Showing posts from July, 2010

Tie Xi Qu: West Of The Tracks

I’d so far thought that it was Jia’s The World (2004) that truly summed up the state of the third world in the first decade of the new century. While I’ve not changed my opinion entirely, Wang Bing’s phenomenal DV work Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (2003) forces me to. Epic in scope and size, West of the Tracks is divided into three films subtitled Rust, Remnants and Rails. Between 1999 and 2001, when China had embarked on a mission of mass privatization of the country, Bing lived and shot this film in the district of Shenyang located in the city of Tie Xi in northeastern China where smelting and electrical industries were to be closed down. These industries were purportedly established by the Japanese to help them produce ammunitions for the war, but were nationalized after Japanese retreat. Although these factories were doing well till about the eighties, the profits started waning by the mid-nineties (due to bad management, some workers say) and, by the end of the decade, the fact

The Films Of Lisandro Alonso

It is sort of funny to write about the works of Lisandro Alonso after writing about the films of Lav Diaz whose one film runs for longer than the entire filmography of this Argentine director. That just goes to show how different filmmakers, even when working towards similar goals, have different perspectives about the length of their films. Diaz and Alonso share a lot in common as far as their aesthetic choices are concerned. Just that Diaz’s narrative tends to be much more expansive than the latter’s. It is highly interesting that, despite this striking disparity, these filmmakers are two of the most important discoveries of last decade. However, one could argue that, unlike the very “Filipino” Diaz, Alonso is not a very “Argentine” filmmaker and that he is not even remotely interested in the national politics of his country. Even his films would testify that he is not overtly concerned with politics of any kind. Alonso instead seems to take the sociopolitical situation of his coun

The Films Of Lav Diaz

Filipino director Lavrente Diaz is a very versatile artist. He started out as a guitarist (He recently released a music album to accompany his latest film), then wrote plays and short stories for television (a period he seems to hate, as is made clear in his works), later started writing poems (the poems that feature in his films are written by him) and then, in the early 90s, decided that he’ll be a professional filmmaker. The later films of the director present the same kind of problem to both commercial multiplexes and film festival screens – their length. His last four feature films have a total run time of around 36 hours! Diaz believes the long length of his films is an extremely crucial part of his aesthetic and radically alters the way in which the audience converses with his films. There is another specific problem in screening Diaz’s films world wide. That he is a very “Filipino” filmmaker. All his works are deeply rooted in the country’s history and politics. Any attempt to

Meditation mode? (bore)

There is a readers' letter in Sight & Sound (Aug 2010, published 2 weeks before August!), paraphrasing Nick James' editorial (S&S July 2010), from a spectator who cares more about the subjective comfort in a theatre seat than about the content of a film program. The only important point to discuss in there is the "meditation mode" : the idea that CCC lovers would walk in a theatre (after tracking down the only one playing that film, and having longed for months or years for its public release) just for a relaxation appointment, using the filmic material as mere "elevator music"... This assumption is insulting, not only for the spectators, but for the filmmakers' work. Here is another misconception about CCC : boredom is not an end in itself. And that's what detractors call it, out of ignorance. Modern Cinema called it "ennui" in the 60ies, which had the snub distinction of borrowed French vocabulary. Ennui is an existential state

To cut or not to cut... (Klinger/Rousseau)

FID 2010 vidéochroniques #5 from Independencia (11 juin 2010; Marseille, France) Gabe Klinger : "Directors don't know how to make decisions about editing anymore. Because it's easier to put a camera somewhere and capture something. They are not risking anything! I'm sorry to say it like that but I think they are very safe" Jean-Claude Rousseau : "Editing is a very important question. To keep a [plan sequence] without cutting, [to edit a long-take with the rest], is some kind of courage filmmakers were not able to dare have years ago. Because from a point of view, the easiest thing to do is to cut. But standing a long shot is not as easy." Here is the main conundrum at the root of the anti-slow movement (exemplified in this video). Somehow there is a pervading mindset amongst film critics against long takes. They forgot it all about Bazin's "Montage interdit". They forgot that cinema used to be much slower before the 90ies. They forgot tha

Being Cassandra (Nick James 2)

