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Αρθρογραφία

Ταινιοθήκη της Ελλάδος

της  Rea Walldén

Πρώτη δημοσίευση : T. Kazakopoulou & M. Fotiou eds., Contemporary Greek Film Cultures from 1990 to the Present, Peter Lang, Bern 2017, pp. 71-99 

This chapter raises spatio-temporal questions with regard to the avant-gardes,[1] using examples from Greek cinema. The first part of the chapter investigates the kind of spatio-temporality that underlies the definition of the avant-garde and its application to the cinema. The second part situates the issues addressed in Greek cinema, particularly during two significant moments in its history: the transition to democracy after the junta, and the present crisis. It then explains the choice of case studies, four films by two avant-garde Greek filmmakers of different generations: Idées Fixes/Dies Irae (1977) and Topos (1985) by Antoinetta Angelidi, and Attenberg (2010) and The Capsule (2012) by Athina Rachel Tsangari. The third and fourth parts consist of a comparative analysis of the four films, focusing on the intersection between feminism, avant-garde and cinematic u-topoi. The purpose of the chapter is double: on the one hand, to address the articulation between spatio-temporality and avant-garde art; on the other, to better understand the inscription of avant-garde cinema in the Greek context.

Spatio-Temporal Questions Regarding Avant-Garde Art, and their Application to Cinema

Situated between discourse and action, avant-garde art is defined by a particular spatio-temporality. The concept of avant-garde constitutes a link between utopia and revolution. The avant-garde’s questioning of the oppositions between form and content, as well as between art and politics, entail a re-consideration of what constitutes utopia and revolution in a film. At the same time, its particular spatio-temporality opens up the question of the historical conditionality of the avant-garde.

The word ‘utopia’ was introduced by Thomas More in his eponymous 1516 text. Its etymology is Greek and it is based on a fertile misspelling. What More most likely meant to write was ‘eutopia’; a ‘good place’. By writing ‘u’ instead of ‘eu’, he unwittingly made a reference to the Greek word ‘ou’, which means ‘no’. Thus the meaning of ‘good place’ was qualified by the meaning ‘no place’. Later, the term ‘dystopia’ was coined to refer to its negative counterpart. There is a long tradition in the philosophical literature of cities in distant or inexistent times and places functioning as positive or negative social models; the first one in Western philosophy is Plato's Republic. Although the meaning of ‘utopian’ in everyday language has slipped toward the notion of impossibility, in philosophy utopias always speak about what is already happening or will happen or should happen. The function of utopian discourse is thus primarily social criticism, often with the additional aspect of proposing elements for a model society. Therefore, a crucial question for each utopia is how it relates to its specific historical time and space.

The term ‘avant-garde’, on the other hand, originates in military jargon. It was first applied to an intellectual movement in the late eighteenth century in the context of the French Revolution and was introduced into the field of art in the early nineteenth century by the Saint-Simonians. By the early twentieth century, the function of the avant-garde was claimed by both revolutionary parties and artistic movements. In the context of art, it has since become a historical determination. There were two peak periods of avant-garde movements in the arts: the ‘historical’ avant-gardes of the early twentieth century up to the 1930s, and the ‘neo-avant-gardes’, mainly during the 1960s and 1970s.

Avant-garde art combines formal experimentation with ideological radicalism, and all its defining characteristics result from a constitutive questioning of established categories. Its definition includes an element of structural innovation at the level of the signifier and the destabilization of the institution of art, a high degree of awareness of the theoretical implications of any practice, the link between art and life, and the interdependence of form and content. From this follows that radical content cannot exist without radical form; it may also be implied that a radical form in itself constitutes a radical content.

To me, there is a structural similarity between avant-garde art and the political stance of feminism. Philosophically, one of the main scandals of feminism is the dismantling of one of the fundamental categorical barriers of Western thought, the one between the public and the private, and the introduction of the private sphere into politics. Second-wave feminism put it into words in its slogan: ‘The private is political’. Considering that the breaking of categorical barriers is one of the structural moves that define the avant-gardes, feminism as a whole deserves to be considered avant-garde.

Avant-garde art has always had a revolutionary subtext. Viktor Shklovsky’s essay ‘Art as Technique’, written in Russia in 1917, obviously models his definition of art as ‘defamiliarization’ on a revolutionary reference; Julia Kristeva is even more outspoken in her 1974 post-structuralist text La révolution du langage poétique [the revolution of poetic language]. From the Russian Formalists to the Post-structuralists, ‘revolution’, ‘art’, and ‘avant-garde art’ share the same conceptual structure; they are acts of rupture with an existing structure and, possibly, the foundation of a new one.

Revolution and utopia are conceptually close because they occupy the same small topos between the existent and the new. An obvious difference between the two is that revolution is action, while utopia is a discourse. However, avant-garde art defines itself as both action and discourse, while, in avant-garde theories, artistic discourse is action and action is discourse.

It is instructive to follow the steps of this merging, which is the result of the interconnected histories of avant-garde art and twentieth-century philosophies. The first step is the conceptualization of different arts as languages, ie., semiotic systems, thus discourses, and the rejection of the metaphysical status of the aesthetic realm. In Formalist semiotics, the ‘poetic function’ of language, that is, the focusing of the message on the message itself, a function that can characterize any kind of discourse, was substituted for the metaphysically conceived uniqueness of art. The second step is a focusing on the materiality of signification, which starts with an interest in form and the signifier, then extends to the semiotic expression-substance, to finally reach the extra-semiotic processes of production and reception. The third step is the realization that discourse itself is a kind of practice, the text an act in itself. What is at stake is the function of art in relation to society, particularly a radical questioning of the traditional categorical separation between them. One of the things that distinguishes avant-garde art from a progressive political discourse, in general, is the very high demands it puts on itself for performative consistency: avant-garde art aspires to be structurally revolutionary, as form and content, as practice and text, in production and in reception. Avant-garde art is a hybrid between utopian discourse and revolutionary act.

However, though utopia and revolution inhabit the same topos between the existent and the new, they are divided by their different spatio-temporal modalities: utopia uses the device of spatio-temporal otherness, revolution is the call of the here-and-now. Avant-garde art, as a utopian discourse, proposes alternative spatio-temporalities; as a revolutionary act, it enacts them in itself. Its aspiration is to be revolution but its social function is determined by the historical context where it grows. It is the mentality and modality of society at large that decides whether it will be a critical memento of alternative possibilities or the beginning of change.

Since the avant-garde conceives of itself as radical newness, its historical conditionality has long been a hotly debated issue. It is related to the larger question of the historical relativity of all emancipatory texts and, finally, to the semiotic problematics of context. For both political and artistic avant-gardes, the question of whether they lose their radicalness along with their novelty is a crucial one and depends to a certain degree on the general temporal schema of their world-view. Two temporal schemata most frequently underpin the concept of the avant-garde. The first, the directional mode, holds that history, despite momentary backlashes and difficulties, ultimately leads toward the final actualisation of a new, better world. This is founded on the Enlightenment concept of progress, through a Marxist-mediated Hegelianism with messianic resonances. Thus, avant-garde artists such as Vladimir Mayakovsky believed that their raison d’être would disappear after the final success of the revolution.[2] However, this directional modality is actively contradicted by the modality of presence, the notion of the revolution being here-and-now, which is also part of the definition of avant-garde art, and becomes particularly relevant in revolutionary moments.

