"The cinema of the avant-garde represents a number of different approaches to the mainstream and is informed by a contrasting set of ideological models. In terms of production, the avant-garde has a history of private sponsorship and state subsidy, as its relationship with the audience is usually one of artisanal self-expression rather than commodity-based economic exploitation. These forms of self-expression run from individualism (as championed by Maya Deren and Stan Brakhage) to collectivism (Surrealism to the various filmmakers' co-ops the world over)". - Rob Bridgett
Un Chien Andalou
Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) (1929) is a silent surrealist short film by the Spanish director Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dalí. It was Buñuel's first film and was initially released in 1929 with a limited showing at Studio des Ursulines in Paris, but became popular and ran for eight months.
The film has no plot in the conventional sense of the word. The chronology of the film is disjointed, jumping from the initial "once upon a time" to "eight years later" without the events or characters changing very much. It uses dream logic in narrative flow that can be described in terms of then-popular Freudian free association, presenting a series of tenuously related scenes.
L’Age d’or (The Golden Age) (1930) is a French surrealist comedy directed by Luis Buñuel about the insanities of modern life, the hypocrisy of the sexual mores of bourgeois society and the value system of the Roman Catholic Church. The screenplay is by Salvador Dalí and Buñuel. L'Age d'Or was one of the first sound films made in France, along with Prix de Beauté and Under the Roofs of Paris.
Meshes of the Afternoon
Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) is a short experimental film directed by wife-and-husband team, Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid. The film's narrative is circular and repeats several motifs, including a flower on a long driveway, a key falling, a door unlocked, a knife in a loaf of bread, a mysterious Grim Reaper–like cloaked figure with a mirror for a face, a phone off the hook and an ocean. Through creative editing, distinct camera angles, and slow motion, the surrealist film depicts a world in which it is more and more difficult to catch reality.
In 1990, Meshes of the Afternoon was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", going into the registry in the second year of voting.
Towers Open Fire
Towers Open Fire (1963) is a short film written by William S. Burroughs and filmed by Antony Balch. It was released in 1963 and the cast features Antony Balch, William S. Burroughs, BBC presenter David Jacobs, British sex film producer Bachoo Sen and Scottish writer Alexander Trocchi. Parts of the text read by Burroughs such as the Shitola excerpt is from The Soft Machine. It includes an example of practical magic with Burroughs reciting a curse he composed against the Moka Coffee Shop, for ‘outrageous and unprovoked discourtesy and poisonous cheesecake’ ("Lock them out"). Towers Open Fire uses looped images and audio, sound effects and footage of The Dream Machine device created by Brion Gysin ("Flicker administered to large areas of the brain"). Moroccan music is also included in the mix.
The Cut Ups
The Cut Ups (1963) Directed by Antony Balch. With William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin.
The Cut Ups was completed in 1963 but played much later at the Cinephone Academy Moviehouse in Oxford Street in 1966. Audience members are reputed to have walked out complaining that the film was "disgusting" and then were referred by cinema staff to the "U" certificate it had been granted. It ran for a fortnight and eventually had to be shortened from 20 minutes to 12 minutes because staff and manager couldn't stand running it five times a day. Roy Underhill, the assistant manager at the time, told Balch that during the performances an unusual number of strange articles such as bags, pants, shoes, and coats were left behind, lost property, probably out of complete disorientation.