Collage film

Collage film is a style of film created by juxtaposing found footage from disparate sources. The term has also been applied to the physical collaging of materials onto film stock.[1]

Surrealist roots of collage film

The surrealist movement played a critical role in the creation of the collage film form. In 1936, the American artist Joseph Cornell produced one of the earliest collage films with his reassembly of East of Borneo (1931), combined with pieces of other films, into a new work he titled Rose Hobart after the leading actress.[2] When Salvador Dalí saw the film, he was famously enraged, believing Cornell had stolen the idea from his thoughts.[3] But Adrian Brunel made, twelve years before, Crossing the Great Sagrada (1924)[4] and Henri Storck conceived, four years earlier, Story of the Unknown soldier (Histoire du soldat inconnu) (1932.[5])

The idea of combining film from various sources also appealed to another surrealist artist André Breton. In the town of Nantes, he and friend Jacques Vaché would travel from one movie theater to another, without ever staying for an entire film.[6]


A renaissance of found footage films emerged after Bruce Conner's A Movie (1958). The film mixes ephemeral film clips in a dialectical montage. A famous sequence made up of disparate clips shows "a submarine captain [who] seems to see a scantily dressed woman through his periscope and responds by firing a torpedo which produces a nuclear explosion followed by huge waves ridden by surfboard riders."[7] Conner continued to produce several other found footage films including Report and Crossroads among others.

Working at the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) in the 1960s, Arthur Lipsett created collage films such as Very Nice, Very Nice (1961) and 21-87 (1963), entirely composed of found footage discarded during the editing of other films (the former earning an Academy Award nomination).[8]

In 1968, the young Joe Dante made The Movie Orgy with producer Jon Davidson that featured outtakes, trailers and commercials from various shows and films.[9]

Examples since 1980s

Other notable users of this technique are Chuck Workman [10] with his Oscar-winning Precious Images [11], Craig Baldwin in his films Spectres of the Spectrum, Tribulation 99 and O No Coronado and Bill Morrisson who used found footage lost and neglected in film archives in his 2002 work Decasia (which alongside Kevin Rafferty's 1982 Cold War satire The Atomic Cafe were inducted to the National Film Registry). A similar entry in the found footage canon is Peter Delpeut's Lyrical Nitrate (1991).

The technique was employed in the 2008 feature film The Memories of Angels, a visual ode to Montreal composed of stock footage from over 120 NFB films from the 1950s and 1960s.[12] Terence Davies used a similar technique to create Of Time and the City, recalling his life growing up in Liverpool in the 1950s and 1960s, using newsreel and documentary footage supplemented by his own commentary voiceover and contemporaneous and classical music soundtracks.[13]

The 2016 experimental documentary Fraud was sourced from over a hundred hours of home video footage uploaded to YouTube by an unknown family in the United States. The footage was combined with additional clips appropriated from other YouTube users and transformed into a 53-minute crime film about a family preoccupied with material consumption going to extreme lengths in order to get out from under unsustainable personal debt.[14]

Notable collage documentaries


Some of the earliest surrealist collage works were humorous. This tradition of using film collage for comedic effect can later be seen in commercial films such as Woody Allen's first film, What's Up, Tiger Lily? in which Allen took a Japanese spy film by Senkichi Taniguchi, re-edited parts of it and wrote a new soundtrack made up of his own dialogue for comic effect, and Carl Reiner's 1982 comedy Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid which incorporated footage from approximately two dozen classic film noir films along with original sequences with Steve Martin.

Physical film collaging

Some filmmakers have taken a more literal approach to collage film. Stan Brakhage created films by collaging found objects between clear film stock, then passing the results through an optical printer, such as in Mothlight and The Garden of Earthly Delights.


