E. EXPERIMENTAL CINEMA CANON

Of all the collections on bestlovedfilms, this would be the easiest (and most enjoyable?) to attempt to view at home in a reasonable amount of time. Welcome to the avant-garde, the best-known films by the innovators who pushed the envelope on formal style, permitting larger-budget directors to follow in their wake. This gallery does not include lost films, popular music videos, or almost any feature-length films; the latter two have a greater purchase on the mainstream, while this collection attempts to tell the story of the forward-thinking filmmakers who mostly worked in obscurity.

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E1. Dickson Experimental Sound Film (Dickson, 1895) imdb LB RT wiki
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In some ways, this is the first-ever sound film, although filmmakers Thomas Edison and William Dickson made no more attempt to sync the picture and sound than they had made to hire non-white males at their nascent film studio, which is probably one of the reasons the two men are dancing together; nonetheless it remains remarkable that this cinematic milestone is somehow queer-positive

Influenced by: In roughly 1891, Edison and Dickson became two of the people who invented what we now call motion pictures, and they made dozens of shorts before and after this

Influenced: well…all of screen content

E2. Cinderella (Cendrillon) (Méliès, 1899) imdb LB RT wiki
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Méliès’ made more than a hundred fictional shorts before this, but this was his, and the, first to become a major success, paving the way for A Trip to the Moon; here in the 19th century we see the sort of formal gestures now associated with the 20th, including elaborate colors, effects, continuity editing, and the liberal use of (crucially pre-existing) intellectual property

Influenced by: magician Méliès saw the Lumière brothers’ actualities, made many of his own, began using the cameras for magic, and made an average of two short films a week for the next decade, developing his technique into this film’s level of mastery

Influenced: further experiments; the pivot toward fiction

E3. Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon) (Méliès, 1902) imdb LB RT wiki
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In many ways Méliès created the fiction film, and this, his best known work, is the first famous science fiction film, about a group of scientists who go to the moon and back; it pioneered lavish production values, elliptical editing, special effects, and more; is properly situated with both French faerie traditions and proto-anti-imperialism

Influenced by: the Lumières; Jules Verne’s stories

Influenced: considering its effects, sensibilities, age, and renown, this is arguably the most influential film ever made

E4. The Kingdom of the Fairies (Méliès, 1903) imdb LB RT wiki
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Many of Méliès’s 500-plus non-Moon films deserve a place in this gallery; this was chosen because some consider it his best, at least one considers it his “most intensely poetic,” and it is indicative of his post-Moon success: more stage machinery, rolling panoramas, miniature models, pyrotechnics, superimpositions, dissolves, and arguably, magic

Influenced by: Méliès’s previous films, his cumulative virtuosity

Influenced: Méliès created the land; everyone else colonized it

E5. The Great Train Robbery (Porter, 1903) imdb LB RT wiki
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This is about bandits stealing a train and how they’re caught; this pioneered cross-cutting and was fluent with many other then-novel processes; the biggest hit to be supervised by Edison, its tremendous success led to the rise of nickelodeons and established the grammar of the next decade of cinema 

Influenced by: Méliès

Influenced: all of pre-Hollywood American cinema

E6. The Consequences of Feminism (Guy-Blaché, 1906) imdb LB RT wiki
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The world’s first, and for at least a decade only, female director founded narrative film at the same time as Méliès, but most of her early work is lost or unreliably dated, though we know she pioneered many techniques, including close-ups, sync-sound, color timing, and effects; here she executes a creative approach to casting and plot, as women take on the traditional roles of men and vice-versa

Influenced by: the Lumières; pre-suffrage feminist culture

Influenced: Guy-Blaché directed something like 1000 films, and pioneered techniques that later became mainstream

E7. Humourous Phases of Funny Faces (Blackton, 1907) imdb LB RT wiki
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This is generally regarded as the first animated film recorded on standard photographic film; roughly as concerned with narrative as the Lumières, Blackton here shows his own hands making drawings and then shows the drawings coming to life

Influenced by: the Lumières and Méliès

Influenced: influenced animation, at least in America; Blackton considered this sort of thing so sophomoric that he omitted his cartoons from his autobiography

E8. Fantasmagoria (Cohl, 1908) imdb LB RT wiki
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This is basically the first animated cartoon, with more of a plot than Blackton’s films, though it’s still slight, about a stick man encountering flamboyant characters and all sorts of animals morphing into objects, and vice-versa; the stream-of-consciousness style is a tribute to France’s Incoherent Movement, while the title refers to a mid-19th century magic lantern

Influenced by: Méliès, Blackton

Influenced: this is a (perhaps the) foundational cartoon

E9. L’Inferno (Bertolini, Padovan, Liguoro, 1911) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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“After the torture he tears the bandage from his eyes, hoping to see the light once more…In his despair he dashes out his brains on the dungeon floor.”

