Glimpses at CHANTAL AKERMAN

PATRICK HOLZAPFEL: Stelle mir vor, obwohl ich das nicht kann, ich wäre Henri Dutilleux und würde eines Tages das Set von Chantal Akermans Trois strophes sur le nom de Sacher betreten. Sonia Wieder-Atherton, Cellistin und große Kennerin meines Werks hätte mich eingeladen, ich würde hingehen, obwohl ich die Stille lieber habe (im Kino oft zu wenig Platz zwischen den Zeilen, aber nicht bei Akerman, das gebe ich zu). 

Das Kino wäre mir ohnedies nicht fremd gewesen (kann das Kino jemals fremd sein?), ich hatte schließlich bereits die Musik zu L’Amour d’une femme von Jean Gremillon und kürzlich erst zu Maurice Pialats Sous le soleil de Satan komponiert. Ich hatte gehört, dass Akerman meine Musik durch den Bogen Sonias kennenlernte; es macht einen Unterschied, ob man Musik zuerst durch den Bogen hört oder von einer Platte.

Ich hätte Angst, dass der Film die falschen Töne spielen könnte; ein falscher Ton, das ist eine Frage zwischen Leben und Tod. Akerman, habe ich gehört, ist keine besondere Kennerin meiner Musik, irgendeiner Musik. Vielleicht gefällt mir das, ja es gefällt mir. Sonia sagte, dass es in meinen drei Strophen um die Suche nach den Instrumenten für das Leben gehe. Mit welchem Instrument man spielt, entscheidet vielleicht, ob man einen Ton trifft oder nicht. Das alles, sagt sie, entwickle sich in eine Explosion des Lebens. Vielleicht deshalb all die Farben an diesem Set, die Tänzer, die durch die Räume geisternden Sinne, die sich finden und wieder auflösen. Ein Licht, das ist auch ein Ton, würde ich denken.

Was ich an diesem Set vorgefunden hätte, wäre die Intimität meiner Musik. ein Raum am Abend, eine Frau, die sich zurückgezogen hat und mit der Musik geblieben ist. Sie verkörpert die unter allem schlummernde Suche und Verzweiflung. Im Bildhintergrund vollführen Nachbarn Schritte des Alltags, sie bügeln und leben und vergraben all das, was sie fühlen könnten. Das schöne an der Musik (und am Kino vielleicht): nicht alle können sie gleichzeitig hören, aber alle leben gleichzeitig. Die Musik ist immer da, aber wir können sie nicht immer hören.

Ich wäre also an dieses Set gegangen und hätte die Stille gefunden, die ich selbst komponiert habe. Bei Akerman spielt sich viel in der Nacht ab oder besser: in der Zeit nach den Tagen. Womöglich ist dann die Sehnsucht am größten oder die Möglichkeiten oder die Angst oder die Einsamkeit. Vielleicht ist es aber auch die Zeit, in der wir die Musik wirklich hören können (wenn wir nicht zu müde sind vom Tag). 

IVANA MILOŠHere’s a dance without partners, a reclamation of space and place, a redefinition of the fully marked, suggested, stipulated, and confined. It is called Saute ma ville, but it might as well be called break-this-place, chirp-without-measure, destroy-the-reduction or daisies-without-daisies, because you don’t need flowers to blow things up, but a scarf can be useful. On the other hand, flowers are brought into the minuscule kitchen Akerman inhabits in the film – in fact, they are the only object to enter it from the outside. Brought in at the very beginning in a whirlwind run up the stairs, they are also found in the heroine’s hand at the very end, reminiscent of bouquets handed to actresses after a star performance. These flowers, an emblem of the decorative, are another sign among many, a signifier without a body and, as such, something that invites destruction. But what is this passerine incantation that accompanies the blows dealt to the reduced existence of women? Mirthful and frenzied, Akerman’s chant fluctuates between laughter and sing-song, just like her movements, both levels together creating an orchestration of reveling and eruption. It is slapstick and tragicomedy, to be sure, but it is also a declaration: The opposite of functional needn’t be dysfunctional, for there are realms and choices to functionality just like there are to living. After all, the question remains: Is disappearance an explosion?

SIMON WIENER: There is something about D’Est which moves me profoundly, but I can’t pinpoint it. It feels as intimate as a film can possibly be, yet it is about vast landscapes, public spaces, anonymous faces. Maybe it is about being lost and lonely; or about resting strong and unfazed by destiny. Every image seems to weep. Every image is weeping, but without bemoaning itself, rather celebrating. Celebrating the tenaciousness of these trees amidst barren land, or the accidental but graceful interplay of lights during a rainy, sombre night. To weep, here, is to dance: to the wind, the light, the music.

SIMON PETRI: She will have to get up early to record the antagonistic blue that welcomes the underclass in the shivering hours of dawn. The first workers of the city form lines at bus stations to get to the factories, where circumstances of maintenance changed during these last years of historical tumult, but that doesn’t seem to improve a lot for the dawn’s crowd and the worst is yet to come. But that’s still more than a decade of a leap into the future. As for now, she doesn’t have to travel east, fear the frost and the burning eyes of the days’ loveless beginnings. As for now, she can have that juvenile, dreamy look – not a teenager anymore but still closer in spirit to the ingenious young girl who blew up a kitchen in a world too burdensome and uninspiring than a traveller of great discipline, stamina and political drive. As for now, she can forget about manners and self-imposed wakefulness, she can enjoy the caress, the food and the warm comfort of the Parisian living rooms. Dazed by satiety, she can slide into sleep. Maybe the sobering breeze between two apartments blows away the odour of pastry and perfume, so she can arrive neatly. Not that there would be any expectation, not that anything can break the deep kindness of old ladies – not even the recollection of the most harrowing evilness can shatter the adoration with which they look at her. As for now, she just has to listen. More or less. That will be good enough for a mitzvah.

RONNY GÜNL:

 

Eindrücke von La Chambre, Hotel Monterey, Là-Bas und Les rendez-vous d’AnnaBeschreibung eines Raumes:

Um was für ein Zimmer handelt es sich? Ein Hotelzimmer? Eine Wohnung? Ein Zugabteil? Wem gehört das Zimmer? Scheint es nicht bewohnt?

Was befindet sich im Raum? Wo ist das Bett? Wie viele Kissen? Gibt es ein Telefon? Gibt es ein Radio? Einen Fernseher? Hängen Bilder an der Wand? Oder Spiegel? Welche Farbe hat die Wand? Trägt sie eine Tapete? Wie gestaltet sich deren Muster? Wie ist der Boden beschaffen? Liegt ein Teppich aus? Säumen Gegenstände den Boden? Bücher? Zeitschriften? Ist es aufgeräumt?

Gibt es ein Bad? Eine Küche? Sind sie gefliest? Gibt es einen Tisch? Steht Essen auf ihm?

Ist es still? Weht der Wind herein? Hängt Rauch in der Luft?

Wo ist die Tür? Ist sie verschlossen? Ist sie geöffnet? Aus Holz? Ist sie alt? Befindet sich ein Schild an der Tür? Wo ist das Fenster? Ist ein Vorhang davor? Eine Gardine? Eine Jalousie? Lässt es sich öffnen? Wo ist der Lichtschalter?