It should be noted that, while avant-garde artistic movements attempt to merge art and politics, their relations to the various political avant-gardes have always been complicated and changing, a further argument in favour of their socio-historical conditionality.

The issue of the historical conditionality of avant-garde art involves the relation between its two peak-moments, the ‘historical’ or ‘first’ avant-gardes and the ‘neo’ or ‘second’ avant-gardes, which have incorporated into their theories and practices the dialectics between continuity with and critique of the former. However, it also concerns the relationship between the second avant-gardes and contemporary artists. For most of the visual arts, the second avant-gardes are the main foundational paradigm of contemporary art. However, in cinema, this has not been the case. For economic and historical reasons, cinema has developed an institutional structure largely separate from the other visual arts. Even if some of the historical avant-garde films, particularly German Expressionist and Soviet Montage, have found their place in the cinema canon, most of the others, particularly the ones belonging to the second avant-gardes, have not. This is not to say that avant-garde films have been without impact. On the contrary, there is a silent diffusion and assimilation of their techniques in mainstream cinema, and they have undreamed-of applications in the new media and technologies, as well as in advertisement and in the cross-fertilisation with the other visual and performative arts. Yet the institution of cinema per sehas proved, of all art institutions, the most resistant to the avant-garde. The very definition of what an avant-garde film is has been controversial.[3]

There are five general characteristics often present in the films recognized as avant-garde, though none of these constitutes a sufficient or necessary condition. Firstly, there is formal experimentation, as expressed in the search for the specificity of cinema or the expansion of the limits of the cinematic medium, as well as the questioning and subversion of cinematic conventions, such as representational and narrative ones. Formal experimentation, however, is a structural condition and does not imply particular stylistic choices, visual or other. This explains the vast diversity of avant-garde films. Secondly, avant-garde cinema combines formal experimentation with a certain ideological radicalism – not necessarily overtly political – and with an awareness of the political significance and potential of form. These characteristics are complemented by extra-semiotic characteristics, such as alternative methods of production and distribution, the self-awareness of the filmmakers, and the classification by theorists, critics and the wider public.

The formal choices of avant-garde film have specific political implications. For example, to question representation is to question how reality is turned into concepts. This means to question both specific representations and the very possibility of representation. To reveal aesthetic realism as conventional and ideological, as well as to reveal the constructed nature of cinema, is to fight against an illusion, with ethical and political implications. To deny classical narration means both to deny the dominant narrative and to oppose the narrative mechanisms of audience-manipulation. Finally, to alter what people think of as natural or eternal changes their relation to the world and the possibility of changing it. In this theoretical context, it is not enough for a film to narrate a utopian fiction for it to constitute a utopian discourse; actually, it is not even necessary for it to do so. What it needs to do is to propose alternative constructions of space and time, by enacting them itself, and thus crossing the line between utopia and revolution. Following this logic, I have chosen in this chapter to study as cinematic u-topoi four films that do not fit in the traditional film paradigm of utopia/dystopia.

The Example of Avant-Garde Cinema in Greece: Two Turning Points

The two peak moments of appearance of avant-garde strategies and techniques in Greek cinema happen to be significant turning points for society at large. The first, marked by the country’s transition to democracy in 1974, coincides loosely with the second avant-gardes internationally; the second, marked by its catastrophic entrance into economic crisis, is very recent.

The Greek term ‘Metapolitefsi’, which I have translated here as ‘Transition’, refers to the short period in 1974 between the fall of the junta and the first democratic elections. Often it is extended to 1981, when the social-democratic PASOK party came to power, starting a process of democratization and social reform. In its most extended sense, it includes the entire Third Greek Republic up to the present crisis. This has been the longest period of peace, democracy and political stability in the history of the modern Greek state, and the only one in which the entire population has shared a good standard of living. Since 2010, the crisis has lowered the standard of living, neo-liberal policies have annulled many social and civil rights, and historical wounds have been re-opened.

The films we will examine in this chapter belong to two turning points of this period: the early years of the Metapolitefsi, beginning in 1974 with the fall of the junta and ending in the mid-1980s, when radical aspirations were neutralized by institutionalized populism, and the period from December 2008, with the youth riots following the police shooting of fifteen-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos, to January 2015, when the radical left party SYRIZA rose to power. These two extended moments in Greek history share the properties of condensed time and of critical transition, though by no means in the same modality.

The first post-junta years were an era of democratization and liberalization, healing of wounds and building of new institutions. The Communist parties became legal, political prisoners were freed, exiles returned, censorship laws were abolished. The anti-junta resistance had already radicalized the student youth, which, along with the returning expatriates, belatedly introduced in Greece the dialectics of May 1968, including second-wave feminism. It was a time of joyous hope for a future that had already begun. The years between the two turning points are characterized by democracy, political stability and a high standard of living. Greece’s 2001 entrance into the Eurozone and the controversial 2004 Athens Olympic Games mark the symbolic culmination and the beginning of the end of this period. They were followed by growing discontent, the public expression of which were the 2008 riots. The 2010 financial crisis and the imposition of IMF surveillance constituted a rupture, not only in the country’s politics and economics, but also in the everyday lives of Greek people. Several collective efforts – political and social, professional and artistic – have emerged in active opposition to the prevailing despair; yet their modality has mostly been one of grim determination rather than unconditional hope. In this, they clearly differ from their 1970s equivalents.

During the first period, the most significant event in cinema is the establishment of New Greek Cinema (NGC).[4] Rooted in the pre-junta 1960s modernization and founded by the young filmmakers and critics gathered around the journal Sygchronos Kinimatografos[Contemporary Cinema] (1969-1973/1974-1983), NGC is the first self-aware cinema movement in the country, ideologically progressive and stylistically pluralist, characterized by opposition to the commercialization of cinema and by support for the independence of directors from producers. This was a positive context for avant-garde films and filmmakers. By the mid-1980s, however, NGC had become the dominant national cinema, taking the place of the studio productions. The new situation was consolidated by the Melina Merkouri Cinema Law (Law 1597/ 1986), which sets the frame for Greek cinema production until 2010.

It should be clarified that there were no historical avant-gardes in Greek cinema. The Greek films that chronologically – and descriptively – belong to what is internationally called the ‘second’ or ‘neo’ avant-gardes, constituted the first ever avant-garde Greek cinema. Only with the arrival of NGC did films that could be consistently considered avant-garde make their first appearance, mainly work by Antoinetta Angelidi, Thanassis Rentzis, Stavros Tornes and Kostas Sfikas. Their number was limited, as the majority of NGC filmmakers were afraid to work on the ‘borderlines of cinematic writing’.[5] The reason is that NGC was confined by the tensions and paradoxes of post-junta Greece. Despite its progressive aspirations, it was still part of a very conservative society, where formal experimentation was almost a scandal. Nevertheless, the position of avant-garde filmmakers in the movement was by no means marginal. They took part in all its actions, events and publications; arguably, their existence was conceptually essential for the movement, as they actualized its radical aspirations. However, when the movement was embraced by the state during the 1980s, avant-garde filmmaking was progressively marginalized.  In the 1990s, when NGC declined into silence, it was its most radical aspirations that suffered most from its defeat. Much of its radical potential was under-represented, while avant-garde filmmakers were assigned a very limited place in its history.

