A Research Site Devoted to the Past and Future of Found Footage Film and Video

"The Literary and Artistic heritage of humanity should be used for partisan propaganda purposes." - Gil J. Wolman
“A lot of people who call themselves artists now are cultural critics who are using instruments other than just written language or spoken language to communicate their critical perspective.”
-Leslie Thornton

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Found footage by Mireia Visuals

A Spanish found footage filmmaker by the name of Mireia Berenguer recently got in touch with me. These appropriated clips and compilations show the devastating effects that fashion advertising has had on female self-image. This to me represents so much of what Recycled Cinema should strive to be--a critique of commercial cinema and advertising by means of the very material proliferated. The first clip is a simple scene from a model show in Spain, the second a compilation of grotesque scenes from Hollywood films and the last is a wonderful evolution of a model shoot. Please visit Mireia @ http://mireiavisuals.blogspot.com. Recycled Cinema salutes you!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

(Recycled Cinema pioneer Arthur Lipsett)

“Narrative is the artistic structure of technocracy. The cinema we need, the cinema that combats technocracy will, therefore, be non-narrative.” -- R. Bruce Elder "The Cinema We Need."

Seeing Arthur Lipsett's "Very Nice, Very Nice" was as impacting as the first time I saw Bruce Conner's "A Movie." This work of recycled cinema made in 1962 uses Eisenstein's idea of vertical montage, "the moment-to-moment juxtaposition of a film's audio and visual tracks" (Brett Kashmere in Senses of Cinema). Lipsett mixes sound and footage for his portrait of 1950s consumerism and social apathy. While watching I couldn't help but notice the image of a crowded movie theater watching a 3D film used on the cover of Guy Debord's "Society of the Spectacle." However, Debord's text was published in 1967 . Is it possible Debord looked to this film as resource for the defining work of the Situationist International?

(The now iconic cover of Debord's classic text, seen five years before in Lipsett's film)

The film subtly but stealthily depicts social apathy, rampant consumerism and the very dark underside of the seemingly innocuous pop culture that Debord so despised. Reading more about Lipsett and the NFB's abandonment of his work I was again reminded of how most of our avant-garde film innovators are shunned by the establishment and ignored by film critics because of their inevitable unbankability. Too bad Lipsett hadn't made this more recently--it may have become a viral video phenomena, but perhaps that's just wishful thinking.

It is hard to not be floored by seeing the origin of so many techniques I've seen in later recycled cinema: the ambiguous layering of audio that seems at first only tenuously related to the images, the sophisticated blending of multiple sources to create many contrasting ideological conclusions, the unity of style and content best described by Lipsett's illustration of the "dissolving phantasmagoria of a world."

In Brett Kashmere's wonderful essay on Lipsett
, he writes that "Kubrick described Very Nice, Very Nice (1961) as “one of the most imaginative and brilliant uses of the movie screen and soundtrack that I have ever seen.” Kubrick was so enthused with the film he invited Lipsett to create a trailer for Dr. Strangelove, an offer Lipsett refused."

All of these obstacles compounded and Lipsett became mentally unstable. "Lipsett began wearing winter coats in the summer and would tape his fingers into Buddhist mantra position for protection from phantom voices. In 1982 he was diagnosed with chronic paranoid schizophrenia. After numerous failed suicide attempts (which he dubbed his “little experiments”), he took his own life in April 1986, shortly before his 50th birthday" (Brett Kashmere "Arthur Lipsett")

I hope you all enjoy his film as much as I did--and if you know where to find more please let me know.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Chris Marker's "Last Bolshevik"; Jonathan Lethem puts his money where his mouth is

"It is not the literal past that rules us: it is images of the past" -- George Steiner

I found a VHS copy of Chris Marker's "The Last Bolshevik" over at Suspect Video-an absolutely amazing video store in Toronto. With no info on the film, I was blown away by a documentary about repression and "smuggled" polemics in early Soviet Cinema. The film focuses on filmmaker Alexander Medvedkin, a contemporary of Eisenstein and recycled cinema hero Dziga Vertov. Chris Marker writes several video letters to Medvedkin, whose classic film "Happiness" follows a simple Russian farmer trying to find happiness that he can put into a wheat bag and bring home to his wife. The scenes of this film are so incredibly brilliant, funny, and bizarre you will scower the ends of the earth to actually find the film. You can see a short clip here, about how Eisenstein's fictional rendering of the storming of the Winter Palace during the October Revolution is rumored to have resulted in more deaths than the actual event itself. This movie reminds you of why the Russians got it right ten years before Western Europe and at least thirty before American Maya Deren.

"The Last Bolshevik" is also a self conscious work of recycled cinema, made evident in Marker's opening quote found at the beginning of this post. There are images in this film from some of the most experimental Soviet films (most reviled by Stalin as stylistically decadent), unreleased on video. One sequence continues to haunt me, showing several disembodied Cello's playing a thunderous piece of music superimposed over a steam train barreling towards the screen. The images are so perfectly cropped a superimposed--the light has that silver metalic sheen only old film stock can give you--good old nitrate film! In other ways I am realizing Chris Marker must have been an enormous influence on Adam Curtis, whose historical musings are evidently derivative of Marker's essays. It would be impossible not to steal from Marker whose simple and straightforward style is also so radical at the same time.

Jessica put me onto a fantastic essay by writer Jonathan Lethem in Harper's called "The Ecstasy of Influence." Lethem writes:

Most artists are brought to their vocation when their own nascent gifts are awakened by the work of a master. That is to say, most artists are converted to art by art itself. Finding one's voice isn't just an emptying and purifying oneself of the words of others but an adopting and embracing of filiations, communities, and discourses. Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced. Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos. Any artist knows these truths, no matter how deeply he or she submerges that knowing.


Eliot evidenced no small anxiety about these matters; the notes he so carefully added to The Waste Land can be read as a symptom of modernism's contamination anxiety. Taken from this angle, what exactly is postmodernism, except modernism without the anxiety?

I am impressed with Lethem's ability to explain a distinction between modernism and post-modernism that I've never heard before and seems wholly true: post-modernism had no desire to apologize for being derivative. Instead the movement celebrates its derivations in a form of artistic transparency usually hidden by artists.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Perils of the 8 hour work day

Has anyone else noticed a sudden influx of insane office stress videos? They've become a new genre.Some of them appear to be a Russian stress relief product. The ad campaign is a pretty edgy. Here are my favorites:

The Grey Video

An appropriate Mashup video of one of the great mashup albums:

A Hard Days Night of the Living Dead!

This goes in the pantheon! One of the best ever!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Martin Arnold Tributes

Like most people, I encountered Martin Arnold rip offs before I ever encountered Arnold himself. These are a few Arnold inspired films I love:

A Recycled Cinema song for Arnold using Evangelical "Trinity Network" footage

Harmony Korine's video for Bonnie Prince Billy's "No More Workhorse Blues"

This can cause inexplicable joy and suffering:

All This and World War II

Check out this trailer for a found footage compilation film called "All This and World War II" almost inexplicably constructed around Beatles covers. Amazing!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Cliff Roth's Reagan Recycling

Here's a great satire on the misguided "just say no" anti-drug campaign perpetrated by the Reagans through the 80s. It was compiled by Cliff Roth.

Chevy Tahoe Detourned!

Last year Chevrolet decided to forgo paying a smart Madison avenue ad agency for just another slick car ad.

Instead, these maverick innovators chose you! Yes, that's right, the iconoclasts in the board room thought you were the best person to engineer their new ads. Unfortunately, they put the tools of their own demise into your hands. Viva la detournement! See below for some of the best of the unused entries: