Elvina Zeltsman, Rafael Levchin, Sergei Levchin. CINEMA MON AMOUR - полутона


Рефлект...куадусешщт #41

Elvina Zeltsman, Rafael Levchin, Sergei Levchin. CINEMA MON AMOUR

Автор визуальной работы - В.Вайсберг, "ЦВЕТОЧНИЦА"

So, we visited 18th CHICAGO UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL, and, of course, we liked it very much.

What we liked mostly? Well, absolutely: ZOLTAN: THE HUNGARIAN GANGSTER OF LOVE by Justin Reardon. Short and stunning grotesqo about Casanova of a remote Hungarian Village during his daily quest to satisfy his healthy lust. Fueled by music from the Hungarian psychedelic band ILLES. Sometimes looks like films by Bela Tarr, same dirty walls and roads (that’s probably is Hungarian). Oh, we adore this film!

THE COLOR WHEEL by Alex Ross Perry. This is the story of JR, who forces her younger brother Colin to embark on a road trip to move her belongings out of her professor-and-boyfriend’s apartment. Nobody loves them both, nor parents, nor former high school friends, nor strangers they clash, and at least they start making incestual love act. What else do they have? They said, the Color Wheel is a familial comedy of disappointment and forgiveness. Maybe so.

THE OBSERVERS by Jacqueline Goss portrays one of the weather observatories in two different seasons. We can see the land and sky of Mount Washington, and the observers who’re doing go theyr work of measuring and recording the weather. Film is based on the actual work of the crew of the Mount Washington Weather Observatory – one of the oldest weather stations in North America where staff members have taken hourly readings of the wind speed, visibility, barometric pressure, and temperature since 1932.

PROFANE by Usama Alshaibi. The film is made in pseudo-documentary style, but actually it is a psychosexual provocative horror story with psychedelic symbolism, usual for Alshaibi. Muna, a young Muslim woman from Jordan, now living in Chicago, is a sex worker and a dominatrix in the midst of a spiritual crisis. But she also is searching for her inner demon, that resides in us all according to the Quran. This is an intensely personal story about the clash between Western and Middle Eastern cultures, now, here, today. Hopefully director will not be killed by Muslim extremists for this art.

47th CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL was very good too, but in absolutely different way.

THE ARTIST by Michel Hazanavicius, France romantic comedy-drama film in the style of a black-and-white silent film. The film was written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius and stars Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo. The story takes place in Hollywood, between 1927 and 1932, and focuses on the relationship of an idol of the silent screen, who stubbornly refuses to change with the times, and a rising young actress in the time when silent cinema went out of fashion and is replaced by the "talkies". Strictly speaking THE ARTIST is not a silent movie. There is a lot of music on the soundtrack and also a few strategic moments of onscreen noise that are both delightfully surprising and wildly illogical. This film of 2011 is so remaining of old SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS by Preston Sturges (1941), the one of the best social comment made upon Hollywood. So close, and so different. But it was so good to look at Hollywood from European point of view.

MELANCHOLIA by Lars von Trier (Denmark, Sweden). Very “optimistic”, as usually from von Trier, sure thing. It opens with music from Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde," mourning and apocalyptic; a woman dressed as a bride runs through a forest whose branches seem to grab at her. She floats in a pond, holding flowers, like Ophelia. In the sky there is another planet. The Earth is about to end. Nobody will be saved. Nobody loves nobody. Or does somebody, at least a little? A lot of movies are showing us the end of the world. This is our inner mind who wants to be punished. And Lars von Trier is making it slowly.

THE SLUT by Hagar Ben Asher (Israel, Germany). A single mother of two young girls gives free rein to her sexual appetite with several local men, often copulating outdoors under the hidden gaze of her giggling offspring. Director Ben Asher may be the first female director of a legitimate feature to film herself performing in a hardcore sex scene.

