Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Pleasure Garden (Great Britain, 1952)

A 36 minute art-flick oddity made in England by the forgotten American poet/writer/filmmaker James Broughton, filmed in a contrast-rich black and white, featuring a whimsical innocence in its surrealism that doesn’t stop the film from getting tedious. Set amongst the beautiful if not almost magical looking ruins of what once was obviously an impressive estate garden, this avant-garde film has less in common with the violently aggressive surrealism of Bunuel and Dali’s L'Age d'Or (1930) than it does with the at that time not yet existent simplicity and overstatement of children’s fantasy TV. A celebration of freedom and the bohemia of the early 50’s, The Pleasure Garden exudes a positive, pro-life energy, despite a suicide that happens almost in passing. Mildly engrossing to those researching the development of modern non-commercial/ underground films along the lines of Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger and early Curtis Harrington, the film's predictability isn’t half as annoying as the overly simplified stereotypes are. Cute, but not crucial — unless you’re a first semester art student.

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