S ONLY ROCK ’N’ ROLL: THE ROLLING STONES IN FILM

    As the “world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll band” celebrates its golden jubilee this year, the Museum of Modern Art in New York pays tribute with a heady cinematic survey: “THE ROLLING STONES: 50 YEARS OF FILM” (NOVEMBER 15–DECEMBER 2). But 2012 marks another anniversary as well. Forty years ago, the Stones embarked on a legendary tour to promote their new album, Exile on Main St., and they engaged two very different filmmakers—Robert Frank and Rollin Binzer—to document the affair on celluloid, producing wildly divergent results: Cocksucker Blues and Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones

  • LENS ON LOS ANGELES: ALTERNATIVE CINEMA AND VIDEO IN L.A.

    THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN on the hills that hover over Los Angeles figures an identification between a place and a medium without parallel in cultural history. So complete is the movies’ colonization of the city that other art forms, especially those that resist assimilation into the industry, have been given short shrift. And any notion of a nonindustrial culture, of a populist or avant-garde art not reducible to the valorization of invested capital, has been largely chimerical—or so the doxa goes.

    But Hollywood, the place if not the industry, has not always been found inimical to art. In the

  • Pat O’Neill

    AMONG THE VARIOUS “LAST” FILMS that have punctuated the transition from celluloid to digital media, Pat O’Neill’s The Decay of Fiction (2002) has a singular authority. At once a metanoir and a portrait of Los Angeles’s Ambassador Hotel, with its fabled political and showbiz ghosts, it mobilized some of the most sophisticated visual effects ever to hit the screen. In adding many kinds of magick of its own to the tropes of Surrealism and other European modernisms as they had been reconstructed in the traditions of US avant-garde cinema, The Decay of Fiction epitomized the narrow possibilities for