Showing posts with label 1973 Chile. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1973 Chile. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Notes on a masterpiece called El Botón de Nacár (The pearl Button) by Patricio Guzman, Chile/Spain/France: 2015-Berlinale V.-Competition)

For Terrence Malick

At first I have discovered the films by Guzman and Malick independent from each other. Guzman is as well the chronicler of this short-lived but probably one of the most important movement for social justice in the history, the Undidad Popular Movement in Chile. His La Batalle de Chile is one of the exemplary political documentaries in the history of cinema and like Malick, also Guzman was in his late Thirties already a living legend of cinema. When Guzman connects later his personal history, the history of his country (he had to leave for a long time) and the history of the universe in his wonderful Nostalgia De La Luz, he created something like the documentary pendant to Malick´s The Tree of Life. I have to admit again that it was this groundbreaking essay “Great Events and Ordinary People” on The Tree of Life, published on the Fipresci website which inspired me to have a different look on these two filmmaker.

Quite  an irony – a Berlin film critic called Guzman´s El Botón de Nacár “esoteric”, one of my most hated terms when it comes to critic´s reactions on films by Terrence Malick. First of all, the last films by Guzman and Malick are love letters to the matter we are all made of. As poetic as it sounds it is since a long time an undoubted fact that we are made of stardust.
El Botón de Nacár is among so much a film about water, as a source of life but also as a source of what we call civilization. Water is everywhere, even in far distant galaxies or in comets which pass by our planet. But this film offers also an ethnographic look on a native tribe from Patagonia which had once – and ages before the invention of any optical devices – a profound knowledge and understanding of the universe they saw reflected in water. Those were astronomers from a far distant past where a telescope was not even dreamt of but as well about people with an understanding of cinema long before a photo camera was even dream of.

If Nostalgia De La Luz looks like the documentary pendant to Malick´s The Tree of Life than El Botón de Nacár could be seen partly as a non-fiction pendant to The New World. Guzman looks at the traces of these disappeared Natives with boundless admiration. These natives were also famous for their body paintings only recorded on old drawings and photographs which also reflected their astonishing understanding of the universe without no device but their eyes opposite to the devices Guzman as a filmmaker and the astronomers can benefit from today. It is the same look of admiration we have in The New World in this Ophüls-like dance between the perfect apparatus of cinema and the native girl Pocahontas – and here Malick´s and Lubezki´s look to a past of cinema long before the apparatus of cinema was even dreamt of.
The disappearance of the natives in El Botón de Nacár and the disappearance of the natives in The New World caused by economical and political motivated colonialism is for both filmmaker a tragedy because mankind deleted a big part of its own collective memory full of knowledge.
Martin Scorsese once mentioned that cinema is often a look into the past and it is often a look into the past to a world we have lost but where we still can learn from.

It is interesting and also daring that Guzman uses beside astronomic film footage, his own recorded images also animated footage. For some purists a tabu is broken, for me this is nothing less than the evidence that Guzman is both a chronicler and a poet.

We have in Berlin an impressive Holocaust-monument. As impossible it is to imagine the worst genocide in the history of mankind, these empty and silent stones give you at least an idea about the loss of millions of identities deleted from the collective memory like through a Black Hole, a metaphor Guzman will use later in his film when he reveals the victims of the Pinochet´s dictatorship which are tortured, killed and thrown into the ocean, bound on steel from demolished railways. After 40 years there only small traces of human remains left on this steel.
The artificial devices of cinema and astronomy is not necessary to see what is but to regain what we have lost or forgotten.

The water, the stars, the old photographs, the steel of demolished railways, the pearl button as the last witness of a murdered victim are images which are burnt into my memory. The look into the past of the universe, the past of the history of Chile or the past of disappeared natives is like a look at an infinite screen. El Botón De Nacár is a film often hard to bear. Moments of great beauty alternate with moments of horror and grieve.

I remember the third part of La Batalle de Chile which is also a look into the past. While part 2 ends with the decline of the Unidad Popular and with the suicide of Salvador Allende, the third part is a long elegy of loss. His most recent films Nostalgia De La Luz and El Botón de Nacár leave a very likely echo in me.
On this very Sunday during this Berlin Film festival I have seen these two unforgettable films by Terrence Malick and Patricio Guzman. Two days later when I write these lines on Guzman´s wise, beautiful and very sad masterpiece – I have the strong and rare feeling that I witnessed film history on this very day.

