Last night I was saddened to learn of the death, at 91, of Amos Vogel, early champion of experimental cinema in America, cofounder of the New York Film Festival, and author of one of the all-time great film books, Film as a Subversive Art (1974). Mubi.com has posted links to various obituaries and is currently streaming an hour-long documentary on Vogel from 2003.
Like many cinephiles, I credit Film as a Subversive Art as a major influence my development. The book summarizes several hundred movies (many of which received their first U.S. screenings at Vogel’s legendary Cinema 16 in New York), moving indiscriminately between established classics, art films, and experimental work. For Vogel, all good movies were united by their ability to awaken the senses, to make the spectator better aware of how s/he heard, saw, and situated his/her person in the world. The book conveys a rousing sense of discovery—not only of rare and avant-garde titles, but of the radical themes and images waiting to be excavated from popular movies by the imaginative viewer. It’s a seminal text by a crucial individual. May it continue to inspire.