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The Avant-Garde exemplified in Rubber and La Jetée



Avant-garde is an innovator introduction to exploring new film styles straying away from classical Hollywood narrative. Avant-garde is French terminology for the English term of ‘advance guard.’ Henri de Saint-Simon (one of the forerunners of socialism), coined this term in the nineteenth century; believing in the social power of artists, scientists and industrialists as the leaders of a new society. Avant-garde began in the 1850’s with Gustave Courbet – being influenced by Socialist concepts he created - realism. History painting and grand manner had dominion over Western art until the nineteenth century, before this artwork resulted in an artificial appearance. The introduction of naturalism emphasised the realism in art but this was outside tradition. Realism was coined by Champfleury in 1840, with Courbet exemplifying his work; showing that realism entails scenes of the working class and life in the city. This caused a shock to the system for the middle and class art spectators. Building on nineteenth century precedents the movement of modern art was successive and synonymous with the term Avant-garde. Avant-garde movements such as ‘cubism’ focused on the innovation of form. Cubism was a revolutionary approach to the representation of reality invented by artists like Picasso (Demoiselles Avignon) in 1907. Bringing together alternate views in their artwork the paintings appear to be abstract. This created future abstract styles such as constructivism and neo-plasticism. Even though, avant-garde approaches were first applied to art, it is still applicable to visual art that pushes the boundaries of creativity. This notion’s, that art should reflect the originality of an artist’s creative vision. Still in the twenty first century, avant-garde radicality challenges existing forms; providing radical art infused with controversy. ‘Rubber’ (2010) is when director Quentin Dupieux wants has a low budget horror to meet French new wave; creating a film about a sociopathic car tyre goes on a murderous rampage killing with its psychokinetic powers. As peculiar as this concept sounds, Jean-Luc Godard or Francoise Truffant would applaud this postmodern fourth wall breaking production. Dupieux uses his spectators in the film by breaking the fourth wall and addresses them ‘Rubber’ in the beginning scene where policeman Chad begins to monologue the history of the film to the camera. As he entails about the decisions that were decided for “no reason;” it establishes that the film will not be a logical one. As the audience are passed binoculars, they believe this is the start of the movie. We then witness Robert the tyre roaming and killing a rabbit with its psychokinetic powers as it becomes more sentient – it then decides to kill humans. Primarily, a tourist in a motel. Fans of house music will know of Dupieux’s sobriquet Mr. Oizo (him and puppet Flat Eric are still a cultural phenomenon) back when he released his hit single ‘Flat Beats’. As the creator of ‘Rubber’s’ soundtrack - which I personally think is the films best feature adding a prankish wit to the horror - Dupieux enforces how well he understands horror in order to frustrate his audience. In the most literal sense ‘Rubber’ is a road movie. Dupieux’s horror is a critique of the past and present of cinema and its satire of traditional film tropes. It holds homage to David Cronenberg’s ‘Scanners’ – a film about a worker for the corporate research company ConSec, when Louis demonstrates his psychic abilities in front of an audience, they exhibit his gifts in a messy way. ‘Rubber’ is a meta horror that is a unique advent-garde film that can only be viewed online or at festivals it was never released to cinemas which essentially ruined the whole point for Dupieux’s film – penetrating modern cineplex expectations using satirical proxy to engage spectators. Dupieux had an ability to have his audience give the tyre human attributes – viewers can easily spectate when the tyre is happy or sad, it likes to watch racing and its reminiscent memories of the bloodshed on the front right axle of a Japanese import. This context makes the anthropomorphic tyre look menacing to the audience it’s the tyres own homage to ‘The Red Balloon’ by Albert Lamorisse (1956). In fact, this film is a hybrid of many films including ‘The Hitcher,’ ‘Weekend’ and ‘Feast.’ Through Dupieux’s lens he is projecting to audiences his avant-garde heritage. The movie isn’t as smart as Dupieux rates it but it isn’t entirely stupid either but it is one that is certainly unforgettable. In contrast to this, ‘La Jetée’ is an avant-garde film constructed of still shots and images which creates a memorable statement to its spectators. This experimental film consists of twenty-eight-minute Syuzhet of memory. Scientists who after an apocalyptic disaster wish to discover time travel, they use the memory a man is obsessed about to lure him into their experiments. The man fixates on a woman he has fell in love with but it Is the woman he seen at an airport before he seen an unknown assailant kill a man. The scientists use this strong memory of the woman to restore the world to its former condition with the means of time travel. The use of still images shows themes of time and perception showing the illusion of cinematic movement. By slowing down the pace of the images Chris Marker emphasises the false perception of the film movement and as it only relies on the unreliability of the human perception such as the human brain forgetting and not