Rüdiger Tomczak

Sun, Febr 15, Haus der Berliner Festspiele, 10.00

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Notes on Nostalgia De La Luz (Nostalgia for the Light) by Patricio Guzman, Chile/Spain/France/Germany: 2010

The irony of my access to this film is strange. Even though I hunted for years for the DVD of Guzman´s legendary masterpiece La Batalla de Chile, I almost ignored the release of this film. It was this wonderful laudatio for Terrence Malick´s masterpiece The Tree of Life for the Fipresci site, “Great Events and Ordinary People” written by Adrian Martin who mentioned Nostalgia de la Luz.
I knew already his film Salvador Allende. The history of Chile around the government Allende and the bloodshed caused by the coup d´état of Pinochet played quite a very important role in my adolescence life, because it was the first time I was aware that fascism was not only history but a danger which can always happen again. When I was just 14, this was quite a disturbing fact for me.

Nostalgia de la Luz was released in the same year like another great documentary which is explicit autobiographical inspired: Sona mo hitori no watashi (Sona, The Other Myself) by Korean filmmaker Yang Yonghi.
So, even though familiar with the name Patricio Guzman, it was the films by Yang Yonghi and Terrence Malick which actually were my inspirations to watch this film.

At the beginning we see a lot of telescopes, an old one and one of the most modern ones in the Atacama desert in Chile. Guzman tells in his commentary about his obsession for telescopes which are in fact optical devices like a film camera. An astronomer explains to Guzman that the present is a very thin line and according to light speed and even if it is only about a small part of a microsecond, all what we or what the camera sees is already past. One can say that a camera is a very close relative to a telescope.
An astronomer can only look into the past of the universe to learn something about where we come from. We see in this film geologists who try to reconstruct the past, for example pre-columbian history.
But we see also women who are searching for years for the physical remains of their close relatives who were killed by Pinochet´s agents. Most of them were executed anonymous and the corps are buried in the desert or thrown into the sea. Some of these women have found body parts of their relatives, some will probably never find for what they are looking for.
Nostalgia de la Luz is a film about history, the history of the physical existence which we can now track down with the assistance of modern optical devises almost to the beginning of the world.
It is also about the history of Chile, in which Patricio Guzman is a witness and his work is a chronicle of this part of history.
But third – it is also about personal history, means the part of history which personal affected you. It is well known that Guzman has lost close relatives like these old women who are digging for bones of their loved ones. Jorge Müller Silva, the cinematographer of Guzman´s La Batalla de Chile was also kidnapped. His physical remains were until today never found. And even Guzman himself escaped only with a lot of luck.

There is a young female astronomer whose parents were killed by Pinochet´s bastards. She explains why to look at the stars was like a therapy for her.
All the people and all the things, including the old and the high tech optical devices he shows in his films are composed to an explicit personal journey. Guzman is part of the things he reveals and the telescopes are the close relatives of his own cinematographic devices.
Guzman is indeed a “troublemaker” like the women who are digging for the remains of their loved ones, “troublemakers” who do not want to forget.
Even though Nostalgia de la Luz goes further to the beginning of the world than any other film by Guzman, is as well requiem. It is about loss like the third part of his Batalla de Chile, “The Power Of The People”, his nonofficial fourth part of La Batalla de Chile, Chile Obstinate Memory.
The greatness of Patricio Guzman that he is always part of the things he reveals. There is no standing above history. Guzman is a chronicler of history but the same time like Yang Yonghi or his compatriot Marilu Mallet participants and victims of history.
Cinema is like astronomy a search for the past from what we finally learn where and who we are.
Present how it is said in this film is a very fleeting moment and without memories we are dead.
If we think of our time and about contemporary Cinema – we have to come to the conclusion how urgently we still need filmmakers like Patricio Guzman and especially such a masterpiece like Nostalgia de la Luz.

Rüdiger Tomczak

I can´t recommand this text by Adrian Martin "Great Events and Ordinary People"  often enough.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Notes on La Batalla de Chile by Patrico Guzman, Chile /France: 1975-1979

Actually the film consists of three different parts which follow each other not always chronical. The first part takes part during the election 1972 and the fight for the political power. 

