"Meshes of the Afternoon is one of the most influential works in American experimental cinema. A non-narrative work, it has been identified as a key example of the 'trance film,' in which a protagonist appears in a dreamlike state, and where the camera conveys his or her subjective focus. The central figure in Meshes of the Afternoon, played by Deren, is attuned to her unconscious mind and caught in a web of dream events that spill over into reality. Symbolic objects, such as a key and a knife, recur throughout the film; events are open-ended and interrupted. Deren explained that she wanted 'to put on film the feeling which a human being experiences about an incident, rather than to record the incident accurately.'
Made by Deren with her husband, cinematographer Alexander Hammid, Meshes of the Afternoon established the independent avant-garde movement in film in the United States, which is known as the New American Cinema. It directly inspired early works by Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, and other major experimental filmmakers. Beautifully shot by Hammid, a leading documentary filmmaker and cameraman in Europe (where he used the surname Hackenschmied) before he moved to New York, the film makes new and startling use of such standard cinematic devices as montage editing and matte shots. Through her extensive writings, lectures, and films, Deren became the preeminent voice of avant-garde cinema in the 1940s and the early 1950s."
The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999.
Maya Deren (1943). "Meshes of the Afternoon", 16mm film, black and white, silent, 14 min. Acquired from the Artist.
"This website is designed as a social mirror to show the prevalence of casual homophobia in our society. Words and phrases like 'faggot,' 'dyke,' 'no homo,' and 'so gay' are used casually in everyday language, despite promoting the continued alienation, isolation and - in some tragic cases - suicide of sexual and gender minority (LGBTQ) youth.
We no longer tolerate racist language, we're getting better at dealing with sexist language, but sadly we're still not actively addressing homophobic and transphobic language in our society.
Let's put an end to casual homophobia. Speak out when you see or hear homophobic or transphobic language from friends, at school,
in the locker room, at work or online. Use #NoHomophobes to show your support. And visit one of our resource websites to get more involved."
"In a work of art, I rather like to find thus transposed, at the level of the characters, the subject of the work itself. Nothing sheds more light on the work or displays the proportions of the whole work more accurately. Thus, in paintings by Memling or Quentin Metzys, a small dark convex mirror reflects, in its turn, the interior of the room in which the action of the painting takes place. Thus, in a slightly different way, in Velasquez's Las Meninas. Finally, in literature, there is the scene in which a play is acted in Hamlet; this also happens in many other plays. In Wilhelm Meister, there are the puppet shows and the festivities in the castle. In Fall of the House of Usher, there is the piece that is read to Roderick, etc. None of these examples is absolutely accurate. What would be more accurate, and what would explain better what I'd wanted to do in my Cabiers, in Narcisse and La Tentative, would be a comparison with the device from heraldry that involves putting a second representation of the original shield 'en abyme' within it."
(Lucien Dällenbach, 1977 via Once I Metablog on Metafiction)
Dällenbach, Lucien (1977). 'The Mirror in the Text'. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Fig.1 Diego Velázquez 'Las Meninas'
"Peeping Tom has been widely celebrated as one of the great films about looking, about consumption, about cinema, about art, about the artist, about the relation between the artist, the artwork and the audience, about the relation between looking and pleasure, looking and desire, looking and death, and so on. All very familiar stuff from Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis and film studies (the film's tailor-made for film studies - bring in some Freud here, some Bataille and de Sade there, add a little Lacan and Virillio, etc). The aggressive and violating camera, as Scorsese put it. And this is partly the problem with Peeping Tom. Like the films of Peter Greenaway or David Cronenberg, Peeping Tom is more like an academic essay about voyeurism and scopophilia, a join-the-dots lecture on the pleasures, risks and dangers of art. Plus, Peeping Tom employs the most stereotypical, cliched thriller/ murder mystery plot you can imagine: a young man, a loner, a misfit, introspective, morbid, an outsider figure, abused as a child, etc etc etc, who murders sexualized women (prostitutes and actresses), and is befriended by an innocent he cannot bring himself to corrupt or kill.
Powell attacks the subject of voyeurism and murder aggressively in the opening scenes: the close-ups on cameras, projectors and eyes, the mirrors and reflections, exaggerated sounds (the rattle of a projector, a dripping tap, a heartbeat, whispered voiceover), and his love of visual rhymes and puns (eyes, drinks, sticks and tripods). You can see Powell having a ball in orchestrating his elaborate camera moves, his erotic, sleazy mise-en-abyme, his film-within-a-film tropes (Powell playing the murderer's father and torturer in home movies which he shot himself), the multiple reflections, mirrors, lenses, cameras, projections and screens (every shot in Peeping Tom seems to have been lit by a raking, unfiltered, unflattering horizontal light). It's not that Powell isn't at the top of his game in Peeping Tom - in its way, Peeping Tom is every bit as inventive as Powell's best work - it's that the plot, the characters, the situations are so cheesy, predictable, and shallow.
Despite all this, though, Peeping Tom does have bite and a nastiness which age hasn't dimmed. Peeping Tom also still feels 'contemporary' in its psychoanalytic treatment of a serial killer plot which draws on prostitution, cinema, acting, and pornography. And the conceit of having a murder in the opening shots which's replayed a moment later over the credits is a tour-de-force (one of the film's best cinematic ideas, this says everything necessary, and economically, in the first five minutes)."
"Pioneered by the obsessive Dr W.S. Tucker of the Royal Engineers, the concrete sound mirrors were intended to provide early warning of incoming enemy aeroplanes and airships about to attack coastal towns.
But with the development of faster aircraft and the increasing racket from the holiday resort down the road, the effectiveness of the mirrors twindled as an aircraft would be within sight by the time it had been located. The last nail was finally driven into the coffin of this uniquely English folly by the evolution of radar systems, so by 1934 they had tragically became obsolete."
(David Barrington, 04.07.2006)