Ist es Nacht? Oder Tag? In welchem Stockwerk befindet sich der Raum? Und in welcher Stadt? Wie klingt die Straße? Gibt es Nachbarn? Was tun sie? Strahlt Licht von außen herein? Die Sonne? Oder die Reklame? Welche Farbe hat es? Wie wirkt die Umgebung? Belebt oder verlassen? Welcher Tag ist heute? Wie is das Wetter? Sind Flugzeuge am Himmel zusehen? Kann man das Meer riechen?

Was ist nicht zu sehen? Gibt es einen Ausgang? Gehen oder bleiben? Wer lebt hier?

DAVID PERRIN: Jene Tage, an denen das Kino noch geholfen hat; als Mittel des Sich-Sammelns, des freien Durchatmens, des Augenaufgehens. Jene Filme, die einem den Appetit für die Welt wiedererweckt haben, nach denen man aus dem Kino trat und einfach nur geradeaus gehen wollte, oder mit der Straßenbahn zu einer Endstation fahren, in einer fremden Gegend der Stadt. Zum Beispiel, nachdem ich zum ersten Mal News from Home von Chantal Akerman sah und nur noch durch die Straßen gehen wollte, mit U-Bahnen und Bussen fahren, auf Bahnhofsgleisen und Haltestellen herumlungern bis spät in der Nacht, so lange bis ich mich in einen Niemand verwandelt hatte. (Was mir natürlich nie richtig gelungen ist.) Die ruhigen, langen Fahrten durch die Stadt New York, die unendlich langen Einstellungen, die auf den U-Bahnen und deren Stationen aufgenommen wurden sowie die im Morgengrauen menschenleeren Straßen in Downtown Manhattan – durch diese Bilder gewann ich eine Art Bewegungsfreiheit, die ich im Kino bisher kaum erlebt hatte. Es war, als ob die Stadt sich endlich zu einem Rhythmus verlangsamt hatte, in dem ich mich selber bewegen konnte, in dem Körper und Gefühl eins wurden. Das hatte sicher auch damit zu tun, dass ich zu der Zeit, als ich den Film sah, auch in New York lebte und in dieser übergroßen Reklame-Stadt nicht so richtig Fuß fassen konnte. Aber nach dem Erlebnis dieses Films, als ich abends aus dem Kino auf der 5th Avenue trat, rückte mir zugleich näher und ferner bis sie sich endlich zu einer tatsächlichen Weltstadt ausdehnte, einen Ort, wo man leben konnte.

Und dann gab es auch diesen anderen atemschöpfenden Film von Akerman, dessen Namen, als ich ihn zum ersten Mal hörte, sofort die Sehnsucht auslöste, am Schauplatz des Films sein zu wollen: Hotel Monterey. Das Porträt eines heruntergekommenen Hotels auf der Upper West Side in Manhattan und den einsamen, zumeist greisenhaften Bewohnern dort, vom Keller bis zum Dachboden, ein Film ohne Worte, Dialog oder Handeln. Oder doch: die Räume und deren Linien und Farben waren das Handeln; die leeren Flure, die Schlaf-, und Badezimmer, die Aufzüge verwandelten sich, unter den Blicken und sanften Schwenkungen der Kamera, in Orte der Kontemplation, zu Innenräumen der Einsamkeit. So sind sie seit den Bildern des Malers Edward Hopper noch nie erschienen. Und am Ende des Films, als die Kamera auf den Dachboden des Hotels die Skyline der Stadt im Morgenlicht aufnimmt, hatte ich das Gefühl, trotz des einen Schauplatzes, auf eine Weltreise gewesen zu sein.

Solche Kinoerlebnisse scheinen jetzt immer seltener zu werden (ob es den anderen auch so geht?), und das nicht nur, weil die Kinos mehr als ein halbes Jahr geschlossen waren. Die Bilder, die heute auf der Leinwand zu finden sind, haben, für mich jedenfalls, nichts Entdeckerisches an sich; sie sind einfach da, im Vorhinein fertig und festgelegt. Die Welt starrt einen einfach blöd an, statt zu erscheinen. Daher sind die Filme Akermans, und nicht nur die zwei, die ich oben erwähnt habe, wie ein zusätzliches Licht oder Luft, die einem durch das Leben wehen und es aufleuchten lassen. So weiterleuchten!

ANDREW CHRISTOPHER GREEN: The first film I saw by Chantal Akerman was, of course, Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. I was 23 then, and it was the first ambitious European film I’d ever seen. I was struck by how evasive it was, how excluded I felt from it. It seemed like there were scenes missing, or as if it were a sequel to a film that had established the characters with whom I should have already been familiar, and I remember thinking the subtitles must have been mistranslated by a poet taking way too much license; the few times the characters spoke with one another the dialogue was far too intense, like everything stored up in the silence between came rupturing out with a violent force of repression. I thought there must be something European about this ambiguity and non-disclosure. I knew I’d be moving to Germany in a few months and this excited me, to get a taste of the world I’d become acquainted with.

It took a good four years for the experience of that film to germinate inside me. I was studying contemporary art and slowly growing disillusioned with it, and it’s as though without my knowing it, the little gaps and intensities I saw in Akerman’s film were becoming the antidote to the shortcomings of my field, which had resigned itself from all the little mysteries that make her works shimmer. At first, I thought myself capable of resolving this discrepancy in my work, but the more evenings I spent with her and then Straub-Huillet and Ford and Ozu, the more I felt myself compelled to take them seriously, until the gap had grown so wide that I looked behind and saw I could never go back. Then it was as though one day a door between my apartment and the world outside silently clasped behind me and I resolved to myself: “Now I’ll just watch films, now I will finally do nothing but just watch films.” And I haven’t stopped since. Every night I spend my time behind a digital projector looking for the little gaps Akerman showed and hid from me for the first time in that film I saw now more than seven years ago, which, though once confusing, now illuminate the entry-points to the truth-content of the medium itself. And my appreciation of her work has grown exponentially as I witnessed her recreate such feats in not just so-called artistic films but, as if summoning the spirits of the Hawks’ and Langs’ and Walshes’ of bygone times, through a spectrum of romantic comedies, musicals, tragedies, documentaries, melodramas, and others forms I’d never have taken seriously on account of their beauty lying so dormant and opaque beneath a flashy surface we tend to only ever see ourselves reflected in.

JAMES WATERS: I’ve kept a document containing all the retrospectives of Chantal Akerman’s work held since her death. The number is approximately 257, including the repeats at the Cinémathèque française in Paris, CINEMATEK in Brussels, ICA in London and the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. Each is more definitive than the last, with a new kind of selling point. For the Cinémathèque française, in 2018, it was that Hangin Out Yonkers – long thought to be lost – had been discovered and digitized. A friend told me that this wasn’t the first showing of the film, as the previous retrospective at La Cinémathèque française screened a 35mm print in 2013, with Akerman present.

I have another document of all the Chantal Akerman retrospectives dating from May 1st, 1968 to October 1st, 2015. I don’t have an exact number, but it’s less than 200. There have been more of them in the past 5 ½ years than in the 47 – prior to 2015 – Akerman spent thinking seriously about and, henceforth, practicing filmmaking.

I ask Chantal what she thinks of this. Here’s the response I heard:

“Nous avons suivi Pina Bausch et ses danseurs pendant cinq semaines, de Wuppertal à Milan, de Milan à Venise, de Venise à Avignon. J’étais directement frapper au cœur par ces longues pièces, qui se mélange tous dans la tête. Il est le sentiment que les images que nous avons ramenées en transmettent peu, et la trahit souvent.”