La Insurrección de la burguesia (The revolt of the Bourgoisie)

The first part is last but not least a portrait of this specific time, the hope of the left and the mostly illiterate and underprivileged working class for a strengthened government of the Unidad Popular. Guzman and his cinematographer Jorge Müller Siva recorded the mood, captured this special year which was full of hope for the followers of the Unidad Popular and full of hate for upper, and middle class against the Unidad Popular. Opposite to my expectations, this first part looks rather like Cinéma Verité . Even though Guzman and his team were followers of the Unidad Popular, this part reveals the self confidence that the justice will triumph and the Unidad Popular will stabilize its very fragile power. Chile at that time was one of very few Latin American states with a legitimate free elected democratic government surrounded by mostly fascistic countries. As the filmmaker interviews followers and opponents of the government, in this part of the film we can still feel this special optimism. Despite what I know about the end of Allende, Unidad Popular and the raising of the people from Chile, the first part of Guzman´s film still reveals a kind of optimism which seems to be rebel against my knowledge about this part of history. No crisis, no obstacle still to overcome by the people of Chile and their government, is left out: sabotage actions against factories to weaken the economy of the government, boycott from the right wing opposition which still had the majority in the parliament, Strikes of the transport union (financed from the American Secret Service and so on. There are still the shadows the fatal influence of the USA and most parts of the western world to ensure their economic interests. 

The film was made to record a country on the move but also one of the very few tries to develop a social change in this post colonial continent. Mankind went never further than Chile at that time. But there is also the knowledge which occupies my mind: the cinematographer Jorge Müller Siva was assassinated close after the coup-d´etat, Patricio Guzman could escape Chile after being imprisoned only with a lot of luck. Even the pictures I see are smuggled out of the country with the help of the Swedish ambassador.
I feel in this part the loneliness of a time traveller who has the privilege to experience history non-filtered but who is getting crazy about the fact he knows the end of this chapter of history.

I was 14 when I listed radio on that very day, September 11, 1973. I was not interested in politics at all. I listened songs and dreamt. In my school we just went to German history between 1933 to 1945 and my teacher spent a lot of time for this lessons. It was the first time I learned about the dark German past in detail. While I was hoping to listen one of my favorite songs, I think it was a broadcasting called Mittagsmagazin ( Westdeutscher Rundfunk), a music piece was suddenly interrupted and the reporter phoned with a foreign correspondent who told about the coup d´état in Chile. Of course, I didn´t know anything about Chile, Allende and the Unidad Popular but I remember at that moment as vague as it was in my adolescent mind –that I was comparing it with my history lessons on Germany, Hitler and the Holocaust. 

I remember how disturbed I was and how even more disturbed I was about the fact how openly the right win in Germany applauded the bloodshed of General Pinochet. 

I am not sure if I was aware that most of the followers of the Unidad Popular were from the same class like my family and me - mostly workers who had especially in Chile all reasons to fight for a better life. This impression and this vague disturbance faded away when I grew up and when I was occupied with adolescent problems. But later, much later this day always came back, at the time of my politicisation in the late 1970s until the late 1980s. Today, I have the strong feeling this very day, September 11 in Chile was the end of my childhood. 


El golpe de estado (The coup détat)

Part Two is about the last weeks of the Unidad Popular and ends with this coup d´etat of General Pinochet and the death of Salvador Allende. It is interesting that the standard argument of the mostly civic (even social democratic)governments around the world and especially of the Right wing politicians like Franz Josef Strauß, chief minister of the German province Bavaria is, that this coup d´etat was necessary to keep the public order alive. In the western press, the bloodshed was nearly a taboo. The involvement of the CIA in this bloodshed is today a recognized fact, most of the terror attacks against factories or public institutions did not happen without their involvement. Like in the first part, the struggle of the Chilean people is here no subject for propaganda, it is a fact. Their struggle for social justice, their supporting of the Unidad Popular couldn´t be stopped anymore. The slogan “power to the people” began to be realised seriously. The workers tried to protect their factories (already abandoned by its “owners” against terror attacks and sabotage. They even organized the division of food supplies. 