Examples of animated collage film (which uses clippings from newspapers, comics and magazines alongside other inanimate objects):


  1. ^ Beaver, Frank Eugene (January 2006). "Collage film". Dictionary of Film Terms: The Aesthetic Companion to Film Art. Peter Lang Publishing. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-8204-7298-0.
  2. ^ Rony, Fatimah Tobing. The Quick and the Dead: Surrealism and the Found Ethnographic Footage Films of Bontoc Eulogy and Mother Dao: The Turtlelike. Camera Obscura. January 2003, Vol. 18 Issue 52
  3. ^ Joseph Cornell: how the reclusive artist conquered the art world – from his mum’s basement-The Guardian
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ André Breton, Nadja (Paris: Gallimard, 1964), and Breton, “As in a Wood.” L’age du cinema (1951) as reprinted in The Shadow and Its Shadows, ed. Paul Hammond (London: The British Film Institute, 1991). As cited by Rony, Fatimah Tobing. The Quick and the Dead: Surrealism and the Found Ethnographic Footage Films of Bontoc Eulogy and Mother Dao: The Turtlelike. Camera Obscura. Jan2003, Vol. 18 Issue 52
  7. ^ Wees, William. Recycled Images: The Art and Politics of Found Footage Films Anthology Film Archives, New York: 1993: P.14 ISBN 0-911689-19-2
  8. ^ Wees, William C. (Fall 2007). "From Compilation to Collage: The Found-Footage Films of Arthur Lipsett" (PDF). Martin Walsh Memorial Lecture, 2007. Canadian Journal of Film Studies. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
  9. ^ TFH Exclusive: A Clip from THE MOVIE ORGY-YouTube
  10. ^ The Source-AV Club
  11. ^ MOVIE REVIEW: Will the Real Andy Warhol Please Stand Up?:Documentary: Entertaining look at the pop superstar illuminates the artist rather than the man-LA Times
  12. ^ Hays, Matthew (October 8, 2008). "Montreal, mon amour". CBC News. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 28 January 2010.
  13. ^ "Liverpool film portrait takes Cannes film festival by storm". Liverpool Daily Post. Retrieved 21 May 2008.
  14. ^ Bray, Catherine. "Hot Docs Film Review: 'Fraud'". Variety. Michelle Sobrino. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  15. ^ Oddball Films:Cine-Collage - Remixing the Moving Image - Thur. Sep 25 - 8PM
  16. ^ Oddball Films:Cine-Collage - Remixing the Moving Image - Thur. Sep 25 - 8PM
  17. ^ Eye Washes: ROBERT BREER, 1926-2011-The Brooklyn Rail
And Everything Is Going Fine

And Everything Is Going Fine is a 2010 documentary film directed by Steven Soderbergh about the life of monologist Spalding Gray. It premiered on January 23, 2010 at the Slamdance Film Festival and was screened at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival and the 2010 Maryland Film Festival. Soderbergh had earlier directed Gray's filmed monologue, Gray's Anatomy.

Soderbergh decided against recording narration and new interviews. The film instead consists entirely of archival footage, principally numerous excerpts from monologues by and interviews with Gray, spanning some 20 years, as well as home movies of Gray as an infant. Music for the film was composed by Gray's son Forrest.

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is a 1982 neo-noir comedy-mystery film directed by Carl Reiner. Starring Steve Martin and Rachel Ward, the film is both a parody of and a homage to film noir and the pulp detective movies of the 1940s. The title refers to Martin's character explaining a story about a woman obsessed with plaid which was cut from the film master.Edited by Bud Molin, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is partly a collage film, incorporating clips from 19 vintage films. They are combined with new footage of Martin and other actors similarly shot in black-and-white, with the result that the original dialogue and acting of the classic films become part of a completely different story.

Among the actors who appear from classic films are Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Brian Donlevy, Kirk Douglas, Ava Gardner, Cary Grant, Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Burt Lancaster, Charles Laughton, Fred MacMurray, Ray Milland, Edmond O'Brien, Vincent Price, Barbara Stanwyck, and Lana Turner.

This was the last film for both costume designer Edith Head and composer Miklós Rózsa.


Decasia is a 2002 American collage film by Bill Morrison, featuring an original score by Michael Gordon.

Frank Film

Frank Film is a 1973 American animated short film by Frank Mouris.

