request - Filmmaker Magazine

By Ed Halter

WHEN AMERICAN FILMMAKER Pip Chodorov worked at a Paris non-profit distribution center in 1994, a chance miscommunication gave him the idea to start Re:Voir, a European video line of avant-garde classics.

"I asked the woman in charge of Maya Deren’s films if we could transfer some to videotape, so people interested in renting the prints could preview them," he remembers. "She misunderstood me and said, ‘Oh, it would be wonderful if you could distribute these films on video!’ Something just clicked and I thought, ‘Hell, we have to do it.’"

With the help of a couple of small investors, Chodorov began releasing the films of Deren, Hans Richter and Patrick Bokanowski on PAL VHS for the European home and institutional markets. Working alone, Chodorov slowly convinced bookshops, video stores and museums to carry Re:Voir. By the end of the decade, his catalogue included over two-dozen releases, including films by Jonas Mekas, Oscar Fischinger and Stan Brakhage, and were sold across Europe, even at places like the French music megastore chain, Fnac. Each film’s release receives a high-quality transfer, smartly-designed packaging and an original booklet about the artist.

Selling Brakhage alongside Britney Spears at chain stores might seem like an unusual achievement, but Chodorov is no stranger to building bridges for the avant-garde world. In the early days of the Internet, he also founded Frameworks, an e-mail list for experimental film, in part so he could keep in touch with U.S. developments. Since 1995, Frameworks has grown into an active community of hundreds of filmmakers, writers, exhibitors and academics.

"A lot of things have happened because of Frameworks that might not otherwise have happened," says Chodorov. "There were many isolated people who were now able to talk to others."

Recently, Re:Voir partnered with New York film archivist Jon Gartenberg to launch Re:Voir USA. So far, stateside releases include Robert Breer, Martin Arnold, Ken Jacobs, among others. The U.S. release of Jonas Mekas’s film diary, This Side of Paradise, even garnered attention in some unlikely places. Thanks to never-before-seen footage of a young JFK Jr., it was covered by supermarket tabloids and featured on Entertainment Tonight.

One thing Re:Voir isn’t planning on doing right away, however, is DVDs. For now, the company is strictly VHS – a decision that strikes mainstream distributors as downright insane (although they’re not ruling out future DVD releases of experimental narratives).

After doing numerous tests, Chodorov claims that DVD data compression inevitably loses key graphic information. In certain abstract single-frame films, this can create unwanted artifacts that ruin visual subtleties. "VHS and DVD both denature the original image," he explains, "but VHS is like a painting converted to a postcard. You’re going to get less resolution and it’s going to look like a reproduction. DVD denatures the image in a different way that has to do with how many frames per second and how movement is created on a screen. And that’s the key factor in a lot of experimental films." Another key factor, of course, is going against the grain, something Re:Voir certainly isn’t afraid to do.

Re:Voir’s U.S. catalog can be found at

For information on Frameworks, visit


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