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OffOn (1972)

 -  Short  -  3 January 1972 (USA)
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The human eye, the human form, the human face: these are the three central images of this avant-garde collage and kaleidoscope of shifting and fractured images, changing colors, and pulsing... See full summary »


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Title: OffOn (1972)

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The human eye, the human form, the human face: these are the three central images of this avant-garde collage and kaleidoscope of shifting and fractured images, changing colors, and pulsing rhythms. Near the end, a tree appears briefly, and birds fly - first white, then red and blue. Celtic knots morph from one to another. The images become Rorschach tests although the mood, driven by the rapid changing images and the soundtrack, remains frantic. Written by <>

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face | bird | avant garde | human form | tree | See more »





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Release Date:

3 January 1972 (USA)  »

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Off On  »

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Did You Know?


One of the 50 films in the 4-disk boxed DVD set called "Treasures from American Film Archives (2000)", compiled by the National Film Preservation Foundation from 18 American film archives. This film was preserved by the Pacific Film Archive. See more »


Featured in Berkeley in the Sixties (1990) See more »

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User Reviews

Marrying technologies
9 September 2008 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

Scott Bartlett's 'OffOn' is nine minutes of pure craziness. It is a full-frontal assault of psychedelic, pulsating, epilepsy-inducing flashing lights and colours, and the first true merging of film and video in avante-garde cinema. There's no story to speak of, but Bartlett uses images of nature – particularly the human face and form – to provoke a sequence of emotional reactions, integrating these biological phenomena into the highly-industrial form of modern technology. In a sense, the film represents the merging of humanity into his tools, his machinery, his technology. This theme connects loosely with the subplot of HAL9000 in Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey (1968),' and, indeed, Bartlett's opening sequence of images – flashing colours before a close-up human eye – recalls Dave Bowman's journey through the Stargate. The visuals are richly-coloured, a confronting blend of sharp, vivid photography and increasingly-grainy video, as though we're sitting too close to a television screen {as a matter of fact, the end product was recorded from a TV monitor}.

There appears to be some confusion about the film's release date. IMDb lists the film as a 1972 release, but both the National Film Registry and the National Film Preservation Foundation give 1968 as the correct year. Perhaps this disparity reflects the time between the film's completion and its first public screening. Either way, the visuals are distinctly ahead of their time, occasionally reminiscent of a 1980s music video, and some brisk techno music wouldn't have gone amiss, either! 'OffOn' captures grainy, fragmented images, presenting life from the warped perspective of a computer processing too much information. I had a thought – and please don't laugh at this free-thinking interpretation – that an extraterrestrial civilisation capturing Earth's television signals might very well receive such a disjointed, alien documentation of human life, a bizarre montage of only vaguely-familiar imagery that couldn't possibly make any coherent sense. Perhaps this is where Mankind, with all his technology, is eventually heading, towards an irreversible merging of film and video, of purity and artificiality.

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