In the second transitional period, the most eventful year for Greek cinema is 2009. It is marked by the birth of ‘Kinimatografistes stin Omihli’ [Filmmakers in the Mist, aka Filmmakers of Greece – FoG], an inclusive movement of filmmakers of different styles and generations united around demands for institutional change,[6] and the appearance of what the English-speaking press dubbed the ‘Greek Weird Wave’,[7] unconventional films re-introducing an intense awareness of form and receiving international critical acclaim. Most of the ‘weird wave’ filmmakers were also members of FoG.

The beginning of the twenty-first century saw a renewed interest in avant-garde cinema in Greece. This interest was related to the introduction of film studies in the universities, particularly the opening of the first Film School at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, as well as to the catalytic influence of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Almost simultaneously, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival organized retrospective tributes to the work of Kostas Sfikas in 2004 and Antoinetta Angelidi in 2005; the Greek Film Archive in 2004 inaugurated the Week of Avant-Garde Cinema, which evolved into the Athens Avant-Garde Film Festival; while contemporary art institutions showed an interest in avant-garde filmmaking, funding artists and organizing events. In fact, it is precisely the provocative re-introduction of avant-garde techniques in the recent ‘weird wave’ films that makes them both distinctive and … weird. Terms such as ‘weird’, ‘strange’, ‘awkward’ and ‘deadpan’[8] describe the techniques of defamiliarization and distanciation. It is worth noting that, while expressing a crisis-related discontent, this avant-garde turn was actively supported by cultural institutions.

 The avant-gardes in Greek cinema were not organised movements. The 1970s and 1980s avant-garde filmmakers were individual members of NGC, grouped together by criticism and, later, theory. They were recognized as representing a different kind of cinema and characterized as ‘experimental’ or ‘avant-garde’, as well as by less scholarly terms such as ‘different’ or ‘strange’, as a means partly of interpretation and partly of positive or negative evaluation. Similarly, the term ‘weird wave’ was coined by criticism to group together filmmakers that do not perceive themselves as a group. It is not clear whether it refers to a more general tendency in Greek cinema or just to the specific group of films that share the aesthetics exemplified by Kynodontas/Dogtooth (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2009) and Attenberg. The marker of ‘weirdness’ and ‘strangeness’ has served not only interpretatively, but also as promotional or derogatory description; while the characterization of ‘avant-garde’ or ‘surreal’ is usually attributed loosely, as a description rather than as a scholarly classification. In order not to impose uniformity on a very heterogeneous material, I prefer to speak of ‘avant-garde moments’ in Greek cinema history and specific avant-garde films.

The films of both these avant-garde moments display a wide variety with regard to visual and narrative form. This is not surprising if one remembers that avant-garde art is defined by structural choices and not by stylistic ones. Generally, the earlier films have a very critical relation toward narration and representation as such and are underpinned by an openly theoretical discourse. One of their main defamiliarizing strategies is the one of ‘making difficult’, through purposely pushing back the borderlines of the cinematic medium and the limits of the viewer’s expectations. The more recent group is less critical of narration as such and does offer reconstructible plots. Their main defamiliarizing strategies are awkwardness and distanciation, based on intra-narrative elements and acting. They also seem to share a thematic preoccupation with dysfunctional family relations. The two groups are linked by the multiple net of their common references, as well as by immediate references of the second to the first.

A property the two avant-garde moments share is recognition beyond the borders of Greece, as expressed by critical acclaim and awards in international film festivals. This could be partly explained by the extra-filmic circumstance of political interest in the country; yet, one could argue that this is not a coincidence but a causal relation: interesting times giving birth to interesting films. Moreover, these films were internationally recognized although (or because) they did not follow the Hollywood recipe for small cinemas, that is, classic narration and local exoticized subject-matter. Both groups of films were watched by relatively numerous Greek and international audiences, and have caused heated public debates of mixed outrage and fascination. A difference is that the 1970s avant-garde was received by a highly politicized public, where the main stake was whether it was progressive and revolutionary enough. By the time NGC became an official national tendency, its avant-garde trend was almost completely forgotten. The ‘weird wave’, on the other hand, was immediately adopted as a national and marketable product, and introduced into academia.

Another difference between the two groups is their relation to politics. The 1970s avant-garde group had an openly left-wing political agenda. They perceived their choice of formal experimentation and their filmmaking practice as political action. While they criticized the Left for inconsistencies, conservatism, and a lack of understanding of the revolutionary potential of art, they did so from within. The recent filmmakers have a more ambiguous and diverse relation to the political. While they do criticize most harshly contemporary Greek society and its ideological dead ends, they seem to distinguish filmmaking from professional activism, without claiming the former’s structurally political potential or investing the latter with wider political claims. 

A further difference regards their relation to the market. The 1970s avant-garde filmmakers were against the marketability of culture and famously awkward with regard to dealing with the financial side of film production and distribution. Unlike them, the ‘weird wave’ filmmakers are competent producers and promoters of their films. Relevant here is the change in the meaning of independence. ‘Independent’ in the 1970s mostly meant ‘independent from private interests’; today, it usually means ‘independent from the state’.

I have chosen to analyse four films that mark different moments in these two transitional periods: Idées Fixes/Dies Irae and Toposby Antoinetta Angelidi and Attenberg and The Capsule by Athina Rachel Tsangari. All four films have a claim to being avant-garde, constitute discourses on gender, and spatio-temporality plays a central role in their construction.

Angelidi has since the 1970s been one of the very few consistent and insistent representatives of avant-garde cinema in Greece.[9]Tsangari’s Attenberg, along with Lanthimos’s Dogtooth, is one of the two defining films of the ‘weird’ trend in Greek cinema.[10] Both Angelidi and Tsangari feel and fit uncomfortably under the label of national cinema. In the 1980s, with its quest for the elusive quality of ‘Greekness’, Angelidi was accused of having ‘no country […] no fatherland’,[11] which she chose to wear as a badge of honour. In 2013, Tsangari is sceptical about having ‘to export Greek cinema as a pseudo-movement’.[12] In addition, they share the circumstance of being women in what is still a sexist society. The choice to study women filmmakers because they are women carries a danger of ghettoization, as both filmmakers acknowledge in almost identical words in interviews separated by thirty-five years.[13] Yet it is still descriptively and strategically meaningful.

