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Spectatorship Experimental/Expanded Film: Meshes of the Afternoon & Tarnation

Amy Charlewood | Tuesday November 19, 2013

Categories: A Level, EDUQAS A Level, EDUQAS AS, EDUQAS A2, FM4, Section B: Spectatorship Topics, Analysis, Film Analysis, Genres & Case Studies, Avant-Garde, Cinema Verite, Documentary, Experimental, Hot Entries, Key Concepts, Audience, Film Language, Representation, Theory, Spectatorship Theory

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Definition and Introduction

As one might expect the term experimental cinema is difficult to define clearly and by its very nature avoids simplistic categorisation. Within the movement itself there has been frequent debate over its definition. Fred Camper discusses experimental film-makers such as Peter Kubelka and Stan Brackage who questioned titles like ‘Avant-garde’ for suggesting experimental cinema is intrinsically European, ‘different cinema’ was used for a while but rejected for sounding like it’s at odds with ‘normal cinema’ and even ‘experimental cinema’ was criticised for making it sound like it’s a cinema that is somehow ‘unfinished’. That said for the purposes of studying experimental cinema we must approach a rough definition. The clearest way of defining experimental cinema is of course in opposition to the ‘norm’ of most mainstream Hollywood and western cinema but the following criteria also offers some structure towards its definition:

  • firstly experimental cinema tends to challenge the dominant production line model of film making -  avoiding traditional production, distribution and exhibition techniques, this could result in extremely low to no budget and unusual exhibition practices, challenging the conventional ‘cinematic experience’.
  • it tends to avoid any sort of linear or traditional narrative or storytelling techniques.
  • it may have a more conscious approach to the physical nature of filming-making, perhaps being self-reflexive in its own production.
  • experimental cinema by definition should challenge hegemonic ideas about cinema and culture so its messages and values may challenge spectators in ways mainstream cinema does not or it may have more polysemic meanings, open to interpretation.

It is important to remember that in the context of the unit which is focused on Spectatorship that all these things that define experimental cinema also affect our experience as a spectator. By its...

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