Saturday, 29 December 2012

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The machine which makes everything disappear

Disappear Here - is the sentence that I recall of the writings by Bret Easton Ellis. The filmmaker Tinatin Gurchiani explores this desire to disappear or to make other things disappear in her bold documentary "the machine which makes everything disappear"

In less than a month she interviews various individuals in front of a decaying wall and chooses to follow some into their lives and intimate spaces. They,  the protagonists, came to stand in front of her camera because they were eager to participate in a film. They are the face of  Georgia's young generation and they showed up for something the filmmaker calls a casting. As she interviews her protagonists she quickly manages to find out the core issues that preoccupy their minds and establishes an equilibrium between her will to make a film and their need to share their lives with her.
The film  takes us on a journey that shows us the directors native country and its emotional landscape which often seems to be devastating and in some strange way full of compassion as we witness the tragic situations of her protagonists. A young boy working on his parents farm while he dreams of being part of a movie, a blockbuster.  Or a young woman meeting her mother who abandoned her years ago. In a matter of days she finds her biological mother and confronts her with the pain that she caused and still causes. The scene is unbelievable and  hard to bear as we see the daughter screaming out the scars of her childhood shedding seemingly endless tears. We also get to know a senior amateur Photographer who comes even though the film was meant to be about the young Georgians. He explains that old people are always needed, even if it is just for a small role.
We follow a young man who lives in a secluded rural area. Between hills and valleys I imagine. He is the governor of a region in which the average age lies somewhere between 60 and 70 years. Besides the elderly whom he helps "like a son" there is also a town alcoholic who follows his advice. The deeper we get into the subject and the various characters the more we get to understand the need that the director has to show her country. In the discussion following the film at Doc Leipzig, we discover that she asked evey single one that same question " if you had a machine which makes things disappear, what would it be?".  "Myself" is the only clear answer we get to see on camera. A young girl who we observe in a club scene confides that she would make herself disappear.
I wonder to what extent our brains are the Houdini's of our lives that sometimes pick and audience-brain-cell and allowing it to vanish without a trace.
The film ends with an incredible improvised soliloquy which emphasizes on lonesomeness and the absurdity of life recited by a young depressed Georgian.

Giving you the wrong idea is far to easy and giving you a closer look could only actually occur by giving you a copy of the film. But I hope that the trailer will do for now.

The film won the World Cinema Directing Award at Sundance, Documentary:
 Tinatin Gurchiani, The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Old edits die hard - even when footage is found

Editing is something that rarely has been described in a way that would make me nod without reluctance. Walter Murch describes it as being the blink of an eyelid in his most notorious book In the Blink of an Eye. He suggests that it has the same effect as a cut in a film. I suppose it would be like a break from ones own sight to the next perspective. In the German language however people are easily convinced that the essence of editing is to be found in the cut. The reason this preoccupies my mind is because I live in Berlin and far to often sigh when I hear the word - cutter-.
“Cutter” is the word that stands for “Editor” in German and that gives us the idea that the individuals' task is to stand there with an axe waiting to severe frames from each other. Also the word “Schnitt” which stands for the Edit, or Editing as a whole, stresses the cutting all over again. As an editor it is hard to make one understand what the task actually is. Very often we fall into the trap of vehemently defending the Art whilst using spoken or written language (mea culpa). One may speak of, appropriation, observation, association, contextualization, juxtaposition and so forth, but at the end I would say that the experiments very often discover a visual language that should not succumb to the limitations of words and syntax. Furthermore, I actually believe that editing is the process in which we search  an appropriate grammar for each video, film or experimental piece. I came to think of this in the last weeks and I must say, I was happy to notice that I could find it in something, that I found in the back of my external disk drive. Yes, HDD is the drawer in which we can rediscover things we once created, wrote, sketched, photographed or downloaded from the net. I however was confronted with this short video, made with found footage. I believe it was made about three years ago and all I can say is that it stirred up many thoughts about what editing is-not-is. As all things that lie beyond the tree of good and evil, this issue will haunt me again. Maybe the difficulty to articulate editing is a blessing since it defies definition and leaves some room for us to explore.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Overtime by Gürcan Keltek – seen at Dok Leipzig

