Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Notes on Premières Solitudes (Young Solitudes) by Claire Simon, France: 2018. Berlin Filmfestival2018-VI.-Forum
It happens not too often in these last years of the Berlin Film festival but it still happens. You see a film without any expectations and to have chosen to see just this very film is often accidental. Such “accidents” are during a festival often the most rewarding. That happened to me just last year when I saw a documentary in the Generation section called Loving Lorna by Annika and Jessica Karlsson. The few information I had from this film sounded interesting to me and I had no idea that it turned out to be one of the most beautiful films I saw last year. And this is still one of the very few advantages of film festivasl.
Premières Solitudes consists mostly on conversations between young students at the eleventh grade of a secondary school in Ivry sur Seine,one of these prosy suburbs of Paris.
Two or three of them meet on a place they feel comfortable with and talk about their lives, their relationship to their parents, love and what they want to do in the future. Most of them are children of divorced parents. Some of them like a young woman born in Nigeria lives with a foster mother. The presence of the camera seems to increase the relaxed atmosphere. Each of the young protagonist feels free what to tell and how. The places where they meet are like niches, places at least one of them likes. One of the miracles in this film is that these conversations seem never forced. As sober and prosaic the film´s initiation point is, it develops later into a little universe of human life with all their stories.
The presence of these young people leads a life of its own. I assume they do not just follow only the filmmaker´s concept, they also perform and it seems they retain the control about what they give away from their privacy and what not. Some very few shots display the landscape of this environment, small traces of nature in this mostly very boring suburb. From time to time the camera finds glimpse of beauty, engrossed places where some of the protagonists are seen often when they meet and talk.
The spirit of security and freedom the film evokes might be fleeting and often in contrast to the awareness that these young people have hardly a chance to talk like that at home with their parents.These fragments of human life appear more and more like landscapes. Except some few moments when nobody speaks, one feels the presence of the camera. But mostly the spectator seems to forget it´s presence like the protagonists.
Days after I have seen this film, my mind is still full of their stories. Claire Simon created a strange
zone where the spectator like the protagonists can move freely. How big the quantity of stories and information really is, I realized long after I have seen the film.
The restraint formal concept of the film or even the illusion of the absence of any formal aspect is of course delusive. The film´s point of view avoids to impost itself as wiser than what it reveals. This point of view gets finally wiser through the experience it makes with this piece of world and as the film proceeds and as the result of experiences it learns permanently. The film beneficiates itself from moment to moment. It is almost like I have seen a film is arising in front of my eyes.
The old problem of documentary which deals with real problems is that one wants to learn as much as possible from these people but at the same time there is the privacy of real people to protect. In Premières Solitudes, it seems the protagonists take this decision in their own hands.
Sun, 25.2, 12.30 Arsenal
Friday, February 13, 2015
Notes On Viaggio nella dopo-storia (Journey Into Post History) by Vincent Dieutre, France: 2015-Berlinale2015-VIII.-Forum
The film is a try of a remake of Rossellini´s masterpiece Viaggio In Italia, it is a homage to this film, a personal interpretation or how Dieutre calls it in his over voice commentary, an exercise of appreciation.
The couple Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders are here replaced by the homosexual couple Tom and Alex.
The film is always interwoven with personal reflections and thoughts by the filmmaker. Often we see him talking with a lawyer specialized in copyrights and all the legal affairs related to make a remake.
Rossellini´s masterpiece is always present, obviously in excerpts and often projected on huge screens as the background. In these moments it does not look anymore like a projected film, but like a memory of a film or even like a memory of an event which had a big impact on one´s life. The film is present in the dialogue of this gay couple which is only slightly modified. Even in the images of the Naples in the 21.century, you still feel the shadow of Rossellini´s film.
Between all the options how to define this film, I would choose rather the term “audiovisual essay” In one scene the lawyer explains to the filmmaker that adapting, remaking or even quoting an existing work becomes a problem “if you discourage the people to watch the original work”. As a matter of fact Viaggio nelle dopo-storia makes one watching the Rossellini film again and it does not matter if one already knows this film or not.
The film is a sounding of this huge resonance space between a film we love and admire, its impact on our subjective experience and our view to the world.
The actual “remake” does not really take place, it remains fragmented if caused by legal copyright-issue, technical or financial problems or finally caused by the filmmaker´ hesitation.
What makes this film to such an inspiring experience is the dynamic relationship between the film by Rossellini (and Dieutre´ for it) and the echo it leaves in the contemporary Naples and literally in the whole film by Dieutre.
After all Viaggio nella dopo-storia is probably an appreciation of a famous film, an appreciation of cinema, only a French cinephile can approach.
It is a film with many layers each of them are corresponding with each other and these layers are in the images and in the soundtrack.
Adapted and modified dialogues between Alex and Tom have sometimes a character of an evocation of the time, space and also the concrete part of history connected with Viaggio In Italia. And again the projected excerpts on a huge screen. Sometimes Tom and Alex are acting in front of it. The screen is indefinable big. We see only fragments from Rossellini´s images. In its many layers Dieutre´s film reminds me sometimes in Stanley Kwan´s masterpiece Ruan Ling Yu on the Chinese actress Ruan Ling yu and sometimes in Anup Singh´s mesmerizing cinematic dance through the world of Bengali master Ritwik Ghatak, The Name Of A River. If Anup Singh´s appreciation (which is not fixed on a certain film by Ghatak) is closer to Terrence Malick and Stanley Kwan´s bio pic closer to Orson Welles, they have nevertheless something in common with Viaggio nella dopo-jistoria. These films are more like a homage, these are films by people who really lived in and with their admired subjects. These films are great inspirations for all those who love films, who write about films - but also for those who make films.