“We have been following Pina Bausch and her dance company for the last five weeks, from Wuppertal to Milan, Milan to Venice and Venice to Avignon. I was deeply touched by her lengthy performances. I have the feeling, however, that the images we’ve brought back don’t convey their essence, and often betray it.”

The programmers of these retrospectives also heard this. One in Buenos Aires wrote to me – after having made my documentation public – of the above sentences and how they came to her in a dream. When she heard them prior to the dream, there was nothing remarkable about them. Even in the dream, there still wasn’t anything overtly remarkable about these words, but she woke up in a cold sweat regardless, as one does from a dream in which one trip’s over and, in waking, opens one’s eyes before this dreamed moment of impact. By the time she had this dream, it was already 2017.

Images and quotation taken from Un Jour Pina à Demandé

SEBASTIAN BOBIK: “Today is Saturday and I’m going to make a film about laziness”. With this sentence Chantal Akerman’s Portrait d’une Paresseuse begins. It’s the first film by Akerman I saw. I suppose that is a rather unusual start into her filmography. It was also the first time I saw her image, since she plays herself in this film. The opening sentence already tells us what the film will be: Akerman will make a film about laziness. She is still in bed. She looks as if she doesn’t want to get up. “In order to make cinema, one must get out of bed“ she says. And yet she stays in bed and the film is made. I understand that she couldn’t have made the entire film in bed: organizing, setting up the shot, editing… I doubt all of these steps were done from bed. Yet I enjoy this idea. A film made in bed. Of course, she doesn’t remain in bed. We see glimpses of a morning routine. She takes vitamins. We see several shots of her partner Sonia Wieder-Atherton practicing on the cello, while Chantal Akerman watches her, or just listens to her in a different room. The final 2 minutes of the film Akerman smokes a cigarette. We watch her in a close-up. The next time I saw Chantal Akerman was also in bed. I watched her film La Chambre, which pans 360 degrees through a room several times. For a brief moment, she is again in bed, looking at us. Years later I saw Je Tu Il Elle, in which suddenly a similar image struck me once again.

ANNA BABOS: 

As you set out for Ithaka

hope your road is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:

you’ll never find things like that on your way

as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,

as long as a rare excitement

stirs your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them

unless you bring them along inside your soul,

unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

 

Hope your road is a long one.

May there be many summer mornings when,

with what pleasure, what joy,

you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;

may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

to buy fine things,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

sensual perfume of every kind—

as many sensual perfumes as you can;

and may you visit many Egyptian cities

to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

 

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.

But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you’re old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

 

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you wouldn’t have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.

 

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

/C.P. Cavafy: Ithaka, translated by Edmund Keeley/

Glimpses at SLEEPING

DAVID PERRIN: A brief scene before bed: Years ago, after a long days’ work in a museum coat check, where my constant movements of receiving and returning an endless stream of coats, backpacks, shopping bags, and suitcases, resembled a kind of dance, and the whole day I felt as if I hadn’t seen a single face, only pairs of hands of different ages and sizes as they blindly handed me their personal belonging…after such a day, when the weight of all those strangers’ belongings hung heavy in my arms and legs, forming a large mass of tiredness in my body, what a wonder it was to step out into the early evening summer light and see beyond the avenue the tops of the maple trees swaying in the air and feel the wind in my face…and then to walk across town to the movie theatre, where a film with Robert Mitchum was playing, an actor, whose slow thoughtful movements and resigned weary eyes seemed to always embody for me an exemplary way of being in the world, an actor open to the world and its pleasures, yet also someone who would just as well pause what he’s doing (riding a horse, kissing a woman, getting shot) to take a nap in the corner, or look away from whatever excitement was happening in front of him and quietly doze in his chair…

IVANA MILOŠ: Maybe there is a bypass between sleep and waking. A finely contained and concealed tune, a piece of string someone is always pulling on and dragging away, keeping it just beyond our grasp. Or something more akin to the first note of a bird song, the rest invisible, unheard, inviolate. What is this intractable, mystifying property of sleep founded on exactly? Our being out of reach to ourselves? Though we might just as well be in the very closest contact with our inner worlds at that very moment, all racing colours and personalities colliding in the midst of dreamland. Maybe we are, in fact, flying.

I feel this same sense of unfathomableness stir when I see someone else sleeping. Throwing a slightly shy, unpunished glance their way, wondering what this could possibly be. Someone’s light has briefly dimmed. They are not sharing the same plane of existence with us. They are asleep: it is magic.

This is also part of the magic of cinema: the ability to show us people sleeping. It can be generous, and it is a privilege. It’s an observation of the unknown, of worlds contained, of a change in the human state of aggregation. Dissolves and dissolution have something in common, indeed. There is an inherent vulnerability in a look directed at a sleeping body. That body could, in fact, be dreaming.

“The water encompasses you on all sides, a black, motionless sea, extraordinarily smooth, lacking even phosphorescence, and yet you feel that you could detect every detail, the slightest cloud if there were a sky, the merest shoal if there were an horizon. But there is only sea, and you are all stem cutting without effort, sound, or tremor the deep white tracks of your way, like a share ploughing up a field.”

Georges Perec, Between Sleep and Waking

SIMON WIENER: Schlaf, wie er im Film gezeigt wird, ist nie bloß Schlaf. Keine Repräsentation des Schlafes kann ihm je gerecht werden, ersetzt eine solche doch dessen Leere, dessen Nichts mit Aufschlussreichtum, mit Erkenntnisgewinn. Wenn jemand regungslos daliegt, leise für sich atmet; wenn die Zeit stillsteht, keine Erkenntnis birgt: dann hebt man altklug den Finger, meint, erklären zu müssen. Ein Schwall an Zusammenhängen, Einordnungen, Voraussichten und Deutungen umgibt sofort dies Schlafen; jene Leere, jenes Nichts, wird durch sein Abbilden umgestülpt zum Vollen, zum Bedeutsamen, wenn auch seine Bedeutung weniger in ihm selbst liegt, als in dem, auf das er verweist. Schlaf ist also, wenn gefilmt, zuerst ein Zeichen, was auch daran liegt, dass er immer anknüpft an anderes. Er verbindet, kittet; und wenn jemand im Film schläft, so meist bloß, um Einschlafen oder Aufwachen zu demonstrieren.

Brutal klingelt ein Telefon mitten in der Nacht und reißt aus dem Schlaf; Unheil kündigt sich an, ein Mordfall etwa bedarf Aufklärung und der Schlaf erscheint im Nachhinein nur noch als verlorengegangene Ruhe, als diffuses Seligsein, in das es zurückzukehren gilt.

Oder umgekehrt gelingt es da nicht, einzuschlafen; unruhig wälzt sich jemand im Bett umher; geplagt, malträtiert, heimgesucht von Gewissensbissen. Eine verdrängte Vergangenheit holt ein, beharrt auf Anerkennung. Schlaf bedeutet in diesem Fall Flucht nach vorne; schlafen, um aufzuschieben, um vorübergehend zu vergessen, dem Ringen mit ehemals Verdrängtem zu entrücken.

Oder aber das Bild des Schlafes deklariert ihm Vorangehendes oder Nachfolgendes als Traum. Unser Finger, schulmeisterlich hochgereckt, rechtfertigt sich hier besonders; siehe, wir sind zurück aus einem Ausflug in die Subjektivität; siehe, wie mit einem Mal Bedeutungen sich wölben, wie wir Leichtsinnige fehlgeleitet wurden; siehe, und sei auf der Hut! Schlaf bedeutet hier nicht bloß Nicht-Sehen, sondern Falsch-Sehen; das Bild des Schlafes als Leuchtturm, um den sich verheißende, sinnliche, aber irreführende Fährten winden: Schlaf, ein Wegweiser, der Irrwege erst hervorruft.

