A Movie (1958)
Directed by Bruce Conner
With A Movie, Conner emerged as a pioneer of the found-footage film, setting the table for other experimental artists like Craig Baldwin, Chick Strand, Keith Sanborn, and Abigail Child, among others. But if A Movie can be said to be foundational or genre-founding, it must first be acknowledged that its genre is only one in a negative sense, a sort of anti-genre. For the found-footage film looks up to the family of genres from below, from the lowly vantage of the cutting-room floor or the anonymity of some derelict archive.
The found-footage film lives in an exquisite tension between chance and construction; it maintains a balancing act between mimicry—alternately ironical and critical—of regular old channel surfing and more distinguished modernist practices of montage and collage. In exactly this manner, A Movie is fashioned out of a motley of scenes from cinema, TV, instructional films, discarded stock footage, and underground stag movies, all literally glued together into a single strip. A montage of locomotion—horses, trains, elephants, race cars, cowboys chasing indians chasing cowboys—emanates the raw sense of power and speed so fundamental to the American imaginary of the time. Mixed footage of war playing against a vainglorious tune suggestive of victory conjures the catastrophe of human sacrifice and its crass spectacularization in omnipresent media. Interpolated between the bits and pieces of the film are recurring title cards reading THE END, BRUCE CONNER, and A MOVIE, in shifting, dizzying order. Michael Blum (At MoMA’s “Movie in My Head: Bruce Conner and Beyond,” in the Opening Night program screening September 16, 7pm; the shorts program screening September 17 and September 22, 4pm; and the shorts program screening September 17, 7:30pm and September 25, 5pm)