As you well know it was God who created this Earth and everything on it. And he thought it was all great. All painters and poets and musicians sang and celebrated the creation and that was all OK. But not for real. Something was missing. So about 100 years ago God decided to create the motion picture camera. And he did so. And then he created a filmmaker and said, “Now here is an instrument called the motion picture camera. Go and film and celebrate the beauty of the creation and the dreams of human spirit, and have fun with it.”
But the devil did not like that. So he placed a money bag in front of the camera and said to the filmmakers, ‘Why do you want to celebrate the beauty of the world and the spirit of it if you can make money with this instrument?” And, believe it or not, all the filmmakers ran after the money bag. The Lord realized he had made a mistake. So, some 25 years later, to correct his mistake, God created independent avant-garde filmmakers and said, “Here is the camera. Take it and go into the world and sing the beauty of all creation, and have fun with it. But you will have a difficult time doing it, and you will never make any money with this instrument.”
Thus spoke the Lord to Viking Eggeling, Germaine Dulac, Jean Epstein, Fernand Leger, Dmitri Kirsanoff, Marcel Duchamp, Hans Richter, Luis Bunuel, Man Ray, Cavalcanti, Jean Cocteau, and Maya Deren, and Sidney Peterson, and Kenneth Anger, Gregory Markopoulos, Stan Brakhage, Marie Menken, Bruce Baillie, Francis Lee, Harry Smith and Jack Smith and Ken Jacobs, Ernie Gehr, Ron Rice, Michael Snow, Joseph Cornell, Peter Kubelka, Hollis Frampton and Barbara Rubin, Paul Sharits, Robert Beavers, Christopher McLaine, and Kurt Kren, Robert Breer, Dore O, Isidore Isou, Antonio De Bernardi, Maurice Lemaitre, and Bruce Conner, and Klaus Wyborny, Boris Lehman, Bruce Elder, Taka Iimura, Abigail Child, Andrew Noren and too many others. Many others all over the world. And they took their Bolexs and their little 8mm and Super 8 cameras and began filming the beauty of this world, and the complex adventures of the human spirit, and they’re having great fun doing it. And the films bring no money and do not do what’s called useful.
And the museums all over the world are celebrating the one-hundredth anniversary of cinema, costing them millions of dollars the cinema makes, all going gaga about their Hollywoods. But there is no mention of the avant-garde or the independents of our cinema.
I have seen the brochures, the programs of the museums and archives and cinematheques around the world. But these say, “we don’t care about your cinema.” In the times of bigness, spectaculars, one hundred million dollar movie productions, I want to speak for the small, invisible acts of human spirit: so subtle, so small, that they die when brought out under the Klieg lights. I want to celebrate the small forms of cinema: the lyrical form, the poem, the watercolor, etude, sketch, portrait, arabesque, and bagatelle, and little 8mm songs. In the times when everybody wants to succeed and sell, I want to celebrate those who embrace social and daily failure to pursue the invisible, the personal things that bring no money and no bread and make no contemporary history, art history or any other history. I am for art which we do for each other, as friends.
I am standing in the middle of the information highway and laughing, because a butterfly on a little flower somewhere in China just fluttered its wings, and I know that the entire history, culture will drastically change because of that fluttering. A Super 8mm camera just made a little soft buzz somewhere, somewhere on the lower east side of New York, and the world will never be the same.
The real history of cinema is invisible history: history of friends getting together, doing the thing they love. For us, the cinema is beginning with every new buzz of the projector, with every new buzz of our cameras. With every new buzz of our cameras, our hearts jump forward my friends.
— Jonas Mekas
(Presented at the American Center in Paris, February 11, 1996.)
Northwest Film Forum
Mirror Maze Reflections from Werner Herzog’s Rogue Film School
by Juan Gabriel Gutierrez
“Look, there is only one way to kill a monster, and that is: to embrace him.”
(J. Cortázar, Minotaur - The Kings)
In the very early 1990’s, while in my incipient bookworm stages, I was devouring all of what Julio Cortázar, the Argentinean enfant terrible, had written. One of his first books that I came across was ‘The Kings’ (Los Reyes, 1949), a play based on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, but with a variation on it: Ariadne has not fallen for Theseus, but for the beast that inhabits the centre of the labyrinth. What she truly intends with the thread given to Theseus is for the Minotaur to escape.
Cortázar sees this half-bull half-man beast not as the youth-devouring monster but as the poet, the free outsider that society immediately isolates with prejudice and in psychiatric wards. This monster is the same creative beast that resides deep inside us, waiting to be freed. Let to run wild.
