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).



Critics on Critics
September 25, 2008, 9:44 pm
Filed under: propositions, quotes

The latest issue of Sight & Sound includes the forum Critics on Critics, in which film critics were asked to nominate a piece of writing that has inspired them in their own work. I was invited to participate, intended to, but unfortunately did not meet the deadline. Had I been able to, the following would have been my submission:

My people speak disapprovingly of an outsider whose wailing drowned the grief of the owners of the corpse. One last word to the owners. It is because our own critics have been somewhat hesitant in taking control of our literary criticism (sometimes – let’s face it – for the good reason that we will not do the hard work that should equip us) that the task has fallen to others, some of whom (again we must admit) have been excellent and sensitive. And yet most of what remains to be done can best be tackled by ourselves, the owners. If we fall back, can we complain that others are rushing forward? A man who does not lick his lips, can he blame the harmattan for drying them?

- Chinua Achebe, from the paper Colonialist Criticism

It is in the spirit of this challenge posed by Achebe that Criticine was started. And with renewed fervor that work on it begins again.



Postcards from Zagreb (2) / Notes on Zanzibar Films

May 23, 2008


(1: Dusan Makavejev)

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Lamberto Avellana
May 13, 2008, 3:01 pm
Filed under: philippine cinema, quotes | Tags:

Question: How would you evaluate the development of cinema in our country in the same manner that the Europeans have developed a cinema distinctly their own?

Lamberto Avellana: I believe that there is a Filipino feeling for movies; a Filipino way of film making; and one day this will emerge, slower than usual, human, pathetic, touching the heart. On the screen, we’ll see the way we talk, the way we make love, the way we die. We are a unique people living in a unique place, and we deserve a uniquely Filipino cinema.

(extract of Portrait of a Director: Lamberto Avellana. Originally published in Filipino Film Review, January – Match, 1985)



Bunuel / On Love
May 13, 2008, 2:28 pm
Filed under: quotes, Uncategorized | Tags:

1. What sort of hopes do you place in love?

Luis Buñuel: If I’m in love, all hopes. It not, none.

(From the French. Interview published in Le Revolution surrealiste, no.12, December 15, 1929. Reprinted in An Unspeakable Betrayal: The Selected Writings of Luis Buñuel).



James Benning’s 13 Lakes, Landscapes, and a brief note on Mt.Mayon
December 6, 2007, 7:23 am
Filed under: festivals, interviews, notes, quotes | Tags: , , , , ,

lakes_01.jpg
(1)

Slovenian critic Nil Baskar begins his introductory essay on the films of James Benning for the catalog of the Ljubljana International Film Festival:

Fernand Léger, a versatile avant-gardist, once said that the essence of cinematographic revolution lies in “making visible, what used to be merely noticed”. At the same time, he forgot to ask what would happen when the “revolution of the visible” was completed – when the film had shown almost everything? When all the time everything can be seen, and nothing merely noticed? This is the question posed by the films by James Benning, another versatile avant-gardist.

The films also offer the possibility of an answer: they allow us to notice the most obvious again.

There is a beautiful level of contemplation achieved by landscape films when they are done right (that contemplation need not only be of serenity, but even violence, and naturally all that lies between). Benning’s magisterial 13 Lakes screened last month at the Ljubljana International Film Festival (aka LIFFe) as part of a small focus on his recent work. Benning was in attendance and I jotted down these notes during the Q&A that followed the screening.

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Notes On A Committed Cinema (2)
November 6, 2007, 2:35 pm
Filed under: notes, quotes | Tags: ,

(5)

“I don’t think a film should impose at all the ideas of the director. He should propose ideas that people can accept or refuse. He shouldn’t impose them, no matter what they are. Even if he wants people to participate in his ideas, he must present them in radically different ways than in commercial films. If he used those same selling methods to sell his so-called beautiful and good ideas, it’s an absurd contradiction, because those methods only hit you on the head, and even if you are hit on the head with the best intentions, it still hurts.

“If I show you an audio-visual object which deafens you or blinds you under the pretext of convincing you of a beautiful and good idea, I can’t even convey the idea to you because it must be perceived by the senses I have just diminished. So, I will succeed only in making you more unconscious.”
– Jean-Marie Straub, as quoted in a profile by Ellen Oumano for Film Forum: Thirty-Five Top Filmmakers Discuss Their Craft [58-59]




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