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Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

HONG Sang-soo's favourite films (2017)

Hong Sang-soo shares his top10 favourite films and you'll be surprised, it's full of contemplative cinema 

  • L'Atalante (1934/Jean VIGO)
  • Barque sortant du port / Boat leaving the port (1897/Louis LUMIERE)
  • Boudu sauvé des eaux / Boudu Saved From Drawing (1942/Jean RENOIR)
  • Early Summer (1951/OZU Yasujiro)
  • Le rayon vert / The Green Ray (1986/Eric Rohmer)
  • Un condamné à mort s'est échappé / A Man Escaped (1956/Robert Bresson)
  • Nanook of the North (1922/FLAHERTY)
  • Nazarin (1959/Luis BUÑUEL)
  • Ordet (1955/DREYER)
  • Young Mister Lincoln (1939/FORD)

Saturday, June 06, 2020

CCC 1967-2020 by auteur

CCC 1967-2020 par auteur UNSPOKEN CINEMA
Films made by 22 recurrent Contemporary Contemplative Cinema figureheads since 1967
Google sheet]

It's time to update the CCC timeline 2008, I hastly put together 12 years ago, at the origin of this blog.
I had omitted back then Peter Hutton, Franco Piavoli, Tacita Dean, Elia Suleiman, Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Sergei Loznitsa & Kazuhiro Soda, who I didn't know, as well as most of James Benning's output. But a few also don't make the cut this time around (Omirbaev, Kore-eda, Costa, Ceylan, JZK, GVS, Martin, Escalante, Serra) for various reasons (too few CCC films, too "speechy"/narrative in comparison to the other main figureheads, but it doesn't mean they are not contemplative, just they are not part of the chosen few CCC role models)... in order to paint a clear picture, more radical, of this new narrative cohort.

One thing did change : the year of debut of this narrative mode, now 1967 instead of 1970. In restrospect, we can see clearly now the years between 2002 and 2007 showed a solid production at its peak (the most dot density on the grid of this chart). Which marked the start of the first CCC blogathon in 2007. Followed by the weakest year in 2008 with only 7 films out of the 22 masters.

Starting in 1967 with the earliest CCC master : Frederick Wiseman's Titicut Follies. (USA) opening a continuous series of immersive documentaries without narrator. 

In 1970 it's The Bread and the Alley by Abbas Kiarostami (Iran) who was making wordless educational documentaries at the Kanun, but he would make his first feature length fiction film in 1974 (The Passenger). And from 1971, Chantal Akerman (Belgium) was making experimental short films in NYC, until she directed her CCC masterpiece Jeanne Dielman (1976). In the Seventies, it was only Wiseman, Kiarostami and Akerman, joined by Peter Hutton (USA) in 1979 with silent Black & White documentaries.

The Eighties brought forth Franco Piavoli (Italy) since 1982, joined by Aleksander Sokurov (Russia) in 1986 with a streak of documentaries and film essays (He singlehandedly produced 35 CCC films between 1987 and 2011 without counting the short films!). Here we note a thin spot between 1979 and 1985, when fewer CCC films were made by the early CCC auteurs. With zero films at all in 1985. What is the socio-economic explanation there? You tell me...

In the Nineties, 7 more auteurs emerge (or get to make CCC films from then on) : Sharunas Bartas (Lithuania), Tsai Ming liang (Taiwan), Béla Tarr (Hungary), Tacita Dean (UK), Elia Suleiman (Palestine), James Benning (USA), & Nikolaus Geyrhalter (Austria).

By the beginning of the 21st century, between the years 2000 and 2003, the next 8 figureheads appeared : Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand), Roy Andersson (Sweden), Lav Diaz (The Philippines), Lisandro Alonso (Argentina), Wang Bing (China), Sergei Loznitsa (Russia), Carlos Reygadas (Mexico) and Benedek Fliegauf (Hungary). Which added an unprecedented complement of 10 more auteurs within 4 years (between 1999 and 2003), and doubled the number of figureheads on this chart in this short period.
Finally in 2007 Kazuhiro Soda (Japan) switched gear and began doing "Observational Films". For the rest of the first decades of the new millenium, it was a flurry of young CCC directors who made less than 5 films so far, but might become longstanding figureheads in the future... 

