By Claudia Siefen

Notes concerning a very personal selection of Austrian Avantgarde Cinema seen during the “Diagonale, Festival of the Austrian Film, in the year 2014.

It is still interesting to queue and finally visit an Experimental Film Program, even when that happens during a Film Festival that calls the Avantgarde not Avantgarde anymore but Innovative Cinema”. Rumour said that this change of name happened because the contemporary audience might be confused by the names “Avantgarde” and “Experimental Cinema“. Confusing the audience? We won’t risk that, and maybe it does not really matter what the program is called. As long as you leave the cinema, inspired, feeling respected and yes, also entertained by the filmmakers.

Such as A Masque of Madness (Notes on Film 06-B, Monologue 02) by Norbert Pfaffenbichler where the audience experiences a schizophrenic horror trip for 79 minutes, while facing only the British actor Boris Karloff (1887 – 1969), who started his career in the silent era and continued working constantly until his death. We witness the aesthetic and with that the technical developments of the medium in one single film. The film is a pure composition of the human western conditions, spanning a career of 50 years of acting and turning into a dialogue, not only of Karloff with himself but also with the audience, and so turning into an emotional and historical dialogue with “cinema”.

Time, space and movement are brought together in Creme 21 by Eve Heller. From cinema she seems to expect nothing less than breaking up time and showing its fragility, assembled out of found moving images procured from old features and educational movies. Creme 21 begins and ends with a tunnel vision of outer space. After the silent black and white prologue, sound and color are tuned in. Ten minutes of music and spoken commentary are strung together to a thousand tape-spliced edit points. The spoken word completely mixes with the images so it seems impossible to seperate them again.

Warum es sich zu leben lohnt (Why Life is Worth Living) by Friedl vom Gröller, what a title, what a strong work of that kind of feminism, you want to relate to! It is nothing less than the question of pain,  whether we enjoy pain and what  pain brings to our lives and daily consciousness? We see a commercial for a face creme, a beautiful woman, eyes wide open, flawless skin and eyebrows. But after one cut we are with a dentist, where the director filmed her own dental treatment, tooth after tooth getting pulled in “black & white”. So why is life worth living? Maybe because of the balance, and also maybe because of the self-control that is needed to watch and film yourself while your body and mind is all pain. And beauty is waiting outside.

Optical Sound by Elke Groen and Christian Neubacher is a 12-minute long loveletter to the vertical optical soundtrack on the left edge of 35mm film strips, the classic found-footage work bringing together hundreds of fragments of those opening credits from 35mm films. A special acoustic sensor translates this visual information back into sound in a cinema. It is visible now and watching that soundtrack on the left gives you an almost tender feeling to the “hard working” soundtrack, an amazing pulsing and also joyful sound composition by Siegfried Friedrich.

Filmmaker Dietmar Brehm has sweet birds singing in Coke, lovely sounds with scratchy red and black pictures. It is all porn, the material taken from Brehm’s video series PRAXIS he  has been working on since 2007, comprising 16 parts so far, and stretching his material from its original 4:3 format to 16:9. Brehm is questioning the viewer and his longing “to watch”, “to listen”, even if that means the questionable sound of synthesizer producing little birds. Is there an optical equivalent for that?