Both Angelidi and Tsangari have addressed gender issues in their films, in a way closely related to their avant-garde choices. In a 1978 interview, Angelidi describes her fight against both ‘a dogmatic conception of politics and a dogmatic conception of writing’[14] (by ‘writing’ she means art-practice, her filmmaking) and notes: ‘I tried to incorporate [my] political positions into [my] writing. The fact that I write in this way and not another is a political act. The ideal would be for those two to be completely indistinguishable’.[15]

This fusion of avant-garde poetics, politics and bodily experience is argued and enacted performatively in her 1979 self-presentation, where she links the multiplicity and diversity of women’s writing to women’s orgasm, and denounces ‘foreign myths of our bodies and colonies in our collective unconscious’.[16] Her poetics investigates the potential complexity of cinematic heterogeneity, as well as code inversion and code juxtaposition; it connects defamiliarization, the uncanny and the mechanism of dreams.[17] She has since given a theoretical formulation to this connection.[18]

In a 2014 interview, Tsangari claims: ‘I am a woman and I understand and admire my gender’. All the same, she describes gender issues as ‘a can of worms and a pit of snakes’ and the possibility of being ‘categorized as a feminist’ as a rather unpleasant occurrence.[19] Yet she links her filmmaking with gender-awareness, the possibility ofbreaking rules and being personal’.[20] She is interested in a format that allows both experimentation and a use of narration.[21] In her films, she is ‘observing life as biology’, and using film genres and archetypes in a subversive way.[22] She dislikes the ‘weird’ label,[23] while she explains the strangeness of Attenberg’s characters as a quasi-feminist technique.[24]

Angelidi’s Idées Fixes/Dies Irae participated in the Filmmakers’ Counter-Festival in Thessaloniki, where it was given the Best New Director Award and the Award of the Greek Society of Film Critics. Her Topos, co-written with Claire Mitsotakis, participated in the twenty-sixth Thessaloniki Film Festival, where it received the Special Jury Prize, the Best Sound-Track Award and the Greek Film Critics Award, and a state Quality Award. It was included in ‘Cinemythology (Fifty Films Since the Beginning of Greek Cinema)’ at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1993, and in the Retrospective of Greek Cinema at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 1995. Fragments of both Idées Fixes and Topos were used in Angelidi’s 2010 installation Stitches Without Thread.

Tsangari’s Attenberg was nominated for the Golden Lion at the 67th Venice International Film Festival, where Ariane Labed won the Best Actress award; it was also selected as the Greek entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th American Academy Awards. The Capsule was commissioned by art collector Dakis Joannou and the DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art for the 2012 Deste Fashion Collection, and was created as both a film and an installation. It was co-written with the visual artist Aleksandra Waliszewska and showcases items by fashion designers Sandra Backlund, Bordelle, Ying Gao, Cat Potter, Isabelle Vigier, and Marc Jacobs.

Feminist Film U-Topoi: Women’s Worlds

As stated above, the four films discussed in this chapter have a claim to being avant-garde, constitute discourses on gender, and spatio-temporality plays a central role in their construction. In the analysis that follows, I investigate whether these three elements – the avant-garde imperative, the engagement with gender and the particular spatio-temporal operations – are articulated in a significant way.

All four films construct women’s worlds. This exceeds their subject matter. First and foremost, the fact that they constitute women’s worlds is a result of the way they construct their point-of-view, their treatment of positioning and subjectivity. Idées Fixes refuses to offer the viewer a character or a narrative to identify with. It works through a multi-levelled technique of collage and juxtaposition of heterogeneous materials; the meaning arises through their interrelation and is never unambiguous. Moreover, the filmmaker constantly draws attention to the frame and the cinematic apparatus, as well as to her own position as author. The latter is assisted by her several entrances in the film: her voice signing and giving directional orders, as well as the image of her mouth, her vulva, her face facing the camera-viewer and her naked body. In Topos, the viewing position moves constantly between a woman in labour who dissolves into the women around her, and her daughter who traverses the film in different ages witnessing and posing questions. The film can be interpreted as an internal space: a space inside a woman’s (or two women’s – mother and daughter) consciousness, maybe even inside her (their) body. This is intensified by the fact that most characters in the film – female and male – speak with the same woman’s voice, the mother’s, while all the non-dialogic soundtrack of the film is also produced by a woman’s voice.

Attenberg revolves around the central character of a young woman and the couples she forms with three other characters: a female friend, her father, and a man who eventually becomes her lover. Despite a consistent strategy of alienation, the viewer is invited to a privileged relation to this woman’s point-of-view, not only because she is the one character who evolves but also because of her presence in the majority of the shots. Furthermore, of her three relationships, it is the one with the female friend that offers the frame of the narration. Finally, The Capsule is peopled exclusively by women: in the entire film, there is neither appearance nor reference to anyone male.

All four films deal in different ways with what could be construed as ‘the position of women’. Particularly, in Idées Fixes and The Capsule one observes the linking of the position of women to a notion of constraint. It is not accidental that a recurrent iconographic element of constrained or bound women appears in both films.

Idées Fixes is an essay on the social oppression of women, which makes its argument by addressing the representation of women’s bodies in modern art. The very title of the film – Idées Fixes/Dies Irae – is significant. Its first part, ‘Idées Fixes’ [fixed ideas, fixations, obsessions], refers to the Marxist concept of ideologies as fixations and the Althusserian theory of the ideological function of institutions; its second part, ‘Dies Irae’ [days of wrath] is a reference to Karl Dreyer’s proto-feminist film.[25] One of the main strategies of the film is a constant play on the function of framing, structural and topological, and the links between its literal and metaphorical meanings (Figure 1). A significant shot, thematizing the link between the different meanings of mimesis and representation, shows multiple framings of a woman’s body. The shot is symmetrical around a central axis, implying both mirroring and central perspective. A bald woman in a straitjacket sits under an advertisement showing two girls, behind the word ‘MIMESIS’ which almost crosses her out. She is confined on right and left by two vertical black stripes, on which the words ‘FEMME NUE’ [naked woman] are written and mirrored. So, this woman is bound, literally and metaphorically, by mimesis, in the senses of representation, imitation and stereotype.

figure1_wallden

 Figure 1 Idées Fixes / Dies Irae (Antoinetta Angelidi, 1977)

The Capsule is the vampire school teaching the death-bound role of woman. The title of the film refers to a fashion term, an abbreviation of ‘capsule wardrobe’, that is, the essential and timeless items around which one’s seasonal style is built – in this case, the essential and timeless elements of being a woman. Simultaneously, ‘capsule’ implies a small, enclosed space, while also carrying pharmacological and biological resonances. The film relies on the interconnection between the concepts of identity and entrapment and uses clothes as a symbolic actualization of this connection. Significantly, the film starts with a series of entrance-sequences, where the six students enter the closed space of the school and are normalized by the erasure of their wild, distinctive characteristics and by wearing uniforms. The teacher-student relation is presented as a sadomasochistic one, which is also consistently actualized through restrictions.

