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Essential Deren: Collected Writings on Film Paperback – January 3, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 261 pages
  • Publisher: Documentext (January 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0929701658
  • ISBN-13: 978-0929701653
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #604,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Maya Deren was the first of a distinguished succession of filmmaker-theoreticians of the American avant-garde cinema... -- P. Adams Sitney, author of Essential Cinema

About the Author

Maya Deren's life is the subject of a multi-volume biography in progress (see: The Legend of Maya Deren). Born in Kiev in 1917, Maya Deren emigrated to the United States with her parents a few years later, grew up mainly in Syracuse, New York, and attended Syracuse University. A social activist from her teens, she became interested first in dance and subsequently in filmmaking. Throughout the 1950s, until her premature death in 1961 at the age of 44, Maya Deren was a leading exponent of experimental cinema and considered one of its most influential artists. She first traveled to Haiti to film dances in 1947, and returned in following years for lengthy stays. The work in Haiti led to the classic ethnographic study, Divine Horsemen, written with the encouragement of Joseph Campbell, as well as audio recordings and a documentary film which was later edited by Teiji and Cherel Ito. A two-hour documentary on Maya Deren and her work was produced for BBC television in 1987. Martina Kudlacek's 2002 documentary, "In the Mirror of Maya Deren," received a theatrical release and widespread critical acclaim. Deren's own films have been released on DVD as "Experimental Films" and "Divine Horsemen" from Mystic Fire Video.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on March 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
Essential Deren is an anthology of writings concerning cinema theory by acclaimed filmmaker Maya Deren. From the poetics of "Cinema as an Art Form" to tips on "Creative Cutting" to scrutiny of fims in medias res and much more, Essential Deren is a treasury of insight reflecting a life and a professional career dedicated to the highest potential of expression movies can bring. Appendices present Deren's articles in the "Village Voice" as well as manifestoes and program notes; a bibliography, filmography, and list of resources points the reader toward more useful and fascinating discussion of the film as trade and medium. Especially recommended reading for cinematography students, connoisseurs and critics, and college libraries and references shelves.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kathryn Atwood on March 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
To place the words "essential" and "Deren" in the same title, much less the same sentence, is quite ironic, for the essence of a thing was what most interested poet, dancer, and independent film-maker, Maya Deren. Editor Bruce McPherson has culled some of her previously published writings for Essential Deren.

Deren, who was greatly concerned with "the distilled experimental emotion of an incident," and who felt that it was "more universal and timeless than the incident itself," was convinced that the film camera was the perfect medium to capture such a distillation. Her writings spend a good deal of time criticizing the general cinema of her day (most of the material here was published in the 1940's) because mass-market films, in her opinion, did not fully utilize the camera; she felt that cinema as an art form had scarcely been touched. She describes the camera as if it were alive, fraught with possibilities: "The complexity of the camera creates, at times, the illusion of being almost itself a living intelligence which can inspire its manipulation on the explorative and creative level simultaneously." Recording fiction (general cinema) and reality (documentary) did not employ the camera's almost infinite possibilities and to ignore this potential, according to Deren, "constitute[d] a gross, if not criminal aesthetic negligence . . ."

The camera, however, was not to create a series of disparate, unrelated images; the film-maker was an artist and everything created by the camera needed to "serve the original intent and idea of the film-maker: "

Extending from theory to mechanics (including very practical chapters on lenses, tripods and frames), Essential Deren is an inspiring read for anyone interested in independent film-making.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Moi? on September 23, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I absolutely love Maya Deren's films. I really wanted to pry into her brain reading this book on her film theory and ideas. Maybe it is the age that she lived in as a woman, maybe is the age I live in as a woman reading it, but I feel dissapointed in this book. She was unique and way ahead of her time and it seems that she felt it overwhelmingly in her daily life. Lot of her text is a justification of what she did not in her amazing work itself but in what others lack or did not understand. She brings up the freedom of the small scale film maker repetitively, almost as she wanted to convince herself that she is doing okay versus Hollywood. I was seeking a giant, a mentor but I found someone just as scared and insecure as the rest of us - and somehow that makes me love her work more.
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By Zane Trow on August 28, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A fascinating collection of writings by someone who did not compromise on the idea of film as an art, as a form that did not necessarily need "story", and how story dominates everything we think film is now. I am especially struck by her positioning herself as "amateur" and how her claiming this nomenclature allows us to reevaluate our own positions as artists, how the advantages of this out way the loss of budget. She was and remains essential, and any artist working in any art form can learn something here.
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I love what Maya Deren has to say about film and its medium. This is a classic look at our ever beloved art, from (unfortunately), a very technical way. I believe that the most profound things can be said, most effectively, in a very simple way. She wrote probably like she thought and spoke...I just have to re-read most of it in order to understand it. Anyhow, will take me another year to finish, however, I'm determined to finish it, page-by-page.
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