And the best on the fest was THE TURIN HORSE by Béla Tarr (Hungaria), starring János Derzsi, Erika Bók and Mihály Kormos. It was co-written by Tarr and his collaborator László Krasznahorkai. It recalls the whipping of a horse in the Italian city Turin which is rumoured to have caused the mental breakdown of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. The film is in black-and-white and depicts the repetitive daily lives of the horse and its owner. The daily repetition of the same routine makes it possible to show that something is wrong with their world. It's very simple and pure. Tarr has also described The Turin Horse as the last step in a development throughout his career: “In my first film I started from my social sensibility and I just wanted to change the world. Then I had to understand that problems are more complicated. Now I can just say it’s quite heavy and I don’t know what is coming, but I can see something that is very close – the end.” According to Tarr, the book the daughter receives is a sort of "anti-Bible". The text was an original work by László Krasznahorkai and contains references to Nietzsche. Tarr described the visitor in the film as “a sort of Nietzschean shadow”. As Tarr elaborated, the man differs from Nietzsche in that he is not claiming that God is dead, but rather puts blame on both humans and God: “The key point is that the humanity, all of us, including me, are responsible for destruction of the world. But there is also a force above human at work – the gale blowing throughout the film – that is also destroying the world. So both humanity and a higher force are destroying the world.”
But the best, trilling and astonishing was PINA by Wim Wenders, Pina Baush and her Tanztheater, and the ability express themself without words, better, them with words. Genius, who transformed the world of dance and all the world.


Well, let’s say something about PUTIN’S KISS by Lise Birk Pedersen (Dania). This movie is about young Putin supporters, so called “nashists”. The portret of Masha Drokova, who joined NASHI, when she was only 16, and made career there, was awarded a medal of honor from the president, attended a top university, had her own TV show, but then befriended liberal journalist Oleg Kashin, who was almost deadly attacked by “nashists”, controlled by the Kremlin. She still believes in Putin, but she also wants to be more independent. This is a last hope for young Russian people: not to be marionettes from the Kremlin.

And some quotation from article by Sergei Levchin, The 49th New York Film Festival Remains Comfortably Installed:

...The TURIN HORSE, MELANCHOLIAa and my personal favourite film of this year’s NYFF – Ulrich Köhler’s SLEEPING SICKNESS – all make use of the same conceit: there is a moment in each film when the characters realise what the audience has long suspected: they cannot leave the premises, though just what holds them back is never made explicit.

Melancholia is cut in two very different halves, named after its two sister-heroines: Justine, also called Steelbreaker, perhaps a dispenser of divine justice, and Claire, also called Clay, perhaps its earthly recipient. In Part I Clay has prepared a wedding feast for her divine sister: she is marrying what looks very much like a mere mortal, and that (as we know from Joseph Campbell) is not likely to end well. Confined to a decidedly old-world manor house with an adjoining and oft-touted 18-hole golf course (von Trier’s indelible Americana), the party gradually unravels, masks slip and tumble, hastily plastered fissures widen into gaping wounds, until at last all bonds – financial, marital, filial and even sisterly – appear to be dissolved.

So far it is a classic recipe: take a group of (superficially) civilised people, hold them hostage in a sufficiently uncomfortbl environment, and watch them tear each other to bits. When at the very start of the film Justine and her freshly-minted husband Michael arrive for their reception dinner quite late – and are told that the guests have been waiting for hours! – the stage appears to be well set.

In the second half of the film, however, the terms of confinement are altered, or perhaps clarified. With only the family unit remaining on premises, and the titular exterminating planet looming, it is gradually revealed that the incongruous retreat we have never left is held under a wicked spell. Servants vanish, cars will not start, golf carts and horses peter out at the edge of a rather innocuous-looking footbridge. If Melancholia hits, announces Claire’s small son, there is nothing to do, nowhere to hide anymore. By this time we can hardly believe that there is in fact anything at all on the other side of that footbridge. Ingeniously, paradoxically, the heroines plot to escape by staging a ritualistic confinement in an absolutely porous shelter. (Because total annihilation is wrought by a suggestively named planet, some have read the film as an allegory for depression – which is rather like reading The Birds as an allegory for a serious bird problem.)

In The Turin Horse the theme of confinement assumes a form that is particularly stark and eloquent at once. The hapless carriage driver Ohlsdorfer returns home (directly following his apocryphal encounter with the philosopher Nietzsche – or some millions of years later) to find the world shutting down rapidly around his desolate hovel, buffeted by a fierce and unceasing wind. He cannot go to town, because his horse appears to suffer from debilitating melancholia, and anyway, the town has been “blown away”. Woodworms have fallen silent, a prophet of doom arrives, preaching the death of god, a band of gypsies passes the house in flight to America. When on “Day 4” of this “un-creation” their well is discovered to be dry, Ohlsdorfer and his daughter resolve to leave. We watch them pack, load a handcart and disappear over the hill – only to reappear in the same place a minute later (a minute held in real-time, of course), as though they had come against the very limits of the universe just on the other side.