I always loved Viaggio in Italia. Vincent Dieutre make me love it now even more. And after all, this film is a wonderful example how to talk, think, feel and how to express our love for cinema.
If film criticism and film making ever comes together, than Viaggio nella dopo-storia is a kind of la ove match between both of them.
Sunday, Febr 15, Arsenal 1 17.30
Friday, November 21, 2014
An Afternoon in Paris at the Cinematheque Française with Les Quatre-Cent Coups by François Truffaut.
For Anjan Dutt and Thérese Gonzalez
It was a rainy afternoon in Paris and finally I found the location of the new Cinemathque Française. The Cinematheque presents at the time a huge exposition on Truffaut for the 30th. Anniversary of his death in 1984 and an integral retrospective. On this day they screened Truffaut's first long film Les Quatre-Cent Coups in the “Salle Henri Langlois” Even though I was surprised to see the hall almost full packed, I realized at the same time that it is typical for Paris. The audience was a mixture of nearly all generations, older people and as well school classes. The film is exactly as old as I am, 55 years. But this was not the only fact that made this afternoon to an almost Proustian experience for me. Truffaut and Bazin were probably my most important influences when I began or better when I wanted to write about films. Truffauts Les Films de ma vie, a collection of his film critics, his interview book on Hitchcock and Bazin´s books on Orson Welles and Jean Renoir are still after more than 30 years my favorite books on cinema. Some parts of it I have read more than a dozen times. In the early 1980s, Truffaut was even one of my favorite film directors. His first long feature film Les Quatre-Cent Coups came into my life even much earlier. It was a christmas eve in the late 1960s. I was about 8 or 9 and on the afternoon on this day the TV broadcasted this film. What stayed with me for much more than 40 years was Antoines escape from the youth prison. For nearly 30 years this film was totally hidden in my sub conscience.
The audience was enthusiastic. applause at the beginning, during the film and at the end rather a festival atmosphere than just a screening of film history. Everything came together, my long forgotten admiration for Truffaut and especially this film, my nearly religious admiration for Paris as the origin of cinephilia. Even though Les Quatre-Cent Coups tells about specific french locations, french habits and a specific datable time in Paris like for example the films by Yasujiro Ozu did with locations in Japan – it nevertheless gave me the feeling of a kind of homecoming. It is obviously Paris in the late 1950s but than if I remember this christmas afternoon in the 1960s, the film and all what is presented in it was quite young. The cobblestone pavement reminded me in some streets of my hometown. The time of occupation of Paris was just gone 14 years before like my home town displayed at this time still the traces of the war. As a child I was aware that this film tells about a totally different culture but I also recognized that I was familiar to the time presented in it.
There is an exiting dynamic between the fiction of the film and the real places, streets and buildings of Paris. Antoines Story seems to be really grown out of this concrete datable traces of reality. Two sentences of Truffaut stayed with me. The first was about art and entertainment when he wrote once that Hitchcock and Bergman are both entertaining and at the same time their films are great art. The other statement by him was that he always expected two things from a film, a vision of the world and a vision of film making.
When I saw Les Quatre-Cent Coups again after such a long time, I had the uncanny feeling that the film touches so much of my dreams of cinema. Truffauts ideas about cinema are totally absorbed in images and sounds. The “bigger than life”-element, the cinema scope photography a wonderful artificial device of the cinema of the 1950s has a unique relationship with this intimate story of an adolescent, a story which is probably influenced by autobiographic aspects of Truffaut himself.
As I was moved by the different ages of the audience – some were probably born after the death of Truffaut, others probably saw this film when it was released and others like my generation saw this film when it was already an icon of the Nouvelle Vague – I sometimes felt I experienced past and present of my cinephile life as well. My passion for Ozu, the Japanese masters came just after my first encounter with the Nouvelle Vague and the texts by Truffaut and Bazin.
There is also a moment which is very physical: when Antoine visits a round-up on a parish fair where the centrifugal force presses him against the wall. This is probably one the most physical scene in Truffauts work. We are not only seeing a film in this moment, we are part of it. I almost feel that I was already prepared unconscious decades before for the wonders of the films by Terrence Malick if Antoine has a sister in filmhistory it is for sure Linda from Days of Heaven) or the best example of Truffauts definition of “caméra stylo”, the films by Yang Yonghi.
At the end, Antoine runs and runs and runs. During a football play he uses a moment of lack of attention of the prison guard to escape. There is one long shot where we see him running. After a cut he finally reaches the beach of the sea. A fleeting moment of freedom accentuated by the glory of the cinema scope format.
Than an Iris diaphragm and Antoines movement is frozen. This scene is one of the oldest memory I have in a film. In my memory and in my dreams it had a life of its own.
Another thing which comes to my mind when I think of this strong experience on this day at the Cinemathéque is, that a film like Les Quatre-Cent Coups keeps his life of its own even after 55 years of a history of reception, categorization forgetting and re-discovering.
I celebrate this screening in the Cinemathéque Français with Les Quatre-Cent Coups like a homecoming.