Through the years, my voracious appetite for books extended, feeding myself with film, music and sounds from every direction, taking me to unknown places and territories. ‘The world reveals itself to those who travel on foot’ is one of Werner Herzog’s mantras that still keep echoing. Standing at the doors of the mirror maze that the Rogue Film School is, the voice of the Bavarian mythological titan invites to step in. The unknown. On this journey, the hero has to face fear. In faraway lands and isolation. In extreme weather or sensory deprivation. In facing the shadow and facing the Other. The director must know the heart of gods and men.
“I’ll come down to inhabit their dreams, and those of their children, and those of their heirs. From there I will gore your throne and its vulnerable sceptre… from there I will attain my final, ubiquitous freedom: the tiny and horrible labyrinth in every human heart.” (J. Cortázar, Minotaur - The Kings)
Reflections of faces, of sixty or so journeys and stories. Sharing passions and fears. Gathered together for four days, like in a vision quest, waiting to hear and be blessed. Armed with guts and teeth, reason and heart, the creative beast awaits. ‘There is nothing glamorous about filmmaking’. We are all rogues here!
I would have been at ease if on those days we would have just held a vow of silence. Stillness. Witnessing in the middle of the labyrinth the presence of the beast, I’ve seen the fire burning. And it’s inside me.
Looking in all directions I see the same. Mirrors reflecting each other, multiplying what’s within. Voices waiting to be heard, story to be told.
To complete this rite of passage in the middle of the looking glass mandala, the Ch’an tradition would advise to behead the Bavarian beast. What Kinski failed to do, is for us to achieve. Kill the Minotaur. It’s time to run wild and free.
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” (Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces)
*Note: In taking this journey, I’m grateful to all the people who supported me in one way or another. If it weren’t for your thoughts, words, contributions and care, I wouldn’t have made it this far. May all what you have selflessly given, return to you multiplied. I thank you and carry you dearly. – JG
** ‘Killing The Minotaur: Mirror Maze Reflections from Werner Herzog’s Rogue Film School’ is part of the ‘Rogue School Diaries’, a book published by 77 Books.
After the delight that was “Closure of Catharsis” by Rouzbeh Rashidi with actor James Devereaux, it is with great interest that I attended the evening of Experimental Film Society shorts, organized again by Juan Gabriel Gutierrez at Café Kino in Bristol.
This time we were treated to nine shorts by a panel of filmmakers belonging to the Experimental Film Society. The similarity of goals with the remodernist ideas was very quickly apparent: authenticity, low or no-budget, lack of linear or obvious plot, use of a deeply cinematic language, exploration of various levels of human consciousness and playing with time. As these films are created to leave much freedom of interpretation to the viewer, I’ve allowed myself here to give my personal understanding of them.
In “Padded Sleeve” a middle-aged man applies himself to building a wooden birdhouse. He places it in his garden with great care and sits on a bench waiting for the birds to come. All around him, the rustling of soft wind in the tree branches, the play of sunlight through the leaves… We are in the garden with the man. It feels deliciously peaceful. But the man gets up and looks for the birds that have not yet deigned to grace his birdhouse. He can hear their singing but they remain elusive. His disappointment is palpable, genuine and child-like. Something we’ve all experienced.
In “Toutes ces choses N°1” by Bahar Samadi, the capture of a moment in time, individual yet universal. A game of dice, hands and faces of two men, a silent choir and orchestra on the TV in the background… Until TV, film and the audience (us) briefly combine when we hear a few bars of music, the finale of the concert played by the orchestra. To me, it seemed to say that every moment is as important as the other: that these men’s game of chess in their flat has as much value as the televised, grand concert in the background.
In “A&B - Situations series” also by Bahar Samadi, the screen is divided into two screens. Two people, one on each screen. A man and a woman. The way they are portrayed suggests a conversation, yet they are filmed in different ways: different parts of their faces are focussed on, different angles… The conversation appears disjointed; it is soundless but for a sort of hissing.
