Experimental films, shot on minimal budgets, usually at the film makers'--or a foundation's--expense, often eschewing plot and narrative, are probably the most refined and purified form of film poetics. They can be maddening and self-indulgent; they can be mesmerizing, eye-opening or exalted. Now, in the age of video, they may actually be an endangered species--or perhaps, with the help of cheaper video equipment, on the verge of changing into another, more financially accessible form.
Be that as it may, the short films of Will Hindle--who died in April of a heart attack--are among the most widely admired experimental films made in America in the past several decades. Along with film makers like Michael Snow, Stan Brakhage and Hollis Frampton, Hindle usually rates a place in any pantheon of the American underground. Underground film specialist Gene Youngblood says he had "an uncanny ability for transforming unstylized reality into unearthly poetic visions."
At the Wallenboyd Theater tonight at 8, Filmforum is screening an extensive retrospective of Hindle's work: six films made during a 21-year period. Included are "Pastoral d'Ete" (1958); "Non Catholicam" (1957-63); "Billabong" (1969); "Watersmith" (1969), and "Pasteur3 (Pasteur Cubed)." Capping the retrospective is Hindle's most admired film, "Chinese Firedrill" (1968), which in Youngblood's opinion, "contains possibly one of the greatest scenes in the history of film."