Notes on Some Brief Encounters with Snow

…Recently re-watched two films back-to-back at home that I first saw many years ago, at a time when cinema was becoming more than just an adolescent obsession or a way to let the long hours of the day pass by, but was opening up my eyes in a new way to the world around me: Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire (1987) and 35 Shots of Rum (2008) by Claire Denis. Two films that are colored in my memory by the heavy aura of winter; the shots of Berlin and Paris in the closing light of day as seen fleetingly from the front windows of moving S-Bahn trains; the leafless trees along the Spree against an eternal gray sky; the railway lines glinting tenderly in the winter sun on the Parisian outskirts; and at the center of each film the calm, quiet presence of Bruno Ganz and Alex Descas, each of whose smile radiates a warmth you wish you could lie down and sleep in …

35 Ruhm Still

…It was long past midnight as the end credits of the Denis film appeared on the television screen and outside it was snowing, countless tiny flakes wafting through the air in the early morning dark; leaning my head out the window I let the snow fall on my lips and nose, gentle touches of cold on my face, the first snowfall of the year, here in Vienna. The next morning I took this Polaroid…

Polaroid Vienna Winter

…Several days later I was reading a Patricia Highsmith novel called This Sweet Sickness in a German translation, where I came across the following passage: “Am nächsten Morgen lagen zehn Zentimeter Schnee, flockig und weich wie vom Himmel gefallene Wolken. David liebte den Schnee, und den leichten noch mehr als den schweren. Er verwandelte altbekannte Szenerien, verbarg den Schmutz und nahm den Konturen, den Zeugen alter Erfahrungen, Enttäuschungen und des täglichen Trotts, alle Schärfe. Der Schnee belebte seine Hoffnungen…” The snow revived his hope…

This Sweet Sickness Book Cover

…On my writing desk I have two old black and white photographs I found about four years ago in a second-hand bookstore in the Windmühlgasse in Vienna’s sixth district. (And the same place, incidentally, where I purchased the Highsmith novel this past December.) I remember it was late summer at the time, the August heat stinging face and bare skin, bright quadrangles of sunlight on the floor and shelves of the shop heating up the cotton spines of faded volumes; in a corner encircled by stacks of books the ageing proprietor sat at an electric typewriter in a deep pool of shadow. Each photograph is of a winter scene:

Children in the Snow

Two Figures Skiing

…Here now, a still from Yasujirō Ozu’s silent film Days of Youth (1929). An image like a memory from childhood you carry with you into old age; of such lightness and levity you feel yourself floating…

Days of Youth Ozu Still

 

 

Polaroid Vienna Winter