We think we can communicate but we all come to it from our own very personal angle. And yet we do come together, we meet. The two screens finally portray the same scene…
“The Good Man has no Shape” by Kamyar Kordestani was the first of my four favourite shorts of the evening. An older man goes to a younger man’s house. They talk but no dialogue is heard. We can hear a man speak on the TV, but when they sit in front of it the screen is blank. The scene then changes to the same layout but the two people on the sofa are the young man with a young woman (whose shoes we saw in the entrance hall at the beginning of the film). Moreover the light is red. We can see the reflection of the TV flicker in the dining room window. Same absence of communication, but their sitting stance reflects each other. The young woman gets up and goes in the kitchen to clean. The young man leaves to get some cigarettes. Later on he comes back and the old man comes back into the main room. They sit again side by side on the sofa in front of the TV. We see that what they’re watching on the TV screen is the young woman. Our sense of reality is challenged. The real and the unreal intertwine. Is the TV more than a sort of smokescreen that isolates the characters from each other? Does it represent the projection of their thoughts? Between the three characters, no obvious communication, and yet…
In “Something Fishy” by Hamid Shams Javi, the second of my favourite films, the black and white images are poetic and beautiful. There’s a story, but “not as you know it”. An attractive young woman wakes up one morning with a deep sense of foreboding. A voice-over (her voice) tells us what she’s thinking: “It seems something’s fishy”. She gets up. The camera follows her in the kitchen, lingers on everyday objects, on their inherent beauty. A milk bottle, framed in a way that changes it into a work of art; the milk coming to the boil on the hob… The sound of a distant radio, the songs of bird… We feel the texture of reality, but in a way that we rarely experienced, we are tuned into its intrinsic beauty. It’s like a rediscovery of the value of everydayness.
The young woman has her breakfast, without appetite, dunking her biscuit in her milk. Her eyes absent. Cut to a shot of the outside. There’s something brewing.
A phone call interrupts the quietness. The sense of foreboding increases. Then another call. Beauty of the patterns made by the milk she spits out in shock on her glass table. Something’s happened.
Blank screen. Later on, the young woman at her breakfast table is now joined by a young man. Silence. Then “What’s happened to him?” The young man slides towards her on the table a box of cremated ashes: “He wanted us to cremate him”. “How?” She asks. ”He set himself on fire in his flat.”
We focus on the young woman’s eyes. All becomes red, the colour of fire. In a rectangular shape (the shape of the box of ashes), we see flames, and behind them, the figure of a man. All that’s left? A last word repeated several times, like the last line of a poem: “Cartilage!”
“Where to?” by Michael Higgins is a comedic study of time, repetition, ritual and circularity. This black and white film has a circular structure. It’s very pared down in terms of set and protagonists. An almost empty car park next to a closed warehouse. There are two camera points: a wide angled one embracing the whole car park and a close-up on the car. A man A in a white shirt comes out of the warehouse. He climbs into his car and stays in the stationary vehicle with his arm outside of the driver window. Close-up on the car. A different man in a cap, man B, is now in the car. He starts it and leaves the space. The space remains empty. We hear the man drive around the car park and see him return to his previous space. Man B changes into man A, who leans against his car, taps on its roof and goes back into the warehouse. The same actions are repeated three times with very minor variations until the last time, when an old fashion jazz soundtrack is heard and the camera goes into wide-angle. Man A drives around the car park several times then parks back in his old space. The end or is it?
The penultimate of my four favourite films of the evening was “Homo Sapiens Project (1)” by Rouzbeh Rashidi. This film was beautiful and seemed to be about capturing the magic of a few moments, a few memories. The beginning is a series of flashing, blurred images in mute colours, with a sort of deep and brooding ambient soundtrack – like a deep, universal breath. It’s as if we have to readjust the way we are seeing or are plunged into another level of experience/consciousness. A young woman is alone in her kitchen. The images are interspersed with moments of black screen, like the blinking of our eyes. The same young woman is alone on a bench by the side of an urban river. We go back inside. It’s dark. Someone opens a window. It’s sunny again, green trees are swaying gently in a light wind. Then the atmosphere changes as the brooding soundtrack changes into an old fashioned paso-doble. We’re then in a park where couples are dancing in a big bandstand. Gradually the deep ambient breath reappears in the soundtrack and, once the dance is finished, eventually takes over. Cut to the round visor of a camera through which a man’s legs and feet are seen to walk or do some dance steps on a deep red carpet. Last glimpse, like a signature, gives us the identity of the man: Rouzbeh Rashidi.
The last film (and the last of my four favourites), “Hereunder” by Maximilian Le Cain (with Vicky Langan), I experienced as a twisted, music-less ballet version of a dream or of someone’s inner landscape. I interpreted the title as meaning “what lies beneath”. The beautiful and dreamlike imagery of a woman in a derelict workshop exploring various cubby-holes, full of old junk, while being haunted by images of water and by the fear of drowning, suggested to me both powerfully and poetically a journey into one’s psyche. (Water being the element of femininity but also of the unconscious; and cubby-holes with doors being a well-known metaphor for the various parts of the memory and of the brain.)
In conclusion, another great evening of films that make you think and feel in a way that is truly creative and beautifully free. As with the remodernist films and the wonderful “Closure of Catharsis”, it was an inspiring antidote to the artificial, formulaic and mind numbing mainstream films.
