The Flicker (1965) Poster

(1965)

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You've got to see this
unrated27 August 2002
First, there's a corny William Castle-ish warning message, claiming that the film you are about to see could cause epileptic seizures. Then the flickering starts. A solid white screen. At regular intervals it turns solid black (flick!). Then the white-black-white sequence begins speeding up. Your brain starts overloading on all the flickering. Pretty soon you're hallucinating weird patterns. I swear I thought I was seeing a train coming out of the screen.

I've never seen anything like THE FLICKER. Like EMPIRE, it's a totally one-of-a-kind movie. Recommended for the mentally healthy.
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The Definition of a "Flicker Film"
Tornado_Sam6 April 2021
In the 1960's, a trend among the structuralist filmmakers that were taking up the avant-garde cinema was the flicker films. This subgenre of structuralism was mostly explored by Paul Sharits, who began work with flickering in his contributions to the Fluxus Film series, with films such as "Sears Catalogue 1-3", "Wrist Trick", "Unrolling Event", and more. He later moved into such filmmaking at a much lengthier level: the aforementioned lasted only less than a minute, while his films "N:O:T:H:I:N:G" and most notably "T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G" were much longer and most intense. He even referenced, in a way, how audiences might react with epileptic fits when seeing these films with "Epileptic Seizure Comparison" which combined flickering with archive footage of people having seizures, to create a self-reflective concept. But it is "The Flicker" which really takes the cake, as with a title like that one could say it practically named the genre (although I do not know if this is actually true). The first and most known short of filmmaker Tony Conrad's small filmography, the half-hour work reduces the definition of "film" down to the skimpiest it can be, with three of it's only five frames being title cards introducing the short, while the other two are a black frame and a white one. Someone had to try this eventually, and considering the date (1965-1966) it certainly didn't take long.

The film does have a sort of intro and conclusion, starting and ending with the white frame, then flickering first only a little, then constantly until it becomes almost too intense to bear. Unlike others, I had no problems with hallucinations or headaches, but even as one might start wondering how much longer the film with move on like this, it can never be boring with consistent action, not to mention an incredible soundtrack that is almost better than the flickering concept itself. Although this soundtrack was electronically produced, probably with a synthesizer, it really is about the perfect thing to go with such an intense effect, making the experience even more overwhelming. At the end, the flickers subside, until there is just the white frame again; a fitting way to conclude, though I could also see an argument for quickly speeding back up again, and ending it suddenly with a black frame.

Numerous people have argued that to fully experience Conrad's effect, one needs to be sitting in a dark movie theater, with the film projected onto a screen by a projector playing the physical filmstrip. I could see why this would work better: the flashing would be brought out more by a darker environment, the sound would be louder, less distraction and more intensity overall. I thought the copy I saw online was adequate enough in the end, with already enough intensity to get the idea across, and it would certainly be difficult to be able to find this work being screened anywhere these days. "The Flicker" is overall worthy of the recognition it has: an incredible effect, with a masterful soundtrack just as outstanding or even more so than the film. A must-see landmark in structuralism from the 60's.
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10/10
A real treat
mad_max_4513 December 2007
I recently got a chance to view this at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, it was a real treat to see. It was projected on to the wall and I honestly don't think this film would translate that well outside of a theater on a small TV screen. It was funny to think that Tony Conrad has watched this film countless times, he watched it with us and didn't leave. He said his favorite parts are the ones with more subtle flickering and not the parts where it flickers very fast (People will often hallucinate during these parts).

I talked with Tony Conrad about getting a copy of this film; he said he is working with his son who is a computer programmer to recreate the film digitally into a computer program, this is pretty smart because it would be a very small download as the only thing that would really take up space is the soundtrack. The soundtrack is composed by Tony Conrad and he said that he built his own synthesizer just for the film's score.
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8/10
truly psychedelic/ available anywhere?
atombee16 January 2006
I saw it at Wheeler Auditorium on the Berkeley UC campus in 1967. Lots of hippies in the audience. Never forgotten it.

A mesmerizing film. The strobophobic cycles were hypnotic, shifting in pulse and rhythm ... a remarkable achievement. Not sure I'd want to watch it over and over, but I would like to see it again.

Is it available anywhere?

And I guess I have to keep writing to make 10 lines of type. There is not a lot to say about a silent movie consisting solely of alternating black and white frames.

But I recommend it!
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10/10
Amazing film!
iamsethh10 January 2000
The complicated plot of this film may be very difficult to follow, for some viewers, but it pays off at the end. The character development is brilliant. Watch for the ironic ending and the way it all comes together at the end. Believe it or not, this film is based on a true story! I can't wait for the sequel, or the television series which is in the works.
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3/10
Not Art (Spoilers herein...I guess)
gregory_newman8 March 2004
Warning: Spoilers
While the initial shock of The Flicker's opening shot that exclaims, "Always have a physician on hand before screening" may give the viewer a sense of fear, one will not receive more than a headache. The best part of this "film", or whatever you want to call it, is the occasional hallucination one might conjure. But alas, the entire 25 minute "film" is merely a perfectly clear role that includes a rather unclear soundtrack that gives the film most of it's meaning(whether we're supposed to create one or whether it has one at all). Some people may believe this is avant-gardism at it's highest anarchical point, but I for one believe The Flicker is just a huge waste of precious film. Check it out if you're not epileptic or prone to migraines, but you'll probably turn it off within three minutes of pressing the play button (and no, it does not get better). I, to my misfortune, was unable to do this because I was forced to watch it in my film class. Watch at your own risk.
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9/10
More than just a flicker... kind of.
carlamarti2315 January 2005
This film may be the most boring thing you've ever watched, but it is very important because of how it experiments with the concept of film. It is based on the aspiration to find the "essence" of film by taking away all the elements that it can (actors, narrative, mise-en- scène...) while still being able to qualify it as a film. I think the concept is really interesting, but it's so theory-based that you really don't need to watch it. It is just a white screen that randomly flickers. (I guess this COULD be exciting to some.........) Enjoy!

(my rating for the film is 8/10, though this is NOT based on amusement during the film whatsoever.)
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1/10
Tedious experiment
MaribouCaribou5 April 2017
Dire, banal visual experiment with strobing that drags on and on despite coming in just shy of 30 minutes. This should never have left the science lab. Mildly preferable to being exposed to an atomic blast, but not much in it, Stay and have another drink in the bar until something better comes on
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10/10
Absolutely Fantastic! Watched it for the 3rd time!!
vinntuff-742754 June 2022
This is one of those films that you won't want to miss anything. The Flicker captivated and was gripping to watch. Our whole family loved it! It's now our most favorite film. Why don't they make films like this anymore? A big credit to the Director and the Music Director. A++++++
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