Week 3: Searcher Post

This is Man Ray’s Emak-Bakia (1926). This film contains a lot of mechanical repetitive motions that reminds me of the patterns in Le Retour à la Raison (1923). The sculptures that appear are by Pablo Picasso. In addition, the film’s cinematography style is precisely how Man Ray would shoot still objects and people.

Man Ray and the other artists’ films we watched in class have many aspects in common, like the fascination with machines, abstract patterns or visual repetition. Man Ray is also an influential figure for Surrealism movement. He worked as the cinematographer of René Clair’s Entr’acte (1924) and left a notable signature on the film’s visuals. It should be interesting to explore another film by him.

Since we are going to explore Dali’s work, it should be evident that the video I linked is a piece of work from his hand. This is a sequence from his collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock in the film Spellbound (1945). I believe this video holds value in understanding Dali’s artistic and aesthetic tendencies. The film is deemed a psychoanalytic thriller that delves into the subconscious and how it affects real life. Generally, the film’s significance lies in psychoanalysis, which is what we need to use to comprehend Dali’s films.

Dali’s artistic endeavors, encompassing paintings and films, exhibit profound connections to the subconscious and dreams. The film sequence can provide a fundamental view of his distinct artistic style that resembles his paintings. Numerous visual elements also repetitive in his paintings appear in the film. For example, eyes, wheels, and distortion. Interestingly, different from in Un Chien Andalou (1929) Dali decides to cut the eyeball with scissors instead of “slicing” it up. This film sequence losses some of Dali’s sharp and shocking approach utilized in Un Chien Andalou but takes on a milder method to embrace the irrational dream.

At last, there is an anecdote: Hitchcock was hoping for vividness for dreams, however, as he told François Truffaut in 1962, “But Dalí had some strange ideas; he wanted a statue to crack like a shell falling apart, with ants crawling all over it, and underneath, there would be Ingrid Bergman, covered by the ants! It just wasn’t possible”.

Week 6 Searcher Post

The online resource I found is an interview with Kenneth Anger from 1980, right before the wide-scale distribution of his latest film, Lucifer Rising (Anger, 1972). The interview was conducted by A.L. Bardach, a respected journalist and non-fiction author. While their discussion spans from topics of Anger’s origins in the world of filmmaking to his rocky experiences with drugs, there are multiple sections that relate to and reflect some of the themes of Scorpio Rising (Anger, 1963). 

At one point in the interview, Anger explained that he viewed Scorpio Rising as a documentary. He stated, “I was filming a phenomenon that happened. I didn’t direct the phenomenon. I didn’t add anything to the scene that was not there already. The only thing I did was add my participation with the camera” (Bardach, 1980). This is a fascinating quote, but I am unsure whether or not I entirely agree with it. It might be true that Anger filmed the lives of the bikers without interfering or exerting creative control over their actions. However, one can’t deny that the filmmaker’s editing of the film (along with the inclusion of music and archival footage) recontextualizes the meanings of the documentary footage. On the other hand, it could be argued that Anger is correct in his claim that Scorpio Rising is a documentary. If the footage truly was captured without his adding anything to the scene, then who is to deny its documentary status? Though the editing and soundtrack might offer a new frame of interpreting the footage, isn’t this the case with most of the media we consume? The final film might not present the “true” lives of the bikers, but one could argue that it captures the deeper truth of America in the early 1960s, that of a rapid expansion of mass media and a growing conformity to the iconographies within popular culture. 

Another interesting section of the interview was Anger’s harsh opinions on friendship. According to the filmmaker, “Friendship is something that I feel very strongly about because it’s a swamp. I see more people disappear with just a few little bubbles over so-called friendships. Jesus Christ learned about friends. I work alone. I’m independent” (Bardach, 1980). This quote relates to Scorpio Rising’s depiction of the dangers of collectivism and conformity to an icon or group. As we discussed in class, the film seems to assert that complete individualism is the only way for our society to avoid destruction, and it is fascinating to learn that Anger actually practiced what he preached. I find it interesting to consider whether Anger’s hate of collectivism stemmed from his inability to foster friendships/relationships with others or whether he rejected friendship due to his distrust of collectivism. 

Week 6: Reader Blog.

1, Fuses as Erotic Self-portraiture

Throughout the history of cinema, the concept of male-gaze has been vastly criticized. Laura Mulvey points out that to enjoy a Hollywood film, all spectators must take on the perspective of a white male, which basically means we all impose our male gaze to the films and the female characters. However, as Shana claims, the danger objectification might be a threat of removing female imagery from screen (Shana, 3). She also states that the gaze that Mulvey refers to fails to recognize the aspect of the director “physically altering the image” (Shana, 4), which is important to me. Editing is not a neutral process but conveys the director’s ideology. People criticize Schneemann for her self-sex portrait, but fails to realize the difference between a “sex object” and “willed and erotic subject” (Schneemann, 2).

From my understanding, a “sex object” is usually a woman (of course might be a man as well) who is consumed in a film or other media primarily due to their sexual appearances or sexual acts. Their purpose is to arouse the audiences. Their own desires are secondary. A “willed and erotic subject” is a willed individual who actively, not passively, chooses to participate in the sexual acts. Schneemann produces her own films with her performing sexual acts in it and alters the images by her own filmic reproduction. Obviously, Scheemann’s films should be placed in the latter category according to herself and Shana.

P.s. I understand sexual behavior as usually private, and intimate between two or a group of people. When films (not pornos, which are meant to be seen) present sex, the aim is to arouse a voyeuristic pleasure between audiences, because they enjoy, unconsciously, the fact that they are watching something that they should not have access to. When Sheemann made her film, she precisely has total control of the ability to be seen.

2, Metaphors on Vision

       All the signifiers of signified are consisted of social conventions that developed through time. As a parallel, humans develop cognitives by conforming to conventions and copying other people’s preconceived notion. It is hard to imagine observing the world without any previous knowledge of what everything is.

       Question: What is the main argument of this article?

3, Pop, Queer, or Fascist?

Scorpio Rising is closely related to death drive, just like Anger’s first film Fireworks. The motorcycle gang has a rejection of conformity and the will to form their own dangerous and rebellious underground culture. As Suarez explains, there are risky behaviors, fascination towards violence and destruction.

The reading provides a profound understanding of the music utilized in the film. The pop songs, usually about love, forms a contrast with the butch images of the men, forming an ironic sensory. It also provides a layered implication to queer culture, which also shows in the S&M style aesthetics.

Question: The reading did not let me fully understand why the film is called “Scorpio Rising”.


The Nazi signs, the crosscutting of motorcycle gang masquerade and Jesus’s preaching group in Scorpio Rising, and the sex portrayed in Scheemann’s films, are all proof that images in film are by the hand of filmmaker. They are the product of firsthand image alteration, which means editing and adding special effects. Therefore, they convey the ideology of the filmmaker. However, reading Brakhage’s article, the question in my mind is, how will a person with no previous knowledge of social norms interpret these films, or rather, how will a kid interpret these films?

Week 5 Viewer Post: Initial questions and insights of three Maya Deren films

1, Meshes of the Afternoon

The film is a repetitive loop that happens to the main female character. We see three same females doing the same thing at one point, only in different time orders. As P. Adams Sitney states in his book Visionary, The American Avant-Garde 1943-2000 (Oxford University Press, 2002), “The transitions between cycles are subtly achieved” (Sitney, 11). A lot of match cuts, the traditional editing used by Hollywood cinema to hide the cuts, were utilized to help create a sense of continuity and repetition.

There are four major elements in this film that serve as symbols although it is still not certain to me what they symbolize. The first one is flower. What comes to mind is virginity, innocence, female beauty, and seduction. The second one is mirror. This is an easy one — self-reflection and reflection of others. Sitney claims, “Deren, with her hands lightly pressed against the window pane, embodies the reflective experience, which is emphasized by the consistent imagery of mirrors in the film” (Sitney, 11). This is a heavily reflective film, as in this scene, window is another reflective element. The third one is key. Key symbolizes the idea of leading to something. This key unlocks confusion, sex, horror, and death. Keys can not only open a door, but also close it. It symbolizes the self-entrapment. At last, the knife. It is self-defense and feminine power. It shatters the mirror.

Questions: How does the protagonist die? / Why does it mean when the key and the knife changes into each other? / Is the mirror related to Lacan’s theory? / Most importantly, what exactly does this film tries to convey, beneath the surface of a dreamy drama?

2, At Land

This film’s scene transition to allude to space change is innovative at the time. The landscape of setting transition always follows a close shot of Deren’s body part. Her feminine soft body is a contrast to the harsh landscape, the hard table, or the mysterious architecture.

She seems to me to derive from the ocean and come to land with curiosity. It is an Odyssey for her. The chessboard was the role. She rebels and breaks the rule. However, she has to return to the cycle by returning that piece she loses during her journey.

Questions: Does the chess playing of The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957) has anything to do with this film? / What does the scene transitions symbol? Is it related to nature and modern life? / Sitney mentions in his book that “No one seems to notice her” (Sitney, 18). Why is that, and what does it mean?

3, Ritual in Transfigured Time

I have no idea what this piece is about, but one element I noticed is the “stopping” of time in framed scenes that create photos. It is also an interesting frame at first when the whole screen is split in two by the wall in middle.

Questions: What do the deaths mean in this film? / What does the yarn symbolize?