Thank you Experimental Film Society people. We really do need you!
Review by Véronique Martin
“Closure of Catharsis”
by Rouzbeh Rashidi with John Devereaux,
a film inspired by the Remodernist Film Manifesto.
Shown on Tuesday 11th October 2011 at Café Kino in Bristol
(an evening organized by Juan Gabriel Gutiérrez).
I love ambient music. This may be a strange way to start a movie review, but I promise it has some relevance. To many, ambient music is boring: nothing happens. But it is a misconception (at least in the case of good ambient). What it does is that it tunes our ear to a lower level of stimulation and makes us actually much more sensitive to subtle changes and detail. Try to listen to silence, you’ll understand.
Rouzbeh Rashidi’s film does just that. It removes us from the massive overload of sounds and images that a hectic life provides, from the ridiculous amount of stimulation offered by most types of entertainment — in particular by mainstream cinema. It effectively retunes us to a frequency that is closer to our deep, natural rhythm. It allows us to pause and reflect. And magically in doing so it never bores us.
From the first image of James Devereaux sitting on a bench in the middle of an urban park, we are grabbed. It comes first from James’s massively watchable persona but also from the quality of the soft black and white images and of Rouzbeh Rashidi’s art of filming.
The film is an experiment. James was told by Rouzbeh that he would film a trial two hour long take alone in a London park with a view to doing a feature film. His character was to be a man trying to remember an incident forgotten after a trauma.
The first seven minutes are silent (a lesser actor might have felt compelled to start talking earlier) but James’s face is a world in itself: a world of constantly changing micro-expressions. We can read the thoughts passing through his mind and watch his reactions to the park around him. To me, as a writer, it felt like an incredible treat to be able to watch a human face at close range and at length without feeling like a creep. Moreover, because of the total honesty and naturalness of James’s acting, there was nothing that felt untrue or contrived. And when I was not relishing the wide range of expressions on his face, I was looking at the park around him: at the trees, the lawns, the passers-by (Rouzbeh doing a couple of Hitchcockian appearances in the background).
After seven minutes, the first prompt was given to James off camera. An advert for Vodaphone. His face lit up (as it did each time he interacted with the director). But he didn’t pounce on it, just acknowledged it and read it aloud. There were several other prompts, but they were not as important in shaping his stream of consciousness, as were the inner workings of his mind and his interactions with other park users.
His first musings took the shape of a reflection on time: how boring it would be to live a really long life following the same everyday routine. His outlook was fresh and funny and the charm started to operate. His fear of big dogs and his rooting for squirrels; his recognition of the weirdness and vulnerability of his situation (on his own in the middle of London with a camera turned on him); his repeatedly trying to get back to what he was talking about before being interrupted; his playfully turning the lens of a camera on the director and on us; all contributed to our getting acquainted with the quirkiness and idiosyncrasies of a real person behind the possible masks (even if this person was a character played by an actor). What could have been an excruciating exercise in post-modernist, navel-gazing self-awareness was instead an endearingly candid and honest experience.
The first cut-away from James took place thirty minutes into the film and seemed somewhat related to what he was saying (talking of strange characters in the park and of drunkenness). It was a grainy and dark sequence of youths dancing in a bus stop at night, which was made all the more otherworldly and sinister by the juddery way it was filmed. The strange and mysterious beauty of the images made me feel that we were suddenly taken to another level of consciousness. As if the curtain of reality had been briefly lifted, and we could glimpse some deeper if enigmatic truth.
The other cut-aways were rather less than more obviously linked to James’s monologue, but they happened at moments of significance or pathos in his gradual confession. They were linked thematically by their melancholy beauty and by their depiction of people at moments in their lives where they were in waiting (whether the waiting was somewhat alleviated by a saxophone or a Danish pastry!). Landscapes were seen in passing, from a train or a car window, from the top of a bridge or the platform of a station. The way the pictures were framed gave them a special value: the mundane, although never embellished, being endowed with meaning, transformed into a work of art.
When we would come back to James’s monologue, the picture and sound got sharper. It was a relief as if we were allowed back home to the surface. His monologue unfolded in a roundabout way, allowing his mind to make links that his character didn’t necessarily want to make (as between the television and the Yorkshire terrier). Going from humorous observations to gripping (but never glib or sentimental) admissions (for instance about his Yorkshire terrier runt), we were taken on a deep human journey that never ceased to absorb, intrigue and entertain.
At the end, it felt as if the character in the monologue had left the surface of the story to become part of the deeper level of awareness illustrated by the cut-aways. The wonderful, low drone music used during the cut-away scenes leaked out into his intervention. As we got deeper into the character and into the film, the gradually closer focus on his face and its final framing in a circle, as through a lens, paradoxically made him feel more and more distant from us. To me, that confirmed the sense that his catharsis had been a success.
