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Early Avant-Garde Films

by MLAT
The term “avant-garde” refers here quite freely to early European and American experimental cinematic practices as opposed to “continuity editing” of classical Hollywood. The genre can be traced back to two silents: Abel Gance’s La Folie du Docteur Tube (1915) and Robert Wiene’s Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920). That said, the American pre-WW2 branch should not be entirely subordinated to European influence. It has it’s own aesthetic culture in films as such Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand’s Manhatta (1921) and Slavko Vorkapich and Robert Florey’s The Life and Death of 9413: a Hollywood Extra (1928) and in various dance films. The list… Read more

The term “avant-garde” refers here quite freely to early European and American experimental cinematic practices as opposed to “continuity editing” of classical Hollywood. The genre can be traced back to two silents: Abel Gance’s La Folie du Docteur Tube (1915) and Robert Wiene’s Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920). That said, the American pre-WW2 branch should not be entirely subordinated to European influence. It has it’s own aesthetic culture in films as such Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand’s Manhatta (1921) and Slavko Vorkapich and Robert Florey’s The Life and Death of 9413: a Hollywood Extra (1928) and in various dance films.
The list includes mainly auteurs who began in 1920s and 30s, ‘till the collapse of the early European avant-garde in 1930s and exodus of early Europeans and mixture. The newer American avant-garde, or second wave, is excluded, mainly ’cause – and this is merely taken – it’s origin lies in the “psychodrama or trance film” of Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid’s Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) and Kenneth Anger’s Fireworks (1947).

The list includes following subdivisions:

Absolute Film, Cinéma pur, or Dadaist, Surrealist, Futuristic and Constructivist films
City symphony films
And more abstract and animated shorts, surreal cartoons, experimental dance films and overall some weird, comic, melodramatic and beautiful picture about society and nature

German expressionism and French impressionist cinema, as well as Soviet montage and D.W. Griffith and Lois Weber, are on margin.

Auteurs by country:

French: Man Ray (American), Fernand Léger, Dudley Murphy (American), Germaine Dulac, Rene Clair, Marcel Duchamp, Henri Chomette, Eugene Deslaw (Russian), Luis Buñuel (Spanish), Salvador Dali (Spanish), Jean Cocteau, Alberto Cavalcanti (Brazilian), Jean Painlevé, Jean Vigo, Alexandre Alexieff & Claire Parker
+ Impressionists: Abel Gance, Marcel L’Herbier, Louis Delluc, Jean Epstein, Dimitri Kirsanoff (Russian), Jean Renoir, Jaque Catelain, Alexandre Volkoff, Jacques Feyder, Noël Renard
Germany: Walter Ruttmann, Hans Richter, Oskar Fischinger, Viking Eggeling (Swede), Paul Leni, Erno Metzner, László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian), Ernö Metzner, Stella Simon & Miklos Bandy
+ Expressionists: Robert Wiene + others
Kingdom of Italy: Anton Giulio Bragaglia, Corrado D’Errico, Tina Cordero & Guido Martina & Pippo Oriani
Portugal: Jorge Brum do Canto
Netherlands: Joris Ivens, Mannus Franken, J.C. Mol, Alexander von Barsy, Paul Schuitema and Willem Bon
Belgium: Charles Dekeukeleire, Henri d’Ursel, Henri Storck, Ernst Moerman
United Kingdom: Len Lye, Norman McLaren (Scott), Kenneth MacPherson, Oswell Blakeston & Francis Bruguière, Humphrey Jennings, Claude Friese-Greene (note to self: check St Ives School more carefully)

Czech Republic: Alexandr Hackenschmied, Svatopluk Inneman, Vladislav Vancura, Otakar Vávra, Frantisek Pilát, Jan Kučera, Čeněk Zahradníček, Jiří Lehovec, Karl Junghans, Karel Plicka, Martin Fric and Elmar Klos
Polish: Stephan Themerson & Franciszka Themerson
Soviet Union: Dziga Vertov, Esfir Shub, Yakov Protazanov, Victor Turin, Grigori Kozintsev, Leonid Trauberg (+ montage: Lev Kuleshov, Sergei Eisenstein, Alexander Dovzhenko, and Vsevolod Pudovkin + others)
Georgia: Kote Miqaberidze, Mikheil Chiaureli, Mikheil Kalatozishvili, Nikolai Shengelaia
Croatia: Oktavijan Miletić

American: Paul Strand, Charles Sheeler, Robert Florey, James Sibley Watson, Slavko Vorkapich, James Whitney, Mary Ellen Bute & Ted Nemeth, Ralph Steiner, Herman G. Weinberg, William Vance & Orson Welles, Joseph Cornell, LeRoy Robbins & Harry Hay, John Hoffman, Henwar Rodakiewicz, Emlen Etting, Norman Bel Geddes, Al Brick, Christopher Young, Bonney Powell, Robert Flaherty, Jay Leyda, Lewis Jacobs, Rudy Burckhardt, Neil McQuire & William A. O’Connor, Harry Smith, Francis Bruguière & Oswell Blakeston, Boris Deutsch, Charles Vidor, Theodore Huff, Josef Berne & Seymour Stern, Dwinell Grant, Jerome Hill
+Surreal Cartoons: Dave Fleischer, Ub Iwerks, Anthony Gross & Hector Hoppin, Robert Clampett
Brazil: Mário Peixoto, Adalbert Kememy