Week 4 Reading Response

“Surrealism and Un Chien Andalou” from Malcolm Turvey’s The Filming of Modern Life explored the philosophies of Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel along with their fusing of machinism and surrealism in making Un Chien Andalou. I was fascinated by Dali’s arguments against art and for anti-art. From my understanding of Dali’s ideas, art encompasses something that only people with education or technical training can properly understand, whereas anti-art has no educational prerequisites and can have an impact on anyone. Anti-art also frees us from having to look at something with preconceived notions or artistic prejudices, instead allowing us to see the “extraordinary nature of the ordinary world around us” (Turvey 109). While I understand Dali’s overall views of art versus anti-art, I struggle to fully grasp the contrasts between the two. Does all art fail to show the beauty of our objective world? One could argue that Un Chien Andalou benefits from education or knowledge of the filmmakers’ intentions to be truly understood, so can it be considered anti-art?

The section of the chapter discussing the process of creating Un Chien Andalou and the film’s toying with continuity/discontinuity helped me better understand my feelings towards the film itself. When creating the script, Dali and Buñuel went into it with the idea that nothing symbolizes anything. They used images from their dreams but excluded anything that could be understood through rational means of thinking. Furthermore, they utilized conventions of mainstream cinema along with a mix of continuity and discontinuity to create expectations in the viewer only to later subvert them. For example, while there is temporal continuity between the first and second scenes (through the intertitle stating that eight years have passed), there is essentially no narrative continuity. Another example would be that there is often continuity between individual shots (the woman walking from her apartment into the hallway and then outside), but there are many spatial discontinuities such as the pianos randomly appearing and then disappearing. Knowing that Dali and Buñuel’s intentions were to create and then subvert audience expectations made me feel better about my own viewing experience. When watching Un Chien Andalou, I found that I constantly tried to grasp what was happening narratively because the filmmakers introduced just enough continuity to make it seem like there might be a clear narrative throughline/meaning.

A lot of the information presented in “Luis Bunuel: Notes on the Making of Un Chien Andalou” was discussed in “Surrealism and Un Chien Andalou”, but one line that stood out to me was that the film had no intention of pleasing the spectator and instead sought to attack them. I find this interesting because the film was critically acclaimed and loved by much of its audience. What does it mean if a film that seeks to attack its audience and reject conventions of dominant culture is embraced by dominant culture? Is the film deemed a failure if it is universally loved/brought into this dominant culture?

Blogging Example

The cycle of natural decay is both materially enacted and mirrored in the making of Jennifer Reeves’s Landfill 16 (2011), which takes up the idea of recycling, waste management, and the death of film. Reeves buried 16mm outtakes from her double-projection celebration of the natural world, When It Was Blue (2008), in a homemade landfill in Elkhart, Indiana. She then gave the exhumed film new purpose, hand-painting the corroded and soil-stained frames. The resultant imagery scans as densely textured terraforms, like pebbled plastic covered in mold. No photography was required to re-animate this celluloid originally consigned to the literal scrap heap. Images of animals briefly appear—a deer, an eagle, an ominous black widow—all barely recognizable through the garbage-battered frames, and seemingly buried under the decaying and dirty film. With its foreboding score, which mixes bulldozers, nature sounds, factory noise, and a trapped bird tweeting in pain, Reeves addresses not only the ways in which the media of analog moving images is literally and metaphorically being disposed as it approaches its industrial obsolescence, but also the disastrous environmental consequences of modern life.

Brimming with alternatively mottled and lapidary images, Landfill 16 pulses like living thing, a horror film about, to use Jussi Parikka’s phrase, “zombie media”—here, discarded moving images coming back to life, deformed. And while she never conceived the work as a collaboration per se, Reeves acknowledges the way the project represents a conjoining of forces that includes, she says, “the world, her thinking mind, and her spiritual muse….I had a feeling it wasn’t all me…that something else was at work.”

Furthermore, Reeves’ work illuminates a politics of process. It does not merely exhibit political engagement through content, but also describes a mode of deeper philosophical inquiry regarding the role and positioning of humanity vis-a-vis the world through methods of production. Landfill 16 demonstrates that how things are made matters, and that making carries ramifications for how we think about and conduct ourselves in relation to other people, objects, and things. Art therefore provides a useful model for broadening our approach to thinking about the nonhuman, about the limits of authorship, and about attributions of agency. Works like Landfill 16 show that when we decenter the human, that when ego gives way to an “at-oneness with whatever,” we ironically gain a better sense of humanity’s place in the world.

Plants, insects, and people all die, but cinema lives, every time it is played. Is dead/is dying.; a reversal of time, a reversal of nature itself. This is what cinema can do—change time, change the way things look or appear, open us up to new kinds of sight, new kinds of visions.

All photographs carry an indexical relationship to their referents—Roland Barthes notes that he “can never deny that the thing has been there.There is a superimposition here: of reality and of the past” (Camera Lucida, 76.  Emphasis in original).  Barthes labels this persistent presence of the referent the essence of photography and the “That-has-been.”  How does this change when there is not a camera?