Straight from the shoulder, avant garde/experimental cinema is not my line of country. One of the first things that will send me from a room faster than anything are looking at the screen and seeing the words “National Film Board of Canada.” The NFBC specializes in this sort of thing, and produced the three Arthur Lipsett short films seen here. I quickly tire of their montages or fantasy scenes that lack any context, no matter how striking these might be. My four-star rating this set of films is simply a compromise, based on my sense that the films are of some importance to people who are in tune with this sort of filmmaking.
I have slightly more patience with Maya Deren’s dreamlike imagery, especially her first short, Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), which has a sense of genuine mystery about it that I find haunting. But overall, they’re the sort of thing I find more interesting to think about than to watch. Lipsett’s work, on the other hand, I simply don’t like. It all seems to come down to a man expressing his distaste for modern society in the same way over and over. I’m told that he influenced Stanley Kubrick (at least as concerns the trailer for Dr. Strangelove) and George Lucas (not sure I consider that a plus), and that may well be. His technique was certainly unique in its time. The Deren films being shown are Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), At Land (1944), A Study in Choreography for the Camera (1945), Ritual in Transfigured Time (1946), Meditation on Violence (1948) and The Very Eye of Night (1958). Lispett’s film are Very Nice, Very Nice (1961), 21-87 (1964) and Free Fall (1964).