Viennale 2016: Inimi Cicatrizate

  • Rainer, you complained about the woman sighing at a screening of Inimi Cicatrizate. I watched the film alternating between sighing and holding my breath. I experienced voluptuous pain when reading each of the excerpts from Blecher’s work quotes presented as intertitles and was at each moment mesmerized by Jude’s mastery of mise en scène. It is a film of odd beauty, one easily gets lost in its richness. There is absurdity in Inimi Cicatrizate, but it is another kind of absurdity, one that has choked on itself (Patricks review of the film).
  • Further moments of bliss with Peter Hutton: two men walking up the suspension cable of a bridge in Three Landscapes.
  • After so many festival days, the Viennale feels just like the merry-go-round-roundabout traffic-jam scene in Tati’s Playtime. In (the negligible) O Cinema, Manoel de Oliveira e Eu, João Botelho claims that the secrets to de Oliveira’s health were drinking whiskey and eating toasted bread with pure olive oil. I guess that having Playtime for breakfast in Gartenbaukino might work in the same way for all of us.
  • Six years after Meek’s Cutoff Kelly Reichardt makes a discreet-feeling and great film about people meeting people and almost every decision in it seems to come out of necessity.
  • Luc Dardenne confesses that in La fille inconnue he and Jean-Pierre have tried to create a charater with a sort of consciousness which they feel has dissappeared from society. I wish I could feel less like I’m being preached to.
  • Having to sit in a box in the Historischer Saal of the Metro Kino and watching the film with the view blocked by (beautiful perhaps) sculpted wood makes one think about the Eric Pleskow Saal with a feeling that almost resembles fondness.
  • Hans Hurch awards the Meteor(ite) Prize to Jem Cohen but we all suspect him of having betrayed the filmmaker by giving him not a piece of meteorite but something he brought from his trip to Greece.
  • For all those who have, like me, always wondered if filmmaker use special effects in order to make Emmanuel Salinger’s eyes appear bigger – no, they don’t. I’ve seen him in the lobby of Metro Kino.

Viennale 2016: Woody Allen’s Fury

Is Austerlitz a look at how the present looks at the past or does the film simulate a look from the past on the present? I am not sure that these are two completely different things. But through choices concerning where to place the camera and through its use of sound, the film keeps both these slightly different possibilities open at all times. What I mean by a simulation of the past looking at the present is, that the possibility of the camera’s perspective belonging to the spirit of one of the many killed there is kept open (a visible one, if the tourists watch closely). In that same line of thought, the film’s use of sound (Andrey writes about „intensifications of a meticulously composed soundtrack“) with its distance enhancing distortions undergirds such a (not reading but) way of perceiving Austerlitz, as a ghost looking at the present. (I also vaguely remember reading that the film makes use of sound material from the time.) As does the fact that Austerlitz is shot in black and white. This is all not new to Loznitsa, of course, but there seems to have been an increase in the implications of his chosen means. Perhaps this comes over as an attempt to impose a simplistic interpretation of the film, though what I am trying to stress out is the incredible complexity of Loznitsa’s film. Austerlitz deals with and raises very delicate questions concerning film ethics, what is disturbing about the film lays (of course) not only in what it shows, but also in its way of showing it (here I mean disturbing as something positive). It is not seldom that Loznitsa’s films are discussed as refined exercises in observation and little more. I find them rather scandalous, in a very positive way. I would like to hear Cristi Puiu speaking about Austerlitz. He and Loznitsa move on the same slippery cinematic territory.

Yourself and Yours von Hong Sang-soo

A secret award ceremony of the Viennale took place today at 5 a.m. at Gartenbaukino. Hans Hurch awarded the prize for brutality in film to Hong Sang-soo’s Yourself and Yours – irreproachable in (paradoxically) dealing with all kinds of reproaches (you can find Patrick’s review of the film here). A man looking like Hong Sang-soo walked up onto the stage to receive the prize but he swore he was actually the filmmaker’s twin brother. Or sister. It was too early in the morning, I couldn’t pay enough attention to what was happening. Woody Allen got furious and accused the South Korean filmmaker’s twin of having made only a tasteless remake of his film Everything you never wanted to know about relationships. The rivalry between Allen and Sang-soo has been much discussed in the press in the past few years seeing that two filmmakers compete yearly against each other for the title of “fastest working European film director”. (I heard that there are negative comments about the film making use of only a few locations. But that comes with an increase in intensity. Once again, Hong Sang-soo delivers one of the very best films of the year.)

