Underground film

Stan Brakhage

“An underground film is a film that is out of the mainstream either in its style, genre, or financing. The first printed use of the term ‘underground film’ occurs in a 1957 essay by American film critic Manny Farber, ‘Underground Films.’ Farber uses it to refer to the work of directors who ‘played an anti-art role in Hollywood.’ He contrasts ‘such soldier-cowboy-gangster directors as Raoul Walsh, Howard Hawks, William Wellman,’ and others with the ‘less talented De Sicas and Zinnemanns [who] continue to fascinate the critics.’ However, as in ‘Underground Press’, the term developed as a metaphorical reference to a clandestine and subversive culture beneath the legitimate and official media. In the late 1950s, ‘underground film’ began to be used to describe early independent film makers operating first in San Francisco, California and New York City, New York, and soon in other cities around the world as well, including the London Film-Makers’ Co-op in Britain and Ubu Films in Sydney, Australia. The movement was typified by more experimental filmmakers working at the time like Shirley Clarke, Stan Brakhage, Harry Everett Smith, Maya Deren, Andy Warhol, Kenneth Anger, Jonas Mekas, Ken Jacobs, Ron Rice, Jack Smith, George and Mike Kuchar, and Bruce Conner. By the late 1960s, the movement represented by these filmmakers had matured, and some began to distance themselves from the countercultural, psychedelic connotations of the word, preferring terms like avant-garde or experimental to describe their work. … This spirit defined the early years of underground film festivals (like the New York Underground Film Festival, Chicago Underground Film Festival, Boston Underground Film Festival, Sydney Underground Film Festival, Hamilton Underground Film Festival, Toronto‘s Images Festival, and others), zines like Film Threat, as well as the works of filmmakers like Craig Baldwin, Jon Moritsugu, Carlos Atanes, Sarah Jacobson, and Bruce La Bruce. … The term ‘underground film’ is occasionally used as a synonym for cult film (as in the case of films like Eating Raoul). Though there are important distinctions between the two, a significant overlap between these categories is undeniable. …”
Underground Film Timeline: 1960 — 1969
50 Underground Filmmakers Everyone Should Know
The Doors of Reception: Notes Toward a Psychedelic Film Investigation
Guardian – Hollywood: The avant-garde years
An Introduction To The American Underground Film
YouTube: It Came From Kuchar

Kenneth Anger, My Demon Brother (1969)

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