Schlaf kann im Film seiner Auslegung als Metapher wohl nicht entkommen. Um ruhig, unbehelligt schlafen zu dürfen, müssen dramatische Konflikte aufgelöst sein, oder muss es uns an jedem Wissen über die Schlafenden mangeln. Im ersten Fall ist der Film längst vorbei, im zweiten hat er noch gar nicht begonnen.

SEBASTIAN BOBIK:

SIMON PETRI: One cannot observe oneself asleep and it is a rather passive activity anyway. Thus, the pretence of sleeping is quite difficult and often manifests in exaggerated form, ironically in movements that are supposed to seem involuntarily. Oversleeping is a great excuse for avoiding the unpleasant fuss. After all, one can’t help it. For the aforementioned reasons, it is most effective if one is indeed asleep, though in this case, one is deprived of the simultaneous awareness and appreciation of the contrived masterplan. One must seize the moment that the siblings in Jean Cocteau’s Les Enfants terribles so expertly control and hang on to it. Or maybe not? Don’t conscious and wilful attempts distract and crush the volatile moment? True greats of the sport don’t attempt, of course; they sleep. Like Annie in Menschen am Sonntag. Wieder Arbeit, wieder Alltag, wieder Woche. Why would a model want to spend even a seventh day socializing, talking, cackling, performing? Let alone in the company of filmmakers. Five of them! Annie finks out of the engagement in the most innocent manner: she keeps on sleeping. No argument with the tempered boyfriend, no need for circumlocution. In fact, Annie’s act is so authentic that she remained asleep after her man had left and woke up only upon his loud return. It’s all the more remarkable that she accomplished this on a rather hot Sunday, in a stuffy, airless Berlin apartment, whose characteristics don’t promise a very pleasant sleep. Least of all the tight single-bed, on which the tiniest of turns can push one to the wrong side of that liminal state Cocteau’s children were on. Her disciplined, longitudinal display is practical because not only did she not have to go in the first place, but remained unaccountable for not having joined later either.

RONNY GÜNL: Schlafende Hunde soll man nicht wecken. Im Schlaf vergeht die Zeit anders. Auch wenn man denkt, Probleme ließen sich im Schlaf lösen, verschwinden sie nicht.

Claire Denis’ Beau travail endet damit, dass Galoup, mit aller Sorgfalt sein Bett bezieht, so als wäre er noch im Dienst in Djibouti. Stattdessen ist er zurück in Frankreich, nachdem er von der Légion étrangère exkommuniziert wurde. Es scheint, er wolle sein Apartment verlassen. Pedantisch streicht er die aufgeworfenen Falten glatt. Man könnte denken, er bereite seinen Abschied vor und keine Spur soll daran erinnern, wo er gelebt und wie er geschlafen hätte. Für einen Moment hält er inne. Durch das offene Fenster ist ein frühsommerliches Rauschen zu vernehmen. Dann ergreift er seine Waffe. Er legt sich zurück auf das gemachte Bett, dabei verschwindet sein Kopf aus dem Bild. Nun nimmt die Kamera seine Hand in Blick, die ergriffen mit der Pistole auf seinem nackten Bauch ruht. Eine wispernde Stimme liest schließlich den tätowierten Schriftzug, der seine Brust schmückt: „Sers la bonne cause et meurs“.

Die folgende, ikonische Solo-Tanzszene von Galoup zu Coronas: „The Rhythm of the Night“ sprengt die geschlossene Form des Films. Der Schlaf wird hier Mittel, um Abstand vom Gehorsam des alltäglichen Bewusstseins zu gewinnen, wie es auch der Tanz versucht. Vielleicht ist das die einzige Szene in Claire Denis’ Film, die dies erlaubt.

ANDREW CHRISTOPHER GREEN:

A whirlwind burst out of the tear-drenched earth,

a wind that crackled with a bloodred light,

a light that overcame all of my senses;

 

and like a man whom sleep has seized, I fell.

Inferno, Canto III

JAMES WATERS

ANNA BABOS:

PATRICK HOLZAPFEL: die reede

ich möchte in einer reede leben dort ist das wasser sanft und die geräusche gedämpft ab und an kommt jemand vorbei oder holz knirscht und dann wird wieder geschwiegen und gewartet geschlafen und gewippt.

entfernt brummt ein motorboot jemand hat mir gesagt dass dieses rumoren wie die stille wäre das könnte ich auch über die wellen sagen die an die kiele schwappen oder die leichte brise die in die nacht entschwindet.

vielleicht warte ich nur auf den nächsten tag oder die nächste nacht wenn keiner merkt wie ich aufs offene meer treibe unsichtbar sie sehen nicht was in den reeden passiert am liebsten wäre ihnen wenn es keine reeden gäbe.

aber ich bleibe noch ein wenig nur ein wenig weil ich mich hier am ufer festhalten kann und nicht in die tiefe gezogen werde und sich rümpfe und segel anschmiegen statt mich zu warnen und zu kontrollieren, zu kanalisieren und zu versenken

 

Glimpses at L’ATALANTE

ANDREW CHRISTOPHER GREEN: By the time we got to the Rhine, the sun had just set. It was emitting an embers-glow from beneath the horizon, diffusing a gradient of pale to navy blue in the crescent of the sky it’d set behind. In summer the dusk goes on for a remarkably long time here. We were there to watch the flight of a spacecraft being launched from Florida, which a friend had told us would be visible if we looked south/south-west. But sitting down under the promenade against the flood-wall there wasn’t much of a sky to see beyond the skyscrapers in the Medienhafen. We also didn’t know when exactly the launch would take place, and just intermittently looked off in the direction we supposed it’d be visible in. I was tired after work, and he’d made another Tex-mex Thai fusion bowl of vegetables, rice, and shrimp, which turned to a lightly perfumed and contradictory, homogenous mush in my mouth. This dish spelled out the worst of his culinary capabilities and confused flavor profiles. He could tell from my silence that something was wrong and tried to relate to me by pointing out the warm silhouettes of some bushes further down the river bank, and said they were beautiful. I felt like he wouldn’t have said that or even noticed them if I wasn’t there, though, and thought they were ugly for this reason alone. A few awkward minutes later we saw a light flying through the sky much faster than either of us had expected. It was the first privately funded spacecraft to fly into orbit and dock to the international space station. The next day I woke up to a text saying that the launch had been delayed due to weather conditions, and that what we saw was the space station itself. I laughed and realized that this must be why conspiracy theories about the moon-landing exist; not much can be verified by your own experience alone. And who can you believe if you’re not able to trust yourself anymore? We sat a while longer, and just before the dusk turned fully into night a barge came driving downstream. It had a light hanging from a pole off its bow like an angler fish’s, and another from its cabin by the stern that was green, and they cast a long reflection on the black water which vibrated when it passed over a current. The only thing I could muster out was that it made me of think of these unhappy newly-weds living on a barge in a film called L’Atalante by Jean Vigo, who died when he was only 29.

