DVD Review: Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Film

STUDIO: Kino Lorber | DIRECTOR: Pip Chodorov
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 3/12/2013 | PRICE: DVD $29.95
SPECS: NR | 82 min. | Documentary | 1.77:1 widescreen | stereo | French and English with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall


The most impressive aspect of the 2012 documentary Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Film, an examination of you-know-what, is the overflowing amount of content that first-time feature filmmaker Pip Chodorov manages to jam into it.

Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Film movie scene

The work of Stan Vanderbeek flickers in Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Film.

Clocking in at just over 80 minutes, Chodorov tracks the history of avant-garde cinema, from its emergence in Europe in the 1920s by filmmakers Hans Richter, Germaine Dulac and Viking Eggeling, up through the work of such American artists as Ken Jacobs, Stan Brakhage and other filmmakers who began making films in the 1950s and ‘60s. In between, Chodorov’s movie also covers European émigrés Jonas and Adolphus Mekas and Peter Kubelka, as well as Michael Snow, Len Lye, Maurice Lemaître, and Stan Vanderbeek, the man who coined the term “underground cinema” and whose cut-out animations were a direct influence on Terry Gilliam’s (Brazil) work with Monty Python.

Chodorov, an experimental filmmaker himself who’s also happens to be the son of an experimental filmmaker, narrates the chronology of experimental cinema’s growth and peppers Free Radicals with vintage and new interviews with the principals, a healthy number of clips, and a handful of well-known shorts in their entirety. He has a deep love of avant cinema and its key players, all of whom are similarly inspired by their love of the form (as opposed to any hopes of actually making a lot of money with their work). Chodorov’s enthusiasm can be felt throughout and it elevates what could have been a considerably drier survey piece into a genuinely heartfelt paean to the cinematic fringe.

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.