A death to be marked: Amos Vogel died yesterday.
His Film as a Subversive Art had slipped through the cracks of my reading for a lot of years. When a friend showed it to me, with the telling incredulity of “this you have to read,” it was, for me as for a lot of others, a revelation that continues. It was, is, and will be, one of the most crucial books written about, as he puts it, “the evolution from taboo into freedom.” Provided we understand evolution as a less a one-way street than a many-headed rotunda, then the book is precisely about this. It is so because it doesn’t flee into general ontologies of cinema. It doesn’t merely rewatch Bresson or Murnau or any other of the forever-fêted and make claims about what it is that “The Cinema” “does.” Instead, it sifts through all that has been put on film around the world that does not line up with what cinema was supposed to have been about and rewrites the story from there. It is, in that way, a concrete history from below, a history of what has refracted the off-screen and out-of-sight – that is, history – and dragged it into the room and memory. The last century comes to look different. If there is something worth saving in the acts and techniques that have been called cinema, then the century coming to look different (through coming together to look differently, elsewhere, more precisely, and more furious) is that difficult something.
A cinema worth its salt could do much worse than to dedicate its next year, or however long it will take, to screening as many of the 500 plus films from Film as a Subversive Art on which hands could be laid. An occupied cinema could do no better.
In temporary lieu of that, below are a couple of the films he dragged into the light and insisted be seen.
Lastly, should one need some cheer in the day, the Brazilian bourgeoisie in the midst of total self-annihilation, one party-swing over a pool of piranhas at a time, should help