Most people believe that CCC initiated in the 2000s when this narrative family became visible in numbers. But by looking at this chart, it's easy to overlook quality for quantity. By 2000 major CCC masterpieces defining this narrative mode had been produced and shown in festivals, even if some of them are quite obscure : 
  • 3/5 of Wiseman oeuvre, 
  • Jeanne Dielman (1976), 
  • The Blue Planet (1982), 
  • Where is the Friend's House (1987), 
  • Damnation (1988), 
  • Three Days (1991), 
  • D'Est (1993), 
  • Satantango (1994), 
  • Vive l'Amour (1994), 
  • Spiritual Voices (1995), 
  • Few of Us (1996), 
  • Chronicle of a Disappearance (1996), 
  • Voices Through Time (1996), 
  • Disappearance at Sea (1996),
  • The River (1997), 
  • A Humble Life (1997), 
  • Mother and Son (1997)...

Tragically, we also lost the great Chantal Akerman (1950-2015), Abbas Kiarostami (1940-2016) and Peter Hutton (1944-2016). Noted by an asterisk.
It was also the start of an indefinite hiatus for feature fiction films by Tarr (2011) who went into teaching and museum installations, Tsai (2013) who went for personnal documentaries, and Weerasethakul (2015) who delved fully into art installations.

This graph shows the population of films by auteurs in one glance, it also tells us the hiatus between each new production. There are prolific auteurs who make one or more films each year (like Wiseman, Sokurov, Benning, Diaz). And there are other auteurs who struggle to find fundings for their projects (like Piavoli, Tarr, Suleiman, Geyrhalter, Andersson, Alonso, Reygadas).

It is interesting to note that 12 out of these 22 figureheads are documentarians (either exclusively or in parallel to a fiction oeuvre). Thus defining the CCC family with a strong anchoring in the documentary image : experimental, wordless, elegiac, essayistic, observational... Its fiction counterpart is never far from a documentary process either because the frontier between documentary and fiction is blurred more than ever within the bounderies of this family.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Apichatpong WEERASETHAKUL's cinema of Now (FILMKRANT)

Last month Apichatpong WEERASETHAKUL sent an open letter to the Netherlands's zine Filmkrant (May 2nd 2020) in response to another lockdown letter written by his Chinese peer JIA Zhangke. (This mail connection between CCC masters reminds me of Correspondancia(s) a series of video letters between pairs of CCC masters)

To Apichatpong, (mainstream) cinema is like a journey, and each plot point is a mini-destination along the way, the dramatic denouement is the destination of the journey. Such is the "art" of classical cinema, to make spectators forget about time and to propel them to their destination.

He aptly compares cinema to a road trip, and the mainstream audience to impatient children at the back of the car. They scream for a destination in sight and get bored of the repeated scenery by the windows.
As the audience grows older, they learn to be patient (learn to be patient??? I want to be patient now!), and embraces the scenery by the window, without worrying so much for the eventual destination. In other words he's saying that the CCC audience is more mature and patient than the mainstream audience who finds everything boring and craves for action-action-action.

Maybe Apichatpong was thinking of his short segment "Mobile Men" for the omnibus film Stories on Human Rights (2008) :

Mobile Men (2008/WEERASETHAKUL) segment in Stories on Human Rights

"We try to observe our surroundings, emotions, actions, time, impermanence. When the future is uncertain, the now becomes valuable."

The "Cinema of Now", as he calls it, is something else, without destination.
The Covid-19 crisis has taught us to look at reality differently, with our internal clock and external clock. Some people, during virus lockdow, have developped the ability to stare at things for a long time, to stay in the present moment longer than usual. 

"They need a cinema that is closer to real life, in real time."

In his fantasy scenario, the virus lockdown has trained a new spieces of spectators who demand films by Béla Tarr, Tsai Ming-Liang, Lucrecia Martel, maybe Apichatpong and Pedro Costa, among others... and all these obscure CCC masters become megastars, famous, mainstream and rich. The fantasy scenario escalates some more, to a point that I can only see as a nudge/jab at Contemporary Contemplative Cinema (aka CCC) :

“We demand zero plots, no camera movement, no cuts, no music, nothing. [...] Our cinema has no place for psychological gratifications. The perpetual destination is the audience, the enlightened.”

The entitled crowd would then see "Slow Cinema" as to fast for them and summon a manifesto to call for more slowness and less of everything else : the Covid-19 Cinema Manifesto (aka CCM). He describes a structuralist precursor of CCC, (for example Andy Warhol, Michael Snow, John Cage, Bill Viola...) see Stasis films 1 (conceptual) or Stasis films 2 (landscape) or Stasis films 3 (behaviourist)

Then a wink at the Slow Film Festival (or maybe le Film International du Film Chiant) he introduces us to the "Nothing Film Festival" where films are nothing more than a dim light projected on a theatre screen. (see Nuit noire sur l'écran de cinéma)

And this phase is only to reset the cinema culture back to its origins with Lumière brothers single "views" of a scenery

Thank you very much for this dream Apichatpong Weerasethakul.


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