Indeed James’s character has gone through a true confession, an “emotional cleansing” (acknowledging a childhood trauma and his responsibility in it) and has rallied with the unconscious world “behind the curtain”, deep inside himself. Although he has refused to make the final psychological link between the television and the terrier (his relationship to his sister and maybe his feeling of having actually been the runt) and has not realized he has reached a form of closure, his conclusion betrays a serene kind of wisdom: life will go on but what matters is to have tried and to try again.
In conclusion, this film is truly extraordinary. Its ambient structure is empowering and endows us, the viewers, with freedom of interpretation and the gift of creativity. “Closure of Catharsis” helps us understand a bit better what it means to be human. As such it fulfils what, to me, should be the definition for art.
On that note, I have heard people suggest that, due to its slow pace and apparent absence of plot, it would be better suited to an art exhibition (being shown on a loop, with viewers taking and leaving it at their convenience). To me, however, it would miss the point that “Closure of Catharsis” is a journey. Of course if it was the only way to allow people to see it (in this world of throwaway entertainment and fast profit), then it would be better than nothing. But it’s not an installation; it is a proper film. And it’s only by allowing yourself to get immersed in it and to follow it from start to finish, that its true value and depth can shine and that you too can experience catharsis, or emotional purging, through sharing a moment of artistic and human truth.
I have been privileged to watch it twice and will watch it again and again, confident each time to discover something new, something true, something about myself and something about the “eternal human”. It is a great film, and it is also a work of art.
A Review by Véronique Martin
by Véronique Martin
In 2008, New York director Jesse Richards put words and a (flexible) structure on ideas he had been sharing with filmmaker friends for years and wrote the Remodernist Film Manifesto.
Unfortunately I missed the feature film shot by Jesse and six other remodernist filmmakers, entitled “In Passing”, but was lucky enough to attend the second evening organized by Juan Gabriel Gutierrez at Café Kino in Bristol, where nine remodernist shorts were shown.
Jesse Richards’s first short, “So Tell Me Again”, was a tester from his promising next project. It starts with a young woman recalling lightly an unpleasant incident between her and an aggressive old man — the sound in the dialogue is very raw and sharp. Then the film turns into a carefree and warm portrayal of two young lovers playing on a children’s playground to the joyful and mellow sounds of an old love song. Colours will probably be important in the finished project as they are already noticeable in this short. At the end, a message on the screen tells us that the film will be about a man’s attempt at decoding his life’s meaning through memories and images from his past.
Jesse’s second short, “Days gone not forgotten”, was a beautiful and nostalgic circular road-trip down memory lane, mixing present images of a road in different seasons with past ones to an amazing soundtrack (the appropriately named “Quando Corpus Morietur” from Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater”). It was shot entirely on an iPhone, which apparently contradicts Jesse’s Remodernist film manifesto’s views on digital film, if it were not for the fact that the very point of the manifesto is to allow for creativity and freedom (which means therefore it can’t and mustn’t be taken as gospel truth).
The “punk” DIY attitude mentioned in the Manifesto was particularly apparent in Jesse’s “So Tell Me Again”, in Peter Rinaldi’s “Self Portrait” and in Roy Rezaäli’s “Tulp/tulip” (see below) through a certain rawness in sound and/or images.
“Tulp/tulip” by Roy Rezaäli is a small short, mixing footage of grainy, blurred urban landscapes in the Netherlands with footage of a man artistically rolling a joint in the shape of a tulip bud, followed by beautiful, impressionistic film of tulips in a wood. The shape of the joint and that of the flower are put into parallel, perhaps as a symbol of the Netherlands. The end of the film literally takes us into the sky…
“Liska” by Christopher Michael Beer, was a delightful and whimsical black and white film shot, it seemed, as a humorous nod to the Nouvelle Vague. Liska means Fox and the story is centred on a young pickpocket who meets her master (we could say that the Fox gets foxed – but I don’t know if it would work in Czech!).
The short follows a young woman as she pickpockets her way through Prague in a series of three small pieces named like fables by Aesop (“The Fox and the Hen”, “Fish in the River” and “Spiderweb”). In the last one, after having bamboozled several people, she meets a genteel older tourist, whom she thinks she has robbed easily, until she realizes he has robbed her too. The old man’s reaction to her finding out is of pure delight, and the young girl past her indignation sees the irresistible humour and irony of the situation.