PATRICK HOLZAPFEL: Weit auf einer entlegenen Wiese, als wir noch gar nicht wussten, was das alles bedeutet, sind wir losgezogen und durch das hohe, vertrocknete Gras, das uns an den Beinen kratzte, gewandert und jedes Mal, wenn wir uns umsahen und merkten, dass wir unser Dorf nicht mehr sahen, überfiel uns ein leichter Panikschauer, aber wir sind trotzdem weitergegangen, weil uns irgendwas gerufen hat, etwas aus der Tiefe.

Wir hörten verschwommene Geräusche aus einem anderen Leben, eine Versuchung, die so undeutlich war, dass wir nicht unterscheiden konnten, ob sie den Tod ankündigte oder das Glück. Ich glaube, dass wir alle früher oder später in diese Tiefe folgen. Es gibt auf dieser Erde kein Wissen darüber wie es dort aussieht, aber wenn es einen Anker gibt, hat ihn der todkranke Jean Vigo hinterlassen, als seine letzten Bilder, die nie versinken dürfen. Ich verstehe nicht wie man einen solchen Film über die Liebe drehen kann. Niemand kann so einen Film über die Liebe drehen.

RONNY GÜNL: 

ANNA BABOS: I always find it interesting what is missing and what remains from the memory of a film. In this case, I had the impression that the barge in L’Atalante was a rather uncanny place, with some treasures belonging to an old sailor, Père Jules. I also recalled his friendship to Juliette. After revisiting the film, I still think that this relationship is the most moving part of the film. Such an odd couple of friends: the always drunken, dirty and worldly sailor and the young girl from the countryside, dreaming of Paris.

The most memorable scene of their relationship is when Père Jules enthusiastically shows her the exotic gadgets he acquired, objects that obviously mean a lot to him and together with the cats, make him truly happy. This desire to show things that had a special importance in one’s past is a nice gesture. The film takes the time to explore these unique and sometimes scary objects, and Juliette shows honest interest and joy in getting to know this man. Juliette, as Alice in Wonderland, discovers the room of the puppet conductor from Caracas, fans from Japan, anatomical specimens, photographs of the young Jules, a pair of cut-off hands in a jar. Both of them gain a lot emotionally from this relationship. Père Jules finds someone who really pays attention to him, while his objects allow Juliette to enter the amazing and manifold world she is longing for.

SIMON PETRI: As an emotional hierarchy of relationships is rendered normative, a consequent injustice is inevitable. What scorn and unearned superiority feed into the archetype of the cat lady; what neglect can friends experience when their romantic engagement happens asynchronously with that of their companions. Of all the ties that bind, it may be that only love matches Jean Vigo’s exceptional sensitivity and (tragically bewildering) vivacity. In L’Atalante, desire and feeling take artistic form in an inexplicable blend of clarity and opacity, and spasmodic yet innocent clashes. Accompanying the breezy glow that surrounds Jean and Juliette, the thick and boozy world of Père Jules, the sudden realization of having been pushed to the side, his care for kittens and his extraordinary soul are explored with the same tenderness, because, in feverish empathy, Vigo conveys the pain of the hierarchy in question. The sudden rupture of friendship is certainly not Juliette’s responsibility. In fact, she and Père Jules are very kind to each other. It’s rather Jean, who perhaps has always been too hasty and impatient for Père Jules but his focus and ability to listen are now more challenged than ever. This may sound like a minor drama compared to the overwhelming fanatism that youth and love evoke, which makes Vigo’s equal responsiveness all the more mind-expanding.

SIMON WIENER:

Images from L’Atalante by Jean Vigo and L’eau de la Seine by Téo Hernandez.

DAVID PERRIN: The first and only time I saw L’Atalante was in March 2019 at Anthology Film Archives on 35mm and I still remember the warmness of the evening, the memory of the air on my skin like it was the last day of winter or the first day of spring. Strangely enough, the film itself I can remember only with difficulty, like trying to see underwater: indistinct images of villages, houses, bridges and trees as viewed from a barge slowly making its way down the Seine towards Paris, the sky full of low-hanging clouds; Michel Simon below deck, a pipe jutting out from the corner of his mouth, lovingly caressing a black kitten; Jean Daste’s dark eyes emerging from underneath his fishermen’s cap; Dita Parlo hovering in an underwater dreamscape, the radiance of her smile enough to momentarily alleviate the weight of the world.

Beyond that, I remember mostly the room itself where I watched it, the small ground-floor theater named after that other poet of cinema, whose birthday is only a few days shy of Jean Vigo’s: Maya Deren…I remember the nearly empty theater and the other moviegoers as vague shapes in the dark; the uncomfortable front row seat I sat in and the pain in my lower back; the steady succession of image, rather than the images themselves. I remember the sound of the evening traffic outside which every so often I’d be able to hear inside, the two layers of sound – the noise of cars driving endlessly up and down 2nd Avenue and the wavelets of the Seine breaking onto shore – merging and becoming one. After the film, I took the hour-long subway ride home, the images of Vigo’s film most likely still heavy on the underside of my eyelids, and as the train crossed the Queensborough Bridge over the East River, I probably saw, as I always did, the barges and other boats on the waterway as little dots of light slowly moving up into the inland of the country. Or maybe I’m just imagining all of this, just as Daste dreamed of seeing his beloved floating in the beautiful haze of a dream.

JAMES WATERS:

I remembered that there was some in-camera trickery done to create the double exposures during Jean’s swim in L’Atalante. Upon further inspection, it was in fact a traditional double exposure, but in the interceding years between my last two rewatches of Vigo’s film there have been other images – also in B&W – that have fooled me, creating double exposures and crossfades I thought were otherwise impossible. The impossibility was implanted by Vigo, the filmmaker whose image I returned to four subsequent times as precedent.

Two of the following images were achieved in-camera. These images I’d like to call mutual movies.

The third Jean – being Epstein – reminded me that irises in/out used to be achieved in-camera, a one-time given in the cinematic apparatuses of the 1920’s and 30’s, now impossible in digital cameras, much like black and white (without the assistance of post-production tinkering, at least). That tactility imbues itself onto the subsequent crossfade, seeming to happen spontaneously and contingent on incidental flares from the sun, perched just above (yet another) Jean – and Marie – in Coeur Fidèle.

More Jeans, both Cocteau and Marais, from Orphée. Leaning upon an upright mirror, the glass surrounding Marais’ head in the foreground creates enough of a negative space to crossfade into an inverted image of Marais laying atop another mirror, covered in sand.

So now, the mutual movies. The subsequent shots were achieved in-camera at times when black and white was becoming outmoded (1984 and 1976, respectively). 

Leos Carax’s Boy Meets Girl

And Terence Davies’ Children, a shot whose double exposures and crossfades become one; a shot whose power I must approximate in the following stills:

SEBASTIAN BOBIK: Jean Vigo died of complications from tuberculosis a short time after L’Atalante was released in 1934. It is commonly believed that his declining health is tied to the shooting of the film, which was supposedly scheduled for summer 1933, but only started in November. Vigo suffered in the cold conditions, but still tirelessly worked on the film. For some parts of filming, he was bedridden. In a way he was making this film from his deathbed. In the case of Vigo, it is especially tragic, since he was only 29 years old when he died. One can only imagine what films could have still followed. He isn’t the only one to have spent his final days that way.

There have been some cases in film history, where this has happened – at what expense, I wonder.

According to Pauline Kael for instance, it was easier to direct than to breathe for John Huston when he realized The Dead, at the age of 80, bound to a wheelchair. In Chris Marker’s Une journée d’Andrei Arsenevitch, we see the fragile Andrei Tarkovsky, ruling over the editing of Offret from the bed of a hospital.

