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American Documentary FilmProjecting the Nation$
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Jeffrey Geiger

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780748621477

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748621477.001.0001

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Serious Play: Documentary and the Avant-Garde

Serious Play: Documentary and the Avant-Garde

(p.65) Chapter 3 Serious Play: Documentary and the Avant-Garde
American Documentary Film

Jeffrey Geiger

Edinburgh University Press

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

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