18 April 2011

Conveniently one of the directors on my list for the top 15 films meme has a photography show - two shows - at Peter Blum so I can combine the two items into one post. First the films, in chronological order by color format with director noted:

b/w: L'Atalante (1934, Jean Vigo), The Lady from Shanghai (1947, Orson Welles), The World of Apu (1959, Satyajit Ray), Viridiana (1961, Luis Buñuel Portolés), Accatone (1961, Pier Paolo Pasolini), L'Eclisse (1962, Michelangelo Antonioni), Alphaville (1965, Jean-Luc Godard), Persona (1966, Ingmar Bergman).

Color: Lola Montès (1955, Max Ophüls), Muriel, or the Time of a Return (1963, Alain Resnais), Edvard Munch (210 minute version, 1974, Peter Watkins), Heart of Glass (1976, Werner Herzog), Stalker (1979, Andrei Tarkovsky), Sans Soleil (1983, Chris Marker), A Passage to India (1984, David Lean).

While I'm mentioning Heart of Glass there's an online clip of the prophecy scene from the recent re-release:

"The crystal is expression. Expression moves from the mirror to the seed. It is the same circuit that passes through three figures, the actual and the virtual, the limpid and the opaque, the seed and the environment. In fact, the seed is on the one hand the virtual image which will crystallize an environment which is at present amorphous; but on the other hand the latter must have a structure which is virtually crystallizable, in relation to which the seed now plays the role of actual image. Once again the actual and the virtual are exchanged in an indiscernibility which on each occasion allows distinction to survive... Perhaps this is also the perspective from which to understand the splendour of the images in Herzog's Heart of Glass, and the film's double aspect. The search for the alchemical heart and secret, for the red crystal, is inseparable from the search for cosmic limits, as the highest tension of the spirit and the deepest level of reality. But the crystal's fire will have to connect with the whole range of manufacturing for the world, for its part to stop being a flat, amorphous environment which ends at the edge of a gulf, and to reveal infinite crystalline potentialities in itself ('the earth rises up from the waters, I see a new earth...'). In this film Herzog has set out the greatest crystal-images in the history of the cinema." (Deleuze, The crystals of time from Cinema 2)

"It should not be hard for you to stop sometimes and look into the stains of walls, or ashes of a fire, or clouds, or mud or like places in which.. you may find really marvelous ideas." (Leonardo, Notebooks)

Chris Marker's Sans Soleil is the only documentary on the list, aiming straight at the time problem. Interestingly the English version replaces the Racine quote "The distance between countries compensates somewhat for the excessive closeness of time" at the beginning with T.S. Eliot's "Because I know that time is always time/ And place is always and only place/ And what is actual is actual only for one time/ And only for one place" then:

If you haven't seen it, I think it would be interesting to read the text of the voice overs before hearing them with the images, am not as sure about reading snippets out of context, but can't resist a few (in order of appearance):

"All women have a built-in grain of indestructibility. And men's task has always been to make them realize it as late as possible."...

"Pac-Man is the most perfect graphic metaphor of man's fate. He puts into true perspective the balance of power between the individual and the environment. And he tells us soberly that though there may be honor in carrying out the greatest number of victorious attacks, it always comes a cropper."...

"I have listened to the stories of former guerrilla fighters, who had fought in conditions so inhuman that they pitied the Portuguese soldiers for having to bear what they themselves suffered. That I heard. And many more things that make one ashamed for having used lightly—even if inadvertently—the word guerrilla to describe a certain breed of film-making." ....

"In Portugal—raised up in its turn by the breaking wave of Bissau—Miguel Torga, who had struggled all his life against the dictatorship wrote: “Every protagonist represents only himself; in place of a change in the social setting he seeks simply in the revolutionary act the sublimation of his own image.” ...

"I envy (video artist Hayao Yamaneko) in his 'zone,' he plays with the signs of his memory. He pins them down and decorates them like insects that would have flown beyond time, and which he could contemplate from a point outside of time: the only eternity we have left." ....

This quote about Guinea-Bissau: "Amilcar Cabral was not afraid of ambiguities—he knew the traps. He wrote: 'It's as though we were at the edge of a great river full of waves and storms, with people who are trying to cross it and drown, but they have no other way out, they must get to the other side.'”... reminds me of Graham Greene's theological crisis at the end of his Haiti novel The Comedians, in which Duvalier's opponents are forced into a tragic, mortal struggle against his armies, most pertinent now that the Obama-backed puppet Micky Martelly, winner of a fixed election, is bringing back the death squads which "openly claim to be Duvalierists." The film version with Burton, Liz Taylor, Ustinov, and Alec Guinness is also recommended.

If you prefer your documentaries to be about a specific political or historical topic, watch your favorite after Marker's A Grin Without a Cat and see how it holds up. You're hanging with Prokofiev and Shostakovich if you think you can write music for Eisenstein footage, and Luciano Berio's re-orchestration of Luigi Boccherini's Night Music of the Streets of Madrid after the opening voice over is up to the propagandist task.. English translation: "I didn't see Potemkin when it first came out, I was too young. I remember the shot of the meat - definitely - with the maggots, the little tent where the dead man was laid out, and when the first person stops in front of it, and the bit when the sailors take aim on the brink of the battleship and just when the officer gives the order to fire, a huge sailor with a big mustache shouts a word which spreads itself all over the screen: 'БРАТЬЯ!' ('BROTHERS!')"

Stills from Sans Soleil were shown at Blum three years ago, and Marker's attentions have shifted from Japan to Korea for part of this show, utilizing a range of effects, but much of the show takes place in the subway, displaying the comic and tragic dislocations, paratactical realms, play of surfaces, reflections, and windows that have inspired many.

In recent years Marker has inserted master paintings that resemble the female passengers in the photographs, thus avoiding what Baudelaire called the "war of the imagination" caused by presenting the circumstantial without the eternal, which Piri' Miri Muli' readers recall from the third paragraph of last July 4th's post, followed in the next paragraph by Baudelaire's overview of beauty and time.

The Russian painter Semyon Faibisovich has for years documented the juxtapositions and reflections of cars and buses as well as other public places and has recently switched at times to photographs to achieve these same effects, focusing more frequently on the alienation and deprivation found in these settings.

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