Which was the first flicker film?

My favourite film genre is the flicker film. In case you’re not very familiar with experimental film, a flicker film is a film with fast changes between light and dark frames. That creates a strobing effect.

If you need something more visual to understand what I’m talking about, this is Arnulf Rainer (1960) by Peter Kubelka, my favourite flicker film.

I’ve read a lot of times that Arnulf Rainer was the first flicker film, but that’s not true. I believed it for some time because that’s what most books say, but years ago I discovered Color Sequence (1943) by Dwinell Grant.

Some parts of Color Sequence are too slow to be considered a flicker, but other parts are definitely flickering. Anyway, this isn’t the first flicker film either.

The first flicker film, at least that I know of, is An Expression by Shigeji Ogino (you can watch the film on the link).

Shigeji Ogino was a Japanese filmmaker who started making movies in the 1920s. His filmography is really diverse. He made home movies, travel diaries, animation, and experimental films.

An Expression is a 4-minute long silent film. It’s an abstract film, we only see shapes. However, it’s also a narrative film. Ogino tells the story of a meeting between a man from the city—the triangle—and a woman from the countryside—the circle.

Ogino shot the film in black and white using alternating red and green filters. One frame is red and the next is green (complementary colours), which generates entoptic phenomena. Entoptic phenomena are images whose source is within the eyes themselves. This means that sometimes you see colours, spots, shapes, etc. that are not really in the film.

I love doing research, so maybe one day I’ll find an oldest flicker film, or maybe someone will talk me about another one. Who knows…

Psycho 60/98

WARNING: This film contains flashing images.

“Psycho” (1960) by Alfred Hitchcock and “Psycho” (1998) by Gus Van Sant collide in a frame-by-frame editing that assaults the eyeballs and assassinates the normative consciousness of the viewer. The footage seem to penetrate us, as though it was a knife or a threatening phantasmagorical entity. The fast succession of single frames and extremely short audio files produce afterimages and aftersounds—entoptic and endaural phenomena—creating a film that does not happen on the screen, but in our brain cells.

*Just a technical note for those interested on how things are made, this film consist just of both shower scenes fragmented in frames; the odd frames are the shower scene from the Hitchcock movie and the even frames are the shower scene from the Van Sant remake. No image or sound effects of any kind, just the frames. Sense-destructive cinema, enjoy! :)

Retinal response to rapidly changing frames

“They rejected subjectivism, expressiveness, narrative, and direct social reference and focused instead on the medium’s formal and material properties … flicker films were about retinal response to rapidly changing frames … structural film also inquired into the spectator’s perceptual activity … flicker and single-frame films engaged the psycho-physics of vision.”

“Structural Film: Noise”, Juan A. Suárez, in Still Moving: Between Cinema and Photography.