Archive for the ‘Subversive Cinema’ Category

Subversive Cinema: NFB of Canada Online Archives

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

The National Film Board of Canada was founded in 1939 in part as a way to distribute World War II propaganda throughout the Great White North, but went on to become a bastion for experimental animation, “socially relevant documentaries” and other film projects “which provoke discussion and debate on subjects of interest to Canadian audiences and foreign markets.”

Sadly, this government agency which supported so many significant avant-garde filmmakers and animators has been subject to countless budget cuts and department closures over the last 15 years.

However, recently the NFB created a great “online screening room” for your free web-based viewing pleasure. Many of these films haven’t been so easy to find (on video at least), so this is a pretty big deal. Below are some of my favorites…

Norman McLaren’s Neighbors (1952)

Arthur Lipsett’s 21-87 (1964)

Jacques Drouin’s Mindscape (1976)

Robert Kennedy’s I’ve Never Had Sex… (2007)

No doubt countless more films are waiting to be discovered…
(Thanks to the Arthur Magazine Blog for the heads up about this new website)


Subversive Cinema: R.I.P. Bruce Conner, 1933-2008

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

“Bruce Conner, a San Francisco artist renowned for working fluently across media, died at his home of natural causes on Monday. He was 74…

Mr. Conner first got noticed for the short films he assembled from scavenged documentary and B-movie footage. Several of his films, including “A Movie” (1958), a sort of paean to human failure, and “Crossroads” (1977), are regarded as classics of independent filmmaking, even though Mr. Conner shot no original footage for them…

Mr. Conner announced his own death erroneously on two occasions, once sending an obituary to a national art magazine, and later writing a self-description for the biographical encyclopedia Who Was Who in America.”

Breakaway, 1966


See this post from January about Conner’s music video for Devo’s Mongoloid


Subversive Cinema: Scott Bartlett’s OffOn

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

In 1972, Scott Bartlett played with (new) video technology and then filmed it. The resulting piece, OffOn, is a film of psychedelic colorized rephotographed video loops. In 2004, the film was selected for preservation under the Library of Congress National Film Registry.

“OFFON is so striking a work, so obviously a landmark, that it has been acquired by virtually every major film art collection in America, from the Museum of Modern Art to the Smithsonian Institute.” – Sheldon Renan, Curator, Pacific Film Archive

Unfortunatley, YouTube’s low-quality compression destroys much of the brilliance of the film. A nice DVD version can be found on Treasures From American Film Archives Encore Edition“.


Subversive Cinema: John Whitney’s Permutations

Monday, May 12th, 2008

John Whitney was an experimental animator and composer. He is widely considered to be one of the fathers of computer animation.

After studying music composition in Paris, he returned to the U.S. and began collaborating with his brother, James, to produce abstract animations. Their work, Five Film Exercises (1940-45) was awarded first prize at the First International Experimental Film Competition in 1949. By 1950, he was creating animation sequences for television.

In 1958, he collaborated with title-sequence pioneer, Saul Bass, on the spirographic opening of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. In 1966, he was awarded IBM’s first artist-in-residency. Until the 1970s, most of Whitney’s animations made use of a complex analog computer. By the mid-1970s his animations were made completely with digital technologies. His work often uses self-composed music that explored mystical or Native-American themes. He continued making films until his death in 1995.

Permutations (1966)

“In PERMUTATIONS, each point moves at a different speed and moves in a direction independent according to natural laws’ quite as valid as those of Pythagoras, while moving in their circular field. Their action produces a phenomenon more or less equivalent to the musical harmonies. When the points reach certain relationships (harmonic) numerical to other parameters of the equation, they form elementary figures.”- John Whitney


Subversive Cinema: Hip Government Propaganda

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

Vincent Collins200

“This trippy tribute to our country’s 200th birthday was funded by a Bicentennial Project Grant and animated by Vincent Collins who made other psychedelic cartoons. This film was produced by the United States Information Agency–the government’s propaganda agency.”

Since this is an official government film, it is in the public domain. Download your own (legal) copy at