ARNULF RAINER (1960)
Directed by Peter Kubelka
What it is: A minimal assault on the senses
Light or black screen, silence or white noise.
All of the pieces of abstract cinema I've encountered so far have one thing in common; there is a certain attempt to be aesthetically pleasing. This is an exception. For seven minutes the visual input is either a completely white or a completely black screen, while the audio portion consists of either silence or harsh white noise. They start out in sync, but they don't stay that way. Is it pleasant? Hardly. Is it maddening? Very much so. Ultimately, the only thing you can think of to hold on to during the watching this is the visual audio rhythms as the short switches back and forth between the two extremes. It's a good thing this doesn't last any longer than it is; if ever I saw a movie that was capable of driving someone mad, this would be it, and I would imagine it would be even more unnerving on a theater screen than it is on my television. Still, I have to admire the way a movie this abstract can actually build suspense. At about the halfway point, the white noise stops and the screen goes black... and it stays that way....and stays that way... and stays that way.... and you're on the edge of your seat waiting for it to kick in again. Somehow, I can only admire the movie's ability to pull that one off. Yet I can't help but wondering what kind of mass exodus would have taken place when it did play on the big screen.