Japan: Teinosuke Kinugasa, Shigeji Ogino
China: Fei Mu

MUBI can’t find:
1900 – A Nymph of the Waves (Frederick S. Armitage)
1902 – L’Homme-Mouche (Georges Méliès)
1903 – Down the Hudson (Frederick S. Armitage)
1903 – The Ghost Train (anonymous)
1905 – Interior NY Subway, 14th Street to 42nd Street (Billy Bitzer)
1915 – La Folie du Docteur Tube (Abel Ganze)
1916 – (4 minute excerpt) Diana the Huntress (Charles Allen & Francis Trevelyan Miller)
1920 – Nude Woman by Waterfall (Claude Friese-Greene)
1922 – Der Sieger (Walter Ruttmann)
1922 – Das Wunder (Walter Ruttmann)
1924 – Looney Lens: Split Skyscrapers (Al Brick)
1924 – Looney Lens: Tenth Avenue, NYC (Al Brick)
1924 – Looney Lens: Pas de deux (Al Brick)
1925 – (7 minute excerpt) Beggar on Horseback (James Cruze)
1925 – In Youth, Beside the Lonely Sea – poem by Thomas Bailey Aldrich (anonymous director)
1926 – Twentyfour-Dollar Island (Robert Flaherty)
1926 – Moonland (Neil McQuire & William A. O’Connor)
1927 – Looney Lens: Anamorphic People (Al Brick)
1927 – Magic Umbrella (Jerome Hill)
1927 – Études de mouvements à Paris (Joris Ivens)
1927 – La p’tite Lili (Alberto Cavalcanti)
1928 – Hände: Das Leben und die Liebe eines Zärtlichen Geschlechts (Stella Simon & Miklos Bandy)
1928 – Praha v zári svetel / Prague Shining in Lights (Svatopluk Innemann)
1928 – Koko’s Earth Control (Dave Fleischer, Max Fleischer)
1929 – Lullaby (Boris Deutsch)
1929 – The Bridge (Charles Vidor)
1929 – Stramilano (Corrado D’Errico)
1930 – Takový je zivot / Such is Life (Karl Junghans)
1930 – Wochenende (Walter Ruttmann)
1930 – Studie Nr. 6 (Oskar Fischinger)
1930 – Light Rhythms (Francis Bruguière & Oswell Blakeston)
1930-33 – Oil: A Symphony in Motion (M.G. MacPherson & Jean Michelson)
1931 – Studie Nr. 7 (Oskar Fischinger)
1931 – Les Berceaux (Jean Epstein)
1931 – Manhattan Medley (Bonney Powell)
1931 – Portrait of a Young Man in Three Movements (Henwar Rodakiewicz)
1932 – Poem 8 (Emlen Etting)
1932 – Little Geezer (Theodore Huff)
1932 – Betty Boop’s Ups and Downs (Dave Fleischer)
1932 – Story of the Unknown Soldier (Henri Storck)
1933 (c.) – Tilly Losch in Her Dance of the Hands (Norman Bel Geddes)
1933 – The Peanut Vendor (Len Lye)
1933 – Betty Boop’s May Party (Dave Fleischer)
1933 – Willy Whopper cartoons: Stratos Fear (Ub Iwerks)
1934 – Muratti Greift Ein (Oskar Fischinger)
1935 – Camera Makes Whoopee (Norman McLaren)
1935 – Poison (Man Ray)
1936 – Máj / May (Čeněk Zahradníček)
1936 – La fontaine d’Aréthuse (Dimitri Kirsanoff)
1936 – La jeune fille au jardin (Dimitri Kirsanoff)
1937 – Book Bargain (Norman McLaren)
1937 – News for the Navy (Norman McLaren)
1937 – Seeing the World No. 1: A Trip to New York City (Rudy Burckhardt)
1937 – Parabola (Mary Ellen Bute & Ted Nemeth)
1938 – The Children’s Jury (attributed to Joseph Cornell)
1938 – Thimble Theater (Joseph Cornell)
1938 – Children’s Party (Joseph Cornell)
1938 – Love on the Wing (Norman McLaren)
1938 – Mony a Pickle (Norman McLaren)
1939 – Scherzo (Norman McLaren)
1939 – The Obedient Flame (Norman McLaren)
1939-40 – NBC Valentine Greeting (Norman McLaren)
1940 – Loops (Norman McLaren)
1940 – Stars and Stripes (Norman McLaren)
1940 – Themis (Dwinell Grant)
1940 (c.) – Abstract Experiment in Kodachrome (Slavko Vorpapich)
1940 – Pursuit of Hapiness (Rudy Burckhardt)
1941 – Rytmus (Jiří Lehovec)
1941 – Object Lesson (Christopher Young)
1942 – Color Rhythm (Oskar Fischinger)
1942 – Little Negro (Norman McLaren)
1943 – Barrel Zoom (Norman McLaren)
1943 – Film Exercise #1 (James Whitney)
1944 – Chants populaires nº 5 (Norman McLaren)
1944 – Film Exercise #2 & #3 (James Whitney)
1944 – Film Exercise #4 (James Whitney)
1945 – Oko i ucho / The Eye and the Ear (Stephan Themerson & Franciszka Themerson)
1946 – A Little Phantasy On A 19th-Century Painting (Norman McLaren)
1947 – Forest Murmurs (Slavko Vorkapić, John Hoffman)
1947 – Out of Focus Landscape (Norman McLaren)
1951 – Pen Point Percussion (Norman McLaren)
1956 – Rythmetic (Norman McLaren)
1958 – The Corridor (Norman McLaren)
1960 – Lines: Vertical (Norman McLaren)
1961 – The Flicker Film (Norman McLaren)

There’re plenty of films missing. This stems just from the fact that I’ve haven’t found or seen them yet. I’d be grateful if someone gives a hint, of films such as:
1930 – Velocitá: an Italian Futurist from Tina Cordero, Guido Martina, Pippo Oriani

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