"I don't want to watch this anymore.." - Megan Jack, my girlfriend.
I have not been particularly kind to anything avant-garde on this list. Flaming Creatures got an F, Dog Star Man and Hold Me While I’m Naked were both given an astounding D. Being avant-garde may be the only thing that the films actually have in common, and that trend continues with the peculiar work of Michael Snow. His masterpiece, or something like that, is a “structural picture” from 1967 called Wavelength. Though the film was incredibly painful to my ears, it for some reason has stuck with me. After a long thinking period, I have decided that I actually really liked it.
At a little under 45 minutes long, Wavelength is not an easy film to get through. It features a non-moving camera set in a large room, and nothing else. The camera captured the action that goes on in the room to create what Snow calls "a summation of my nervous system, religious inklings and aesthetic ideas.” On the surface it is merely a stiff frame of three walls, a floor and a ceiling with the occasional, but brief, interaction of a human variety. But once you look closer you will realize that your eyes have deceived you.
Through the entire film, Snow has his camera zooming in at an extremely slow speed. After realizing this, your eyes will be fixated on the screen in a desperate attempt to convince yourself that you are not insane. I found the entire concept to be so emotionally exhausting and frustrating that once the film was over I could do nothing but watch it again. It was a pleasantly unpleasing experience that did nothing but expand my conception of conventional filmmaking.
I have to admit that the soundtrack behind the film was a bit confusing for me. It was nonexistent for most of the film, but all of a sudden…WHAM! Imagine the most ear-piercing scream or squeal that you have ever heard. Now combine them to make the last half an hour of Wavelength. I honestly thought that I was going to disturb my neighbor’s dog with the high pitched whistles and unexplainable wails that accompanied the actionless action. If you can handle the sounds you will be rewarded by the film.
With Wavelength, Snow created the most aesthetically praised work in all of avant-garde. His technique ultimately forced me into a starring contest with the screen. It was me versus the structure of a single room. It was me versus the nonexistent, but ever present, movement of the camera’s lenses. I waited arrogantly for the film to flinch. It never did. And then it ended.