Three years in the making, this is experimental not only because of its Méliès-like effects but also because it is Italy’s first feature and perhaps the oldest surviving feature (over an hour long); loosely adapted from the first part of Dante’s Divine Comedy, this is about a dying man who encounters Avarice, Pride, Lust, and then a lot of dead celebrities

Influenced by: Méliès; Gustave Doré’s art; pre-World War I morality

Influenced: its success let theaters raise prices and proved people would watch hour-long films (some screenings had two intermissions), though later it went unseen or censored for many years (among many other things, it shows nudity and Mohammed, whose chest explodes)

E10. A Fool and His Money (Guy-Blaché, 1912) imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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“Sam begins spending his money.”

Guy-Blaché was so successful that she began her own trans-Atlantic production company, and here she used it to make (what was probably) the first fiction film with an all-black, or all-African-American, cast; this film about a “fool” gambling and loving and losing a woman is not entirely free of stereotypes, but it proved the viability of non-white actors onscreen

Influenced by: in some ways, only herself; in other ways, the long history of female allyship with POC

Influenced: Guy-Blaché trailblazed a world we can now take for granted

E11. The Cameraman’s Revenge (Starewicz, 1912) imdb LB RT wiki
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“Mr. and Mrs. Beetle have too calm a home life. Mr. Beetle is restless and makes frequent trips to the city.”

The nature of cinema gives immortality to the mortal, but few films animate the dead quite like this, which astonishes every first-time viewer; this, the oldest surviving sophisticated animated film, is about a married couple with adulterous affairs and has a cast consisting entirely of dead insects rendered in stop-motion, precedent to the likes of Wallace and Gromit and Nightmare Before Christmas

Influenced by: Blackton, Cohl

Influenced: pioneered stop-motion animation; thematically rich and not for kids, this cleared the way for other adult-targeting animators

E12. Gertie the Dinosaur (McKay, 1914) imdb LB RT wiki
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“I made ten thousand cartoons, each one a little bit different than the one preceding it.”

Winsor McKay made two obscure animated shorts before this; in a bid for more renown he shot a live-action introductory section for this third one, which became the first popular cartoon to centralize a personality as well as the first film to use animated keyframes, registration marks, tracing paper, and other aspects of what would become mainstream animation 

Influenced by: Blackton, Cohl, Starewicz, McKay’s earlier work

Influenced: Walt Disney and his generation; this film laid out the template for commercially successful animation; El Apostol would become the first animated feature, but is lost

E13. Manhatta (Strand and Sheeler, 1921) imdb LB RT wiki
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“When million-footed Manhattan unpent, descends to its pavements.”

This is a short documentary about Manhattan, but it is often called the first American avant-garde film because it is structured in a rather abstract fashion, including intertitles that quote Walt Whitman without naming him; pioneer of the “city symphony” subgenre

Influenced by: stirrings in documentary from America and avant-garde (or “absolute” or “pure”) cinema from Europe

Influenced: city symphony documentaries; abstract American films

E14. Fievre (Delluc, 1921) clip imdb LB RT wiki
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Louis Delluc was less renowned for his filmmaking than his groundbreaking writing and creation of film magazines and societies, in which he established, among other things, the importance of Impressionist films and films about ordinary life; this film is both, about a sailor and his lost love, done daringly without intertitles

Influenced by: filmmakers like Abel Gance

Influenced: innovative films of the period

E15. Lichtspiel: Opus I (Ruttman, 1921) imdb LB RT wiki
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This, a series of shapes moving on blackness set to music, was the first color abstract film as we now think of the concept, the cinematic equivalent of then-groundbreaking work of people like Picasso, Matisse, and Miro, the catalyst to other avant-garde work of the 1920s, and predecessor of everything from Fantasia to music videos

Influenced by: then-daring paintings; the Great War; animation experiments

Influenced: besides the wide influence already mentioned, Ruttman went on to make seminal avant-garde films and documentaries; he also served as Fritz Lang’s DP on Die Nibelungen and Metropolis

E16. Rhythmus 21 (Richter, 1923)

E17. Return to Reason (Ray, 1923)

E18. La souriante Madame Beudet (Dulac, 1923)

E19. Sherlock, Jr. (Keaton, 1924)

