Maya Deren - Experimental Films
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(Jun 26, 2007)
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"Meshes of the Afternoon" (1943), made in collaboration with her then-husband, Hollywood cameraman Alexander Hamid, is the foundation of American experimental cinema. It tells a dream-like story that loops back on itself with variations, telling a dream-like story of a woman (Deren) following a strange, cloaked figure with a mirror for a face. It is an endlessly fascinating film made all the more intense by its brevity. Along with Kenneth Anger's "Fireworks", it is the finest distillation of dream into film that I have seen.
"At Land" (1944) begins with a woman (Deren again) being washed up on the shore by the ocean and climbing up into a series of curious adventures. A good early example of the "trance" film.
"A Study in Choreography for Camera" (1945) is only four minutes long and doesn't really tell a story; it's more a brief experiment in the cinematography and editing of dance footage, with an innovative opening in which the camera rotates in place and manages to pass the same figure four times before completing the circle.
"Ritual in Transfigured Time" (1946) is arguably Deren's greatest film. Three women (Deren, writer Anais Nin, and dancer Rita Christiani) play archetypal roles in the the transformation of "widow into bride" (as Deren explained it).Read more ›
Maya Deren is arguably one of the most important and innovative avant-garde filmmakers in the history of (American) cinema. These films are (generally regarded) masterpieces and important pioneering works of American experimental films. Meshes of the Afternoon, made in 1943 with Alexander Hammid, in particular stands as a seminal avant-garde film and reaches a status comparable to Un Chien Andalou in some quarters. Indeed, the influence of Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí is there. An excellent reference is John Rhode's book Meshes of the Afternoon (Bfi Film Classics).
Certainly I do not expect the "Criterion treatment" of a Deren DVD, which is probably not financially feasible anyway. However, I do wish there are some commentaries from noted Deren experts, which usually doesn't cost a great deal and the added value is likely the best way to fight off the online free videos at youtube. Also, some minimal cleanup of the video and audio would have been nice. The video and audio quality leaves plenty room for improvement. There is also one minor slip-up: the running time for the third film "A Study in Choreography for Camera" is only 2:13, but is labeled "4 min" on the back cover. All these indicates that Mystic Fire Video probably did not take this release seriously enough.Read more ›
Most of the remaining films show dances, augmented by filmic techniques such as slow motion, which makes the dancer seem to float through the air. This emphasis on dance is not surprising, since Deren herself danced for a while with Katherine Dunham's troupe and remained interested in dance and its potential interaction with film all her life. For me these films were less moving than the Surrealist ones, but I imagine that students of modern dance, and of the filming of dance, will find them very rewarding.
The collection also includes a ten-minute segment from a one-hour film made (by Deren's third husband and his second wife) out of the extensive footage that Deren took during her visits to Haiti to study voudun ("voodoo"). The full film is available on a separate disc (...Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent anthology. Deren was a true artist, well represented here. Good quality DVD. I tried to buy for my daughter and it's not available anymore. Please reissue!Published 23 months ago by Fernando Castroman
I love Maya Deren's films and all the works included on this DVD are worth viewing over and over again. The films featuring Deren bring to mind the early work of Buñuel. Read morePublished 24 months ago by KAC
I heard a film maker once call Maya Deren the fairy godmother of experimental film. While limited to the technology of her time, and less concerned with the juxtaposition of flat... Read morePublished on February 7, 2014 by cardking_01
You will enjoy her collaborative films with her husband as well as her later films. The extras including the Voodoo Ritual one is very interesting as well. Read morePublished on November 16, 2013 by Gail A. Siegel
This is a collection of short experimental films in black and white. If this had been a magazine it would have been a photographer's magazine and these could easily have been... Read morePublished on October 9, 2013 by bernie
When I was in college; you really could NOT find these films anywhere. You can see some on YouTube- but, in a much poorer quality. Read morePublished on July 12, 2013 by Artprof67
Recommend to anyone interested in history of film and in the direction of the American cinema that is almost orthogonal to the mainstream Hollywood production. Read morePublished on April 1, 2013 by rivka
I got my order fast and in it was in good shape. I would use them again for my next order.Published on January 3, 2013 by Matt White