It seems that Tarr’s and von Trier’s visions of the end of days are intimately linked with confinement, claustrophobia, a world closing in on itself. Perhaps underpinning this shared sentiment is anxiety over a rapidly “globalising” world, in which there is nowhere to run anymore, because every place is accessible. That certainly seems to be part of the problem in Sleeping Sickness: a marvellously elliptical tale of a German “doctor without borders”, who has escaped into the African jungle, and cannot seem to escape any farther afield, because there is no place left to go.

In a recent interview Tarr volunteered that his film deals with “the heaviness of human existence.” This recalled to me an essay of Susan Sontag on the films of Robert Bresson, in which she notes that all of Bresson’s films “have to do with incarceration and its sequel.” The essay is dated in 1964 – I have no doubt that Sontag wrote it not long after she had sat through the full slate of the first NYFF (September 1963), which included The Exterminating Angel, Bresson’s The Trial of Joan of Arc (a film set entirely in a prison house) and – incidentally – Polanski’s first feature Knife in the Water (another “No Exit” transposed onto a sailboat). Sontag concludes that for Bresson the real prison is not “other people” but “one’s heaviness, one’s gravity”; and the sequel – liberation, redemption – is a victory over oneself, over one’s inertia, despair.

One could argue that Clay and Steelbreaker manage at last to attain some kind of grace, i.e. to overcome their own fatal gravity even as they are annihilated by it. Ohlsdorfer and his daughter are swallowed mercilessly into the black hole of their wretched existence. In Sleeping Sickness the doctor Ebbo Velten performs a mysterious vanishing act by pulling into his orbit and evidently trading places with a double, doomed to repeat his fate – i.e. he escapes, but his role persists.

...Finally, two films take up the theme of the paradoxical, fraught bond between captive and captor. Pedro Almodóvar’s gala-fêted The Skin I Live In is an obsession-revenge drama that reads at times like a slapstick transsexual comedy with a serious narrative flaw. In the first half of the film the primary narrative engine is a scientist’s quest for a tough skin impervious to fire damage. Dr Ledgard’s research is driven by private grief and scientific ambition – a combination that can only lead into murky ethical territory. Sure enough: it seems he is holding prisoner a human guinea pig, and – to ratchet up moral ambiguity – this involuntary test subject is the alleged rapist of Ledgard’s daughter (a psychotic, who kills herself in the aftermath of the rape).

However, once it is revealed that the captive beauty is a boy, punished with a sex change for a rape that never was, the “tough skin” element is abruptly discarded. Instead, it seems Ledgard is gradually transforming his daughter’s non-rapist into a duplicate of his dead wife. Although the film takes its time getting there, it is ultimately a Pygmalion (not Frankenstein) update: Ledgard’s mad and seemingly incongruous project has little to do with the desire to resurrect a lost love in an imperishable body; rather it is an allegory of the perverse intimacy that inevitably develops between master and slave, jailer and captive, creator and creation. Ledgard comes to see his long-time (male!) victim as a lover, fatally misinterpreting their intimacy. The victim – characteristically far less susceptible to romantic fantasies – exploits this error to destroy him and set himself (or herself) free.

In Ruben Östlund’s Play (a title that speaks volumes of the film’s apparent debt to Michael Haneke) this relationship is given an extra perverse dimension, since both parties are made up of children, aged about 10 to 14. A group of black immigrant children abduct two native boys and their “good immigrant” Chinese friend and march them in a convoy beyond city limits for what will surely be an execution. The black captors use no force and make no threats: nothing seems to restrain their victims except baffling timidity and appalling defeatism.

Östlund seems to have mastered Haneke’s strategy of audience complicity, yanking the chains of righteous indignation, liberal guilt, thirst for violent retribution, etc., with enviable adroitness. The Holocaust parable makes an unexpected turn when the abductors and their victims must band together to escape a common enemy. This time it is not one of the parties but the viewer, who is poised to misinterpret the intimacy: we might expect the combination of prolonged exposure, sudden solidarity, and perhaps childhood innocence to break the spell and transform the relationship. Needless to say, this expectation is handily frustrated: in this world the blacks can never forget that they are the masters, and the whites can never forget that they are sheep, led to the slaughter.

Play suffers from a bewildering ending – an absurdly effete squabble between a gay couple and a lesbian couple (!) – and an even more unfortunate running gag: throughout the film conductors on a commuter train cannot locate the owner of an illegally stowed cradle, but lack the resolve to discard it. Both incidents seem to suggest a chauvinistic reading: the trouble with today’s (Swedish?) society is that emasculated liberals have tied their own hands behind their backs, while ruthless and virile immigrants (the cradle belongs to a large black family) are exploiting their weakness...