Both films, more centrally The Capsule, comment on the restrictive function of fashion and clothes with regard to gender, but they do so differently. For example, a long sequence of Idées Fixes starts with a shot of two men in women’s underwear reciting a mixture of theory and advertising about femininity, with the poster-advertisement of a woman in the background, while the words ‘state’ and ‘family’ are projected on their bodies, and a diagonal line crosses them out. After an off-screen direction in a woman’s (Angelidi’s) voice, a backward movement of the camera reveals the writing on the poster, which asks ‘Êtes-vous à gauche ou à droite?’ [Are you Left or Right?], which is a double reference to fashion and politics, already intended by the poster and ironically inverted by the film. Part of the shooting equipment is also revealed with the camera’s movement. Finally, a fully dressed man appears in front of the crossed-out poster and contradicts the sexist recitations that preceded him. Then a woman’s voice chants ‘encore le père’ [still the father]: it is still a man who speaks. The sequence sets up a complex, metalinguistic communication between different significations of ‘frame’.

This sequence could be compared to the sequences of the dance lesson in The Capsule, where students and teacher wear restrictive high-fashion corsets and underwear and high heels. The students are taught to sing and dance. The fact that they have to dance in apparel that makes standing up and walking difficult is an obvious metaphor for their position as women. The lesson ends in mayhem, with the students moving like animals or automata before being brought back to order by the teacher. The music of the lesson is the song ‘Horse with No Name’ by America, which implies a discourse on having and not having a name, on being inside or outside the social. If in Idées Fixes the locus of oppression lies in the multiple framings of social discourses, in The Capsule it lies on the borderline between the natural and the social.

Both films are in a dialogue of critique and continuation with avant-garde art, although this is more central to Idées Fixes. The entire film can be read as a series of complicated references to avant-garde art, such as Surrealism, Dadaism, Lettrism, Hyperrealism. This is done both through the use of the techniques of these artistic movements and by re-interpreting specific art works; at one point, a voice recites a list of names: ‘Cage, Duchamp, Ernst, Magritte, Monk, Straub, Wilson’. The only non-avant-garde art references are to ‘L’origine du monde’ [The Origin of the World] (1866) by Gustave Courbet and ‘La mort de Marat’ [The Death of Marat] (1793) by Jacques Louis David; these references are part of a critique of the sexism of discourses around sexual liberation and political revolution, discourses which are themselves related to the avant-garde. 

The most obvious reference to art in The Capsule is to the work of Aleksandra Waliszewska, on the iconography of which many shots are based, and to the fashion designers whose clothes are used in the film. Waliszewska’s work is avant-garde; moreover, it has a very strong dialogue with Surrealism and, particularly, immediate references to works by Max Ernst and René Magritte. The fashion items are more ambiguous: in their design, they could claim to be avant-garde; their commercial function, however, contradicts fundamental avant-garde premises. They are on the edge between subversion and assimilation, as is the entire film. Furthermore, the film’s references include filmic ones, most notably to films by women, such as Maya Deren and Antoinetta Angelidi. The fascinating inter-filmic dialogue between The Capsule and Angelidi’s films can be traced in kinesiology and camera position, as well as in specific imagery: for example, in the female figures opening perpendicular windows and the under-the-bed views, which communicate with similar shots in Angelidi’s The Hours (1995); or the black-clad procession in the streets of the island of Hydra, which converses with the black-clad procession in the streets of Ermoupolis on the island of Syros in Angelidi’s Noon Hour (2006), both of which ultimately echo the wanderings of the female character in Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon (1943).

 As to the films’ relation to extra-filmic spatiality, both Idées Fixes and The Capsule are consciously multi-local, the most striking expression of which is their multilingualism. The only traces of a privileged Greek perspective are, in the case of Idées Fixes, the Greek-accented French and the French-accented Greek that imply a discourse about imperialism, and the use of Greek political songs as commentary; in the case of The Capsule, the use of Cycladic architecture and landscape as shooting location.

Both films show sexualities to be restrictive roles externally imposed, and approach them through a combination of irony and ambiguity. Their most important difference is that Idées Fixes addresses women’s roles as socially constructed by the ideology of institutions, such as the family and the state, art and political theory; in The Capsule, it is the figure of the Eternal Woman who imposes this fate on women and on herself, and it is unclear whether this figure represents the nature of women or is a social construct. Moreover, Idées Fixes comments on gender as the construction of an asymmetric bipolarity; The Capsule approaches womanhood as a war between nature and society.

Topos and Attenberg deal with the bodily experiences of women, particularly in borderline situations. They create two very different universes. Topos is a place where bodies and objects breathe in the rhythm of the woman who gives birth and speaks with her voice; it is dark, earthy and warm, where even external scenes feel as if enclosed in a womb, and the forms emerge from the darkness. In Attenberg everything is cold, light blue and grey – a world of neutral functionalism, comprised of hotels and hospitals, where even sex has the coldness of automata. Both films use clear geometrical forms, in uncompromising compositions: in Topos, the central perpendicular axis of the frame and triangular compositions predominate, while in Attenberg, it is the horizontal axis and rectangular compositions that prevail. The former is a negotiation of Renaissance central perspective, while the latter is a reference to the aesthetics of International Modernist architecture.

figure2_walden 

Figure 2 Attenberg (Athina Rachel Tsangari, 2010)

Despite the difference in modality, both films use techniques of defamiliarization. Most distinctive in both films is the kinesiology of women’s bodies: strange movements that scandalize in their freedom. In Topos, among the most memorable scenes are the birthing, where all the women around the one in labour move and breathe rhythmically like one body; the shots of women stretching around the fire in different degrees of onanistic pleasure, and the sequence of the two women laughing and playing with each other on all fours. In Attenberg, the most memorable scenes include the initial alienated kissing lesson between the main women characters, their dance-walks, which range from Pythonian ‘funny walks’ to animal imitations and masturbation (Figure 2), and the father-daughter animal dance on the bed. Angelidi describes the kinesiology of the women of Topos as ‘not conventionally women’s’,[26] and traces her inspiration to birds of prey and the paintings of Balthus. Tsangari says something similar about the kinesiology of Attenberg: ‘they had to do something to show that they’re different, and they love being freaks, and “fuck you”, and “we just play penguins, and we touch our vaginas, and we are sort of pistoleros but with our vaginas”’.[27] In both cases, women’s kinesiology signifies their uneasy relation to gendered normalisation.

Both films have spatiality in their titles, and their titles condense their relation to space. The word ‘topos’ means ‘place’ in Greek, and Topos investigates not only women’s heterotopias but also the concept of spatiality in Western culture. It is a film full of games with scale, proportions, symmetry and discreet spatial illusions. Its main intertextual reference is the question of perspective in Western painting and how it is affected by the introduction of movement, which is a definitional question for cinema. This question is posed in many ways: by ‘camera obscura’ compositions, our visual understanding of which changes repeatedly by the change of lighting or the entrance of a moving body; by shots where the camera travels inside a painting, changing the viewer’s perception of it; by detached elements of paintings that appear de-contextualized in different settings. The references are mostly to Renaissance paintings; however, they also include Giorgio de Chirico, with his dream-like industrial perspectives, and Balthus’s uneasy sexuality. The film acts as a link between the mother’s body, the unconscious, and cinema – as if in response to Penley’s call.[28] A phrase that is spoken toward the end of the film, and serves as its motto, invites us to inhabit our own viewpoint instead of collective national myths: ‘Our birthplace is not the country where we were born. Our birthplace may be just a stain’ (where ‘stain’ may be both a painter’s stroke and Lacan’s ‘objet petit a’). 