E20. Ballet Mecanique (Leger, Ray, Murphy, 1924)

E21. Symphonie Diagonale (Eggeline, 1924)

E22. Entr’acte (Clair, 1924)

E23. Anemic Cinema (Duchamp, 1926)

E24. The Seashell and the Clergyman (Dulac, 1928)

E25. The Life and Death of 9413 A Hollywood Extra (Vorkapich, Florey, 1928)

E26. The Fall of the House of Usher (Epstein, 1928)

E27. Un Chien Andalou (Buñuel and Dali, 1929)

E28. The Blood of a Poet (Cocteau, 1930)

E29. Borderline (Macpherson, 1930)

E30. Rose Hobart (Cornell, 1936)

E31. Porky in Wackyland (Clampett, 1938)

E32. Meshes of the Afternoon (Deren, Hammid, 1943)

E33. Ritual in Transfigured Time (Deren, 1946)

E34. The Potted Psalm (Peterson and Broughton, 1946)

E35. The Cage (Peterson, 1947)

E36. Fireworks (Anger, 1947)

E37. Mother’s Day (Broughton, 1948)

E38. The Lead Shoes (Peterson, 1949)

E39. Duck Amuck (Jones, 1953)

E40. The Pleasure Garden (Broughton, 1953)

E41. The End (MacLaine, 1953)

E42. Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (Anger, 1954)

E43. No. 11 (Smith, 1956)

E44. A Legend for Fountains (Cornell, Burckhardt, 1957)

E45. Glimpse of the Garden (Menken, 1957)

E46. Free Radicals (Lye, 1958)

E47. Bridges-Go-Round (Clarke, 1958)

E48. A Movie (Conner, 1958)

E49. Schwechater (Kubelka, 1959)

E50. Eyewash (Breer, 1959)

E51. Window Water Baby Moving (Brakhage, 1959)

E52. A Scary Time (Clarke, 1960)

E53. La Jetee (Marker, 1962)

E54. Blonde Cobra (Jacobs, 1963)

E55. Flaming Creatures (Smith, 1963)

E56. Twice a Man (Gregory Markopoulos, 1963)

E57. Mothlight (Brakhage, 1963)

E58. Sleep (Warhol, 1963)

E59. Dog Star Man (Brakhage, 1961-1964)

E60. Scorpio Rising (Anger, 1964)

E61. Phenomena (Belson, 1965)

E62. Peyote Queen (de Hirsch, 1965)

E63. The Hand (Trnka, 1965)

E64. The Flicker (Conrad, 1965)

E65. Chelsea Girls (Warhol, 1966)

E66. Film in which there appear edge lettering, sprocket holes…(Landow, 1966)

E67. Bottoms (Ono, 1966)

E68. Wavelength (Snow, 1967)

E69. The Bed (Broughton, 1967)

E70. I Am Joaquin (Valdez, 1969)

E71. Our Lady of the Sphere (Jordan, 1972)

E72. Inextinguishable Fire (Farocki, 1969)

E73. Cat Food (Weiland, 1969)

E74. Zorns Lemma (Frampton, 1970)

E75. Serene Velocity (Gehr, 1970)

E76. La Region Centrale (Snow, 1971)

E77. Vertical Roll (Jonas, 1972)

E78. Cinema Metaphysique (Paik, 1972)

E79. Hapax Legomena (Frampton, 1972)

E80. Lucifer Rising (Anger, 1972)

E81. Film About a Woman Who… (Rainer, 1972-74)

E82. Superdyke (Hammer, 1975)

E83. Crossroads (Conner, 1976)

E84. Riddles of the Sphinx (Wollen and Mulvey, 1977)

E85. Powers of Ten (Mr. and Mrs. Eames, 1977)

E86. Perfumed Nightmare (Tahimik, 1978)

E87. Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman (Birnbaum, 1978)

E88. Tale of Tales (Norstein, 1979)

E89. The Patriot (Kluge, 1979)

E90. Gently Down the Stream (Friedrich, 1981)

E91. An Image (Farocki, 1983)

E92. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (Haynes, 1988)

E93. Sink or Swim (Friedrich, 1990)

E94. Side/Walk/Shuttle (Gehr, 1991)

E95. Rapture (Neshat, 1999)

E96. Decasia (Morrison, 2002)

E97. Russian Ark (Sokurov, 2002)

E98. Destino (Monfery, Dali, Disney, 2003)

E99. Community Action Center (Burns and Steiner, 2010)

E100. My Bodies (Black, 2014)

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