Critical Writing Index

The Long and Short of It: Some Thoughts on Film Length

by Scott Macdonald

Afterimage, Mar. 1981, v. 8, no. 8, pp. 6-8

A discussion of very short and very long films outside of feature length, with an emphasis on film. Avant-garde filmmaking, excluded but also liberated from the requirements of mainstream exhibition and distribution, have usually ignored the two-hours standard. Mainstream audiences often find that short independent films are too long because they are accustomed to the narrative structures of the mainstream.

Independent filmmakers who make long films often intend them for specific events, or use the extended length to reveal to the audience that the passivity with which they attend mainstream films will not be rewarding in these screenings, goading them to engage more intensely with the visuals and the form of the film that they take for granted. Diary films that span many years can also be viewed as long single film, where the expense of long lengths of film are countered by shooting on a cheap format.

Short films were once programmed as disposable warm-ups for features, but the power of the TV ad should assure the viewer that shorts can have considerable influence. The labour-intensive nature of animation predisposes it towards the short, and other filmmakers similarly interested in the frame as a visual unit tend to produce dense short films.

ITEM 1981.053 – available for viewing in the Research Centre

Videos, Artworks and Artists Cited

Rameau's Nephew by Diderot (Thanx to Dennis Young) by Wilma SchoenMichael Snow

La Région CentraleMichael Snow

Sirius RememberedStan Brakhage

EmpireAndy Warhol

SleepAndy Warhol

BluesLarry Gottheim

1 to 60 SecondsTaka Iimura

Highway LandscapeJ.J. Murphy

One Year-1970Robert Huot

The Adventures of the Exquisite Corpse - Part I: Huge Pupils, 1973Andrew Noren

Diaries Notes and SketchesJonas Mekas

Kitch's Last MealCarolee Schneemann

Zorns LemmaHolllis Frampton

Hapax LegomenaHollis Frampton

MagellanHollis Frampton

AdebarPeter Kubelka

Phases of the MoonTom Chomont

MothlightStan Brakhage

Word movie/Fluxfilm 29Paul SHarits

I-94James Benning

I-94Bette Gordon

Cold CowsFranklin Miller

MongoloidBruce Connor

PreviewJ.J. Murphy

Red StockingsRobert Huot

The Wilkenson Household Fire AlarmMorgan Fisher