The invented name ‘Attenberg’ has a double root: it is a mispronunciation of the name of the British documentarist Sir David Attenborough, and it also obviously resounds of the city of Athens, and by synecdoche refers to Greece. The film evolves in the urban landscape of a modernist factory settlement, where the main character’s dying father is also an architect. Modernist architecture, and its unsuccessful introduction in Greece, function as metaphors for the generation of Metapolitefsi and its failed aspirations. As the father says, ‘this is the ruin of modernity that never came’. The film’s aesthetics are reminiscent of New Wave Cinema and carry particular references to Antonioni. The unavoidable reference, which unites Metapolitefsi with New Wave Cinema, is, of course, the New Greek Cinema, Attenberg’s dying father. The film’s relationship to extra-filmic reality is one of distorted documentation, thematized by the central character’s fascination with documentaries and the animal world. If Topos is a moving painting, Attenberg is a distorted Greece.

An interesting side note is the two films’ relation to extra-filming locality, as seen by their choice of recognizable shooting locations. The Gazi [Gas] factory, where Topos was shot, was founded in 1857 and closed down in 1984, just before the shooting of the film; its closing marks the country’s de-industrialization. The Aspra Spitia [White Houses] settlement, where Attenberg was shot, was designed by the office of the famous urban designer Constantinos Doxiadis in 1965 and is one of the few efforts at utopian city planning in Greece. So both locations are symbolic of Greece’s failed modernisation.

Feminist Film U-Topoi: The Temporality of Initiation

All four films approach the spatiality of being a woman through the temporality of becoming one. They problematize time, both as the subjective experience of living and as filmic construction – problematics which converse with the difficult question of narration. One could argue that all four films have the narrative structure of initiation. Topos and Attenberg are personal journeys of coming-of-age, while Idées Fixes and The Capsule deal with the process of becoming a woman as a role.

Topos has a double structure. Firstly, a woman gives birth and dies; in this extended moment, she is scattered and enters the bodies of the women around her. Secondly, we follow the quest of her daughter to reconstruct her mother’s story. The film is divided into four parts/stages of a journey of initiation; the temporality inside each of them is different and resists a linear reading. The film opens with a recitation of a fragment of Canto I of Dante’s Inferno [Hell], which marks the film as an immersion into the unconscious, the world of dreams and memory, and into cinema. This is followed by the extended moment of almost simultaneous birth and death, where the two extremities of life meet. Time somehow expands into scattered pieces of experience, images and speeches, held together by the rhythmic sound of birthing. Mourning follows. Here time is suspended. The daughter’s search for fragmented stories and the rituals of mourning follow each other without causal or temporal link, while the story is shaped like a Möbius strip, resisting even an a posteriori reconstruction. In the final part of the film a certain flow is regained, yet, this flow is by no means a linear narration. It is basically affected by the fact that the sound is organized into a continuous chanting, which offers a consistent internal monologue. All the characters co-exist, finally liberated from their restricting armour, head-gear, and passions. Soon after claiming that she is love-sick, the woman’s voice concludes: ‘The dawn breaks. The stars shine bright’. This counter-intuitive temporality is confirmed by the last shot of the film: a semi-spherical ceiling with perforated stars; while the day breaks outside, the stars shine brighter and brighter, and the rest fades into darkness. The shot draws attention simultaneously to the inverted temporality and the internal point-of-view, while also marking the re-emergence from the unconscious and the film.

Attenberg also has two main parallel plot lines. It follows a daughter who lives through the last days of her dying father, while simultaneously deciding to have her first sexual contact. The film depicts clearly a linear succession of events; however, it resists classical narrative conventions: causal and temporal connections are loose, filming starts and stops in moments removed from the plot’s highlights, and the characters’ actions often appear absurd. The central character’s relation to her father provides the tempo of the film, through the stages of his terminal illness and funeral arrangements. Her relation with the (eventual) lover is a mirroring and inversion of the previous one. Finally, her relation with the female friend has no obvious temporality, apart from the one provided by the previous two, and is the most unconventional in its causal connections. Causal and temporal linearity is provided by relations to men, yet it is the relation of the two women that frames and situates the other two. The film gives particular attention to the temporal concepts of starting and finishing, the concepts of ‘the first time’ and ‘the last time’, both as long processes and as irreversible moments. After the central character loses her virginity and sees off her father, the film closes with the two women vanishing in a desolate industrial landscape to the sound of Françoise Hardy’s song ‘Le temps de l’amour’ [The Time for Love]; which is highly ironic and yet gives an optimistic feeling. The metaphorical reference to contemporary Greece is evident: as Tsangari herself phrases it: ‘Greece has lost her dad and her virginity and now she’s ready to really grow up’.[29]

In both Topos and Attenberg, the main character is a woman who matures into adulthood, having dealt with the death of a significant parent; in the first case, her mother, and in the second her father. Both films end with an ambiguous optimism. Having given a closure to the past, the central character has earned the possibility of a future.

Idées Fixes, on the other hand, does not have a story. It is a poetic reasoning which can be interpreted as an itinerary of gaining self-awareness. It often uses filmic time as a means of defamiliarization: for example, by very long shots that oblige the viewers to contemplate the film and impossibly short ones that oblige them to be on constant alert. In a large part of the film, there is no narrative linearity in the succession of the shots. There are two exceptions. The first is the ‘Aristotelian parenthesis’ from ‘père-peur’ [father-fear] to ‘encore le père’ [still the father/father, more], which comments on the suffocating interconnection between Aristotelian narration and the Oedipal trajectory. The second exception is the film’s final sequences, which offer the possibility of change and a way out. In an ironic and melancholic shot, we see the naked filmmaker re-enacting ‘La mort de Marat’ by David, in a frame with no depth that says ‘HORIZON’, while the ‘Internationale’ plays from a music box. Then, the dead revolutionary woman wakes up, the window of the bourgeois house fills with Chinese soldiers, and the final shot of the film shows a fully armed woman running through a kitchen and out: out of the dead-end, out of the kitchen, out of the frame and out of the film.

The Capsule is manifestly about the initiation process one has to go through to become a woman. It has a double temporal structure. From the point of view of the students, it is a ritualistic process that begins with their entrance into the Capsule and ends with their death. From the point of view of the viewer, and the teacher, it is a circular repetition: the Eternal Woman endlessly devours mortal women. The film ends exactly where it began. There is no way out.

In the four films that we have examined, being a woman is not a given; it is a process and the result of this process.[30] This spatio-temporal difference, this identification gap, constitutes a resistance to traditional conceptions of gender. The films’ feminist position is argued by their spatio-temporal construction, while their critical function is always already complemented by implication, or proposition, of alternatives, partially effected performatively. Thus, the films live up to the avant-garde imperative of merging art and politics, form and content, action, and discourse. They constitute feminist avant-garde u-topoi.

