Avant-garde films and their mainstream corollaries
April 1, 2012 3:18 PM   Subscribe

Avant-garde film filter: Looking for some direct influences of experimental film on mainstream/commercial movies (or ads, music videos, etc.)

This is a bit obscure, but I'm creating a list of examples of mainstream and/or commercial work that adopt techniques from classic experimental film - surrealist, structuralist, lyrical, handpainted, collage, etc. I have surrealism (and modern dream sequences) and collage (contemporary mashups) pretty well covered, but I'm looking for examples of other kinds of techniques (flicker, scratching, reveal of sprocket holes, film melting, etc.) used in Hollywood films.

Bonus points if you can name an experimental film that uses the technique as well as the mainstream example.
posted by Ms. Toad to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Fight Club has a number of these techniques, including film burn and sprockets. It's even self-referential, referring to the "reel dots" (or whatever they're called) within the movie itself.

Don't know if this is the tact you're taking, but the classic "Peeping Tom" has a lot of frames within a frame that might be interesting to wade through.
posted by alexmestas at 4:20 PM on April 1, 2012

Best answer: The Blob has burning film when the blob invades the projection booth within the movie.

Weirdly, I saw it in a theater, and the film actually got stuck and burned right after that shot.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:06 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: opening credits to the film Se7en:
posted by timsneezed at 5:08 PM on April 1, 2012

Best answer: opening credits to Scott Pilgrim.
posted by timsneezed at 5:10 PM on April 1, 2012

I'm not sure how mainstream/commercial Terrence Malick is, but The Tree of Life had some fairly abstract sequences heavily influenced by (and indeed directly incorporating) experimental film.
posted by twirlip at 5:13 PM on April 1, 2012

And of course there's the Star Gate sequence from 2001 (again, not exactly a typical Hollywood movie). This article talks about Jordan Belson's influence on the film.
posted by twirlip at 5:23 PM on April 1, 2012

Best answer: Punch Drunk Love had some artsy sequences done by Jeremy Blake. (And yes, I linked to a really annoying site.)
posted by Ideefixe at 5:49 PM on April 1, 2012

Triumph of the Will and Star Wars, the medal presentation ceremony at the end of the film. Direct visual quote.
posted by mwhybark at 6:24 PM on April 1, 2012

Scorsese claims Kenneth Anger as an influence, and you can see that most clearly in Marty's earlier work. I would have a hard time nailing down a specific lift, though.
posted by mwhybark at 6:28 PM on April 1, 2012

Harry Smith's direct-painted films and Chuck Jones' "The Dot and the Line."

You mentioned you had surrealism in hand, so undoubtedly you are familiar with the Hitchcock/Dali collaboration Spellbound, Dr. Seuss' 5000 Fingers of Dr. T, and the Disney/Dali collaboration Destino.

Jones also led the later animated adaptations of Seuss' material. In general Jones consistently looks for innovative and non-narrative source material to revisualize and saw his best work as directly participating in a modernist and formalist tradition.
posted by mwhybark at 6:39 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wes Anderson must be borrowing to some extent, too, but I sure don't have his sources in mind. He is clearly at least inspired by aspects of non-commercial cinema.
posted by mwhybark at 6:41 PM on April 1, 2012

I can't find any source that outright states it, but I would think Koyaanisqatsi's time-lapse shots greatly influenced a good number of commercials.
posted by Bromius at 7:25 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was searching around for examples of Stan Brakhage's influence on Hollywood movies and found this article, which says:
Yet such was Brakhage’s mastery of film as a visual experience that Hollywood would often beg, steal and borrow from his low-budget/high-effort masterpieces for their high-budget/low-effort movies. In the case of Superman the filmmakers rented a copy of The Text of Light directly from Brakhage in order to try and replicate his ashtray’s exquisite light effects in their portrayal of the superhero’s ice castle and space crib.
Also, here's John Maybury, director of The Jacket saying:
There’s a very particular agenda. All the very expensive CGI sequences I actually had shot on film and I gave them to an art student and got her to just copy Stan Brakhage, actually. [...] Even the end credits are a bad pastiche of "Mothlight," which is one of his films.
posted by muta at 8:12 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I, Robot ripping off All is full of love?
posted by Tom-B at 9:58 PM on April 1, 2012

Best answer: Natural Born Killers didn't pull many punches in terms of in your face experimentation.

posted by philip-random at 11:37 PM on April 1, 2012

totally atypical for Disney, but "Emperor's New Groove" was a fantastic film with some "scratching, reveal of sprocket holes" plus some breaking of the 4th wall, etc.etc..
posted by alchemist at 11:57 PM on April 1, 2012

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