And again when I saw this film (which I did just last year for the first time), I was thinking again in this disturbance I felt when I was a teenager. We learnt democracy in schools, in a country less than 30 years after the Nazi-regime. In my naivety it was almost impossible to understand that a democratic elected government like Allende´s was in short time destroyed and replaced by one of the cruelest military dictature in Latin America. 

Even in these most dramatic moments of the people of Chile, Guzman´s confidence in the truth revealed in his film is big enough not to ignore the mistakes of the government Allende or the difficult way to establish a socialistic society in a state which structure was still the structure of the old Chile.
The chronicle of the “Battle of Chile” ends already with Part two.

El poder popular (The Power of the People)

The third part is a kind of long epilogue. More than the first two parts, this one is the most reflective. Released two years after the previous one it is an echo from the exile. Part Three seems to be a counterpart to Part Two. As the tragedy has ended, in his last part the film goes back to the people and their fight. Less prosaic than the first parts, the film is like a document of the heritage of this movement. We see workers discussing in the factories. People from whom a lot can hardly write or read are not only discussing about their own surviving but also on a level which is nothing less than supportive for the government, a government almost unable to move because of being boycotted by the right wing opposition in the parliament and struggling against the danger of a coup d´etat. The coup d´etat by General Pinochet was not just the overturning of a left government, it was the smashing of the people´s dignity. And from this dignity we experience a lot when we listen workers discussing the problems and what next steps are to make. 
In Chile where even the basic school education was a luxury, the people made some steps in a direction we in the rich western countries didn´t even dare to dream of.

This part of Guzman´s epic documentary makes me proud and sad at the same time. Even though we know aboout the end of the Unidad Popular, the bloodshed against activists, workers, artists, intellectuals - these captured moments of the dignity of the people remain, they seem to rebel against the chronicle of this part of history. The anthem of the Unidad Popular (which was of course banned for a long time after the coup d´etat) is evident here. It is a strange change between optimism and the sadness about the fact of a lost fight.

It is the most subversive part of the film, because it shows a democratic movement from below which couldn´t be stopped anymore with diplomatic, political network of intrigues in and outside of Chile. There was a dignity which challenged the economic power of the USA which considered Latin America not more as a farm in their back yard. The project Unidad Popular was smashed down with violence one of the most courageous social movement in the Twentieth Century became victim of the most professional terror organisation which is called CIA. 

La Batalla de Chile would be already an good documentary just as a recording of a very specific part of history. But like all great films, there are much more aspects coming together. It is also the try of a recondition of a national trauma, often misinterpreted outside of Chile. It is also a film made by a filmmaker who went through history with his body and soul, who lost his family and friends. After the nightmarish end of the Unidad Popular, the last part shares also the dream of a social movement which is today as current as it was nearly 40 years ago. 

Even though Guzman does not really intend to evoke emotions, I will be unable to write on it in a very prosaic way. It is also a film about people who have lived their dreams for a better world. Last but not least it is also a film photographed by the cinematographer Jorge Müller Silva who was killed soon after his work was finished and probably because of this work. Finally it is also a film by a filmmaker who experienced what he shows. The film is authentic and heartbreaking at the same time.

Rüdiger Tomczak

Thursday, November 10, 2011

DOUBLE PORTRAIT de Marilû Mallet /version francaise

(article publié dans la revue Shomingeki,hiver 2000/2001

a Florence M.C.Nguyen

A la fin de 2, Rue de la mémoire on  entend la phrase que la femme adresse, en  esprit,à I'homme avec qui elle a échangé d'innombrables lettres mais qu'elle n'a rencontré qu'une fois : <<je rêve de continuer à échanger avec toi des fragments de nos vies >. Pendant cette unique rencontre, ils marchent dans les rues de Montréal: elle est une exilée latino-américaine habitant à Paris, il est un juif canadien habitant à Montréal. Tout en marchant, ils parcourent aussi les souvenirs qu'ils se racontent. Chacun de ces souvenirs apparaît coûl me une tranche de vie, comme un petit espace que chacun ouwe pour I'autre. Double portrait, le denier film de I'exilée chilienne Marilû Mallet, est composé, lui aussi, de fragments de deux vies humaines: ceux de la réalisatrice et ceux de sa mère, la peintre Maria Luisa Segnoret. En conversation ou au cinéma" ces << fragments>>ont quelque chose de lieux de mémoire dans les quels on est invité, d'espaces que I'on peut <<cohabiter > pour un temps.