Conclusion

In its questioning of the distinction between art and politics, avant-garde art aims to be a hybrid between utopian discourse and revolutionary action. Which of the two social functions any particular avant-garde work ultimately has, depends on its socio-historical context. This chapter investigated the spatio-temporality of avant-garde cinema in the context of Greece, where the socio-historical turning points of Metapolitefsi and the present crisis seem to coincide with the two avant-garde moments of the country’s cinema, by focusing on the politics of feminism in four films by two filmmakers of different generations.

While both feminist and avant-garde, the four films’ positions and propositions are far from uniform. One can easily discern the filmmakers’ different choices, as well as traces in the films of their historical context, such as different kinds of feminism or a different relation to the possibility of change. The opposite movement is more difficult. As the sample is too limited to draw generalizing conclusions with regard to the two avant-garde moments of Greek cinema, one has to limit oneself to a few tentative observations.

Both generations of filmmakers have engaged in formal experimentation and breaking of conventions, in a conscious relation to the theory and history of the avant-gardes. In both cases, this choice has caused a scandal; a scandal that was not diminished by the three decades that separate them. Yet, for the recent generation, it has also worked as a marketing technique, which would be unthinkable in the 1970s. There is a tension there, introduced both by an ambiguity of intentions and by the changing of social function. A variety of questions arise: What is the relation between form as style and form as structure, and the relation between structure and function? Is the similarity of form, or even of signifying strategies, enough to claim a similar signification? Or could it be that despite resemblances, the signifying structures are different? Does a particular form or strategy cease to be radical because it is repeated, or because of a new contextualization? And what does it mean that it still has not lost its scandalizing potential? Could it remain radical even against the filmmakers’ intentions? And what about the relative popularity avant-garde has recently gained: should one interpret it as vindication or as selling out? Does it prove the assimilative powers of the system or indicate a genuine social need? One has to keep the questions open.

Whatever the answers, it is undeniable that during the two periods of extreme social transitionality investigated in this chapter, Greek cinema is characterized by both the activism of its filmmakers and the formal radicalism of their films. Even if one remains cautious of affirming a causal link, the simple co-existence of these characteristics constitutes a definition of avant-garde cinema.

Athens, March 2015

 

Εικόνα εξωφύλλου: Τόπος, Αντουανέττα Αγγελίδη, 1985 


Works Cited :

Albera, François, L’ Avant-Garde au Cinéma [Avant-Garde in Cinema] (Paris: Arman Colin, 2005).

Angelidi, Antoinetta, Idées Fixes/Dies Irae, France, 1977.

---, ‘Aftoparousiasi’ [Self-Presentation], Film, Special Issue: Women & Cinema 17 (1979), 171-172.

---, ‘Dyo Klironomies? Gia to Dies Irae tou Carl Dreyer’ [Two Inheritances? For Dies Irae by Carl Dreyer], Sygchronos Kinimatografos [Contemporary Cinema] 21/22 (1979), 93.

---, Topos, Greece, 1985.

---, interview with Katerina Evangelakou, Camera 4/5 (1985-86).

---, interview with Vena Georgakopoulou, Eleftherotypia (20 January 1996).

---, ‘To Paihnidi me to Anoikeio – Mia Poiitiki tou Kinimatografou’ [Play with the Uncanny – A Poetics of Cinema], in Antoinetta Angelidi, Eleni Machera, and Konstantinos Kyriakos, Grafes gia ton Kinimatografo [Writings on Cinema] (Athens: Nefeli, 2005), 11-35.

---, and Frida Liappa, interview with Christos Vakalopoulos, and Michel Demopoulos, Sygchronos Kinimatografos [Contemporary Cinema] 17/18 (1978), 89-98.

Bakoyannopoulos, Yannis, ‘Le Nouveau Cinéma Grec en Marche 1967-1995’ [The New Greek Cinema in Progress 1967-1995], in Michel Demopoulos, ed., Le cinéma grec [Greek Cinema] (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1995), 64-79.

Beauvoir, Simone de, Le Deuxième Sexe [The Second Sex] (Gallimard, [1949] 1964).

Bradshaw, Peter, Atteberg review, The Guardian (1 September 2011).

Brenez, Nicole, Cinémas d’avant-garde [Cinemas of the Avant-Garde] (Paris: Cahiers du Cinéma, 2006).

Danikas, Dimitris, Film Review, Rizospastis [The Radical] (10 November 1985).

Deren, Maya, Meshes of the Afternoon, USA, 1943.

Klampatsea, Anta, ‘Neoteristikes Hironomies: Ekousia Enthymisis Asyneheias’ [Modernist Gestures: Voluntary Remembrance of Discontinuity], in Dimantis Leventakos, ed., Opseis tou Neou Ellinikou Kinimatografou [Views of New Greek Cinema] (Athens: Kentro Optikoakoustikon Meleton, 2002), 101-116.

Kristeva, Julia, La révolution du langage poétique [The Revolution of Poetic Language] (Paris: Seuil, 1974).

Lanthimos, Yorgos, Kynodontas/Dogtooth, Greece, 2009.

Le Grice, Malcolm, Experimental Cinema in the Digital Age (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001).

Leventakos, Diamantis, ‘Periorismoi kai Protagmata’ [Limitations and Projects], in Dimantis Leventakos, ed., Opseis tou Neou Ellinikou Kinimatografou [Views of New Greek Cinema] (Athens: Kentro Optikoakoustikon Meleton, 2002), 7-10.

Mayakovsky, Vladimir, ‘A Cloud in Trousers’ (1915).

Michael, Savvas, ‘I Anoikeia Arhitektoniki tou Oneirou ston Kimimatografo tis Antouanettas Aggelidi’ [The Uncanny Dream Architecture: Thoughts on Antoinetta Angelidi’s Films], Ta Nea tis Tehnis [The News of Art] 185 (2010), 15-17.

Noguez, Dominique, Éloge du Cinéma Expérimental [Eulogy for Experimental Cinema] (Paris: Centre Pompidou, [1978] 2010).

Penley, Constance, ‘The Avant-Garde and Its Imaginary’ [1976], Camera Obscura 2 (1977), 2-33.

Rose, Steve, ‘Attenberg, Dogtooth and the Weird Wave of Greek Cinema’, The Guardian (27 August 2011).

Shklovsky, Viktor, ‘Art As Technique’ [1917], in Russian Formalism: Four Essays (University of Nebraska Press, 1965).

Sitney, P. Adams, The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Criticism (New York: Anthology Film Archives, 1987).

Theodorakis, Stella, ‘L’ “Anatreptikos” dans le Cinéma Grec’ [The “Subversive” in Greek Cinema], in Michel Demopoulos, ed., Le cinéma grec [Greek Cinema] (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1995), 118-125.

Tsangari, Athena Rachel, Attenberg, Greece, 2010.

---, interview, Dazed (2012)

 <http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/11066/1/athina-rachel-tsangaris-attenberg> accessed 15 April 2015.

---, interview, Flix (2013)

<http://flix.gr/en/flix-enters-the-capsule-courtesy-of-athina-rachel.html> accessed 15 April 2015.

---, interview with Kiva Reardon, Cléo – A Journal of Film and Feminism 1/2: home (2013) <http://cleojournal.com/2013/07/25/housekeeping-and-other-feudalisms-an-interview-with-athina-rachel-tsangari> accessed 15 April 2015.

