Below is a list of significant events and films in underground film history between the years 1930 and 1939. Reference key of sources appears at the bottom of the page.
International Congress of Independent Film meets for a second time in Brussels, but the ‘Internationale’ is disbanded after most filmmakers choose to fight fascism instead. The European avant-garde pretty much ceases to exist.
When film switched to using sound, it became too cost prohibitive for experimental filmmakers to continue working.
“The Surrealist cinema largely disappeared after Bunuel’s L’Age d’Or…”
Luis Bunuel visits Los Angeles for the first time. An MGM representative signs him to a $250 a month contract to “learn filmmaking.” Bunuel quit after four months and returned to Spain.
Le Sang d’un Poète (The Blood of a Poet)
(S.R.; D.C.; F.S.; P.A.S.) (DVD)
La Nuit Electrique
Theme et Variation (1927-30)
(D.C.) (S.R. lists a film Rhythme et Variations as 1930, which may be this film, but D.C. also lists a Rhythme et Variations, with no year attached, in addition to Theme et Variation)
Bezucelna Prochazka (Aimless Walk)
(P.A.S.; D.E.J. only gives English title)
Study No. 6 (1929-30)
Study No. 12
Alles dreht sich, Alles beweft sich (Everything Revolves, Everything Moves )
Die Melodie der Welt (Melody of the World)
(includes brief animated sequence by Oskar Fischinger) (D.C.)
Enthusiasm (Donbass Symphony)
(D.C.) (S.R. only credits this as Enthusiasm)
The Story of a Nobody
Surf and Seaweed
The European avant-garde vanishes, as Paul Fejos and Robert Florey became mainstream directors, Slavko Vorkapich began specializing in montage sequences, Ralph Steiner moved into documentaries, and Gregg Toland shot Citizen Kane.
(starring Paul Robeson) (S.R.)
Study No. 7
Study No. 8
Experiments in Hand Drawn Sound
Jack Smith is born in Columbus, OH.
Las Hurdes (Terre sans Pain)
Marche des Machines
(D.C.) (S.R. lists as 1928)
Study No. 11 (c1932)
The Spy (1931-32)
B&W sound 16mm film stock is marketed.
John Flory”s Mr. Motorboat’s Last Stand is awarded one of the Year’s 10 Best by the Los Angeles Cinema Club, is named the Best Experimental Film of the Year by Movie Makers magazine and is distributed by the Museum of Modern Art. Flory also signs a 7-year contract with Paramount.
Composition in Blue
Mr. Motorboat’s Last Stand
Footnote to Fact
Lot in Sodom
Color 16mm film stock is marketed.
Movie producers are forced to submit scripts to the Hays Office for approval, thus limiting the chance of experimentation in popular narrative filmmaking.
Une Nuit sur le Mont Chauve (Night on the Bare Mountain)
Three Songs of Lenin
Dawn to Dawn
Pie in the Sky
The Hearts of Age
Rudy Burckhardt moves to the U.S. from Switzerland.
Salvador Dali visits Hollywood and stays with Harpo Marx. The pair write a screenplay entitled “Giraffes on Horseback Salad.”
Maya Deren earns a bachelor’s degree at New York University (NYU).
A young Kenneth Anger appears in the film A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
La Belle au Bois Dormant
The Museum of Modern Art in NYC begins distributing a range of films, supplying them to theaters and screening series such as Amos and Marcia Vogel’s Cinema 16 in NYC and Frank Stauffacher’s Art in Cinema series in San Francisco.
(S.M.) (S.R. says MoMA began its distribution efforts in 1937.)
Birth of a Robot (1935-36)
Les Bas Fonds
Rhythm in Light
Synchrony No. 2
Song of Ceylon
The Amateur Cinema League has two-hundred-fifty amateur-cinema clubs on its rolls.
La Grande Illusion
Even as You and I
Luis Bunuel is ordered back to Los Angeles to “work on a film about Spanish children being taken abroad to safety” and other movies about the Spanish Civil War.
Maya Deren enrolls in the M.A. program in English at Smith College.
Optical Poem (1937-8)
Swinging the Lambeth Walk
An American March
D.C: David Curtis. Experimental Cinema. New York: Dell Pub., 1978.
D.E.J.: David E. James. The Most Typical Avant-garde: History and Geography of Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles. Berkeley: University of California, 2005.
F.S.: Frank Stauffacher. Art in cinema; a symposium on the avantgarde film. New York: Arno Press, 1968. (reprint from 1947)
J.S.: Jack Sargeant. Deathtripping: the Extreme Underground. Brooklyn: Soft Skull, 2008. (Originally published: London: Creation, 1995.)
P.A.S.: P. Adams Sitney. Visionary Film: the American Avant-garde, 1943-2000. New York: Oxford UP, 2002.
S.M.: Scott MacDonald. Canyon Cinema: the Life and times of an Independent Film Distributor. Berkeley: University of California, 2008.
S.R.: Sheldon Renan. An Introduction to the American Underground Film. New York: Dutton, 1967.