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Poem 8 (1932)

 |  Short  |  1932 (USA)
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Ratings: 5.6/10 from 75 users  
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Independent film featuring modern dance in a forest, with the performers wearing white fabric costumes.


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Title: Poem 8 (1932)

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A film without words. A young woman dances in a field, she projects innocence. More experienced women follow, offering invitations of cigarettes and cocktails and then of sex. A man responds, but is he a lover or a madman. In between this sporadic narrative, a train arrives in New York City, its skyline appears, a ship leaves port, while well-wishers wave goodbye, and a boat's wake leaves a pattern in water. Near the end, a woman draped in white muslin dances and swirls in a field, her eyes closed. Leaves fall, a woman walks, a man seems to follow her. Women's invitations, men's responses. Possibilities abound, but not all are benign. Written by <>

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1932 (USA)  »

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Presaging Maya Deren and Doing Better
17 October 2005 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

This early experimental film by Emlen Etting shows a woman dancing in a field of grass and wildflowers, then a train trip into a less natural environment, the city, where movement and beauty are subdued.

It would seem to be a prefigurement of Maya Deren's work, but seems much more accessible. It does not use the camera tricks that Deren delights in to make people appear and disappear. It is, largely, a study in motion: the wind in long grass, the wind in trees. Yes, the dancing is sometimes overly modern and to my eye pretentious, but the creators seem to lack the annoying self-involvement that Deren's work conjures up in my mind. It is not about Etting or his subject, it is about the grace of movement. It reminds me of one of the complaints of D.W. Griffith about the studio-bound films: they had lost the wind in the trees.

Etting has not lost the wind, and if his technique is not sufficient to hide his technique -- the art that conceals art -- at least he does not leave the audience to try to puzzle out what he intended. Art requires work from its audience, but appreciation of art is not the same as assembling a jigsaw puzzle.

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