The Cinematograph (recording of animated photographic images then large projection, using the same camera) was invented in 1895 by the Lumière Brothers. It is in itself a technical experiment. But this technology was very quickly used mainly to “tell stories”, following the example of the novel or classical theatre. This is what we can call “academic cinema”.
Literature is not only made up of novels, but also of poetry, which is often not narrative. Poetry experiments with sensations by working on the language itself, taking liberties with all the codes, while also being highly codified (the verses, the feet...). Poetry explores both sensitive and formal avenues, far from the rules established for narrative novels. And yet the two are mutually enriching: novelists can play with language, and poets can tell stories.
Experimental film has the same function for cinema as poetry has for literature. Experimental cinema explores, far from codes, the very matter of its essence. It invents, takes risks, exists outside the commercial market, in complete freedom. But experimental cinema is also indispensable to academic cinema, because it allows it to renew itself. As Jean-Luc Godard used to say, “The margin is what holds the pages together.”
Experimental cinema has also built its “identity”, its own history (based on the avant-gardes of the 1920s), its traditions, its criteria, its professional milieu. This museum approach is essential for the history of the arts, but also carries within it its own contradiction, which is quite normal. There is thus the risk of freezing experimental cinema in certain criteria, which is antinomic with its very nature. Thus, today, truly experimental cinema is undoubtedly the one that is not yet named as such.
This list is not exhaustive, it is a first track.