Slavko Vorkapich, a Sergian montagist and film theoritician comparable in historical importance to Sergei Eisenstein, moved to Hollywood in the 1920s where he made a fascinating experimental short entitled "The Life and Death of 9413: A Hollywood Extra"(1928) that has some great editing, inventive lighting effects, and surreal sets and props. It got him jobs doing transitional effects, visual effects, and whole montage sequences for features at studios like MGM, RKO, and Paramount. He crafted his montage sequences from start to finish: conceiving and designing, shooting and editing them. There's some great montages of his included on the light rhythms disc of the awesome box set "Unseen Cinema"db-button/) and they're amazing and electrifying examples of pure cinema. His mastery of the optical printer and his imagination in the cutting room are just phenomenal. He's a true inspiration. He was also dean of the USC film school at one time and his emphasis on filmic expression and the dynamic quality of movement and kinetic energy inherent in the cinematic art form influenced tons of filmmakers that came through the school, among them George Lucas.
I really love his Furies prologue from "Crime Without Passion" set to a great score by Beethoven. The cinematic energy and violent imagery are extremely dynamic and vivid.
His montages for "The Great Earth" are phenomenal and cinematic! Very stark and powerful.
I also love his amazing kinetic and visual "Battle of Victoria" montage for the MGM movie "Firefly" - his original silent cut is staggering and brilliant. It can be found on the "light rhythms" disc in the Unseen Cinema box set, I really recommend it!
I also love his opera singer montage from "Maytime". The lap dissolves, moving camera shots, fast kinetic editing, graphics in motion, and optical effects are intensely kinetic and excting. It inspired Orson Welles' opera montage sequence in "Citizen Kane" but I think Vorkapich's sequence is even more masterful and entertaining.
I also recommend his two purely cinematic non-story visual tone poems "Moods of the Sea" and "Forest Murmurs" that he made with Hungarian-born fellow Hollywood montagist John Hoffman. They are autonomous abstract cinema at its best! I love his montage, camerawork, imagery, and optical effects. So visual and emotionally powerful!
He influenced so many filmmakers from , Saul Bass, and Art Clokey to , , , and .
I love renting films he worked on just to enjoy his montages and visual effects. I recently saw his battle sequence for the old Hollywood Ingrid Bergman "Joan of Arc" epic. And his earthquake scene from the 1936 "San Francisco" was really interesting too. I can't wait to see his cinematic work on "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", "The Mask", "Viva Villa" and many others.
His use of kinesthetic effects, the sensory visual and visceral perception of different kinds of movements and motions in the human mind, through the art form of motion pictures is unrivalled and revolutionary. He taught and lectured as well on "kinesthesia", for several decades as dean of USC film school from 1949-1951, at UCLA film school, at the University of Belgrade's Film Department in the 1950s and in his famous sold out lecture series at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in the 1960s that was attended by Gregory Markopoulos, Andy Warhol, William Friedkin, Jonas Mekas, and many other filmmakers and artists.
At the end of his MOMA lectures he screened Bruce Conner's "A MOVIE" as an example of the kind of purely cinematic "symphony of movements" that he would love to see young movie-makers achieve. Poetic, artistic "cine-esthetic" movies that skillfully organize camera movements and motions, cuts and moving graphics, sounds and visuals, combining them to create a meaningful and emotional kinesthetic experience for the viewer. He was also impressed by other abstract and avant-garde films such as Maya Deren's "Meshes of the Afternoon", Norman McLaren's movies, and the "cinema pur" movies "Entr'acte" and "Ballet Mecanique". I have always wondered if he saw any other great abstract motion pictures by artists like Jordan Belson, Arthur Lipsett, Stan Brakhage, Geoffrey Jones, and Len Lye and if he approved of their films as "True Cinema". I would be especially delighted to know if he had seen and admired Dziga Vertov's great works like "Man With The Movie Camera"?
Mr. Vorkapich made autonomous cinematic experiences. He understood that motion pictures should be a independent, separate form of art with its own unique tools, devices, and creative ends. Along with Mr. Vertov I believe he radically advanced Film Form forward and that most movie-makers still need to catch up with his bold cinematic vision and cinematic concepts.
He appreciated great symphonies by Beethoven, Bela Bartok, and Felix Mendelssohn. He was inspired by Richard Wagner's compositions. He loved great paintings by Ferdinand Hodler, architecture, ballet, poetry by Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman, books by authors like Leo Tolstoy, plays by Shakespeare, sculpture by Ivan Mestrovic, and he understood that for Cinema to equal the greatest works of the other Arts by geniuses like Beethoven, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Van Gogh, and Bartok, movie-makers have to consciously and artistically use their own special techniques that no other art form has. In that way movies can be a autonomous, independent art form.
Mr. Vorkapich is an amazing legendary filmmaker and cinema teacher and I will always draw inspiration and learning from his great movies and teachings!
|Professor Slavko Vorkapich(L) works with a Movieola, circa 1950 at USC.|