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June 2005 Archives

June 29, 2005

New York Video Festival 2005

nyvf05.gifThe program for Scanners: The 2005 New York Video Festival has been posted and it's always interesting to see how far off the beaten path the annual selections are. Armond White is back again with yet another rumination on pop music and pop culture, this time explored through the medium of music videos. Another seemingly perennial installment, Game Engine - an eye-popping showcase of the latest trends in computer animation - is noticeably absent from this year's slate, replaced instead by something intriguingly called Metagraphics: Freeing Form from Function which, in theory, sounds like a natural evolution of rendering virtual images.

The ones I look forward most to seeing are Yang Ban Xi: The Eight Model Works and the collection of video works by photographer Robert Frank. The former is an examination of a hybrid Peking opera and propaganda theatrical performance pieces developed during Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s. For the latter, I had only seen one of the short videos being presented in the Frank anthology, Paper Route, which was something in the vein of an Abbas Kiarostami-like driver/passenger nomadic confessional. While it did not reflect the aesthetic level of his photographs, it was still an interesting meditation on the modern-day orality of communal history, set in desolate, winter wonderland of Nova Scotia.

This year's "pushing the bounds of art" selections are on the Japanese pink film industry which, although I'm curious about from a film history point of view, I'm also dreading. The capstone is the U.S. premiere of The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai aka Horny Home Tutor: Teacher's Love Juice (the title alone is chagrining). Earlier questionable selections in the series have included featuring actual home (and home-made) videos and surveillance tapes, as well as gallery artists expanding their repertoire - often with limited success, such as the indescribably appalling creations of Mike Kelley - into video works. Suffice it to say, "radical" can sometimes be a euphemism for excremental and disposable. Thankfully, there is another series of Japanese video programs on tap: the Cop Festival anthologies, which includes Kiyoshi Kurosawa's The Spiritual Cop.

It should make for another interesting extended weekend at NYVF.

Posted by acquarello on Jun 29, 2005 | | Comments (3) | Filed under 2005, Quick Notes

June 28, 2005

5/6th Film

I had tickets to see Marco Tullio Giordana's The Best of Youth at the 41st New York Film Festival in 2003. In fact, I ended up seeing almost all of it ...that is, except for the first hour; I decided against writing about it then in my journal. The film was playing on a weekend morning, I was running late and didn't have time to get coffee, and, not surprisingly, the D train was again being diverted through a few stations along the route. An elderly lady sitting next to me had realized that the train had already skipped her scheduled stop and she asked me for directions on an alternate route that would get her to her destination. The 42nd Street station was coming up quickly, so I thought that it was probably better if we both deboarded the train and I ended up walking with her to the F train platform and waiting for the train with her so that she could catch a ride back to her station. As the train was pulling up, she raised her hand to pat my arm, and that was when I noticed that she had a faded, multiple digit numerical tattoo on her forearm, no more than 4mm tall and 35mm wide. I was humbled. I watched the doors close and she waved as she sat down. I smiled and waved too. I eventually made it to Walter Reade and managed to catch the rest of the film. I even figured out for the most part what was happening in it. Today, the DVDs of the film arrived from Korea, so I now have the opportunity to see what I had missed.

Posted by acquarello on Jun 28, 2005 | | Comments (5) | Filed under 2005, Quick Notes

June 10, 2005

Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet at Work...

...on a Film Based on Franz Kafka's Unfinished Novel 'America' (Harun Farocki, 1983)

The French word répétition - rather than the English word rehearsal - more closely captures the implicit connotation behind Straub and Huillet's rigorous and exacting method of preparation for the shooting of Class Relations. A seated Straub asks the actor Christian Heinisch (who plays Rossmann) to deliver his lines over and over, each time, subtly modulated from the last - muting intonation, eliminating traces of colloquialism, and controlling the pace of enunciation - to better reflect the transcription of the written text.

The attempt to elicit a certain decontextualization and particularity to the actor's manner of speech is coincidentally similar straub.gifto the black screen rehearsal opening sequence of Chantal Akerman's contemporary film, The Eighties. On one occasion, Straub makes a meticulous observation that the duration of Heinisch's pause was equivalent to that of a period rather than a comma as defined by the manuscript. The reference to meter and speech also introduces the idea of rhythm and musicality in their methodology, and is reinforced in the repeated image of Huillet replicating the sound of a clapboard at each simulated take. In another occasion, Heinisch is given instructions to flatten the delivery of his lines when approaching another off-screen actor who is directed to collapse on cue, explaining that his character is motivated by curiosity and not concern.

In another sequence, Harun Farocki (in the supporting role of Delamarche) is directed to straighten his bent leg when responding to Rossman's inquiry over a missing photograph, an action that Farocki performs with the inertial awkwardness of discontinuous motion, and repeatedly rehearses to the point of fluidity.

Huillet: The final question is, does Harun sit or stand?

Straub: If Harun stands, he will look in a different direction. You leave him seated.

The final sequence of the actual location shoot underscores this methodical rigor, filming the same scenario beyond the realization of his acknowledged "best take":

"It's improving all the time so you don't need to worry...Thank you. That was very good. A final one. We still have 20 meters left, continue in this way..."

Posted by acquarello on Jun 10, 2005 | | Filed under 2005, Harun Farocki

June 8, 2005

Film About a Woman Who..., 1974

An extended silent sequence of a picture-perfect family posing stiffly and formally before a stationary camera on an open field illustrates the deliberateness and artifice of the idealized image. It also underscores the act of performance in creating the illusion of happiness.

The first image is of dual alienation: people watching something (later revealed to be a film) off-screen juxtaposed against a seemingly incongruous voice-over narration. This distancing is repeated in a series of quick cut film chapters punctuated by the narration of non-diegetic sentence fragments dispassionately (and deliberatively) articulated by a female speaker (Yvonne Rainer) to represent the suppression of the female voice.

Truncated narrative trains of thought are visually completed through the use of overlaid typed text (a recurring motif in Rainer's work) to illustrate the innate disjunction between words and sentiment. On occasion, the narrative precedes or reinforces the action on screen, while other times, becomes jarringly disconnected from it.

An uncomfortably hyperextended sequence of a submissive woman being disrobed in full frontal view before a camera underscores the theme of objectification and the male gaze.

Abstract (and consequently, alienated) representation of autobiographical elements: depression, an attempted suicide, alternating fear of rejection and sexual assertiveness, emotional ambivalence over a failing relationship, domestic violence. The reference to domestic violence (in the context of an incident at childbirth) is juxtaposed against the image of an idyllic beach at sunset, recalling the earlier shot of the "perfect family" and a shot of two lovers kissing on the beach, essentially subverting the illusive image(s).

Performance art as the artificial creation of the ideal - the graceful, disconnected body - silhouettes with malleable form and without identity - anonymous, androgynous, and interchangeable.

Fragments of expression - happiness and liberation - intertwine in the intercutting images of a modern dance performance and a view of the rolling waves of a coastline. Life elevated, or reduced, to the hyperbolic artifice of hackneyed drama, to clichéd cinematic constructions.

"You could always have an ocean ending."

Posted by acquarello on Jun 08, 2005 | | Filed under 2005, Yvonne Rainer