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1970s British experimental film: Images in shadows and light

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This article on 1970s British experimental film-making challenges the problematic ‘return to image’ thesis evident in diverse historical accounts of the decade, arguing that image-rich, expressive, personal and representational films were in evidence throughout the decade and not just at its close. The article reviews examples of the ‘return to image’ thesis, demonstrating how it has perpetuated a flawed account of the decade. It also outlines some of the countercultural, psychoanalytic and mystical influences on film-making and discusses American critic P. Adams Sitney’s taxonomical distinctions – ‘psychodramatic trance’, ‘lyrical’, ‘mythopoeia’ and ‘diary’ – which provide illuminating characteristics useful for examining some of the personal, expressive forms of 1970s British film-making. It gives an understanding of how experimental film-making grew from a small handful of films and film-makers at the start of the 1970s to a veritable explosion of film-making by the end of the decade.
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Keywords: 1970s experimental film history; London Film-maker’s Co-op; counterculture; mysticism; psychoanalysis; ‘return to image’

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Arts University Bournemouth

Publication date: 01 December 2016

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  • The Moving Image Review & Art Journal (MIRAJ) is the first international peer-reviewed scholarly publication devoted to artists' film and video, and its contexts. It offers a forum for debates surrounding all forms of artists' moving image and media artworks: films, video installations, expanded cinema, video performance, experimental documentaries, animations, and other screen-based works made by artists. MIRAJ aims to consolidate artists' moving image as a distinct area of study that bridges a number of disciplines, not limited to, but including art, film, and media.
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