From October Books
The Filming of Modern Life
European Avant-Garde Film of the 1920s
The complex stance toward modernity taken by 1920s avant-garde cinema, as exemplified by five major films.
In the 1920s, the European avant-garde embraced the cinema, experimenting with the medium in radical ways. Painters including Hans Richter and Fernand Léger as well as filmmakers belonging to such avant-garde movements as Dada and surrealism made some of the most enduring and fascinating films in the history of cinema. In The Filming of Modern Life, Malcolm Turvey examines five films from the avant-garde canon and the complex, sometimes contradictory, attitudes toward modernity they express: Rhythm 21 (Hans Richter, 1921), Ballet mécanique (Dudley Murphy and Fernand Léger, 1924), Entr'acte (Francis Picabia and René Clair, 1924), Un chien Andalou (Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel, 1929), and Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929). All exemplify major trends within European avant-garde cinema of the time, from abstract animation to “cinéma pur.” All five films embrace and resist, in their own ways, different aspects of modernity.
HardcoverOut of Print ISBN: 9780262015189 232 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 88 b&w illus.
Paperback$24.95 T ISBN: 9780262525114 232 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 88 b&w illus.
Combining lucid readings of five central avant-garde films from the 1920s, Malcolm Turvey's The Filming of Modern Life cogently challenges the clichés of academic film history. The readings support his insight that these films respond to a subtle range of ideas about mechanization. Turvey sees the avant-garde cinema as a coherent nexus of reactions to the evolution of film syntax and genres rather than a repudiation of bourgeois modernity or the competing assimilations of cinema to Dada, surrealism, or constructivism.
P. Adams Sitney
Lewis Center for the Arts, Princeton University, and author, Visionary Film
The Filming of Modern Life incisively challenges conventional accounts of avant-garde film theory and practice in the 1920s. In readings both subtle and historically astute, Malcolm Turvey unpacks conceptual ambivalences that animate five canonical films in individual essays, each a model of lucid critical writing and perfectly gauged for seminar discussions. He raises provocative questions that will reignite consequential debates even as they reaffirm the complex ethos informing classical modernist cinema.
Queens College and CUNY Graduate Center