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A Study in Choreography for Camera

A Study in Choreography for Camera(1945)

Maya Deren is perhaps my favorite female director for several reasons. Most of those reasons exist outside of the fact that she is avant-garde, so I don't think my opinion therefore is a biased one. What I find in Maya Deren is a distinct feminine creativity that I find most female directors compromise. I'll never say for a minute that there are not good female directors, or female directors without vision, but Maya Deren spoke of something in her own words which I think provides insight into the meaning of my statement. To give some background on this statement, Maya Deren was fascinated and studied a great deal, (almost providing a film on the subject, but she died before its completion), on the subject of Haitian voodoo. The Haitian rituals and their Gods and Goddesses. Her statement was profound in this sense and though this statement I'm making is not her word-for-word statement, (I couldn't find it online), I will recall to the best of my ability what she said, "It is [The Haitian Goddess] woman which provides insight and creativity, [in Haitian belief]. Now why would one think this is? In a sense, it is woman who creates life, but it isn't just that. What provides woman with a greater sense of creative insight is the realization that one must endure and be patient for the truly great masterpieces to come into existence." This statement can be said on any of Maya Deren's works which is why I have enjoyed them so. There is a keen sense on time and space, which I will eventually get to. It seems to me that Maya Deren has been in meditation throughout her life; who is she as a woman? who is she as an artist? who is she as a female artist? and what does she believe? She is extremely bold, bolder for her time, and still bolder today. She is a woman who never once gave thought or credence to any form of patriarchy. Not because she lived in it, but rather in spite of it. Her questions were about the world and how it existed in the completely feminine context. This is something I rarely see in other female directors works, which seem to me take the grounds of, "I'm a woman living in a man's world," [to me, I see much of this in Breillat's work]; or there is almost a compromise to exist and come to terms within this, "man's world," [which, to me, I see in Harron's work]. These are almost, again not all, archetypal in what I see from most female directors. But what of Deren? She takes a different approach, she doesn't consider herself the be a victim of reality. Rather she comes to terms, introspectively, to who she is as a woman, disregards the masculine aspect altogether, and creates something that is, by my definition, completely female.

So with this introduction in mind, I will get to my review:

Maya Deren was a poet and dancer before she ever involved herself in the cinematic arts, which to me, makes this film not only her most personal, but also her best. The subject for A Study in Choreography for Camera is a male dancer who dances this set ballet piece. Alone, this subject would be rather stagnant, but Maya Deren makes the subject of dance come alive and transcending all at once. As I've stated before, this is a set-ballet work, however through artistic means, Maya Deren makes the ballet transcending by cutting through space and time. We begin with a dancer who is beginning his dance in a forest, (most likely the dance was created by Deren herself), the movement he provides is a one torso motion from one side to the next. To visualize this type-motion, and become intimate with the subject in context, Deren decides to move her camera 360 degrees. One might see the danger in loosing the subject, and the dance itself. However, Deren understands quite well what is key not only to film, but to literature, (poetics), as well; the edit. Deren seamlessly edits a 360 degree motion and adds the subject, every 90 degrees, continuing his dance for the camera. He raises his foot, then Deren cuts through time and space itself, exiting the forest all-together, and we now have the foot entering a room of a house. The dancer continues his dance, and Deren continues to cut through time and space, consistently illustrating her dreamlike point until the dance reaches its peak, and ultimately conclusion.

One would ask about my introduction to this review and how does it relate to the film in question. We, in this film, as with her Meditation on Violence, are dealing with a male subject completely at the mercy of a woman's artistic vision. One may say this same aspect could be found with Breillat, however I disagree. Breillat's is a vision and existence of a woman within a "man's world". It is not taking the grounds of Deren which implies that she is her own existence and vision and whatever derives from that is completely, unadulterated, feminine. In this film she is communicating visually what her statement was, "a woman must endure and be patient to create", what she is implying is a woman creates her masterpieces, be it children or art, by the results of time itself. This is exactly what we see in this picture, a coming to terms, and transcendence, to what the nature of time itself really is. Though the film is under five minutes, she gives birth to an understanding not only of time and space, but also the beauty of life itself, (as seen in the dancer). Can we therefore come to a much grander conclusion, (that the Haitian voodooists believe), that woman and Goddess are not "slaves to a man's world", rather they are the creators of the world itself? In its time and space, and in its people? This is what I see within this picture, and it is in this understanding that I find this film to be so wonderfully beautiful, but also concurrently it drives in the point that Maya Deren is perhaps the greatest female director to have ever lived; and also one of the greatest directors, (male or female), to have placed a mark on cinema's history.

My Rating
5 Stars of 5