Photo: Pamela Gentile
SILENT AVANT-GARDE. Matti Bye Ensemble plays to Duchamp’s ANEMIC CINEMA
at Castro Theatre at 23rd San Francisco Silent Film Festival, June 1, 2018.

UNSEEN CINEMA 4-Hour Marathon on TCM


UNSEEN CINEMA 2 • SUNDAY, NOV 5, 2017 @ 10:45 PM ET


SUNDAY, APRIL 3, 2011—TCM Honors Early American Experimental Film Pioneers

As part of "Rarely Seen Gems" on Sunday, April 3, 2011 at 10:00 PM ET / 7:00 PM PT, Turner Classic Movies will broadcast sixteen Unseen Cinema titles in a special two-and-a-half-hour compilation selected by film curator Bruce Posner and DVD producer David Shepard. The short films highlight the accomplishments of pioneer American filmmakers working in the U. S. and Europe primarily during the first half of the 20th century. The TCM broadcast is divided into five thematic sections (click here for full program). Click here for TCM's press release.

Viva La Dance includes such dance films as the pioneering Annabelle Dances and Dances (1896-99) and the Busby Berkeley number "Don't Say Goodnight" from Wonder Bar (1934). Inverted Narratives uncovers novel experiments and new directions in storytelling explored by Lois Weber and others. Picturing a Metropolis depicts dynamic images of New York City among the streets, skyscrapers and nightlife of America's greatest city including Robert Flaherty's carefully restored 24 Dollar Island (1926). The Amateur as Auteur shows how home-made films incorporated avant-garde strategies and provided glimpses of life caught unawares as well as the screen debut of a 17-year old Charlton Heston in Peer Gynt (1941), pictured below. Light Rhythms demonstrates the rhythmic elements of cinema as explored by artists and filmmakers fascinated by the abstract qualities of light and offers the U.S. broadcast premiere of George Antheil's dynamic mechanical score for the Léger and Murphy experimental classic Ballet Mécanique (1924).

Preview Charlton Heston in Peer Gynt (1941), Edward Everett Horton in
Beggar on Horseback
(1925), and George Antheil's music to Ballet mécanique (1923-24)



Image Entertainment in conjunction with Anthology Film Archives and Film Preservation Associates has created for home video release a DVD version of Unseen Cinema. The 7-disc box set contains 155 films, running 19 hours and was released on October 18, 2005.

The DVD series represents 100 avant-garde, professional, and amateur filmmakers working before World War II and is considerably refined from the touring film program. It is curated by Bruce Posner and produced by film historian David Shepard, known for his high-quality DVD restorations such as The Lost World, the Landmarks of Early Cinema series, and many other cinema masterworks: The General (Buster Keaton), The Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffith), and The Chaplin Essanay and Mutual comedies.

Posner and Shepard have worked with the finest archival prints available, sometimes piecing together sequences from many different elements gathered from around the world. Each of the seven DVD programs runs over 2.5 hours and is ordered in themes and chronological date of production. Rare and wonderful treasures are to be found on Image Entertaiment’s DVD of Unseen Cinema.


• Picturing A Metropolis: New York City Unveiled, specially selected from Unseen Cinema DVD box set, will also be released nationally as a single DVD. The 26 short films depict scenes of New Yorkers among the skyscrapers, streets, and nightlife of Manhattan during a half-century of progress, while at the same time showing changes in film style and the history of cinema experiments.

• Ballet mécanique (Léger and Murphy, 1924) is drawn from the definitive Frederick Kiesler print with the color inserts from the hand-colored copy at the Nederlands Filmmuseum, and has been fitted for the first time ever with the George Antheil score in its original instrumentation of 16 player pianos, airplane propellers, etc.

• Twenty-four-Dollar Island (Robert Flaherty, c. 1926) is available in the longest known version of the film made from excellent 35mm film elements discovered at Gosfilmofond of Russia and Nederlands Filmmuseum with introductory titles derived directly from Flaherty’s own notes.

• Anthology Film Archives, under the direction of the legendary filmmaker and archivst Jonas Mekas, reveals its vast holdings of unique American experimental films with some of the DVD’s rarest discoveries: films by Rudy Burckhardt, Jerome Hill, Lewis Jacobs, Henwar Rodakiewicz, Seymour Stern, Christopher Young, and many more..

• Warner Bros., Turner Entertainment, and Paramount Pictures opened their studio vaults to offer excellent quality 35mm archive copies of works by James Cruze, Busby Berkeley, Oskar Fischinger, Ernst Lubitsch, Paul Burnford, and Slavko Vorkapich.

• The British Film Institute, Library of Congress, Museum of Modern Art, and George Eastman House loaned pristine preservation prints of a variety of late 19th century and early 20th century pioneer film titles by Edison Manufacturing and American Mutoscope and Biograph Companies as well as many one of a kind 35mm and 16mm films by avant-garde filmmakers Dudley Murphy, Robert Florey, and Ralph Steiner.