picking up on cuts that have been edited; the real life movement is relative, time passes at different rates between fast and stationary observers as Einstein argues. The audience are trapped in the stillness of the imagery like the characters in the experimental film are trapped in time, the illusion of time is perceived by both the audience and characters exaggerated by the static cinematography. The beginning scene establishes the illusion of time, the fast zoom into the still image of an airport makes the scene appear like its moving in time enhanced by the pleonastic airport sounds. The film uses sound and visuals to explore the idea of movement and by synchronising sound and visuals it creates a discrepancy between perceived temporalities. There is a sequence of the rubble left from destroyed buildings that appears to move but this is an illusion that has been implied throughout the film. Where Lars Von Trier uses dissolves in the film ‘Nymphomaniac’ to capture the human condition; Marker uses dissolves to enhance a time lapse feeling. The dissolves used In ‘Le Jetée’ creates a more dynamic transition extending the mental breakdowns perceived between scenes. Sound is a conscious element in ‘Le Jetée’ as it is in the film ‘Rubber’ however the sound is manipulated in both films to fit the narrative; in ‘Le Jetée’ the sound is the source of temporality – sound appears as a voice over, sound effects (minimal usually mimicking sounds at an airport) and a soundtrack. The film ‘Rubber’ uses Mr. Oizo’s electronic masterpieces to enhance the recklessness and fun the tyre is having on its killing spree. The past few years, inverted millenarianism has used its premonitions of the future, whether it be utopian or dystopian, to put an end to social classes, social democracy, welfare, art ideologies…etc. It displays the longing extinction to a hundred-year-old movement and its aesthetic repudiations. Jean Baudrillard is a significant influence on postmodernism; painting a realistic idea of the bleak current postmodern condition. Baudrillard’s vision of the future is dystopian and he argues that we have lost contact with the “real” and we have nothing left but the continuous wonder about where it has vanished too. Baudrillard’s argument was because of the extremist hegemony of the controlling system there is no room for resistance – his vision is nihilistic and melancholic. However, his arguments hold validity over the many ways society/consumer and the simulacrum have dominated their colonization of all ‘reality.’ Dupieux’s postmodern film ‘Rubber’ takes inspiration from the silence in the opening scene of ‘Wall-e’ to Stephen Spielberg’s ‘Duel’ where the truck was Dupieux’s inspiration for the tyre. Spielberg crates tension with how he shoots the truck and edits different shots like the exterior, interior, truck purely to build on tension. In ’12 Monkeys’ Terry Gilliam was inspired with what he seen in ‘Le Jetée’ creating a futuristic society that once again is in devastation directly, expanding on the world presented in Marker’s realism that was present throughout ‘Le Jetée’ but Gilliam presented a more modern technologically advanced version, preventing it to be a carbon copy of the film but in fact a homage. I feel like this represents the second ‘order of simulacra’ which is where the imitation threatens to replace the original reality because it imitates it so well; we are now faced with a precession of simulacra. Both films ‘Rubber’ and ‘Le Jetée’ are completely different down to syuzhet and fabula but both are infused with postmodernism and avant-garde differing from classical Hollywood structure with their modernist approach including ambiguous conflicts such as time travel or a psychokinetic murdering tyre called Robert. In classical Hollywood structure a film has to be motivated with consistent characters with a conflict with can be easily resolved. It is obvious these two films differ from this as in ‘Le Jetée’ the conflict is irreconcilable and in ‘Rubber’ the conflict is unacknowledged by the sheriff. Classical Hollywood structure relies on telling the viewers a story to convey their fabula. The Syuzhet is usually consistent of a beginning, middle and end where the equilibrium usually returns to normal by the end of the film. The structure of a classical Hollywood film has become so familiar with spectators that it is hard to keep them engaged, whereas the poetic strains of avant-garde is very rarely automatic because of their unusual and unique template schemata. However, as avant-garde films usually lack structure - unlike classical Hollywood – sometimes it can be hard for audiences to interpret the films message. Films like ‘Rubber’ and ‘Le Jetée’ do not adhere to the formulaic structure that audiences are used to meaning it might be hard for them to interpret. It could be argued that classical Hollywood is created to cater to the mass public where as avant-garde/postmodern films were constructed for artistic spectators in more condensed social circles as the result of experimentation. Experimental films lack the narrative variables that are usually known to engage the viewer into the narrative because Hollywood films have set a formulaic structure audience confide in the structure as a basic understanding of the film – anything that differs from this may be to perplexing for mainstream film audiences to interpret. Hollywood stick to the repetition of this structure meaning it’s easier to interpret for audiences but risks becoming repetitive. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, western civilization entered a transitional phase which resulted in a departure from the modern age traditions. After 1954, this became known as the ‘post-modern age.’ The cultural value of avant-garde exceeds the commercial value and that’s why most experimental films are not seen in cinemas but instead online or in film festivals. It is argued that postmodernism replaced avant-garde in modern day, however this should be understood as an extension to modernism. Modernism is either a reaction to asperity of modernist aesthetics or radical resistance to the hierarchy and traditionalism. Predominantly, postmodernism now re-enacts the revolt of avant-garde shredding the pretensions of modernism and traditionalism. Avant-garde is a desire to be the forefront of culture, but it is the same desire that postmodernism has; which defines its significant position as dilatoriness, denies an unrealistic utopian fantasy in media. Hollywood conventions are so deeply embedded into its films that they are practically invisible due to the seamlessness of continuity editing. Directors belonged to the studios, the Hollywood system could define its own cultural norms and can manipulate and regulate the system of its own terms. Avant-garde films completely differ from this with the exaggerated acting and chiaroscuro lighting admitting an artificial sense to the ending production. Avant-garde films are still made in modern day giving an alternate twist to the standard forms we see in mainstream films and provide us with unique and peculiar films we will as an audience never forget. Encyclopedia Britannica. (2020). Henri de Saint-Simon | French social reformer. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Henri-de-Saint-Simon [Accessed 4 Mar. 2020]. Tate. (2020). Grand manner – Art Term | Tate. [online] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/g/grand-manner [Accessed 4 Mar. 2020]. Tate. (2020). History painting – Art Term | Tate. [online] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/h/history-painting [Accessed 4 Mar. 2020]. Tate. (2020). Realism – Art Term | Tate. [online] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/r/realism [Accessed 4 Mar. 2020]. Tate. (2020). Cubism – Art Term | Tate. [online] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/c/cubism [Accessed 4 Mar. 2020]. Tate. (2020). Avant-garde – Art Term | Tate. [online] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/a/avant-garde [Accessed 4 Mar. 2020]. Film. (2020). Rubber. [online] Available at: https://film.avclub.com/rubber-1798167773 [Accessed 5 Mar. 2020]. Film. (2020). Exploding head aside, Scanners is one of Cronenberg’s most conventional films. [online] Available at: https://film.avclub.com/exploding-head-aside-scanners-is-one-of-cronenberg-s-m-1798180913 [Accessed 5 Mar. 2020]. Austinchronicle.com. (2020). Movie Review: Rubber. [online] Available at: https://www.austinchronicle.com/events/film/2011-04-01/rubber/ [Accessed 5 Mar. 2020]. TheWrap. (2020). 'Rubber': The Film That Could Make Quentin Dupieux the Next Michel Gondry. [online] Available at: https://www.thewrap.com/rubber-film-could-make-quentin-dupieux-next-michel-gondry-26102/ [Accessed 5 Mar. 2020]. The Scariest Things. (2020). Eric’s Review: Rubber (2010). [online] Available at: https://scariesthings.com/2018/04/15/erics-review-rubber-2010/ [Accessed 5 Mar. 2020]. Tate, K. (2020). Einstein's Theory of Relativity Explained (Infographic). [online] Space.com. Available at: https://www.space.com/28738-einstein-theory-of-relativity-explained-infgraphic.html [Accessed 5 Mar. 2020]. Filmic. (2020). A Comparison of 12 Monkeys & La Jetée. [online] Available at: https://filmicmag.com/2015/12/29/a-comparison-of-12-monkeys-la-jetee/ [Accessed 5 Mar. 2020]. Cla.purdue.edu. (2020). Introduction to Jean Baudrillard, Module on Simulacra and Simulation. [online] Available at: https://cla.purdue.edu/academic/english/theory/postmodernism/modules/baudrillardsimulation.html [Accessed 5 Mar. 2020]. New Left Review. (2020). Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, NLR I/146, July–August 1984. [online] Available at: https://newleftreview.org/issues/I146/articles/fredric-jameson-postmodernism-or-the-cultural-logic-of-late-capitalism [Accessed 5 Mar. 2020]. Duckett, V., Kirby, J., Castro, J., Slaymaker, J., Stempel, T., Raymond, M., Malamud, R., Barbour, A., Buchhorn, V., Berry, C., Andrew, D., Hodsdon, B., Szaniawski, J., Fairfax, D., Henry, C., Man, R., Melville, D., Foster, G., Sgammato, J., Hamid, R., Mäkinen, J., Jackson, B., Carr, J., McCann, B., Mäkinen, J. and Schantz, N. (2020). Surprised by La Jetée. [online] Senses of Cinema. Available at: http://sensesofcinema.com/2015/feature-articles/la-jetee/ [Accessed 5 Mar. 2020]. Films Lie. (2020). La Jetee Chris Marker Analysis | Experimental Film. [online] Available at: http://filmslie.com/chris-marker-la-jetee-analysis-temporality/ [Accessed 5 Mar. 2020]. Angelfire.com. (2020). Comparing Structural Films versus the Classic Hollywood Format. [online] Available at: http://www.angelfire.com/film/articles/structural.htm [Accessed 5 Mar. 2020]. No Film School. (2020). Watch: How Terry Gilliam Turned an Avant-Garde Masterpiece into '12 Monkeys'. [online] Available at: https://nofilmschool.com/2016/08/how-terry-gilliam-turned-avant-garde-masterpiece-12-monkeys-0 [Accessed 5 Mar. 2020]. Butler, R. (2020). Bridging the Great Divide: Hollywood Versus the Avant-garde. [online] Mongabay Environmental News. Available at: https://news.mongabay.com/2005/04/bridging-the-great-divide-hollywood-versus-the-avant-garde/ [Accessed 5 Mar. 2020].

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