The catalogue description of Overtime/Fazlamesai  got my attention at first. "Something grainy" is all I thought before seeing it. Something that defies the clean look that the HD world expects, and that alone, was enough for me. Once the screening started I felt that the 8mm look and its edginess reflected the hardships of its protagonist's lives. The camera follows them through sweatshops and the street corners where one of males sells his body. But their voices that accompany their trajectories show how conformed they have become with their poor lifestyle and their fates. Undramatic, but gripping the audience with its wonderfully shot images, we come to understand how hopeless some of Istambul's youth has become. The fragmentary style might disturb some spectators who expect a straight story and a clean execution. But if film has a surface,then this documentary reminds me that it is a surface that we can use, and if this blog wants to be true to its name, then Kelteks short film needs to be mentioned to say the least.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

white glove on my left hand

Wearing a white glove on my left hand, armed with a marker and a grease pencil I started to write on the reel. A 1/1-1 at Start E 1/1-1  at the End, marking the clap with a framed X. Well of course there's more to it but Those were my first steps into film-editing, as in film film, the stuff "dreams are made of" sliding through my fingers. It's been at least ten years since I first sat in front of a Steenbeck editing Machine, but this time I got some instructions. Real instructions because this year all our projects at the HFF-Potsdam will be edited directly in 16mm without digitizing the footage. It's funny how tangible film can be, and how synching can be so dependent on something like the length of your audio role. You can't just have it work in the machine it has to have the right length in order to be sync.
Problems, or obstacles arise quickly in this world of old school editing, so patience is a must. A spiritual asset that I should order by airmail or I'll be banging my head against the table sooner than I think. Unless I remind myself of the privilege that it is to edit on something that will no longer exist. Just in the same manner that some people will never shoot onto it and much less project it directly into a movie theatre, Oh, yes I'll just keep reminding myself of that each and every time I feel that something isn't working like it should or would if I only would be sitting at my PC. 

Monday, 15 October 2012

Reflections on Holy Motors by Leos Carax.

One might question many things when being confronted with a story. Be it in the form of a song, a novel, a play or God forbid a motion picture (yes a talkie), there are things we can accept and things that make us frown.
But when we take a look at the moving picture that is made out of several moving elements one must admit that editing or montage allows us to accept events as being natural, or a convincing copy of the nature that we perceive. The image-movement takes us on a trip that may or not make sense. Holy Motors is one of those compositions in which you have to allow your eyes to take lead as they follow Carax's ensemble.

The storie(s) only start to take place after we see a shot of a movie theatre. I suggest that we are asked to look at ourselves, the audience, and question where we are and what we see. Then we see Carax who awakes in his secluded room behind the theatre. Then he shows us some paths behind the screen, a secret door that he opens with his  finger/key. A passage to a realm in which he acts as the key master. We follow a large black dog as it slowly walks through the red corridor and towards the screen.   Through this overture Carax achieves at least two things: He sets the tone and secondly he starts to confuse us and bewilder us with magnificent sequences. The juxtaposition of these oeuvres resulted in movements that I did not question for they flowed naturally before my eyes and through my ears. One could say that we're introduced a character who's driven around Paris in a limousine. A figure that dives into other peoples lives and who slips into each role as a service provider. But I suspect that there is more at stake, I haven't had the chance to see the film for a second time, but, I believe that what he is playing with is with our understanding of causality. And that my friends, is something bold. The film's actions or events seem to state constantly "et pourquoi pas?" - why not ?- that is. Why shouldn't we be able to walk around and slip from one body into the next and defy the rules of life and death? It is cinema, this is the land of Holy Motors where your rules are something that need not be. So why sustain the consensual idea that it makes sense or that the audience needs to understand everything that happens, the film asks.  Aristotle's concept of Eikos and Anakainon  (parodon my lack of correct ancient greek) argues that the flow of the story leads us to believe that there are no other options for our heroes. This false necessity creates thus some form of verisimilitude. As viewers often do not question the actions of the protagonists we follow them, be it in tragedy or in comedy given that things happen and move forward. Carax uses a similar form of flow with the help of his medium, cinema, but makes us question this: Why we were expecting something else. Why shouldn't people just get up after being shot? Did you expect to get a list of rules beforehand? So why don't you just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. You won't understand it all, and you probably won't be able to say the smartest thing at the end of the film. But maybe Holy Motors has created a new form of audience, the suspended one. An audience that questions its own expectations.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Passing by Monestiraki

MR. Merde in Tokyo

The gibberish spewing violent creature known as "Mr Merde" brilliantly played by D. Lavant is certainly one of the most interesting characters to come out in the world of cinema since Gollum cursed those "fat little hobitsis". An excerpt of Leos Carax medium length film shows Lavant's mysterious figure, after being arrested, while his extravagant lawyer/follower interrogates him. Given that gibberish remains gibberish the audience as well as the Japanese authorities need to trust Le Maître Voland (J.F. Balmer) and his interpretation. I highly recommend the segment as a whole but choose to post this part as a tribute to acting in gibberish.