A Hollis Frampton Odyssey (Criterion Blu-ray)
The avant-garde in film has always had an uneasy relationship with home video. Grainy old VHS tape of works by luminaries like Bruce Conner or Kenneth Anger might have made the texts themselves available for more careful study by a larger audience, but the picture quality compromised the work tremendously. The arrival of DVD technology allowed for a better visual representation, yet brought with it certain dangers. For one thing, there’s a moral issue: Filmmakers who had objections to the commodification of art and culture were put on the spot as their once-ephemeral films were transferred to a new medium that was easy for an individual consumer to purchase and own. There’s also an aesthetic issue. No matter how close a video transfer gets to the visual qualities of a projected film–and a good transfer to Blu-ray can get very close indeed–a video image is not a film image. For avant-garde filmmakers, and especially for so-called “structural” filmmakers like the late Hollis Frampton, for whom film itself was subject, text, and subtext, the difference is key.