The new Maya Deren Collection set from Kino Lorber includes eight films by the mother of avant-garde cinema — her seminal Meshes of the Afternoon and At Land, A Study in Choreography for Cinema, Ritual in Transfigured Time, The Private Life of a Cat, Meditation on Violence, The Very Eye of Night and Divine Horsemen. Deren’s experiments with cinematic language during the 1940s have remained endlessly influential, and this set is a well-rounded crash-course. Each film is presented in a new 2K restoration.
Deren’s films blend her eclectic interests, from the construction of the film medium to dances, rituals, dreams, religion, sex, philosophy and time. They’re the opposite of commercial art, and their role as foundational texts for later filmmakers is undeniable. For a time, the American Film Institute offered an award with her name for new filmmakers.
Deren died in 1961, the award started in 1986, the award ended in 1996, and it is now 2020. Her films use jump-cuts and juxtaposition to shatter the notion of chronology within their narratives, and it feels appropriate that the chasms of time between her death, that recognition, that recognition’s end and now — though mostly equal in duration, are meaningless in comparison to the timelessness of her work. Time does not particularly matter to movies built with no concerns about appealing to a contemporary audience.
It’s a phenomenal set. I was particularly moved by Cat, which chronicles her cat’s life as it gives birth and raises kittens. It is shot from the viewpoint of her cat. Again, timeless. This is the longer version that includes her narration, which wonders aloud about the mysteries of the feline and its long relationship with mankind. We should be so lucky as to ever truly know them.
Extras includes audio commentaries on each film, a booklet of essays and some short documentaries.