1970s British experimental film: Images in shadows and light

1970s British experimental film: Images in shadows and light
Author: Gaal-Holmes, Patti (December 2016)


This article draws on the comprehensive historical account outlined in the author’s recent publication on 1970s British experimental filmmaking which challenges the problematic ‘return to image’ thesis evident in most historical accounts of the decade, arguing that image-rich, expressive, personal and representational films were in evidence throughout the decade. The article includes examples of the ‘return to image’ thesis, demonstrating how this has problematically perpetuated the flawed account of the decade. It also outlines the countercultural, psychoanalytic and mystical influences on filmmaking and on American critic, P. Adams Sitney’s taxonomical distinctions – ‘psychodramatic trance’, ‘lyrical’, ‘mythopoeia’, and ‘diary’ – which provide illuminating characteristics useful for examining some of the personal, expressive forms of 1970s British filmmaking. It gives an understanding of how experimental filmmaking grew from a small handful of films and filmmakers, at the start of the decade, to a veritable ‘explosion’ of filmmaking by the end of the 1970s.

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