Le film corrlmence avec I'image d'une maison à Montréal qui est éclairée de I'intérieur. C'est une de ces maisons avec le grand escalier qui mène à la porte d'entrée si caractéristiques de Montréal ou, du moins, de I'image que je m'en fais. Plus tard, la caméra parcourt les pièces de la maison. Les tableaux de Maria Luisa Segnoret y sont suspendus sur des murs peints en vert. Chacun de ces tableaux  paraît,à son tour, comme une pièce du grand complexe de la vie d'une personne  qui est comme une maille de récits dont on forge une identité dans une chaîne infinie d'histoires. La voix off de Mallet se fait entendre, tantôt s'adressant à sa mère à la deuxième personne; tantôt coûrme voix narrative qui en parle à la koisième personne. Au début, nous avons le sentiment d'être étrangers à ces biographies mais, aussi tôt, on nous y fait rentrer,et nous participons.

Maria Luisa Segnoret est assise à côté  d'un projecteur en marche. Sur un écran blanc sont projetésdes films des archives familiales.  J'y vois jouer des enfants d'un temps largement révolu. La façon qu'a la vieille damede regarder ces images laisse croire qu'elle se souvient d'histoires et d'événements dont moi je n'apprends que des bribes. Une auke fois on voit un porhait d'enfant quela mère a peint de sa fille. Dans ce double portrait filmique (peintre/cinéaste)il y a, côte à côte, deux images possibles: celle que quelqu'un fait de quelqu'un (Segnoret de sa fille) et l'image cinématographique du film d'archives, mécaniquement prise et chimiquement conservée dont la densité et la beauté ont quelquechose d'aléatoire. Mallet, s'adressantà sa mère, dit en voix off: <<Tu as crééton propre univers, fu as hans posé tes souvenirs et tu les as fixés sur papier.r>

Double portrait est, comme 2, rue de Ia Mémoire, un film sur les souvenirs figés mais aussi sur les souvenirs encore vivants comme la personne qui les raconte. Des photos de famille, des objets tels une boîte à musique que Madame Segnoreta achetée au marché aux puces, à Paris, lorsqu'elle y étudiait, et des extraits de films de famille ou d'archives publiques apparaissentet se cristallisent en témoinsde la vie d'une personne,De plus,la boîteà musique,avec sa petite mélodie qui se répète, a quelque chose de I'uniformité mécanique du cinématographe. Puis,les films d'archives ne seront  plus seulement projetés, comme  d'ordinaire, sur un écran rigide (à partir duquel Mallet les filme), mais aussi sur des rideaux qui bougent.Les lignes alors se courbent, les perspectiveset les corps se distordent. L'angle droit avec ses limites n'apparaît pluscommele souvenir chimiquement conservéet techniquement reproductible. L'écran (dans ce cas un tissuen mouvement) et le film d'archives projeté semblent se dissoudredans un liquide. L'image projetée apparaît presque comme quelque chose d'organiquequi n'est pas reproductible n'importe comment, quelque chose, en outre,qui n'est plus commedét achédu corps vivant,mais le conditionne.

Madame Segnoret est assise devant sa toile. Elle peint. On voit ses mains travailler,mener le pinceau. Par contraste avec leur mouvement, Marilû Mallet, son modèle, est assise, son corps paraît presque immobile. On n'entend que le bruit des pinceaux et le doux wombissement de la caméra qui filme la  peinhe peignant le portrait de sa fille. À un autremoment, on voit comment elle travaille les yeux. Dans un autreplan on  voit les mains de Marilû Mallet reposant sur sesgenouxpendantqu'elle pose,et I'un desplans suivants montre les mains de la peintre,avec pinceau et palette, qui semblent, pendant un moment, suspendues.

