Animating the Absolute: Harry Smith


THE DOMINANT TREND WITHIN the American avant-garde tradition has been the evolution of the subjective cinema. There is strong evidence of a shift in the late 1950s from the trance film (the psychodramatical quest for sexual identity in the form of a cinematic dream) to mythopoeia in the works of several film makers working independently of one another. Yet not all avant-garde film-making of the late 1940s had utilized the trance form and psychodrama. The graphic cinema offered a vital alternative to the subjective. This polarity (and the potential for its convergence) extends back to the origins of the avant-garde film in the 1920s. Repudiating the depth of space cinema inherited from still photography, and which the very first films exploited gloriously, the graphic film maker set out to establish a virtual depth by manipulating the scale of flat plastic shapes (as in Richter’s Rhythmus

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