The child-like joy and freshness of this film is something that struck me as a recurrent feature in this series of shorts. Could it be a direct consequence of the remodernist motivation to watch the world with new eyes and leave space for authenticity, inspiration and enthusiasm (qualities found in children) rather than artificiality, commercialism and cynicism (unfortunately associated with adulthood)? Anyway, I must say that I relished it.
The shorts by Peter Rinaldi were humorous yet profound films exploring the essence of identity and life purpose. In one of his black and white films, “Self Portrait”, a filmmaker takes pictures of people in their costumes for a future film project that does not exist. The soundtrack to the film, divorced from the images, is an interrogation (happening off screen) about who the filmmaker is and why he is making films. His response is given in a mechanical manner as if he were reciting a positive-thinking mantra (“God loves me. I am a filmmaker…”). When he gets off track from the mantra, confusion ensues…
In “Shutting Up” it’s as if we’re taken on another level of consciousness where distant voices and some text set to blurred black and white images and dark music draw a humorous comparison between overeating and over talking. “It was about shutting up and how I didn’t…”
In the third film, “Short Film” an anguished filmmaker signs a contract with two strange characters (the man in white reminding me of the “petit marquis” in “A Matter of Life and Death”). This contract stipulates that he is a character in his own ten minute short. Desperate to find interesting action and events, he is ever frustrated and depressed by the emptiness of his life and the absence of plot, until a session on a park bench turns his life around by showing him the point of “just” being.
In “Lost”, a long short (30 mins) by Heidi Beaver, we are taken on a journey deep inside the psyche of a young woman who feels lost in the city she inhabits and more importantly in herself. The first part of the film depicts a day in her life, feeling alienated in an environment she perceives as unfriendly. The second part depicts her night and takes us inside her inner, unconscious world.
From the very first image when she wakes up and opens her eyes to gaze at the flowery fabric of her nightdress, we know that what we’re about to see will be her personal viewpoint.
Her relationships with others are shown as empty or fraught. A nosy neighbour brings her some lost mail, and she realizes that she has missed her father’s second wedding by two weeks. Later on a boyfriend calls her to recount a nightmare he’s had, in which a butch version of her was feeding baby ducks to crocodiles, feathers flying everywhere. She looks very shocked by this portrayal of herself; the nightmare is striking a deep chord inside her. The crocodiles symbolize her inner monsters and darkness; the duck, her sweet and gentle surface. The theme of duck and feathers is recurrent throughout the film: the plastic duck in the bath when she was a little girl, the feathers on the wall of her bedroom, and the piece of paper thrown to the lost stray dog which transform into a shower of feather-like papers in a vision in her room.
When she goes out into town, she encounters people who’re either lost (an old man confused by the signs of our consumer society) or whom she perceives as lost (a little girl whom she scares off while wanting to help her). Her sensitivity makes her vulnerable in an urban environment she experiences as aggressive and hostile.
When we’re back home with her, we notice again her need to keep order around herself (as her father used to, forever closing open cupboards). She also puts a lot of efforts in keeping the outside world outside (the lights between her window and curtain) despite the paradox of having a tree in her bedroom (but the tree is dead and gives a fairy tale look to the room).
Her efforts at control fail, however, and she is forced to look into the “rooms” inside her mind that she has kept firmly closed (as a signal of what’s to come, we see her leave one of her kitchen cupboards ajar).
From then on, the characters and objects encountered during her day are mingled with memories as we dive into her past. Her love and guilt towards her mother, the sadness and yearning she’s inherited from her, and the need to keep control over emotions she’s received from her father. The images that express her inner journey are beautiful and moving (the opening of the wall like a womb, like a birth in reverse, the relationship with the little girl). Very powerful too. The end leaves us with a sense of potential resolution and peace.
The cinematic language used throughout the film (through colours — blues and reds — and through correspondences and repetitions) gives it tightness and meaning. I loved that film the first time I saw it and loved it even more on viewing a second time. It is one of the idiosyncrasies of such films (i.e. non commercial, truly cinematic films) that they offer a great freedom of interpretation and multiple levels of understanding to the viewer.
To conclude, the remodernist films shown during that evening, to me, do succeed at what they set out to do. Behind the very different stories told, the freshness, humour and authenticity touched something deep inside the spectator.
