Friday, August 17, 2012

Free Radicals: A Story of Experimental Film (Pip Chodorov, 2012)

The article of Free Radicals' title gives away its main strength and weakness: this is a story of experimental film, not the story. Filtered through the personal remembrances of a man who grew up around some of the greatest innovators of the cinematic avant-garde, Free Radicals often feels like the home movie that opens the documentary. Yet it also tries to be the story of experimental cinema, offering introductions of most major icons of the underground but leaving out numerous linchpins of the movement such as Hollis Frampton and Kenneth Anger. In fact, the whole sexual side of avant-garde film is elided entirely, omitting a significant motivation for the early underground and some of its most scandalous taboo-breaking. Still, I have a soft spot for the enthusiasm Chodorov has for the filmmakers he knows and loves, and helps demystify experimental film a bit by highlighting the curiosity rather than the heady intellectualism behind the underground. It's not a great introduction to its subject matter, but it'll do until a great one gets here, I suppose.

My full review is up now at Spectrum Culture.

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