Avant Garde Cinema Flourishes in the Shadow of Hollywood

In January 1943 the Russian-born poet, essayist, former radical and future filmmaker Eleanora Deren wrote a friend that her husband, Alexander Hammid, was having a tough time finding work as a cameraman in Hollywood. The union, she wrote, was one of those “racketeer things,” though there might be a job at Paramount Pictures. “There are other prospects,” she added, “but in Hollywood prospects are a dime a dozen.” Four months later she and Hammid carved out a different future in the poetic form of “Meshes of the Afternoon,” a black-and-white, 14-minute silent film and a classic of the American avant-garde cinema that they shot a few blocks from the Sunset Strip.

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