chapter  14
The Avant-Garde, Subtext, and Symbolism
Pages 8

Germaine Dulac, the French avant-garde filmmaker and critic, recognised the potential of the film medium for the ‘abstract exploration of pure thought and technique’ (1987: 48). Dulac worked within both commercial and avant-garde film traditions (around the 1920s) and was conscious of the way in which film was both an artistic and a commercial medium. For her, avant-garde filmmaking worked to progress the medium, and was ‘essential to the evolution of the film’ (ibid.: 44), yet the commercial cinema and the public were against. The purpose of avantgarde, she noted, was to ‘free the cinema from the hold of existing arts’ and emphasise ‘movement, rhythm, life’ (ibid.). Yet, while the artistic tradition of avantgarde was rejected within mainstream or commercial cinema, many of the developments of the avant-garde were later utilised within commercial cinema (with less revolutionary or political aims). So, we might think of avant-garde and commercial cinema not as completely separate modes; rather, they exist on a continuum of film practice, and, at times, intersect with and speak to each other, although this might not be a happy conversation.