In April, Sight and Sound told us that festival programmers couldn't do their job, that critics revered bad films. Basically, S&S excludes itself from the artfilm system, and Nick James is better than all festivals and all critics combined (which is a facile self-affirmative presumption!). In June (graciously invited at the Budapest's Titanic Film Festival), Nick James declares that their line-up sucks (to copy what Gavin Smith did with Rotterdam earlier!) because this "regional festival" is too small for him. In July (in response to my articles he was kind enough to read!), he proceeds to back pedal in a passive-aggressive manner. This time he tells us that the readers of his column, international cinéphiles (aka "cheerleaders" according to Adrian Martin), fail to stir up fiery debates (I also wish his readers were less complacent towards whatever he publishes!), and that international film critics are a "too quiet critical fraternity" (I a

Longest slices of life

Global Lives Project ( website ) Berkeley, USA. 2004-2010 Our mission is to collaboratively build a video library of human life experience that reshapes how we as both producers and viewers conceive of cultures, nations and people outside of our own communities. Framed by the arc of the day and conveyed through the intimacy of video, we have slowly and faithfully captured 24 continuous hours in the lives of 10 people from around the world [China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Malawi, Serbia, Brazil, USA]. They are screened here in their own right, but also in relation to one another. There is no narrative other than that which is found in the composition of everyday life, no overt interpretations other than that which you may bring to it. By extending the long take to a certain extreme and infusing it with the spirit of cinema verité, we invite audiences to confer close attention onto other worlds, and simultaneously reflect upon their own. The for

Boonmee contemplatif (Ganzo)

L'absolu CANNES 2010 (6) : UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES par Fernando Ganzo (traduction de Emilie Garcia); elumière , Juin 2010 extrait: "Joe aborde le cinéma en privilégiant sa radicalité d’art de la durée, du temps, sa capacité à reproduire, à chaque plan, la nature de l’instant : le mystère, l’incertitude, la menace de ce qui est imminent, et qui prend corps dans le changement de plan, dans l’irruption de l’énigme. Procédés dont le réalisateur profite pour créer ce présent qui, dans le cinéma, peut être projeté avec une linéarité visuelle, alors qu’il nous permet de voyager d’une époque à une autre, à travers les temps, au niveau du récit. [..] C’est à ce titre qu’il nous est permis de situer le film et l’œuvre de Weerasethakul dans les rangs du « cinéma contemplatif », caractérisé non seulement par une attente face à l’imminence de l’inconnu, mais également par la ferme croyance défendant l’idée selon laquelle le simple fait d’observer un arbre, un buffle, l

contemplation d'autrui et plénitude

« Voilà exactement ce que nous dit Plotin : toute chose se réjouit, toute chose se réjouit d'elle-même, et elle se réjouit d'elle-même parce qu'elle contemple l'autre. Vous voyez, non pas parce qu'elle se réjouit d'elle-même. Toute chose se réjouit parce qu'elle contemple l'autre. Toute chose est une contemplation, et c'est ça qui fait sa joie. C'est-à-dire que la joie c'est la contemplation remplie. Elle se réjouit d'elle-même à mesure que sa contemplation se remplit. Et bien entendu ce n'est pas elle qu'elle contemple. En contemplant l'autre chose, elle se remplit d'elle-même. La chose se remplit d'elle-même en contemplant l'autre chose. Et il dit : et non seulement les animaux, non seulement les âmes, vous et moi, nous sommes des contemplations remplies d'elles-mêmes. Nous sommes des petites joies. » Gilles Deleuze, extrait du cours du 17 mars 1987 à l'université de Vincennes

Paradigmes historiques du classicisme

Divergence Post-Renaissance des Arts picturaux en Orient (qui demeurent "primitif") et en Occident (qui deviennent "classique") : 1. Art Oriental 2. Art Occidental Tragédie (scène) Représentation dramatique (drame) 2D (unité de ton) 3D (relief, volume) Annales Histoire Récit Roman Sagesse Psychologie Contemplation Acte (action) Dieux Homme Conscience de l'Autre Besoin fanatique de l'Objet in André Malraux, " Esquisse d'une psychologie du cinéma ", 1945 Pour se libérer des instants de mort, le roman a la page blanche entre les parties, le théâtre l'entr'acte; le cinéma n'a pas grand chose. Un professionel répondra qu'il se dispose de la division en séquences; que chaque séquence se termine par un fondu, et que le fondu suggère au spectateur le passage du temps. C'est vrai, mais d'une façon toute relative : il suggère le passage d'un temps dans lequel il n