"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.
"Zoomorphic presents a startling new trend in architecture - buildings that look like animals. Animal resemblances arise for various reasons. An architect may wish to create a symbol, as architects have always done. Or, there may be a functional explanation for why a building comes to share elements of its design with that of some living creature.
Until now, the Art Nouveau was perhaps the high water mark of architecture's attempt to embrace nature. Today, with computers and new materials, architects are able to design and build more freely so they are exploring the natural world once more."
(Victoria & Albert Museum, 2004)
"Lukasa, or memory boards, are hand-held wooden objects that present a conceptual map of fundamental aspects of Luba culture. They are at once illustrations of the Luba political system, historical chronicles of the Luba state, and territorial diagrams of local chiefdoms. Each board's design is unique and represents the divine revelations of a spirit medium expressed in sculptural form. While many lukasa utilize a system of denotation based on masses of shells and beads affixed to their wooden surfaces, this example communicates its content through incised designs and images carved in relief."
(The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Fig.1 "Memory Board (Lukasa) [Democratic Republic of Congo; Luba] (1977.467.3)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1977.467.3 (October 2006).
"La lumière brillante et surnaturelle qui avait dominé toute la scène du château (flamme des chandeliers, feu, reflets étincelants de l’argenterie) s’estompe pour laisser la place à la lumière naturelle du jour [plan 9] . Ces rayons lumineux rappellent ceux des dernières gravures de la Belle au vois dormant. D’autant plus que cette lumière naturelle n’est pas légitimée par la présence d’une fenêtre, comme c’est le cas chez Doré. C’est une lumière naturelle, la lumière du jour, mais elle semble toujours éclairer le personnage de manière surnaturelle : comment la lumière extérieure peut-elle pénétrer à l’intérieur sans la présence d’aucune fenêtre ? Les flambeaux s’éteignent un à un, le personnage traverse un grand pan de lumière blanche, la porte se referme toute seule, l’escalier apparaît en plongée : la scène semble se rejouer à l’envers, ce qui souligne la structure circulaire et la clôture de la séquence, mais aussi l’influence de l’œuvre de Gustave Doré. Le dialogue des contes et des illustrations se poursuit jusqu’à la dernière image de la séquence puisqu’elle se termine sur les ronces qui envahissent l’escalier du château de la Bête, comme celles qui envahissent les gravures du château de la Belle au bois dormant."
(Estelle Plaisant Soler, 26 juin 2006)
Fig.1 Jean Cocteau (1946). "la Belle et la Bête"
2). PDF of 100 Cult Films (Screen Guides).
"Acclaimed as a surrealist masterpiece, Un Chien andalou aggressively disconnects itself from narrative flow. The creators of this short film. Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, fully intended there to be no links between successive scenes. Fortunately this didn't inhibit their dreaming up of some of the most striking moments ever to be projected upon the silver screen. The opening focuses on a man (Luis Buñuel) stropping his cut-throat razor, honing it to a perfect edge. Stepping onto the balcony, he gazes at the moon. This celestial orb is instantly replaced with a woman and, enlarging rapidly, her left eye. The bare blade then descends on her unprotected pupil, a graphic incident.
Designed to shock, which it still does almost 70 years later, quick editing removes the image before it has time to fully sink in. Suddenly the viewer is faced with a nun-like figure weaving uncertainly down the road on a bicycle. There is no bridge to the previous horror, although this mysterious person does provide a number of objects which resurface at odd intervals. Later there is the unusual sight of a man (Robert Hommet) hauling two grand pianos, each stuffed with the putrefying remains of a donkey, as he trudges towards a cowering woman (Simone Mareuil). He is also unfortunate enough to have a hole in his hand, where the ants live. None of this is significant.
A marvellous aspect of something as wilfully bizarre as Un Chien andalou is that almost any interpretation can be drawn from the images shown. Perhaps every single scene is random and unconcerned with any other, although Buñuel certainly seems to have included items which are present throughout the film. In some ways the repeated glimpses of these things in situations where they shouldn't be adds to the confused feel, enhanced by the off-putting and nonsensical time-markers deployed.
The eternal themes of life, death, lust and love are thrown up at various points, although there is no framework on which to attach these emotions. This is of no consequence though as Buñuel has already hurried onto the next sequence, violently cutting so that the desired woman becomes naked in a flash - a picture of what are ardent suitor really sees. Un Chien andalou does not require such deep analysis though, being much more a film which should be purely experienced. It achieves that which Buñuel and Dalí aimed for and, with a live music accompaniment, is unstoppable."
(Damian Cannon, 1997)
Fig.1 Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí (1929). 'Un Chien andalou'