Véronique Martin - email@example.com
“Liska” by Michael Beer can be watched on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-XOXQm5axo “
Tulp/tulip” by Roy Rezaäli on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRZiJDP4PvM&feature=related
Peter Rinaldi’s films all on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/search/videos/search:peter%20rinaldi/st/49a64c82
Jesse Richards’ s films on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/user1893969
“Lost” by Heidi Beaver on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/user1872749
by James Devereaux
Last night, ‘Closure Of Catharsis’ was screened at CineKinosis, a new weekly film night curated by acclaimed filmmaker, Juan Gabriel Gutierrez. It was the first time I had attended one of the film’s screenings and was intrigued to see how it would play, and was delighted to discover that the audience engaged in what is a very challenging film (the opening 30 minutes contains one single frontal, static shot) intently, even laughing in the right places. The Q&A was very successful too, with many interesting and insightful questions, and with the audience offering many mind-blowing observations about the film. I have often learned more about my work from the audience than from my peers.
Overall, the screening has left me feeling very confident about the future of ‘Closure Of Catharsis’, it has already gathered a sizeable following and that looks set to grow. I would like to thank Juan for being a great host and for creating CineKinosis which will only go from strength to strength. And a special thanks to Veronique Martin for giving me and Rouzbeh a lift to the train station, much appreciated.
My personal thoughts on The Remodernist Film Manifesto
by Peter Rinaldi
When I meet new people and I reveal that I am a filmmaker, I usually lament about my personal setbacks or obstacles in the way of my own personal success, but I always follow with the positive words, “But this is a great time to be a filmmaker.” I explain that it takes so much less money to make a film, so much less equipment to achieve the same quality of work as when I graduated film school more than ten years ago.
But lately it is actually becoming harder and harder to say “this is a great time to be a filmmaker” and really mean it. Advancements in video have been freeing to an exciting degree, but in terms of how far open the world’s arms are for new, inventive, personal, spiritual films…well…let’s just say these thoughts can get depressing.
But even more than depressing, this can actually get crippling. What begins to happen when an artist longs for some kind of embrace from the world, which the world is apprehensive to give, is that the artist begins to think that (s)he has to squeeze into those arms, conforming or completely abandoning a personal vision in exchange for something that is sure to get those arms wide open, the characteristics of which are usually shallow and superficial, and, of course, ever changing with the wind.
Actually, it’s even worse than this. The world expects nothing short of a full adoption of its definition of success. The success of what you create will be measured by how far you got those arms to open for you. When you tell someone that you are a filmmaker, it is expected that you reveal, at that point, how much the world has embraced you, or, in the very least, your plans for getting those arms open. You have plans for getting your heart out on the screen? Ok, great. But will the world embrace it? That is the question.
No one cares how much of what is in your head has been released into your art. There is no “world approved” tool for that measurement. Even if you manage to ignore what is expected of you from society, even if you manage to hold onto your personal vision and get what is actually in your heart onto the screen, the measurement now is one of tickets, viewers, hits. “What good is saying something personal if no one hears it?” If this question somehow manages to seep in to the depths of your soul, it can do damage. Your next work is bound to be a little less personal, a little more (supposedly) universal, i.e., a little less deep. Ironically, the people on the shore will be happy to see you coming out of the water. They will meet you with towels to dry off every drop. You may hear the words “growing up” or “coming into reality”. You will begin to feel an embrace. But this is the same hug that the corporation gives its needed members. It’s the comfort of conforming, of being included as one of the cogs in the wheel; protection from the cold, abandonment of the self. Sounds dramatic? It could not be more mundane, more everyday.
In this current film climate, there are plenty of signs pointing to the shore; a plethora of material to help you “break in”, make your work “sellable” or current. Now try to find something encouraging you to stay deep, to adhere only to your inner self, to celebrate your shortcomings, to “fail”.
In August, 2008, Jesse Richards wrote a list of 15 statements and called it the Remodernist Film Manifesto. In it he calls for a new spirituality in cinema. When I first read it, I was at a point in my creative life filled with disillusion, stagnation and negativity. I had just spent a lot of time and energy on a project that, although totally my own vision, wasn’t from my heart. I had no idea at the time that you can “sell-out” without selling anything, even while making your own thing, while seeming to adhere to your own vision. You see, when you don’t fully know yourself, how can you know if you are being true to it? The people on the shore called me to join them, and I left the deep and emerged from the water.
I kind of treated the manifesto as if an ideologist child wrote it. I saw it as a personal statement, and I saw my friend Jesse right there in the words and it made me smile. If Jesse were in reach, I might have patted him on the head. I commented that it had inspired me, which it had, but when your mind is outside trying to catch-up to an illusion, inspiration doesn’t settle in and do its work. I didn’t realize the power this document had to change things, to change me. The real power comes from the subtle way it works to totally free the filmmaker and to shift focus inward. Right from the beginning, Richards removes all pressure that lists like this can create; a plea for a “healthy wariness of manifestos” is given.