It is odd. With actual human presence in the frame kept to a minimum, it feels at times as if Peter Hutton’s Budapest Portrait (Memories of a City) and Lodz Symphony bear the weight of the entire history of humanity. The absence of people draws attention to people. Yet what we see are streets and buildings at the crack of dawn, shapes and structures, textures and shades, wonderful details of all sorts. I remember the connection between motion and emotion coming up as a topic in Robert Gardner’s Screening Room with Peter Hutton. It is interesting to think about that again after seeing the two films.

Viennale 2016: Fires were started

  • The ghost of Jean Epstein sits somewhere in the cinema and watches the films of Peter Hutton. I feel it moving towards me. We see, taste, feel New York near sleep for Saskia, Florence and Boston Fire embraced and I can feel its tears of joy pouring on my face. There is so much smoke in Boston Fire because it has swallowed the explosions in Bruce Conner’s Crossroads and all the smoke in Humphrey Jennings‘ Fires were started. After such an awakening of the senses, the world eventually gets numb.
  • „Sehr gut!“, a woman cries out loudly. She’s referring to a intertitle in Die Rosenkreuzer which reads that the film was shot partly on the original sites and with museum props from the era of Joseph II.

USB-Stick von Innovative Film Austria

  • I feel that there is a great similarity between what Rivette does to Wuthering Heights in Hurlevent and what Pialat does to Van Gogh. Whatever it is I mean by it, it would be blasphemy to put it in a key note. But it has something to do with scratching polish with one’s fingers until the nails break and one’s hands bleed. Just like Lucas Belvaux breaks the window with his hands in Hurlevent and they bleed. I may be wrong.
  • I have a thing for scenes in which characters regain their eyesight, even if they are not particularly accomplished and make no special use of the possibilities this motif opens up.
  • Doesn’t Rester Vertical make one ask him/herself if cinema is tired with cinema? Or is the film about that?
  • Tip: There are memory sticks provided by Innovative Film Austria laying around. 4GB, containing the catalogue as PDF file.
  • There is one funny scene in Paterson, it is the one in which someone accuses the lamentingly philosophizing guy who got left by his girlfriend that he is just playing an act. And he replies “I am an actor”.

French crime thrillers and their fading blue(s)

It started with jazz, yet some of the films seem to have the blues. The second part of the Austrian Film Museum’s retrospective dedicated to French crime cinema, this time 1958 to 2009, started off last month with Miles Davis’ music composed for Louis Malle’s Ascenseur pour l’échafaud following Jeanne Moreau’s “Je t’aime” whispering face (in Truffaut’s La mariée était en noir a man rightfully tells her – had he been a writer, he could have written an entire novel about her mouth).

The blues some of the films shown (mistakenly) seem to have are both chromatic and idiomatic – the films either feel or look blue. Perhaps it started with jazz because their blue(s) has/have already passed. It seems that it is at a moment when the characters have started to lose even their sadness and the chromatic blue of the films is starting to fade that the second part of the retrospective gets back to the French crime thriller.

The vibrant blue of the sea and of Alain Delon’s eyes while kissing a woman’s hand in René Clément’s Plein Soleil is followed by the sickened blue of the films of Jean-Pierre Melville. (Yet Melville’s films were blue even long before that. Perhaps it was another shade. They started being blue when in that shocking moment of Le Silence de la mer Nicole Stéphane raises her limpid eyes.) Concurrently, even characters seem to have entered a state beyond blueness and darker than it. Perhaps it happens only in the films of Melville. But there are too few reasons in favor of avoiding to regard Melville as the guide mark.

setrangleur

Stronger than ever perhaps, this genre, in which people follow, misunderstand and often end up killing each other, seems to be all about the unbearable pain of human contact and loneliness – that loneliness announced by the Bushido quote at the beginning of Le Samouraï. The dilemma – loneliness is unbearable and contact might be deadly.

