Academic journal article CineAction

The Horror, Piglet, the Horror: Found Footage, Mash-Ups, AMVs, the Avant-Garde, and the Strange Case of Apocalypse Pooh

Academic journal article CineAction

The Horror, Piglet, the Horror: Found Footage, Mash-Ups, AMVs, the Avant-Garde, and the Strange Case of Apocalypse Pooh

Article excerpt

The greatest moment in Tigger's screen career is in T. Graham's
presumably illegal short Apocalypse Pooh. soundtrack excerpts from
Apocalypse Now are laid over brilliantly edited excerpts from Disney's
Pooh films, and Tigger's bouncing first entrance is cut to the dialogue
from the 'it's a fuckin' tiger' scene from Francis Ford Coppola's 1979
Vietnam epic. Sadly, nothing in this belated series entry [...] comes up
to that mark. (1)
--Kim Newman, review of The Tigger Movie (2000), Sight & Sound

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a sea change was underway in avant-garde and experimental cinema. While many 'old-guard' critics lamented the death of the avant-garde as a meaningful force (Fred Camper's essay "The End of Avant-Garde Film" in the twentieth anniversary issue of the Millennium Film Journal comes to mind as a salient example) (2), a new generation of experimental and avant-garde filmmakers were re-imagining what the avant-garde could and should become. The arrival of feminist, queer and ideological critiques in regards to both avant-garde theory and practice, along with a newfound concern with popular culture and politics, lead to a radical re-imagining of the avant-garde. Perhaps most (in)famously, this at times Oedipal battle played itself out at the "Experimental Film Congress" held in Toronto in 1989, where the new and old guards vied for control over the direction of experimental and avant-garde film. (3) One of the key reasons that the avant-garde was seen by 'old boys' (or, less generously, 'almost-dead white men') as being embalmed and buried had quite a bit to do with these newfound political and popular concerns, and a concurrent move away from high-Modernist preoccupations with film's formal elements to the exclusion of all else. One of the key ways this shift was articulated was in the rise and relative popularity of found footage films. (4) William C. Wees offers an insightful and succinct definition of avant-garde found footage filmmaking:

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

    While the makers of documentary compilation films draw principally
    upon the resources of archives and stock shot libraries, avant-garde
    found footage filmmakers range much farther afield to find their raw
    material in the bargain bins of camera shops, thrift shops, flea
    markets, and yard sales; in piles of films discarded by film
    libraries and other institutions; in dumpsters behind film
    production houses, labs, and television studios. As artist-
    archeologists of the film world, found footage filmmakers sift
    through the accumulated audio-visual detritus of modern culture in
    search of artifacts that will reveal more about their origins and
    uses than their original makers consciously intended. Then they
    bring their findings together in image-sound relationships that
    offer both aesthetic pleasure and the opportunity to interpret and
    evaluate old material in new ways. (5)

While found footage films can be traced back through the history of the cinema--with works such as Esther Schub's The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty (1927) and Charles Ridley's Swinging the Lambeth Walk (1941)--their emergence as one of the dominant forms of avant-garde filmmaking in the late 1980s and early 1990s points to the fact that the texts and images that inspired this new generation of experimental filmmakers were strikingly divergent from those of their predecessors. Indeed, part of the disdain evinced by commentators like Camper speaks to the move away from the avant-garde auteur as a solitary visionary and a move towards the filmmaker as a cultural worker and critic who is deeply influenced by and engages with popular and mainstream culture. And indeed, this feeling of disdain between the old and the new was mutual. Abigail Child, one of the new generation of avant-garde filmmakers, and who has made found footage films, writes of her first experiences with 'old school' avant-garde filmmaking while in college:

    I first saw Brakhage's film work in college, sophomore year: Dog
    Star Man shown along with Len Lye's Trade Tattoo and Arthur
    Lipsett's Very Nice, Very Nice. … 
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