June 17th, 1994

June 17th, 1994 is a documentary film by Brett Morgen released as part of ESPN's 30 for 30 series. The documentary details the events of June 17, 1994, in which several noteworthy sporting events occurred during the police chase of O. J. Simpson. Morgen says the diversity of the events provides an opportunity "to look at the soul of America".The documentary features no narration and also no interviews and consists simply of music set to clips from news sources during the day.There are rare clips of sportscasters like Chris Berman and Bob Costas talking to their producers about how to deal with the O.J. story within the context of the events they were covering.Robert Lloyd wrote in the Los Angeles Times: "Morgen juxtaposes the events of that day in a kind of associative round robin, finding points of contrast and commonality, of similar action and visual consonance, on which to turn his film. But he offers no other, more remote perspective; this is not a summing up of events, but rather a meditation, of an elemental sort, not just on sports but on the way of the world."

Kung Pow! Enter the Fist

Kung Pow! Enter the Fist is a 2002 American martial arts comedy film that parodies Hong Kong action cinema. Written, directed by and starring Steve Oedekerk, it uses footage from the 1976 Hong Kong martial arts film Tiger & Crane Fists (also called Savage Killers), along with new footage shot by Oedekerk, to create an original, unrelated plot.

The film was a moderate box office success, grossing $17 million worldwide, and received largely negative critical reviews but has since become a cult film. A sequel, to be written and directed by Oedekerk, was announced in 2015.

Mongoloid (song)

"Mongoloid" is the first single released by American new wave band Devo in 1977, on the Booji Boy Records label. It was backed with the song "Jocko Homo". "Mongoloid" also had one of the first music videos made using collage. "Mongoloid" would later be re-recorded by Devo and appeared on the album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! in 1978. It is also a staple of Devo's live shows.


Naqoyqatsi ( NAH-koy-KAH-tsee), also known as Naqoyqatsi: Life as War, is a 2002 film directed by Godfrey Reggio and edited by Jon Kane, with music composed by Philip Glass. It is the third and final film in the Qatsi trilogy.

Naqoyqatsi is a Hopi word (more correctly written naqö̀yqatsi) meaning "life as war". In the film's closing credits, Naqoyqatsi is also translated as "civilized violence" and "a life of killing each other". While Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi examine modern life in industrial countries and the conflict between encroaching industrialization and traditional ways of life, using slow motion and time-lapse footage of cities and natural landscapes, about eighty percent of Naqoyqatsi uses archive footage and stock images manipulated and processed digitally on non-linear editing (non-sequential) workstations and intercut with specially-produced computer generated imagery to demonstrate society's transition from a natural environment to a technology-based one. Reggio described the process as "virtual cinema".


Nerosubianco, styled as nEROSubianco and also released with the international title Attraction, is an Italian black comedy (part collage film) directed by Tinto Brass. The film deals with a variety of contemporary themes such as sexual freedom, racial tensions, and political radicalism from the perspective of a young upper-class Italian woman. The film has also been titled rather exploitatively like The Artful Penetration of Barbara and as Black on White, a literal translation of the Italian title.Nerosubianco shooting began in October 1967 and it was premiered at the 1968 Cannes Film Festival. The film saw theatrical release in February 1969.

Our Nixon

Our Nixon is an all-archival documentary providing a view of the Nixon presidency through the use of home movies filmed by top Nixon aides combined with other historical material. It was directed by Penny Lane.

Overlord (1975 film)

Overlord is a 1975 black-and-white film written and directed by Stuart Cooper. Set around the D-Day invasion ('Operation Overlord'), Overlord is a war film about a young soldier's meditations on being part of the war machinery, and his premonitions of death. The film was entered into the 25th Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the Silver Bear - Special Jury Prize.

Precious Images

Precious Images is a 1986 short film directed by Chuck Workman. It features approximately 470 half-second-long splices of movie moments through the history of American film. Some of the clips are organized by genre and set to appropriate music; musicals, for example, are accompanied by the title song from Singin' in the Rain. Films featured range chronologically from The Great Train Robbery (1903) to Rocky IV (1985), and range in subject from light comedies to dramas and horror films.

Senna (film)

Senna is a 2010 British documentary film that depicts the life and death of Brazilian motor-racing champion Ayrton Senna, directed by Asif Kapadia. The film was produced by StudioCanal, Working Title Films, and Midfield Films, and was distributed by the parent company of the latter two production companies, Universal Pictures.

The film's narrative focuses on Senna's racing career in Formula One, from his debut in the 1984 Brazilian Grand Prix to his death in an accident at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, with particular emphasis on his rivalry with fellow driver Alain Prost. It relies primarily on archive racetrack footage and home video clips provided by the Senna family, rather than retrospective video interviews, and has no formal commentary.

