Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Film (2012)

Not Rated  |   |  Documentary, Biography  |  3 August 2012 (USA)
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What is experimental film, and why is it called that? Artists and poet working in celluloid since before WWI have always found themselves in a no man's land. Excluded both from the art ... See full summary »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Pip Chodorov ...
Himself - Narrator
Ken Jacobs ...
Himself - Filmmaker
Hans Richter ...
Himself - Filmmaker (archive footage)
Stan Brakhage ...
Himself - Filmmaker
Robert Breer ...
Himself - Filmmaker
Peter Kubelka ...
Himself - Filmmaker
Jonas Mekas ...
Himself - Filmmaker
Stephan Chodorov ...
Himself - Writer & Producer
Len Lye ...
Himself - Filmmaker (archive footage)
Maurice Lemaître ...
Himself - Filmmaker
M.M. Serra ...
Herself - New York Filmmakers' Cooperative
Michael Snow ...
Himself - Artist & Filmmaker
Nam June Paik ...
Himself - Artist (archive footage)
Stan Vanderbeek ...
Himself - Filmmaker (archive footage)
John Mhiripiri ...
Himself - Anthology Film Archives


What is experimental film, and why is it called that? Artists and poet working in celluloid since before WWI have always found themselves in a no man's land. Excluded both from the art world and from the film industry, they bodly created a grassroots network for making and showing their films. They also created a profound body of work that continues to influence our culture. I wanted to share a few of the films I love and introduce you some of the free, radicals artists who made them. Written by Anonymous

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Not Rated






Release Date:

3 August 2012 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Free Radicals  »

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€590,000 (estimated)

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Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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interesting off and on
5 April 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I'm not sure why director Chodorov spends the first part of this movie talking mainly about himself. First he lets you know he's an experimental filmmaker, and when he mentions other, more famous, filmmakers, he talks about them in the context of what they meant to his own works. Perhaps he felt it was necessary to explain why he wanted to make the movie, or to give some context as to why these filmmakers were significant, but it's like telling someone about the time you met Hemingway and then spending the first 15 minutes talking about the book you're working on.

Just as I was about to give up hope there would be any sort of documentary at all, Chodorov got down to the business of talking about other people. While he briefly discusses works throughout the history of film, he is mainly focused on a few New York experimental filmmakers.

The movie is a mix of interviews and clips along with some general context. I'm not big on underground cinema (although I did like the namesake clip, Free Radicals and the works the guy who did the Gilliam- style - before Gilliam - cutout animation), but if you are, clips tend to be generously long, letting audiences fully appreciate the works. The interviews are generally interesting.

There isn't much shape to this movie, as the director feels letting you hear the filmmakers and see their works is all you need. The closest thing to a them is that experimental film making is the least lucrative art of the avant-garde.

If you're really interesting in the subject, or you don't realize that you would be fascinated by experimental film if you just saw some, you'll probably really enjoy this. But while some documentary makers can bring any subject to life for any audience, that's not the case here. How much you like this will depend a lot on how much you want to like it.

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