Unspoken Cinema 2012 banner

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sin Titulo

At The Evening Class, Michael Guillen interviews a film student from Berkeley, Matt Losada, and about his non-conventional film, Sin Título (2007). They talk about so-called "boring" films:

Michael Guillén: In the Q&A after the program you spoke a bit about being fond of "boring" films; what are you referencing in particular?

Matt Losada: I meant "boring" in quotes, of course. It's a matter of expectations, like when you tell someone they just have to see a certain film, then sometimes afterward they avoid mentioning it, and if you ask about it they say it was slow or boring. If they're used to lots of camera movement, lots of cutting, dense narration, they'll find certain films boring. I think this is what Pedro Costa meant when he said how lots of commercial films need to create "energy" where sometimes there is none. So I suppose I might have been apologizing for my piece not being like that. But I think that "boring" films are often much richer films, so I was trying for that kind of richness in the piece.

The story told provided a good opportunity to use the frame as a immobile boundary between what you see and what you don't see. At the end you see my cousin's photos, which I tried to respond to in the form of the individual shots, and that called for a fixed frame and long takes. So I started out lots of the shots as empty spaces, abstracted because there are no people for scale, and then I didn't move the camera at all. So the frame forms a strong boundary between what's on screen and what's off, and you can play with that divide, especially with the sound. When you're not following the elements of the story around with the camera, or cutting to different shots to follow what's important to advance the narration, then the off-screen space becomes pure opportunity to use sound to create a world out there. Sound takes on a completely different dimension, one that's not there if you don't establish that code, that you're not going to move the camera, or cut to tell the viewer what he should be looking at. So the minimal story allowed this, and the photos provided a reason to fix the frame and use long takes, which results in the "boring" I was referring to.

I tried to play with this boredom too. [For example,] in the endless shot of him building the camera, the phone starts to ring and he doesn't answer it, and it keeps ringing and ringing. The interval between each ring gets a tiny bit longer each time. I was trying to create that feeling of relief when you think it has stopped …but then the thing rings again … and again, until he finally gets up and leaves, [which] probably most of the audience wanted to do by that point. His photos also allow chance to come into play. Some are from the camera with the three pinholes, and they make three images of the same thing appear, but each image is different, because the pinholes aren't exactly alike, and the light kind of scrapes through on the rough edges and bounces around, creating all kinds of effects on the images. This element of chance is also present in a different way in the video shots, which show simple things like my cousin waiting to cross the street, and the city provides the rest, like people passing into the frame, smoke, dogs, sounds, all these little events. With video you can shoots lots of takes and eventually something interesting will happen.

To get back to the question, specific directors that are "boring", but in a very good way: the first [who] comes to mind is Ozu. Maybe Kiarostami. My favorite of all is Bresson. There's a great Argentine film from the '60s I showed in my course called El dependiente [1969] by Leonardo Favio. And some experimental films … Chantal Akerman is great, her Jeanne Dielman [1975] is a wonderful use of long takes and repetition with variation. Michael Snow's Wavelength [1967] is another. These films take you mental places where more narrative cinema can't go. If you describe them to someone, they sound really horrendous, but hidden in that "boredom" is a wonderfully rich perceptive experience. There are lots of newer narrative films. One that uses a fixed frame and very long takes and narrates with just sound, but in a different way, playing with different temporalities, is Hamaca paraguaya [2006] by Paz Encina. It's a film about waiting, which motivates the form. I showed it to my students, they'd never seen anything at all like it … some of them loved it, felt really strongly about it. Another good one, in a different way, is Honor de cavalleria [2006] by Albert Serra. Don Quijote and Sancho Panza's down time, when they're hanging out between adventures. It sounds kind of boring, doesn't it?

1 comment:

Maya said...

Harry, thanks for giving Matthew a shout-out. He's a fine mind and I hope to see more of his work in the future.