SILENT AVANT-GARDE offers an essential collection of 21 short art film experiments in HD to 5K scans made from 35mm and 16mm picture elements. Highlights include brand new digital restorations of classic experimental films, The Enchanted City (1922), Return to Reason (1923), Ballet Mechanique (1924, 1931), The Twenty-Four Dollar Island (1925), Eisenstein Mexican Footage (1930), Escape, Synchromy No. 4 (1938), The Eclipse (1936-1949), Look Park (1973), and Tenga fe (2022). Each film features a brilliant accompaniment of original silent film music specially prepared, composed, improvised and/ or performed by a master of experimental new music. SILENT AVANT-GARDE desires to focus on the creative possibilities of image, sound, and silence used in American-made experimental films of the 20th century.
For thoughts on Silent Avant-Garde, please check out our discussion on The Video Attic:
Silent Avant-Garde comes to Blu-Ray thanks to Kino Classics with a single disc of 21 rarely-seen silent films through collaborations with various institutions around the world. With a release as inclusive as this one, it is cumbersome to list the exact source and quality of each of the shorts provided, but there is a section that plays at the end of the disc which gives you the provenance of each piece. Every source seems to be in the best shape possible with a range of restorations from HD to 5K scans made from 35mm and 16mm elements. If you embark upon this journey with the understanding that many of these films are very old, you will appreciate just how great the quality is overall.
Most of these films are presented in black-and-white, but some have color tinting or are simply presented in color which allows for some nice saturation of those hues. The contrast is pretty firmly defined, but the transfer experiences a fair amount of flicker in some shorts and moments of damage within those which have not been as meticulously restored. There are stray, faint vertical lines that make quick appearances without ruining the overall aesthetic of the film. These transfers do allow for some subtle textures on the clothing and within the setting. Kino Classics has done some marvelous work presenting this wide-range of material to film fans in the best way possible, and fans of experimental cinema should thank them for it.
While not all of the shorts are presented with music, this Blu-Ray presents the films that are with DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio tracks that bring them to life well. These tracks are often as experimental in form as the shorts themselves without stealing focus. Most of the tracks complement their films quite well. As these are silent films, the music is the only element to contend with in this track, and it comes through with unwavering fidelity with no clipping or age related wear and tear. This audio presentation is top notch all around.
There are no special features provided on this disc.
Silent Avant-Garde is not always as accessible as something such as Cinema’s First Nasty Women, but those who are game for something a bit more abstract will have a really great time with this set. The range of shorts that have been curated for this set offer something for those dipping their toes into avant-garde cinema as well as seasoned veterans looking for a challenge. It is very special to have these pieces preserved for generations to come to appreciate how the cinematic language has developed. Kino Classics has released a Blu-Ray set featuring a striking A/V presentation but nothing in the way of special features. It is not often that you get to discover such a unique part of film history, so those who are even the slightest bit interested should make time for this one. Recommended
Silent Avant-Garde is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Kino Classics has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.