• The complete works of abstract film artist Mary Ellen Bute are presented in beautiful 35mm preservation prints along with numerous other ground-breaking abstract animations by Alexandre Alexeieff, Francis Bruguiere, Douglass Crockwell, Dwinell Grant, Francis Lee, Man Ray, Rrose Selavy (aka Marcel Duchamp), Norman Mclaren, and George Morris.

• Renowned American collage artist and filmmaker Joseph Cornell is represented by his brilliant film montages salvaged by animator Lawrence Jordan and include The Children’s Party, Cotillion, Midnight Party, Thimble Theater, Carousel, and Jack’s Dream (all films c. 1938- ) and several other titles inspirational to Cornell’s filmmaking.

• Vintage home movies of the 1920s and 30s by amateurs Elizabeth Woodman Wright and Archie Stewart are transferred from the original 16mm picture rolls held at Northeast Historic Films, Bucksport, Maine. While other amateur films by Norman Bel Geddes, Lynn Riggs, Emlen Etting, John C. Hecker, and Frank Stauffacher are presented off recently made preservations masters.

• At least two-thirds of the program is silent. Unless the filmmakers wished their work to be shown without music, all the silent films have been fitted out with very nice music composed and performed by some of the world’s best silent film composers: Donald Sosin, Eric Beheim, Robert Israel, Rodney Sauer, Neil Kurz, and Shane Ryan. Original music includes compositions by George Atntheil, Marc Blitzstein, Alec Wilder, Jack Ellitt, and Cameron MacPherson.

• Introductory historical notes and filmmakers' biographies written by Kevin Brownlow, David Curtis, R. Bruce Elder, Robert A. Haller, Jan-Christopher Horak, David James, Scott MacDonald, Bruce Posner, David Shepard, Paul Spehr, Cecile Starr, and 31 others and rare film and filmmakers photos in a 253-page picture gallery.

Press releases [DOC]:
DVD Box Set
Picturing a Metropolis

Full-color brochures [PDF]:
•  DVD Box Set
•  Picturing a Metropolis

DVD catalog [PDF]:
•  Bucharest 2010 retrospective


Wall Street Journal, September 30, 2008, "A Landmark of Research and Restoration"

Curator 51/2, April 2008, "Saving Film Technology in Museums Before it's Too Late"

Archives of Modernist Cinephilia, Modernism/modernity 2007

The Moving Image, Spring 2007

Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Spring 2007

Cineaste, Winter 2006

The New York Times, September 2, 2005 / "The Best Vault Raiders of 2005," December 30, 2005

David Sterritt, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 3, 2006

Toronto Star, Feb. 2, 2006 Editorial Review

Variety, October 30, 2005

The Hollywood Reporter, November 23, 2005

The New Republic, June 26, 2006

Silent Era, August 18, 2005

Film Comment, Nov/Dec 2005

PREMIERE Magazine, March 2006

DVDtalk, November 7, 2005

Village Voice, November 23, 2005

Cahiers du Cinema, November 2005

LA Weekly, November 4, 2005

Philadelphia City Paper, November 17-23, 2005

Cover Story
 / Screen Picks

PREMIERE Magazine: The Top Ten DVDs of 2005, February 2006

Leonard Maltin's Picks, October 17, 2005

San Antonio Current, January 4, 2006

DVD Beaver Review

DVD Beaver: 2005 DVD of the Year (3rd place)

Los Angeles Film Critics Association "Special Citation"

Masters of Cinema, DVD of the Year (4th place)

Cinemascope25, December 2005 / Cinemascope27, Summer 2006

Village Voice, "Best Avant-Garde Films in 2005," December 28, 2005

New York Magazine, "Best Culture Awards 2005," December 19, 2005 Screening Room

Minneapolis Star-Tribune, December 17, 2005 / Top Titles of 2005, December 30, 2005

The Digital Bits, December 22, 2005

UC Berkeley Media Resources Center, "NY, NY," November 13, 2006

Daryl Chin, "At Home and Abroad: Some Views from the Avant-Garde on DVD," October 2006

MicroFilmmaker Magazine, December 2005

News & Review (California), November 17, 2005

Leonard Maltin's Video Views, October 31, 2005

DVD Savant, October 30, 2005

Stop Smiling Magazine, October 28, 2005

Mugu Brainpan, "The Unseen Cinema Seven DVD Set and the Book You Can (and Should) Order," August 10, 2006

New York Magazine, October 24, 2005

The Washington Times, October 22, 2005

USA Today, October 20, 2005

LA Weekly, October 14, 2005

Washington Post, October 14, 2005

Gay City News, October 13-19, 2005

New York Press, October 12, 2005

San Francisco Chronicle, October 9, 2005

Home Media Retailing, August 30, 2005

ICOM Magazine, August 2005

Interview with Bruce Posner and David Shepard on KPFK's Sound Exchange with Jay Kugelman

Terry Gross's FRESH AIR on NPR (April 4, 2006) featuring Lloyd Schwartz's review of the National Gallery of Art's Dada show, and focusing on Paul Lehrman's presentation of Ballet Mécanique. one of the films on the Unseen Cinema 7-DVD set.