The status of a film as a final gesture has some very fascinating implications. The question of how these people must have felt and why they spent their final months or years with these films is inevitable. One wonders if their status as a final film is actually visible in the works themselves. Is Offret a final film? Is L’Atalante a final film? Is there something in their form, that gives this away? Can we see what pushed these filmmakers? Is there a generosity in this gesture of creating a final work to leave for the world? Could they have taken this time instead to retire, to take better care of their state? Is there, as the title of Tarkovsky implies a “sacrifice” made within these films? But even if there is a selflessness in these acts, and they are admirable, looking at them only as selfless might be reductive. There is something obsessive about this idea too. People, who just couldn’t rest, who had to finish one last film. What pain it must have cost their loved ones, to see them exert themselves like this over one last work.

IVANA MILOŠ:

Glimpses at PLACES TO REST

DAVID PERRIN:

ANDREW CHRISTOPHER GREEN:

ANNA BABOS:

PATRICK HOLZAPFEL:

JAMES WATERS:

I’ve been discovering the meaning of both „aperture“ and „shutter speed“. I make a small hole encircling my right index thumb and hold it up to my eye. Through this hole I can see the trees clearer, but darker. The focus is sharp, the distance greater, but the immediate light is blocked out. In the pitch-dark, my eyes adjust to the ever-present light pollution that thrums beneath the „seen“ each night.

It takes me at least a minute to set the f. stop and shutter speed on my still camera before each photograph. It’s antithetical to photography’s base functions, those of „capturing moments“. Once I’ve figured out the focus, f. stop and shutter speed, the moment’s passed. So, I capture the „after“. This can also be a function of photography.

IVANA MILOŠ:

SIMON PETRI:

SEBASTIAN BOBIK:

SIMON WIENER:

RONNY GÜNL:

Seit ein paar Wochen suche ich mit Freunden eine neue Wohnung. Immer wieder werden Besichtigungen vereinbart. Unser alltäglicher Trott sortiert sich um diese herum. Wir fahren 20 Minuten durch die Stadt, suchen eine Straße, suchen eine Hausnummer. Schließlich sind wir zu früh. Wie immer. Der Wind weht mit peitschender Kälte durch die Gassen, während wir warten. Für einen Augenblick scheint unsere Angelegenheit in Vergessenheit geraten zu sein. Wir verziehen uns in einen Hauseingang, schweigen uns an und schauen in die Leere. Vorbeigehende mustern uns skeptisch, fast ängstlich. Herumlungern, nichtstuend zwischen Gehsteig und Haustür stehen zu bleiben, hat sich offenbar im Laufe des vergangenen Jahres zum Akt der Subversion gemausert. Ein Stillstand, der sich selbst überführt. Ich schaue den Vorbeigehenden hinterher, während ich an Federico Fellinis I vitelloni denke. Der Kitsch überfällt mich.

Glimpses at TELEVISION

IVANA MILOŠ: In a pursuit of what makes up television, I submit three moments of my life remembered and embossed in television: 1. A simple cartoon of a small soldier who discovers a flower, the only colourful thing in the whole world he inhabits, seen while bunking on the living room floor during the war in Yugoslavia as a child. It could be seen countless times since nothing else was shown except for the news, or at least that’s what my memory tells me. 2. Watching Hollywood classics every day at 2 p.m. after coming home from school while my grandfather made me a snack. Anything from musicals to westerns, with an unforgettable amount of Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, whose faces and voices have come to epitomize a trip down memory lane for me. 3. The joyful confusion and extraordinary delight of Gilmore Girls, seen when series still ran on TV in the early 2000s. This one caught me hook, line, and sinker. It was shown in jumbled sequences (season 2 one day, season 1 the next, etc.) that somehow fitted the wildly paced dialogue as well as the structure of the series, which relied on its intertextuality and language-obsessed worldmaking for episode development much more than it did on classical character plot lines. A friend once showed me what Gilmore Girls sounded like in German (godawful), once more affirming my firm belief in the privilege of coming from a small country where dubbing is unheard of and TV speaks all the languages of the world.

For me, these are overwhelming, larger-than-life tableaux – spilling over and lashing about, stuck in time and yet reverberating, as if a piece were stuck inside the screen itself and could come to life again anytime the TV is on. A medium bearing a striking resemblance to the nymph Echo, trapped in an existence of repetition, television is made up of simultaneous pasts and presents, dancing together and overlapping happily, congealed into devices that nowadays look like undersized, perfectly smooth (and ugly) black holes floating about the living room. I am not sure what the future of a black hole is like.

ANNA BABOS:

The intro to Esti Mese (Night Tales) with the TV Maci (TV Teddybear) on Hungarian television.

Long-Distance Service (An episode from A Mézga család különös kalandjai with subtitles)

The intro for the series:

It’s good to be insane, for just a day
And see our trouble fly away like cloudy days
There’s something beautiful in turning gold out from tin
Our spirits fly high, but the air is so thin!
Bold and brash, carefree, never forlorn
Don’t be afraid to grab the bull right by the horn
And when trouble first rears its head, don’t you start singin’ blues
Don’t expect brainiacs, to give you any clues
If anyone doubts you just, take a good look at them
Tell them to walk in your shoes!
I am Mézga Géza, and I brake, for no one
But my family’s a bunch of clowns
In a space so tiny, there’s no room for whining
Even though there’s naught to brag about
In our house we live it up, party hard, till we drop
Like we live in the „wild west,” mayhem, chaos and fun
Daddy, mommy, children too, love for him, me and you
Neither whines or hangs their head, worries, troubles, or pouts. (…)

Instead of a device for the discovery of individual titles or separate experiences, television represented permanence and regularity in my time spent with my family.

I used to watch television with my mother and with my grandparents every day. When I was a child, they watched the Night Tales with me. This program was introduced each night by the TV Teddybear, who had changed a little bit since the 70’s, but my mother was still fond of him. Most of the Hungarian animations were lovely and entertaining for adults as well, for instance A Mézga család különös kalandjai.

Later, with each person, I watched different kinds of programs. My mother and I prefer TV series, beginning every day at the same time, in some periods of our life the most banal ones. These series gave some kind of structure to our schedule at home, we ritually prepared the space, made some food and watched the characters change every day. After the end of the series, we talked through every decision and situation that arose. While one might consider it a total waste of time, I’m quite sure that these discussions contributed to my emotional growth. I enjoy conversations about film that take the time to consider the characters in an in-depth manner and when each participant of the dialogue gives personal answers to the issues in question.

My grandmother and I, as a guilty pleasure, sometimes watched Teleshop commercials. These extremely long, repetitive sessions are to promote products you definitely won’t ever need. We were laughing a lot at the exaggerated acting, at how the black-and-white, horrible world becomes a coloured, wonderful paradise by one product. In any event, these commercials proved to be effective, as even while laughing at them we ordered an American style pancake fryer, freaking out the whole family, which we only tried once. We were quite proud of our acquisition.

For my grandfather, as an ex-football player, being able to watch football was always a central question, even during family gatherings. Besides being part of the daily routine, television became part of the family events as well. Without being a football fan or understanding what is happening on the field, I liked his commitment and enthusiasm, and tried to share it more by copying his reactions than watching the match.

