Jun 11, 2019

Streaming Diary: Discovering Experimental Masterpieces for Free at UbuWeb

As a lover of experimental film, I’m a big fan of UbuWeb, a no-budget educational website founded by poet Kenneth Goldsmith to be a resource for all things avant-garde. My favorite part of the site is its massive page of links to films, most of them shorts, but some feature-length films. Arranged by filmmaker, the clips come from various sources online and can sometimes be of low quality, but the page is still a great way to explore the work of different artists and see new, wonderful things.

While the offerings can get as wild as the imagination, there are several artists here of interest to classic film fans. These are some of my favorites:

There are four short films by the recently departed Agnes Varda, including the fascinating Black Panthers (1968), which she made during her time living in the United States. There’s also an interview she did with Susan Sontag in 1967.

The Orson Welles page includes his eight-minute first film The Hearts of Age (1934) and a documentary about his life that was approved by his companion Oja Kodar, Orson Welles: The One-Man Band (1995)

I didn’t even know that Les Horizons Mort (1951), an eight-minute student film by Jacques Demy was available for viewing until I saw it on UbuWeb.

Jean Cocteau’s  page includes collaboration with Marcel Duchamp and Hans Richter, 8 x 8: A Chess Sonata in 8 Movements (1957), a fascinating short about the images he painted on the walls of a French villa, and a short documentary about his life.

There’s also a couple of shorts from the early days of film: a live action comedy about a pair of dentures with a life of their own from Emile Cohl and the gorgeous Danse Serpentine (1896) from the Lumière brothers.

This site was also my introduction to decades of shorts by Portrait of Jason (1967) director Shirley Clarke: Dance In the Sun (1953), Bridges-Go-Round (1958), A Scary Time (1960), Savage / Love (1981), and Tongues (1982).

My favorite part of the Salvador Dali offerings on UbuWeb is the extensive list of links to his television appearances, including advertisements. 

If you watch anything on this list, check out the unusual animation of Tadanori Yokoo, a multi-faceted artist who dabbled a bit in film. Look out for bizarre cameos from Elizabeth Taylor, Alain Delon, and Brigitte Bardot.

There’s so much else to discover on UbuWeb. Like I said, it gets as wild as the imagination. If you’re feeling adventurous, I highly recommend exploring some more.

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