Concentrated Nonsense (cinema edition)


Tag Gallagher on Gertrud
April 13, 2009, 3:11 am
Filed under: quotes

From Chain of Dreams by Tag Gallagher:

What interested him most about making movies, said Carl Th. Dreyer a few years before his death, was to “reproduce the feelings of the characters in my films […], to seize […] the thoughts that are behind the words […], the secrets that lie in the depths of their soul”.

“Gertrud [1964] is a film I made with my heart”, he added. With the heart. About the heart. “What interests me before all, it’s this, and not the technique of cinema.”

Technique, nonetheless, is the tool the heart must use. Accordingly, Dreyer mobilizes all cinema for the hunt. “I need a big screen”, he said. “I need the communal feeling of a theater. Something made to move has to move a crowd.” He wanted to do Gertrud in colour. Maybe 70mm, too, like Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962). Isn’t Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) on a camel in a desert like Gertrud (Nina Pens Rode) on a seat in a parlour? Dreyer wanted mass catharsis, the way Greek theatre did, or maybe the way college basketball does, with thousands of pulses synched to that ball’s movements. With the result that Gertrud is more like a basketball game than Lawrence, has more action, excitement, spills, chills and thrills, and has some of the “coolest” scenes in movies, piled on top of each other.

Curious it is, then, that some people complain Dreyer is slow and intellectual, talkie and dull, Gertrud particularly. They never spot the ball. As a result, it is unlikely in my lifetime that I shall share Gertrud on a big screen with two thousand pulses synched to her every movement. Like most people, I shall see Gertrud at home alone, on my television, and even with a large screen and Criterion’s excellent DVD, I shall have to press my player’s zoom button in order to see into her eyes. She and her men sit in full-length compositions like figures in gigantic tapestries. “I don’t like television”, Dreyer said.

Gallagher is a fantastic critic that deserves much more credit. More of his writing is available on his website, including (quite generously) downloadable pdf files of his 884 page tome on Rossellini (“The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini”) and his tome on John Ford (“John Ford: The Man and his Films”, revised in 2007 and with frame enlargements).



Cannes 1982, Room 666, Mike De Leon
April 6, 2009, 3:29 am
Filed under: interviews, Philippine Chronicle, philippine cinema

During the 1982 Cannes Film Festival, [Wim] Wenders asks a number of film directors from around the world to get, each one at a time, into a hotel room, turn on the camera and sound recorder, and, in solitude, answer a simple question: “What is the future of cinema?” (from imdb)

Among Wenders’ esteemed respondents: Jean-Luc Godard, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Michelangelo Antonioni, Werner Herzog, Chantal Akerman, Steven Spielberg, Robert Kramer, and, one of the finest filmmakers (italics intentional) ever to come from the Philippines, Mike De Leon, who had not one but two films (Kisapmata and Batch ’81) in the Director’s Fortnight section that year.

De Leon sits — one leg resting on the other, cigarette dangling from a relaxed hand, television running to his side running — unphased by the reputations of his co-respondents and without impulse to impress, gives his answer; brief, to the point, and sans any BS:

You gotta leave the nonchalance.

More De Leon, this time on the reception of the two films in Cannes:

The French preferred Kisapmata to Batch ’81. According to some of them it was not just because fraternities of that sort were alien to them (the French are basically individualists). Pierre-Henri Deleau had predicted, after seeing the rushes here, that the French would be outraged by Batch. The English and the Americans gave it a better reception in Cannes. But it wasn’t just a matter of theme but of story-telling method. While Kisapmata‘s method was closer to the French, Batch was more in the American manner.

After the first screening, animated discussion went on and there were two sides debating whether the film was fascist or anti-fascist. Apparently the ending was ambiguos. I said that there are graduation rites, in fact. I felt that I had made it clear that Mark Gil’s character at the end was . . . hindi na tao. That is why that martial law line was important because it situates the film. It was supposed to be clear that the film was making a comment on organizations of a fascist nature, that this is what can happen to individuals who join such an organization. But it appears that although I felt it was the same thing with Kisapmata, Kisapmata was clearer if one removes the ethnic-ness of the characters, it would happen anywhere, in the suburbs of Paris or what.

After the fourth screening, there was a demand to give another screening, but it was too expensive. There was this vague feeling about Batch; at the end of the film, there was first a momentary silence, and only afterwards, some applause. I suppose it’s the construction and the editing, which is more American. I call it “neurotic editing” — I felt like I couldn’t wait to cut it to get to the next part. My idea for Batch, let’s say, was more of accumulation, dagdag nang dagdag, instead of a gradual progression, and that doesn’t go well with the French.

(Well, I just heard from Tony Rayns that it had a much better reception recently in London. I suppose, as indicated by the English film If, this strict, authoritarian, discipline-oriented organization is closer to the English system than to the French).

[From: "The A.K.O. Story" by Petronilo G. Cleto, published in WHO magazine, Dec.15, 1982.

Reprinted in the magazine of the (then) Film Ratings Board, Filipino Film Review, January 1983]

* With thanks to Teddy Co.




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