Of the killer characters for which contact seems to be more painful than loneliness (and of the films emanating that feeling) perhaps the most mesmerizing is Paul Vecchiali’s L’Étrangleur, who kills because he cannot bear seeing sadness. In the perhaps most pessimistic way of looking at it, the childhood trauma (in Le Boucher, a war trauma) is actually a source of inspiration. However, faced with the great sadness and beauty of the film, one should not bother to define it.

If there is a longing these films prompt, it is perhaps the desire to get a glimpse of those characters‘ /of those moving bodies‘ perception (in a sensorial rather than psychological way). Maybe that is also the reason why Delon’s walks through the streets of Mongibello in Plein Soleil are so fascinatingly frustrating. They seem to provide the moments nearest to a glimpse into that undecipherable blue eyed body’s perception the film offers. [Of course many films mirror in their aesthetics their characters‘ perception]. In a way, despite the verbalization of the strangler’s urges in L’Étrangleur, the recurring vaguely trembling and soundless nocturnal car drives (so Philippe Grandrieux-esque) also feel like that. Perhaps we look at Alain Delon in Plein Soleil like Alex “langue pendue” (Denis “The Dragon” Lavant) looks at Anna (Juliette Binoche) in Leos Carax’ (I feel the title has to be whispered so as not to break the film’s spell) Mauvais Sang.

Both L’Étrangleur and Mauvais Sang (the blue comes back and is more vibrant than ever) emanate a greater malaise. In Mauvais Sang it is spoken of as a disease that kills young people who make love without emotional involvement. Godard’s Alphaville, so intensely close to Mauvais Sang, vibrates with similar threats.

samou

The quest for contact often ends up in the inability to deal with it when found. This seems to be what happens to also Chabrol’s butcher, played by Jean Yanne and the ex-convict played by Gérard Depardieu in Alain Corneau’s Le Choix des armes. The butcher puts an end to his urge to kill others by killing himself. Of course, this sort of character can not only be found in French crime thrillers 1958-2009 it is only that here the chances of the encounters being deadly is higher.

In the darkest of cases, it feels as if these characters who get involved in criminal activity have come to the conclusion that getting a bullet in your gut is the more bearable risk to take, the one necessary in order to avoid the apparently more strenuous process of refusing. Among  those many sicknesses (of the spirit) that perspire from the films, the cruelest one is perhaps Todessehnsucht (death wish, in its poor translation from German).

One also finds characters in these films, which seem to get involved with the world of criminality (it doesn’t matter anymore on which side, lawbreakers and polices officers dwell in the same spiritual misery) in order to escape their “habitants du placard” (inhabitants of the cupboard?), as Yves Montand’s ex-cop, (ex-)lawbreaker, alcoholic character, Jansen, calls them in Melville’s quite perfect Le Cercle Rouge. There are quite a few particularities of Jansen’s part that are reprised years later by Nathalie Baye in Xavier Beauvois’ Le petit lieutenant.

Not only criminals and delinquents dwell in this (spiritual? moral?) misery. In some of the films all various sorts of police officers dwell there with them as well. Perhaps the clearest example thereof comes with Michel Piccoli as Max in Claude Sautet’s Max et les ferrailleurs, a film in which the activity of the police is shown as significantly more insidious than the endeavours of delinquents. A similar portrayal of the authorities is to be found in Claude Chabrol’s Nada, in which an unnecessarily violent police intervention against an anarchist leftist group is ordered, just in order to provide a reason to downgrade the policeman in charge of the operation.

Aversions to either the police (the boys in –funnily enough –blue, though they rarely wear it) or relics of blue bloods (as is the case in Chabrol’s  La Cérémonie) does seem one of the few forces able to unite characters and shortly pull them out of their passive isolation. In these films the characters regain a strength to revolt and to act (which for example in the films of Melville, starting with Le Samouraï, it feels they have almost completely lost). In Série noire and in Le choix des armes by Alain Corneau the wind of revolt blows from the banlieus, as years later in Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine, as in many other films of this retrospective.

The evolution is not chronological, and ultimately all these are variations of the felling even films made in the same year perspire. After all, Melville’s Un Flic (which is not part of the retrospective) and Jacques Deray’s hilarious The Outside Man / Un homme est mort did appear the same year. Perhaps the retrospective started with jazz because saying that the films have the blues is too misleading and simple.