“Art manifestos, despite the good intentions of the writer should always ‘be taken with a grain of salt’ as the cliché goes, because they are subject to the ego, pretensions, and plain old ignorance and stupidity of their authors… A healthy wariness of manifestos is understood and encouraged. However, the ideas put forth here are meant sincerely and with the hope of bringing inspiration and change to others, as well as to myself.”
This frees me to take or leave what comes next, and sets up other “freeings” that are to come. Some of the early criticism of the document spoke to a distaste of the “rules” it laid out. There are no rules here. Right from the beginning that’s clear.
Richards’ words place an emphasis on depth in the filmmaking process. A focus on the inner self is called for (#2), a return to spiritual cinema. Then, a reminder of the actual medium that we are using (#3), all of which have sadly been neglected for the most part in modern cinema. “Story” not only rules, but holds a high court (and stranglehold) on the medium. It’s time to make strides in overturning this, regain the true medium through images and sound.
The list then goes into steps to embrace imperfection (#4) under the banner of a formal idea, wabi-sabi - “flaws should be accepted, even encouraged,” which leads to a call for the use of film (#5). Richards is in the process of updating his thoughts about film vs. video, but his point should not be forgotten: “Video leads to a boring and sterile cinema.”
I believe video is the “People’s Medium.” Finally we are freed from the exorbitant costs of film work. No longer does it take a “company” to make a real film. The “fat little girl,” as Coppola famously says in Hearts of Darkness, can now make a film that changes the world.
All my student films are in 16mm (I rarely touched a video camera throughout my school years) but I don’t ever see myself handling a piece of emulsion again. Does this sadden me? No. But the points Richards brings up, some of which have already polarized readers, should be heeded. For the most part, the “easiness” of video has led to degradation in the images created.
A lot of attention has been paid toward point #8 of the manifesto.
“Any product or result of human creativity is inherently subjective, due to the beliefs, biases and knowledge of the person creating the work. Work that attempts to be objective will always be subjective, only instead it will be subjective in a dishonest way. Objective films are inherently dishonest. Stanley Kubrick, who desperately and pathetically tried to make objective films, instead made dishonest and boring films.”
I certainly don’t share in my friend’s opinion of this man’s work, but I actually think this is a hugely important part of the manifesto. A lot of us came to be filmmakers because a particular director’s (or a number of directors) work inspired us. A friend of mine calls these inspirational figures his “Giants,” which I think is a great word for them because sometimes they are built up so much in our minds that we don’t think we, or our work, can ever really reach them and their’s. I think, for the most part, the generation that I grew up in had Kubrick as their Giant. His work has a mystical “perfectionism” that is awe-inspiring at times. This perfectionism is anathema to the Remodernist mentality and for many healthy reasons, this giant (or whatever giant towers over your work) must fall in our minds. We must become the giant.
Personally, I respond to #11, 12 and 15 because of a Christian (and to a large extent Buddhist) mentality I take from it, one that I am trying to bring to my own work.
“The remodernist filmmaker must always have the courage to fail, even hoping to fail, and to find the honesty, beauty and humanity in failure.”
[Matthew 19:30 “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.”]
“The remodernist filmmaker should never expect to be thanked or congratulated. Instead, insults and criticism should be welcomed. You must be willing to go ignored and overlooked.”
[Matthew 5:39 “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”]
“Remodernist film is for the young, and for those who are older but still have the courage to look at the world through eyes as if they are children. “
[Matthew 18:3 “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”]
We are encouraged to take what we will from this manifesto. It is unlikely that you will take what I take from it and apply it to your craft. We are all different and we all have different approaches to our films. But Jesse Richards’ adherence to his own voice and personality while writing this piece, and his willingness to share such inner-workings with the world, create a connection with us that is truly universal. You may not agree with everything that is written in it, but the place from which it was pulled is that pool from which we all come. And in that place, specifics don’t matter. What matters is the heart and its contents.
What all this leads to is a re-focusing on what I consider to be the aspects that help make the work more rich, more personal and timeless, and away from a posture of “impressing” or drawing attention to yourself with flash, empty style and superficiality.
I am freed from some big chains when I read it and try to see how I can apply it. I believe, for me, it can be a protectorate, an air tank, helping me to stay deep, despite the calls from shore.
Because what I’ve come to know, the truth that this manifesto helped release from me, is that people on the shore might be trying to get us to come on land and join the assembly line; but the odd thing is, the strange hidden truth is – People are fish. And deep down we long for the deep sea. But somehow we have been conditioned to believe that air is good for us, probably because air is easy to “sell”. But the artist needs to stay deep, deep in the sea, and to not be afraid. Do your work. The fish people will come, and they’ll thank you.
- Taken from MungBeing Magazine