Masterworks of American Avant-Garde/Experimental Film 1920-1970

Director - Various

Cast - Various

Country of Origin - U.S.

Discs - 4

Distributor - Flicker Alley

Reviewer - Scott MacDonald

Date - 10/18/15

The Films (5/5)

     In the DVD era viewers were treated to quite a decent amount of avant garde films on disc. However, during the Blu-ray era those releases have slowed to a trickle. The Criterion Collection have given us an expanded re-release of their immersive By Brakhage Collection and the lovely Hollis Frampton Odyssey release.  While the BFI have given Region B accessible users access to Kenneth Anger's Magick Lantern Cycle in a truly fine edition. Now we have a wonderful sampling of films from Flicker Alley and Blackhawk Film Collection titled Masterworks of the American Avant Garde/Experimental Film 1920-1970.

     The set is compromised of 2 Blu-ray's or 2 DVD's whatever the viewers personal preference, and is broken down by decade. The first disc in the Blu-ray set allows the viewers to select films from the 1920's, 1930's, and 1940's, while the second  goes branches off into the 1950's, 1960's, and 1970's. It features 36 films from filmmakers ranging from Stan Brakhage and Maya Deren to Marcel Duchamp, Kenneth Anger and beyond.  The Blu-ray opens in the 1920's with a mix of more traditional avant garde, and city symphony pieces before beginning to diversify in the 1930's segments and beyond.  The techniques utilized by some of the filmmakers present in the works can still be seen in more recent works ranging from the filmms of David Lynch (Eraserhead, Mulholland Drive) to those of Godfrey Reggio(Qatsi Trilogy).

     Some of the more notable pieces that can be seen are Maya Deren's haunting Meshes of the Afternoon, Kenneth Anger's Eaux d'artifice, and The Life and Death of 9413 - A Hollywood Extra. The whole 36 film, 7 hour collection will, however, be an absolute adventure for the truly open minded film viewer. Flicker Alley is one of the most underrated labels issuing Blu-ray's today, and this maybe one of their finest releases.  It will certainly go down as one of my favorite releases of 2015.


Audio/Video (3.5/5)

    The films included in Masterworks of American Avant Garde/Experimental Film 1920-1970 are hard to grade based on their transfers. The first thing to consider is the age of the pieces, and the fact that many of them have probably not been cared for to the same degree as other films of the same generation. I will say, however, that the films presented by Flicker Alley (all in 1080p transfers) look phenomenal some in color, some in black and white, all have very nice textures, and detail for the most part. They have very natural film like presentations, and for that should be commended.

    The non-silent films are presented in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. The tracks are quite serviceable with excellent audio throughout.


Extras (3/5)

    Flicker Alley have included four more shorts outside of the era that the set constitutes as extras and also a re-scored version of the first film in the set Manhatta.  The set also includes a wonderfully informative booklet by Bruce Posner.



    Flicker Alley with Masterworks of American Avant-Garde/Experimental Film 1920-1970 may have created the most important home video release to hit the Blu-ray format in 2015. This collection brings together a diverse array of some of the most influential avant garde films of the 20th century in a well restored package. There are some additional shorts and liner notes included, and this set of course comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.