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THE ENTHUSIASTS ARCHIVE

Banner stills L to R: Encounters, courtesy Croatian Film Association;
Anthony's Broken Mirror
and Vowels, courtesy Alternative Film Archive, Academic Film Center, Belgrade

K3 or Clear Sky without Clouds (K3 ili čisto nebo bez oblaka)
Mihovil Pansini, Croatia, 1963, 16 mm transfer to digiBeta, 2 minutes 30 seconds

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Still from K3, courtesy Croatian Film Association

Mihovil Pansini (b. 1926) was a professional physician and a renowned amateur filmmaker, critic, and theorist best remembered today as the main ideologue of anti-film. Both the influential term and the larger trend were first articulated in Yugoslavia in 1962 during the panel discussions among the members of the Kino Klub Zagreb in advance of the first Genre Experimental Film Festival (GEFF 1963), which took place in Zagreb later that year. Since at the time Croatian amateur filmmakers had no contact with the contemporary Western avant-garde film world,[1] the anti-film thinkers’ main inspiration came from theoretical and aesthetic developments in other artistic fields: the nouveau roman, or anti-novel in literature; neo-constructivism, geometric abstraction, and radical informel in the fine arts; indeterminacy in music; and Eugène Ionesco’s absurdist anti-theater. All of these new artistic forms were presented in Zagreb throughout the 1960s through publications, performances, and exhibitions, including the New Tendencies biennial, the Zagreb Music Biennale, and the International Festival of Student Experimental Theater.

Pansini was a keen observer of these events, and he became close with some of the avant-garde artists and theoreticians, particularly those connected with the Gorgona artistic group. This now legendary loose association of visual artists operated in Zagreb between 1959 and 1966 and advocated unconventional forms of artistic activity, as well as radical reductionism in the visual arts, mostly under the influences of Eastern philosophy and existentialism. Pansini embraced and adopted Gorgona’s main principles, paraphrased them for cinema, and in the early 1960s started to make his own films according to such reductionist postulates as, “Film ceases to be a personal expression, an expression of some sensibility; it is nothing but a purely visual-acoustic phenomenon; it is freed of any philosophical, literary, psychological, moral and symbolic meaning."[2] K3 is thus essentially an abstract film and should perhaps be compared, not to other films, but to monochrome paintings, with Pansini trying to reach the conception of emptiness articulated by the ascetic drawings and paintings of Josip Vaništa, the founder of Gorgona, as well as the radical informel works of another Gorgona member, the painter Marijan Jevšovar, whose ultimate goal was anti- or zero-degree painting. Pansini rejected camera work and projected blank film stock onto the screen, putting filters in different colors in front of the lenses. This was the ultimate “anti-film,” which had entirely eliminated images and references to reality.  — Diana Nenadić

With thanks from the series organizers to Diana Nenadić and the Croatian Film Association (Hrvatski Filmski Savez), Zagreb, for assistance with research for the series and for making a screening of this film possible in Washington.

Straight Line (Stevens-Duke) (Pravac [Stevens-Duke])
Tomislav Gotovac, Croatia, 1964, 16 mm transfer to digiBeta, 7 minutes 20 seconds

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Still from Straight Line, courtesy Alternative Film Archive, Academic Film Center, Belgrade

Dedicated to his American heroes—the filmmaker George Stevens and the jazz musician Duke Ellington—Straight Line is the first part of Tomislav Gotovac’s (1937–2010) Belgrade trilogy, which also includes Blue Rider and Circle, all made in 1964. Conceptually elegant in its simplicity and logical consistency, the trilogy stands out as the culmination of avant-garde film practice in Yugoslavia and its earliest example of structuralist film. The film, moreover, was made by one of Yugoslavia’s most charismatic avant-garde artists; in addition to film, Gotovac was known for his experiments with photography, collage, and performance art.[3] Straight Line was shot with a single camera positioned on the front landing of a tram as it moved at an even speed through the city in a straight line, thus offering an unbroken view of the tram tracks, the street along them, and the passersby walking on the street. In Blue Rider, by contrast, Gotovac randomly filmed different people inside a Belgrade pub on a Saturday afternoon. Since this was a day and time when many families would be watching the American television series Bonanza at home, Gotovac then superimposed the sound track from a Bonanza episode on his footage. The final film of the trilogy, Circle, features a spiral panorama that moves up from the ground to the sky and was made from the roof of a building so as to take in the surrounding city. In all three parts of the trilogy, the dialectic of a strictly predetermined method and the randomly recorded scenes transforms the films into uniquely kinetic experiences.   — Diana Nenadić

With thanks from the series organizers to Diana Nenadić and the Croatian Film Association (Hrvatski Filmski Savez), Zagreb, for assistance with research for the series and for making a screening of this film possible in Washington.

Encounter (Sretanje)
Vladimir Petek, Croatia, 1963, 35 mm transfer to digiBeta, 8 minutes

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Still from Encounters, courtesy Croatian Film Association

Unencumbered by a professional education and open to new ideas, Vladimir Petek (b. 1940) was energetically exploring in the 1960s what film could do as a medium if used in nonstandard ways. The young amateur filmmaker scraped and colored the film stock, animated frames by drawing on them, pierced the film stock, glued narrow-format film on wide-format, cut pieces of film in half and glued different halves together, tried pixilation, reversed negatives and positives, and more. In his early works, the obsession with the medium was connected to his youthful delight with female beauty, and Petek created some of the most striking portrait films in Croatian cinema, which might be seen as the more filmically inventive cousins of the Screen Tests that Andy Warhol started doing in 1964 to explore film’s seemingly innate ability to turn almost anyone into a “star.” Encounter offers a portrait of a woman (Ksenija Filipović, his then-girlfriend) whose face becomes mysterious, desirable, and endlessly captivating on film, all the more so because of Petek’s various interventions in the film stock.  — Diana Nenadić

With thanks from the series organizers to Diana Nenadić and the Croatian Film Association (Hrvatski Filmski Savez), Zagreb, for assistance with research for the series and for making a screening of this film possible in Washington.

 

1. It was only at the third GEFF in 1967 that an extensive, 10-hour program of American avant-garde films, including an anthology of Fluxus films, was first shown in Yugoslavia and involved the participation of P. Adams Sitney. By that time, Croatian amateurs had already made their first neo-Dadaist and structural films, thus unconsciously working in parallel with or even preceding the structural/materialist film movement in the West. (back to top)

2. For an English translation of Mihovil Pansini, “Antifilm—What Is It?,” see Ana Janevski, ed., As Soon as I Open My Eyes I See a Film: Experiment in the Art of Yugoslavia in the 1960s and 1970s (Warsaw, 2010), 225–32. (back to top)

3. For an extended interview with Gotovac about his art, see Ana Janevski, ed., As Soon as I Open My Eyes I See a Film: Experiment in the Art of Yugoslavia in the 1960s and 1970s (Warsaw, 2010), 73–95; an exhibition showcasing Gotovac’s many sides was held in 2014 in New York. Gotovac’s career, among other things, demonstrates the possibilities that existed for a Yugoslav filmmaker to work across what today are international borders. Born in the Serbian region of Vojvodina, Gotovac grew up in Zagreb, received his film education in Belgrade, and worked in both cities when staging performances and shooting films. Straight Line, the film being screened as part of this program, was produced at the Akademski Kino Klub in Belgrade, which exists today under the name Akademski Filmski Centar Dom Kulture Studentski Grad. (back to top)