Week 7: Reader Blogging

In the chapter “Andy Warhol: The Producer as Author”, David James presented the trajectory of Andy Warhol’s career as he transitioned from being a significant figure in pop art culture to emerging as a notable and distinctive filmmaker in the realm of Avant-Garde cinema. James commenced by pointing out the iconic characteristics of Warhol’s films— “the simultaneous interrogation and exploitation of the media and the meditation on the elusiveness of the un-media-ted presence”—and tracing their origins back to his earlier paintings (James, 58). Warhol’s paintings represented a fusion of art and advertisement and could be even considered as “components of his own marketing strategies in the art business” (James, 59). Furthermore, Warhol constructed his works in a manner that was “virtually independent of a real human body or personality” as he often “reinscribed the artifice of the public image” (James, 60-61). At the same time, he opposed the conventional understanding and approach to grant authenticity to the artists.

With his eccentric but unique perspective of art and the fame and wealth he has garnered through his artistic endeavors, Warhol began his career as a filmmaker in the 1960s. James pointed out that “a general distinction between an early Warhol and a late Warhol can be elaborated in both formal and biographical terms” (James, 63). Warhol’s cinematic works progressively assimilated to the Hollywood cinema marked by the evolution of technological components towards greater sophistication, the transition from small-scale showcases to public exhibitions, and a shift in the films’ form toward a narrative-driven structure. “Two most polemically opposed modes of production of the time—the underground and the industry” got blended and further unified in Warhol’s films (James, 63). Inevitably, the discrepancy between his creations and the contemporary Avant-Garde films and “lacked any Brechtian engagement with the political functions of the mass media” aroused criticism from the underground (James, 66). In terms of dissecting Warhol’s films, James argued that “what distinguishes Warhol from his predecessors and successors is his disinterest in moral or narrative inflection”—he drew no boundaries between high art and street art, and the mainstream and underground (James, 67).

James then went on to delve into three major themes Warhol tried to address in his works—“an investigation of the process of being photographed and of being made the object of film; the construction and fragmentation of artificial selves by means of roles appropriated from film history or metaphorically related in some other way to Hollywood; the representation of exhibitionism and spectatorship in the narratives of feature films which themselves approach Hollywood’s formal and economic terrain” and analyzed how these themes manifested in various Warhol’s famous works such as The Chelsea Girls (1966, Warhol)(James, 68).  

I perceive this article as an introductory, expository essay on Andy Warhol as James wrote in a relatively loose structure. The major takeaway for me is that different from lots of experimental filmmakers, Warhol didn’t resist mainstream art/cinema—in fact, he embraced the idea of commodity and popularity and often mingled them with his works. My questions arising from this article are: (1) James mentioned that Warhol began to delegate a substantial portion of responsibility to others in the production of some late films (James, 64). Wouldn’t this be in contrast with Camper’s idea that “an experimental film is created by one person, or occasionally a small group collectively” (Camper, 2)? What were some responses from the underground filmmaker community? (2) James described Warhol’s cinema as “his is thus a meta-cinema, an inquiry into the mechanisms of the inscription of the individual into the apparatus and into the way such inscription has been historically organized” (James, 68). How should we interpret the sentence?

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 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?

“The Blood of a Poet” Viewing Response

“The Blood of a Poet” is a challenging yet captivating film told in four interrelated chapters. While I struggle to grasp the meanings of the film itself (if there are in fact concrete meanings), the beautiful imagery and visual ingenuity kept me enthralled throughout its runtime. Made in 1930, Jean Cocteau’s innovative filmmaking techniques feel miles ahead of its time. Rather than using the medium to tell a concrete story that follows the rules of reality, Cocteau made the most of the visual wonder possible in film, creating a surreal, dreamlike experience for viewers. Moments such as the artist falling through the mirror into a dark abyss, the hallway of doors that defies the laws of gravity, and the angel’s arrival in the final chapter are just a few of the many scenes that exemplify the creativity and otherworldly nature of the film. By abandoning the rules of conventional cinema and failing to adhere to the laws of reality, the film allows us to appreciate the pure spectacle of its imagery.

While there isn’t a clear story, the opening sections of “The Blood of a Poet” seemed to focus on a struggling artist seeking inspiration. The statue tells him to travel through a mirror, and once he does so he is transported into an alternate world, possibly a visualization of his subconscious. A central motif that stood out to me was the idea of destruction and rebuilding. One of the first and final shots of the film shows a smokestack collapsing. Inside one of the rooms in the gravity-defying hallway, a man is shot to death, then the scene reverses and he comes back to life. Later, the artist shoots himself in the head, then comes back to life, exits the world within the mirror, and destroys the statue. In the third chapter, a boy is killed, then is seemingly salvaged by an angel. All of these moments depict destruction and rebuilding, or death and rebirth. I find it difficult to relate this motif to the story itself, but maybe it has something to do with the beauty of creating art despite the struggles the artist must face to do so. Were there other moments in the film that showcased the motif of destruction and rebuilding? How do you think this motif relates to the themes/meanings of the film? Were there other meanings you found within the film?