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Shadows, Specters, Shards: Making History in Avant-Garde Film by Jeffrey Skoller

Author: Jeffrey Skoller
Book title: Shadows, Specters, Shards: Making History in Avant-Garde Film
ISBN10: 081664232X
ISBN13: 978-0816642328
Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press; First edition edition (August 14, 2005)
Language: English
Pages: 264
Size PDF: 1342 kb
Size FB2: 1857 kb
Size ePUB: 1457 kb
Rating: 4.7 ✯
Votes: 544
Subcategory: Movies

Shadows, Specters, Shards: Making History in Avant-Garde Film by Jeffrey Skoller

Avant-garde films are often dismissed as obscure or disconnected from the realities of social and political history. Jeffrey Skoller challenges this myth, arguing that avant-garde films more accurately display the complex interplay between past events and our experience of the present than conventional documentaries and historical films. Shadows, Specters, Shards examines a group of experimental films, including work by Eleanor Antin, Ernie Gehr, and Jean-Luc Godard, that take up historical events such as the Holocaust, Latin American independence struggles, and urban politics. Identifying a cinema of evocation rather than representation, these films call attention to the unrepresentable aspects of history that profoundly impact the experience of everyday life. Making use of the critical theories of Walter Benjamin and Gilles Deleuze, among others, Skoller analyzes various narrative strategies - allegory, sideshadowing, testimony, and multiple temporalities - that uncover competing perspectives and gaps in historical knowledge often ignored in conventional film. In his discussion of avant-garde film of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, Skoller reveals how a nuanced understanding of the past is inextricably linked to the artistry of image making and storytelling.
Reviews (3)
The filmmaker and associate professor of new media at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago sees that despite being "unapprehendable" though being "often sensed," the shadows, specters, and shards of the title "are nevertheless part of the energy of the past and exert themselves as a force on the present." It is the avante-garde filmmakers rather than the mainstream or conventional ones relying on narration, chronology, and cultural symbols who tap into such "unseen forces" in their films to create an "awareness of other temporalities in which linear chronologies are called into question in favor of other temporal structures such as simultaneity and virtuality." This not only better reflects the way individuals and societies are aware of history, but also reflects the innumerable heterogeneous incidents, events, personalities, tendencies, etc. which make for history and have little coherence. Skoller goes beyond analysis of the shards, etc., as characteristics of postmodern culture; and as these have often been used by writers and artists to reflect this culture or to comment on or in some cases criticize it. Skoller puts these characteristics in a useful and in some respects productive light by examining them as techniques rather than simply effects. His material is not laudatory, however; nor does it especially commend the techniques; for history does not lend itself to stable definition or complete comprehension by means of any techniques. The author is concerned mainly with noting that the shadows, specters, and shards despite their elusiveness, incompleteness, and even insubstantiality are better suited to not only recording but also conveying history. The material of the book is in large measure illustration of this central point by considering how movies by leading and influential avant-garde filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard, Daniel Eisenberg, Ken Jacobs, and Patricio Guzman have dealt with historical issues and material even though this has not been widely recognized or accepted.
I've been reading film criticism for two decades, from my first experiences with Bordwell `s film histories to Laura Mulvey's treatise on visual pleasure to the densely layered cinematic revelations of Deleuze. But it wasn't until I read Jeffrey Skoller's Shadows, Specters and Shards that I discovered the kind of lively, intellectually rigorous observations of a "film thinker" who allowed his adventurous imagination to tackle the sadly undervalued world of avant-garde film. As a teacher of film production and studies, I was thrilled to discover this erudite series of essays which have provided my New York University film students with a remarkable introduction to the works of contemporary experimental film artists. By describing and then interpreting their aesthetic processes, Skoller guides his reader through the political and historical dimensions of works by such illustrious makers as Ernie Gehr, Craig Baldwin, Leandro Katz, Dan Eisenberg and Zoe Beloff. If you are lucky enough to have seen these brilliant works of filmmaking, then you will find that Skoller's engaged observations will enhance your initial understanding. If you have not yet had this viewing opportunity, don't worry! Skoller provides such a vivid sound/image recounting in his analysis that your vicarious experience will prove surprisingly rewarding!
amazing book

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