Sunday, February 14, 2016

Notes on Kate Plays Christine by Robert Greene, USA: 2016-Berlin Filmfestival III.-Forum

For Annie Shizuka Inoh

Actually it is a film where two different films arise from and sometimes they cross over each other. The first one is a research for the traces of Christine Chubbuck, a news reporter who committed suicide during one of her shows in front of the camera in 1974. That caused speculative headlines but the event (which inspired Sydney Lumet´s Network)is almost forgotten and only very few remember Christine Chubbuck. The second film is a documentary on the actress Kate Lyn Shell who makes researches for preparing herself for playing Chubbuck in a (fictive?) feature film.
At the beginning the actress Kate Lyn Shell works like a reporter and sometimes even like a detective. She interviews friends, the family and colleagues of Christine Chubbuck. She even talks with a legal arms dealer who sold the revolver to Chubbuck – the weapon she killed herself with. She studies news articles and footage from several shows by Chubbuck. Less interested in the suicide itself, Shell tries to find traces of this now almost forgotten identity. Literally it is a search for a lost soul. The other part of her work is to overcome the lack of a physical resemblance with Chubuck with the magic of make up, a wig and even the use of a sun studio for approaching the right teint. At the beginning Kate Lyn Shell reminds me more in Charlotte Gainsbourgh and sometimes in Anna Karina. Rather ingenuous compared with the hard feature of Chubbuck´s face with that embittered expression.

Kate plays Christine reveals both, the physical metamorphosis of Kate Lyn Shell into at least the image she and the filmmaker have of Chubbuck. But there is as well the invisible mental metamorphosis, the hard work to give this image of a person who has gone a kind of soul. The real identity of Kate Lyn Shell with wig, make up and in a designed costume or the the performed Christine Chubbuck seem to be sometimes very close in an uncanny way.

In some of these moments Kate Plays Christine evokes in me the memory of two masterpieces on acting. The first one is Ruan Ling Yu aka Center Stage by Stanley Kwan from 1992 on the legendary Chinese actress Ruan Ling Yu which is composed of documentary, staged scenes and orginal excerpts from films with this actress. The second one is pure fiction, Hou Hsiao Hsien´s Haonan, Haonu (Good Men, Good Women, 1995) where a young actress who was drug addicted in her past and had a relationship with a gangster is preparing for her role as a Taiwanese resistance fighter against the Japanese invaders in World War 2. What Kate Plays Christine has to do with these two films is that we witness the hard work of acting which includes the physical but as well the intellectual challenge. But we get also an idea about the mental challenge to play a strange person which we actually can´t see. Acting finally is to lend the body to a strange and reconstructed soul.

There are the moments when Kate Lyn Shell walks through the deserted house of Christine Chubbuck or on the place at the beach in Florida where her funeral took place. It is hard to say if Shell is preparing to perform a lost soul or if she herself is lost in this very moments.Like Kate Lyn Shell we become more involved in the tragic life of Christine Chubbuck, we witness her researches.

We are not always sure if the emotions and moods the tragedy of Christine Chubbuck evokes in Kate Lyn Shell are just tools she has to work with or is there something which touches her own emotions, her own life. But we are not always sure either if our emotional or intellectual participation while watching a film, reading a story etc are emotions evoked by a film we see or a book we have read – or if there is finally a point where evoked and real moods, thoughts and emotions of ourselves cross each other?

And Kate Lyn Shell is a kind of agent between us the audience and that what the film reveals like for example, Konkona Sen Sharma´s wonderful performance in Shonali Bose´s Amu (2004). Literally we experience in Kate Plays Christine what it means to embody an identity which is no more. We see like a film, including a performance is made. The film we remember hours, days or even weeks later might differ. Just one night after this film, my mind is still "editing" and "re-editing" the film I saw on this memorable evening. This strange fascinating, thought provoking but also moving fused “double feature” which I call “Citizen Christine Chubbuck” and Citizen Kate Lyn Shell” seems to be a film I will stuck with for quite a long time. Robert Greene´s Kate Plays Christine is one of these film which are journeys to the centre of the Cinema.

Rüdiger Tomczak

Mon Feb 15 Cinestar 8                   19.15
Wed Feb 17 Cubix 9                      20.00
FRI  Feb1 9 Akademie der Künste14.00
Sun Feb 21 Zoo Palast 2                22.00

1 comment:

  1. Nice post! Very informational and knowledgeable. I will expect more from you in the future.
    Work at Robert Greene Corp.