Tarnation (2003 film)

Tarnation is a 2003 American documentary film by Jonathan Caouette. The film was created by Caouette from over 20 years of hundreds of hours of old Super 8 footage, VHS videotape, photographs, and answering machine messages to tell the story of his life and his relationship with his mentally ill mother Renee.

The film was initially made for a total budget of $218.32, using free iMovie software on a Mac. Film critic Roger Ebert, an early supporter, said $400,000 more was eventually spent by the distributor on sound, print, score and music/clip clearances to bring the film to theaters. The film went on to win the Best Documentary Award from the National Society of Film Critics, also was nominated for the Independent Spirits, the Gotham Awards, as well as the L.A. and London International Film Festivals.

The Image Book

The Image Book (French: Le Livre d'image) is a 2018 Swiss avant-garde horror essay film directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Initially titled Tentative de bleu and Image et parole, in December 2016 Wild Bunch co-chief Vincent Maraval stated that Godard had been shooting the film for almost two years "in various Arab countries, including Tunisia" and that it is an examination of the modern Arabic world. Godard told Séance magazine that he was shooting without actors but the film would have a storyteller. It was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. Although it did not win the official prize, the jury awarded it the first "Special Palme d'Or" in the festival's history. According to Godard, the film is intended to be shown on TV screens with speakers at a distance, in small spaces rather than in regular cinemas. It was shown in this way during its first run at the Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne in November 2018.

The Kid Stays in the Picture

The Kid Stays in the Picture is a 1994 autobiography by film producer Robert Evans. A film adaptation of the book was released in 2002.

The title comes from a line attributed to studio head Darryl F. Zanuck, who was defending Evans after some of the actors involved in the film The Sun Also Rises (1957) had recommended he be removed from the cast.

The film adaptation was directed by Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen and released by USA Films. It was screened out of competition at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.

Waking Sleeping Beauty

Waking Sleeping Beauty is a 2009 American documentary film directed by Disney film producer Don Hahn and produced by Hahn and former Disney executive Peter Schneider. The film documents the history of Walt Disney Feature Animation from 1984 to 1994, covering the rise of a period referred to as the Disney Renaissance.

The film uses no new on-camera interviews, instead relying primarily on archival interviews, press kit footage, in-progress and completed footage from the films being covered, and personal film/videos shot (often against company policy) by the employees of the animation studio.

Waking Sleeping Beauty debuted at the 2009 Telluride Film Festival, and played at film festivals across the country before its limited theatrical release on March 26, 2010 by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

What's Up, Tiger Lily?

What's Up, Tiger Lily? is a 1966 American comedy film directed by Woody Allen in his feature-length directorial debut.

Allen took a Japanese spy film, International Secret Police: Key of Keys, and overdubbed it with completely original dialogue that had nothing to do with the plot of the original film. By putting in new scenes and rearranging the order of existing scenes, he completely changed the tone of the film from a James Bond clone into a comedy about the search for the world's best egg salad recipe.During post-production, Allen's original one-hour television version was expanded without his permission to include additional scenes from International Secret Police: A Barrel of Gunpowder, the third film in the International Secret Police series, and musical numbers by the band The Lovin' Spoonful. This experience helped convince Allen that he should secure creative control for all his future projects. The band released a soundtrack album. Louise Lasser, who was married to Allen at the time, served as one of the voice actors for the "new" dialogue soundtrack, as did Mickey Rose, Allen's writing partner on Take the Money and Run (1969) and Bananas (1971). In 2003, Image released the film on DVD, with both the theatrical and television soundtracks. The DVD also offers the 11 minutes of television footage as a separate bonus.

Ça ira - Il fiume della rivolta

Ça ira - Il fiume della rivolta, also released internationally as Thermidor, is an Italian collage film of documentary film and drama film genres directed by Tinto Brass. Taking its name from the popular revolutionary song Ça ira, the film is a critical narrative of 20th century revolutions from 1900 to 1962 and their legacy.

The first film directed by Brass, Ça ira - Il fiume della rivolta was produced in 1962 but it could be premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September 1964, to see theatrical release in December.

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