Serious Play: Documentary and the Avant-Garde

Jeffrey Geiger

in American Documentary Film

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780748621477
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748670796 | DOI:
Serious Play: Documentary and the Avant-Garde

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Chapter 3 suggests the mobility of the documentary idea by looking at movements conventionally viewed in opposition to each other: documentary and the avant-garde. Avant-garde cinema has been associated with aesthetic innovation, imagination, and playfulness, while documentary has been seen as a ‘sober’ discursive mode. This chapter works to excavate significant intersections between the two, finally considering how the modernist aesthetics of documentaries such as Manhatta helped to vivify a widely adhered to notion of American individuality and newness: a progressive, unabashedly urban vision of the nation, tinged with a cautious nostalgia for a pre-industrial past.

Keywords: avant-garde; modernism; Paul Strand; Manhatta; city symphony; art cinema; little cinemas

Chapter.  8695 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Film

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