Ce qui m'émeut toujours, me déchire parfois même le cæur, ce sont les photos de famille. Une photo dans Double portrait montre Marilû Mallet à l'âge de dix ans alors que, en mémoire, on a encore I'image de la cinéaste adulte posant pour sa mère. Ces vieilles photos ont pour moi une épaisseur et une beauté inexplicables et presquemythiques,qu'il s'agisse de celles de ma propre famille ou d'amis ou,comme ici, de I'album familial de Marie Luisa Segnoret.Les photos de ces gens qui, à présent, ont vieilli ou sont même déjà morts, ont quelque chose de solennel.Je ne peux pas les regarder sans éprouver un sentiment de grand respect devant cet art né comme par hasard,de beaucoup de photographes anonymes qui n'ont jamais eu I'intention d'être artistes.

Dans 2, rue de la mémoire I'homme dit à la femme qu'il voit dans sonvisage, à la fois, la petite fille qu'elle a été et la femme qu'elle est-Depuis quatre ans, cette phrase est gravée dans ma mémoire, coûlme, en général, les motifs des deux films de Marilû Mallet qui se sont condensés et sont devenus comme les thèmes d'une pièce musicale qui me sont restés en mémoire. Je connais ce sentiment.Je I'ai éprouvé en contemplant le visage des gens que je connais et que j'aime: en I'espace de quelques secondes un visage peut rendre visible les différentes périodes de la vie d'une personne.Dans une séquence de Double portrait il s'agit de cela. Cette séquence qui est coûlme le principal motif musical du film, l'amène à son propos: Madame Segnoret a presque achevé le portrait. Dans le tableau, sa fille a presquel'air d'une jeune fille. C'est alors que la caméra fait un mouvement vers la gauche. Elle trouve Marilû Mallet assise sur une chaise. Et c'est là que l'appareil révèle son wai visage dans lequel on peut voir toutes les différentes étapes de sa vie. Pour moi, c'est un des moments les plus émouvants du film, et qui en dit long sur la saisissante difftrence entre voir quelqu'unets'en faire une image.

Une image d'un film d'archives montrele palais présidentiel de Salvador Allende Santiago du Chili.On tire surle palais. Je sais que c'êtaiten 1973 lorsque l'assassin Pinochets'emparadu pouvoir e! avec violence, détruisit pour longtemps les espoirsde liberté et de justice d'un pays. Pourmoi,c'estde I'Histoire, comme I'est la guerre du Vietnam ou tout autre événement historique que je ne connais qu'à travers les livres d'histoire. Pour Maria Luisa Segnoret,pour Marilû Mallet et pour leur famille c'est un événement vécu, une souffrance qu'elles ont éprouvée dans leurscorps et leurs âmes, etqui a changé leurvie de façon décisive. Ellesontdû fuir le Chili, sans doute pour sauver leurs vies,et, depuis lors, vivent au Canada.Cette partie de l'Histoire qu'ellesont subiedans leur corpset dans leur âmese retrouvedans une eau-forte de Maria Luisa Segnoret.On y voit des barreauxet des casques militaires avec des visages étrangeset inquiétants .À un certainmomenton la voit manipulerune presse lourde. Dans cette image, en faisant un travail physiquement épuisant, elle essaie de transposer,avec tout son  corps, I'Histoire qui a presque failli l'anéantir.

Vers la fin du filn, on voit les pièces vides de I'atelier de Maria Luisa Segnoret.Une grave maladie, dont la peintre vient de se remettre, I'a obligée à abandonner la peinture pour un long moment.Dans le dernier plan,on la voit faceà une toile blanche, le regard tourné vers la caméra. La représentatio nde cette femme, souvent vue en mouvement pendant le film, se lige en une image que Marilû Mallet s'est faite de sa mère. Pour la réalisatrice Trinh T. Minh-ha faire des frlms c'est quelque chose comme créer de nouveaux espaces et offrir des accès diverspour y parvenir. La fascination du film de Marilù Mallet provient, elle aussi, d'une semblable manière d'ouwir des espaces dans les quels elle nous invite et dans lesquels il nous est permis d'habiter un moment, peu importe d'où nous venons. Le film se présente avant tout cofitme une émouvante biographie de deux femmes condensée, de façon impressionnante, dans les 38 courtes minutes de sa durée. Mais, de façon plus discrète, transposée dans la poésie du film, se manifeste une réflexion sur le cinéma coûlme possibilité de mémoire, qui me semble être une petite philosophie du cinéma.

Riidiger Tomczak
(Traduit de l'allemand par Monica Haîm)