---, interview with Melanie Y. Fu, The Crimpson (2014)

<http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2014/10/21/artist-spotlight-athina-tsangari> accessed 15 April 2015.

---, The Capsule, Greece, 2012.

Voguel, Amos, Film as a Subversive Art (New York: Random House 1974)

 


[1] I use the plural form ‘avant-gardes’ when referring to the particular avant-garde movements in the arts, in order to stress their diversity and to draw attention to their socio-historical conditionality. I choose the singular form ‘avant-garde’ when referring to the concept of the avant-garde.

[2] Vladimir Mayakovsky, ‘A Cloud in Trousers’ (1915).

[3] See François Albera, L’ Avant-Garde au Cinéma [Avant-Garde in Cinema] (Paris: Arman Colin, 2005); Nicole Brenez, Cinémas d’avant-garde [Cinemas of the Avant-Garde], (Paris: Cahiers du Cinéma, 2006); Malcolm Le Grice, Experimental Cinema in the Digital Age (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001); Dominique Noguez, Éloge du Cinéma Experimental [Eulogy for Experimental Cinema] (Paris: Centre Pompidou, [1978] 2010); P. Adams Sitney, The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Criticism (New York: Anthology Film Archives, 1987); Amos Voguel, Film as a Subversive Art (New York: Random House 1974).

[4] See Yannis Bakoyannopoulos, ‘Le Nouveau Cinema Grec en Marche 1967-1995’ [The New Greek Cinema in Progress 1967-1995], in Michel Demopoulos, ed., Le cinema grec [Greek Cinema] (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1995), 64-79; Diamantis Leventakos, ‘Periorismoi ke Protagmata’ [Limitations and Projects], in Dimantis Leventakos, ed., Opseis tou Neou Ellinikou Kinimatografou [Views of New Greek Cinema] (Athens: Kentro Optikoakoustikon Meleton, 2002), 7-10.

[5] Anta Klampatsea, ‘Neoteristikes Hironomies: Ekousia Enthymisis Asyneheias’ [Modernist Gestures: Voluntary Remembrance of Discontinuity], in Dimantis Leventakos, ed., Opseis tou Neou Ellinikou Kinimatografou [Views of New Greek Cinema] (Athens: Kentro Optikoakoustikon Meleton, 2002), 105.

[6] The FoG founding ‘five-point manifesto’ demanded: (1) increase and redistribution of state funds for film production, (2) safeguarding of cinematic diversity, (3) improvement of the distribution and promotion of Greek films, (4) re-organization of the film festivals and state awards, and the founding of a professional Film Academy, and (5) improvement of the country’s cinema education. Its more tangible successes were the foundation of the Hellenic Film Academy and the Pavlos Geroulanos Cinema Law (Law 3905/2010). In its highest peak, in January 2010, FoG counted 204 members, including Angelidi, Tsangari, and the author of this chapter.

[7] Steve Rose, ‘Attenberg, Dogtooth and the Weird Wave of Greek Cinema’, The Guardian (27 August 2011); Peter Bradshaw, Attenberg review, The Guardian (1 September 2011).

[8] Rose, ‘Attenberg, Dogtooth and the Weird Wave of Greek Cinema’.

[9] See Savvas Michael, ‘I Anoikeia Arhitektoniki tou Oneirou ston Kimimatografo tis Antouanettas Aggelidi’ [The Uncanny Dream Architecture: Thoughts on Antoinetta Angelidi’s Films], Ta Nea tis Tehnis [The News of Art] 185 (2010), 17; Stella Theodorakis, ‘L’ “Anatreptikos” dans le Cinéma Grec’ [The “Subversive” in Greek Cinema], in Michel Demopoulos, ed., Le cinéma grec [Greek Cinema] (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1995), 118-125; Klampatsea, ‘Neoteristikes Hironomies’.

[10] Rose, ‘Attenberg, Dogtooth and the Weird Wave of Greek Cinema’.

[11] Dimitris Danikas, film review, Rizospastis [The Radical](10 November 1985).

[12] Athena Rachel Tsangari, interview with Kiva Reardon, Cléo – A Journal of Film and Feminism 1/2: home (2013) <http://cleojournal.com/2013/07/25/housekeeping-and-other-feudalisms-an-interview-with-athina-rachel-tsangari> accessed 15 April 2015.

[13] Antoinetta Angelidi and Frida Liappa, interview with Christos Vakalopoulos, and Michel Demopoulos, Sygchronos Kinimatografos [Contemporary Cinema], 17/18 (1978), 89-98; Tsangari, interview with Reardon.

[14] Angelidi, interview with Vakalopoulos, and Demopoulos, 90.

[15] Angelidi, interview with Vakalopoulos, and Demopoulos, 98.

[16] Angelidi, ‘Aftoparousiasi’ [Self-Presentation], Film, Special Issue: Women & Cinema, 17 (1979), 171-172.

[17] Angelidi, interview with Vakalopoulos, and Demopoulos; interview with Katerina Evangelakou, Camera 4/5 (1985-86); interview with Vena Georgakopoulou, Eleftherotypia (20 January 1996).

[18] Angelidi, ‘To Paihnidi me to Anoikeio – Mia Poiitiki tou Kinimatografou’ [Play with the Uncanny – A Poetics of Cinema], in Antoinetta Angelidi, Eleni Machera, and Konstantinos Kyriakos, Grafes gia ton Kinimatografo [Writings on Cinema] (Athens: Nefeli, 2005), 11-35; see also Angelidi’s chapter in this volume.

[19] Tsangari, interview with Melanie Y. Fu, The Crimson (2014) 

<http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2014/10/21/artist-spotlight-athina-tsangari> accessed 15 April 2015.

[20] Tsangari, interview with Reardon.

[21] Tsangari, interview, Flix (2013) <http://flix.gr/en/flix-enters-the-capsule-courtesy-of-athina-rachel.html> accessed 15 April 2015.

[22] Tsangari, interview with Reardon.

[23] Rose, ‘Attenberg, Dogtooth and the Weird Wave of Greek Cinema’.

[24] Tsangari, interview, Dazed (2012) <http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/11066/1/athina-rachel-tsangaris-attenberg> accessed 15 April 2015.

[25] See also Angelidi, ‘Dyo Klironomies? Gia to Dies Irae tou Carl Dreyer’ [Two Inheritances? For Dies Irae by Carl Dreyer], Sygchronos Kinimatografos [Contemporary Cinema] 21/22 (1979), 93.

[26] Angelidi, interview in Camera.

[27] Tsangari, interview in Dazed.

[28] ‘If filmic practice […] is an inscription of the look on the body of the mother, we must now begin to consider the possibilities and consequences of the mother returning the look’ (Constance Penley, ‘The Avant-Garde and Its Imaginary’ [1976], Camera Obscura 2 (1977), 2-33).

[29] Tsangari, interview in Dazed.

[30] One cannot avoid here a reference to Simone de Beauvoir’s feminist position in Le Deuxième Sexe [The Second Sex] (1949), encapsulated in the famous phrase that ‘One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman’.


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