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USA, 1979 (MIFF 1981, Avant-Garde)

Director: James Benning

Although his work is not widely known. James Benning occupies an important position in the American avant-garde Grand Opera is a very personal film for him. charting as it does a bridge from his own earlier structural films to a re-emergence of a narrative form. It is also a film which is rich in visual jokes and slyly witty moments, many of which play on narrative conventions to subvert the viewer's expectations.

David English, writing in the Edinburgh Film Festival Programme wrote "Throughout Grand Opera Benning explores the relationship between the factual and the personal between history and point of view. Finally. according to Benning. history must be seen simply as point of view: it must be seen as another form of narrative History is played at several levels in Grand Opera. There is history common to the larger culture, whether internationally (history of pi) or nationally (lessons on the American flag and Mount Rushmore) There is. also, the history of this particular film and its relationship to the past Grand Opera includes passages in which George Landow. Hollis Frampton. Michael Snow and Yvonne Rainer allude to the final image of the film.

Benning said he chose these four because of their influence on his work. Accordingly, there are many humorous allusions to their films. Each allusion, in its own way. points to the person behind the film. Each underlines the fact that the major contributions to the avant-garde film continue to be formed by personal points of view, despite the label structural film".

See also...


USA, 1984
Leading US experimental filmmaker presents two contrasting Americans against a background of the politics and music of the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies ... More »

O Panama

USA, 1985
One man's longing to escape the confines and boredom of his life In this piece, we follow Willem Dafoe as he travels from the room he inhabits to an imaginary space. ... More »


UK, 1987
Fascinating documentary, punctuated by evocative footage from every conceivable New York story as depicted by several generations of visual artists, which manages to show 'how film is used in a varie… More »


Germany, 2009
"The artist is someone who pays attention and reports back." - James Benning ... Experimental filmmaker James Benning moves from 16mm to high-definition video in his first film shot outside of the US… More »

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