ANDREW CHRISTOPHER GREEN: When I was a young boy my mom gave me a VHS box set of Our Gang (The Little Rascals) and it instantly became my favourite thing to watch. The tapes always began with an elderly man introducing the films, giving anecdotes about the production and the actors and so on, and this always took too long so I fast forwarded through it. It was only much later that I realized these VHS tapes were released for other elderly people nostalgic for the television of their youth when these films, originally made in the 30’s and 40’s, were broadcast in the 50’s, and they were the audience whom the elderly man was addressing. I was confused because I didn’t realize they had a niche audience. I thought they were timeless and didn’t see any difference between my life and the characters. Dotting mothers, money-making schemes, fear and love of the cute girls, misers and foreigners, drinking soap and hiccupping bubbles, having to cut the grass when you’d rather go play… yes, I knew this life. The wonky noises and overdubbed sound were a bit odd, but I didn’t get hung up over these things.

So, when the elderly man introduced the films and gave them a context, it was like he was compartmentalizing my own youth for me before I got to make sense of it by comparing it to the mischievous urchins of 1930’s. I took a great deal of solace, then, in the times when the kids outsmarted the adults, like this one time when Spanky, the gang leader, went undercover to a black-tie dinner-and-a-show to steal something. There was a fat man roaring with laughter, and when he noticed Spanky, Spanky just laughed along with him in an exaggerated manner so that the man would keep laughing and look back at the stage. It was clear Spanky didn’t find anything funny. He rolled his eyes and shook his head when the fat man turned away, as if to say ‘the idiot, I can’t believe I have to do these things to keep him thinking I’m just a dumb kid.’ I was shocked by his hubris but felt solidarity with his opposition to the world we resisted together in schemes. I’m still shocked adults wrote and directed that.


RONNY GÜNL: Beim Gedanken an das Fernsehen schwebt vor dem inneren Auge nicht der ummittelbare Alltag, dessen steter Begleiter es ist, sondern das Ereignis. Ereignisse, wie etwa die Pressekonferenz Günter Schabowskis oder das Flugzeugattentat auf das World Trade Center – Augenblicke der Zeitgeschichte, die sich zuerst in die Mattscheiben und danach in das kulturelle Gedächtnis eingebrannt haben. „Was hast du damals gemacht?“ – „Wir haben den Fernseher angeschalten.“

Fernsehen scheint dafür geradezu prädestiniert zu sein. Mehr noch, das Geschehen erzwingt es viel mehr. Ob politische Führung, technische Bedingung oder beides, das Fernsehen war in seiner vermeintlich ursprünglichen Form der 1930er der Gegenwart preisgegeben. Es hängt ihm ein Bild des Totalitären nach, wenngleich ein chimärisches.

„Irgendwas passiert immer!“, möchte man meinen, „doch nichts passiert ohne das Fernsehen“, zischt es zynisch zurück.
Mit AMPEX Quadruplex wird die Rundfunk-Utopie des Fern-Sehens (tele vision) zur Zeit-im-Bild- Maschine – „MAZ abfahren, bitte!“ Das Fernsehen und das Video zusammen sind dabei der Schallplatte näher als dem Film. Während im Kino die Bilder still stehen, fließen die Zeilen des Fernsehens unaufhörlich vor sich hin.

Harun Farocki: „Es ist nicht so schlimm, daß Bilder nur zur Überleitung da sind, schlimmer, daß diese ihre dramaturgische Funktion nicht zugegeben wird. Die Füllbilder kommen einher wie die Bilder, die vorgeblich das Material der Untersuchungen sind. Alle aufgenommen im gleichen fotografischen Duktus, lauter durch Schwenk, Zoom und kurzen Schnitt fixgemachte Momentaufnahmen.“

— Harun Farocki: „Drückeberger vor der Wirklichkeit“, Frankfurter Rundschau, 2. Juni 1973. (In Meine Nächte mit den Linken, hrsg. v. Volker Pantenburg, S. 137)

PATRICK HOLZAPFEL: Der einzige Fernseher, zu dem ich jemals eine Beziehung aufbauen konnte, war ein kleiner Röhrenfernseher von Panasonic. Er knackte wie Chinakracker, wenn man ihn an- und ausschaltete und für Minuten danach, schien der Bildschirm förmlich zu brutzeln (die Handfläche über den Bildschirm gleiten lassen: Glück!). Ich fand die grünen und roten Farben in ihm sehr schön, die blauen Farben waren mir zu rot und Gelb gab es nicht. Daran änderten auch die farbigen Knöpfe auf der Fernbedienung nichts (ich habe den gelben Knopf sehr oft gedrückt). Obwohl der Fernseher eine riesige, ausfahrbare Antenne hatte (das Gefühl, die Antenne in den Fernseher zurück zu schieben: Glück!), konnte ich damit keine TV-Programme empfangen, weil ich immerzu in Zimmern lebte, in denen man kein TV empfangen konnte und schon gar nicht mit diesem Fernseher. Durch irgendwelche Eingänge und Klinkenstecker konnte ich jedoch Videoabspielgeräte und später einen DVD-Player verbinden. Die Suche nach dem Signal führte mich durch unzählige Sendeplätze, die alle von Schneegestöber und einem nicht enden wollenden Schwindel erzählten. Ich trug das Fernsehgerät auch mit mir herum, als ich meinen ersten Film drehte (besser: zu drehen versuchte) und glaubte einen Monitor zu brauchen (er war schwerer als die Kamera) und wenn ich umzog, erschien ich immer mit diesem klobigen, staubbedeckten Kasten vor der Tür. Irgendwann habe ich ihn einfach irgendwo in einer Wohnung stehen lassen, ich glaube, weil ich dachte, dass ich nun größere Bilder sehen wollte. Leider habe ich bis heute keinen so schönen Fernseher mehr gefunden.

JAMES WATERS:

This is the TV I’ve used for the past eight months. It’s an appendage for my laptop, above all – connected via HDMI. I haven’t watched any “TV” on this TV, as far as I can recall.

But it taints my desire to watch films, as all I know of the act from these past months involves shitty sound, frayed concentration, numb limbs and sore eyes. Is it any different from the actual cinema-going experience? I can no longer remember.

However, images I’ve loved and hold dear were displayed on this TV appendage. How do I reconcile this? I’ve obliged myself towards both my hard drive and the Criterion Channel’s seemingly vast catalogues, both of which now resemble filmic swamps more than anything else. The surrounding windows now take my attention. Jonas Mekas’ trees resemble the ones outside my window, a resemblance that encourages a wandering of the eyes onto the outside landscape. When looking out this window half-watching prior films, the act felt like a distracted reprieve from the mire of structural cohesion and serious worlds that never-quite resembled my own. Whereas here, in As I Was Moving Ahead I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty, the act is a continuation of what’s on screen, introduced via the light reflecting from the opposite window. Because of this “distraction” on the TV’s image, I realise that it’s still light outside, go out to touch the tree and take a 35mm still of it. I then return inside to finish watching As I Was Moving Ahead….. It’s become dark outside, now that the film has ended.

SEBASTIAN BOBIK: It seems that discovering films while watching TV late at night is a thing of the past. Nowadays I suppose films are “discovered” through streaming, through algorithms making choices and presenting it with things we might probably enjoy according to some variables.

But there was a time, when one could simply stumble upon strange films programmed usually late at night. And though I must confess that most of my personal discoveries in my younger days that lead me towards believing that cinema could be something very special, were made through renting DVDs, there are some films I vividly remember being on TV when I saw them first. I remember the atmosphere of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner scaring me so much as a young boy, that I had to turn it off after about 30 minutes. Nevertheless, the next day I was begging my mother to rent the film so I could watch in its entirety. Something about it had just made me curious.

Around that time (at least in my memory it seems like this) a smaller private channel would show some classic movies on Thursday evenings at about 10:30. Since there were so many commercial breaks, the films would usually run past midnight. I discovered some of the well-established classics of American cinema through this programming. My mother would allow me to stay up and watch them, while everyone else was already asleep. I vividly remember seeing The Godfather and Pulp Fiction in those time slots, and a handful of other films too, but I have forgotten which ones exactly those were. I think ever since then I very much enjoy watching movies late at night, instead of early in the evening. The other thing I remember vividly, is that after midnight the commercials would suddenly change and most ads after midnight were for sex hotlines or other pornography. It was very strange how in one commercial break they would still be playing ads for cars and detergent and 15 minutes later it would only be naked women asking you to call a hotline.

It’s been years now since I’ve watched television, and honestly there isn’t much that draws me to it anymore these days. But these memories have stuck with me. Nowadays, when I think about Television, it’s probably the band.

DAVID PERRIN: My earliest memory of television, or at least the one that comes immediately to mind when asked to think back on it, is from when I was four or five years old in a seaside hotel room in Jesolo, Italy with my grandfather watching a Charlie Chaplin short set during World War I called Shoulder Arms from 1918. I cannot recall the plot and have not seen it since that late afternoon twenty-five years ago, though I do vaguely remember images of Chaplin as a foot shoulder trudging through trenches, the horror of which at the time I knew absolutely nothing about, but that’s basically it. Much more present in my mind is the sound of my grandfather’s voice talking to me about Chaplin, the sound of his laughter like rough paper being scratched as Chaplin commits one of his comic blunders, a laugh made all the louder by the film being silent coupled with the smallness of the hotel room…Perhaps too I remember the rearrangement of shadows in the room as the light changed outside, the sound of children splashing around in the swimming pool somewhere off in the distance, the wind in the pine wood trees beyond the window, but I’m probably making all those things up.

In the twenty-five-year interim between then and now my relationship to the medium has fluctuated considerably, oscillating between enthusiasm, indifference, and outright hostility. (Upon seeing a video on YouTube of a visibly irate John Cassavetes exclaiming: “Television suck!”, I remember thinking: right on.) But the period of my life when I dedicated a large chunk of my time to watching television was between around 1998 and 2001, which coincides with the period when Tobias Moretti starred as the hard-ass cop Richie Moser in Kommissar Rex, a show about a crime fighting canine in Vienna that I watched religiously with my brother; and also when I saw in real time, along with so many other countless pairs of eyes around the world, images of the World Trade Centre repeatedly collapsing into a senseless heap of smoke and dust in downtown Manhattan.

As I grew older television became supplanted by cinema, disappearing altogether from my life by the time I reached my late teens. (The only remotely tangential connection I had to it then was listening to the punk band Television.) Nowadays, I only watch television when traveling and staying in a hotel (which, due to the pandemic, is never), sitting or reclining in bed late at night while flipping through the channels that are often in languages I rarely understand. Sometimes a movie that I’m familiar with will be on, dubbed in the language of whatever country I happen to be in; I’d watch the whole thing through, not understanding a word, yet able to follow along with the plot as if I were a native speaker. Maybe I only watch television in hotel rooms, because subconsciously, I’m hoping I’ll reencounter the Chaplin short from many years ago, and thus be able to relive the memory of my grandfather in a moving way, but I seriously doubt it.

SIMON PETRI: Discovery, Budapest: Film programming on Hungarian television never really existed as a conscious or conceptual method of making cinema available. There were accidental cracks in the system, however, and individual titles could be discovered by chance late at the night. This is how I managed to catch a glimpse of Shadows, Rosemary’s Baby and Paris, Texas on a circa 30-year-old color television at a very young age by going through the three channels we had, and sticking to the films for a while despite my complete lack of care for cinema. Most vividly I remember the peepshow club’s room with the one-way mirror in Paris, Texas – more than simply noticing how different this is from what I knew and enjoyed as films (Hollywood comedies), it had been a clear revelation that films can teach and show experiences, events or objects which I hadn’t even known would exist (peepshows and one-way mirrors), almost a decade before I actually started to watch films, to learn about them and the world through them.

Of course, because of this very indifference towards cinema these are memories magnified retrospectively. My conscious choices were Columbo and nature documentaries at the time. I got lost in the forests of India with a ferocious tiger mother and I learnt a lot about where to find king cobras.

At the end of 2007, during the last days of prosperity, when people paid for paintings before the crisis hit, my mother sold a work and purchased a modern television which led me to an even greater discovery, that of the recording device – the remedy for the horror of only being allowed to watch the first half of UEFA Champions League matches, waking up at six filled with hope to see an almost-live-miracle after a petrifying live 45 minutes, and yes, Iniesta in the 93rd made it happen.

Revoking punishment, Budapest: My unchangeable decision to not step on the pitch and harshly neglect the trainer during football training on an unpleasant and humid night had prompted my grandmother to prohibit me from watching television. Then she saw that Chaplin was on the program that night which she insisted to show me, and the ban was lifted.

Community, Jena: Years before I first heard about the esteem of television in German film culture, I had spent every Sunday for almost a year in a ravaged, stinky bar in Jena to watch Tatort on a television we only saw through a dense smokescreen. A free round if you guess the culprit. Many nights well spent with the most devoted communal audience I’ve ever been a part of.

News, Wien & Donostia: Following the political and economic events of Hungary from abroad, I often sit in front of my laptop watching roundtable discussions and interviews with experts and politicians. The intellectual quality is poor and the tendency for sensationalism is alarming. Yet, as long as channels regularly find 15-30 minutes in the evening to let Tamás Gáspár Miklós speak, there’s something to look forward to.

SIMON WIENER: When football matches are broadcast on television, they boast some decisive melodramatic moments – moments so suffused with drama, indeed, that it would always be hard for me to keep my eyes on the screen. If one side scores, the goal is seen time and time again, from multiple angles, and with it the turning away of the scorer, away from the goal and towards the teammates – yet the most decisive melodramatic gestures, scorching their way into consciousness, lurk at the fringes of the frame, evinced by the conceding side. Sure, one could try to ignore them, and just focus on the jubilant gestures of the scorers; but the montage-within-the-frame can’t quite escape one’s grasp. Our gaze collects those silent figures on the edges, behind the main actors; standing apart, distraught, defeated, their ordeal magnified by slow-motion. Heads are starting to hang, eyes torn wide open in disbelief; hands and arms are slowly being raised, wrestling with destiny or blaming other defenders. The players are now kept prisoners, as it were, of their one crucial failure; held captive within countless repetitions of the televisional direction, they seem forced to witness their own errors, marginal as they may be, leading to goal, again and again. A “loop of failure” is superimposed on the relish, the beauty, and the celebration of the goal; and if the images’ slow-motion and repetition work together to construct our thorough, analytical understanding of the goal, how it originated and played out, they also act as prime carriers of melodrama. It’s only when the kick-off succeeding the goal is taken, that we, slightly astonished by the tenacity of the conceding team (a tenacity not warranted by the images we just saw), may utter a sigh of relief: ah yes, they decided to fight back; they collected themselves, ready to take their turn hurting the opponent; ah yes, they do not succumb to their total inner destruction those previous images have suggested.