Thursday, August 31, 2006

éperdu

Anne Wiazemsky and Nico in Elle a passé tant d'heures sous les sunlights... (Garrel, 1985):


Bernadette Lafont and Edith Piaf in La maman et la putain (Eustache, 1973):



Above: Short clips from two deeply connected films which I uploaded more than a week ago. The Garrel film (the title of which has been roughly translated to 'She Spent So Many Hours Under the Sunlight Lamps...') is an implicit homage to Eustache and a major work in itself, a film of fragmentations and improvisations and dead white spaces and brutal cuts, a complex association of the self-reflexive documentary and the 'fictionalised' autobiography, a film about the representation of movements - the most important being from unexplained departures to hopeful new beginnings.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Jürgen Reble, alchemist of the cinema

(Just got back, rather spoiled, from a week-long conference out in the wine country of the lower North Island, so it's taking me longer than expected to get back to blogging.)

It's already been nearly a month since I saw the films of Jürgen Reble, and I keep telling myself that I'll mention something about them here (along with the many things I plan/write about in my head for this space). I jotted down some words immediately after the screening of these films so that I can associate the abstract imagery with the familiar. Alas (and appropriately enough), it seems that my memory of these images is already slightly faded.

Nicole Brenez identifies five purposes of the 'found footage film' in her essay 'Montage intertextuel et formes contemporaines du remploi dans le cinéma expérimental': Elegaic, critical, structural, materiological, and analytical. Jürgen Reble's experiments fall into the materiologic category, as they are generally explorations of film as matter, as a corporeal substance that yields to the properties of decay and chemical degradation. He takes film (super-8, 16mm, DV-to-16mm, whatever) and leaves it in his garden pond or out in the open exposed to nature and atmospheric agents for months, or would use bacterial decomposition, salts and corrosive chemicals to devour the gelatin in the emulsion coating of celluloid, distorting the image by destroying the layers of colour-sensitive film. The persistence of the residues, salt complexes, and the altered emulsion means that, upon projection, we are actually visualising (and at times, listening to) the chemistry of film emulsion.

In Chicago (1996), the original footage for which Reble apparently rediscovered decomposing in his backyard before going on to accelerate the process by bleaching the film, the black-and-white images are covered by a misty veil of decay, and speckled with dust and salt particles. The soundtrack is provided by multimedia artist, Thomas Köner (who presented his own hypnotic, dronologic video cycle, From the Outskirts of Nothing to the Suburbs of the Void just a few days earlier), who exaggerates the sound of dust passing through a projector, the entire experience coming across as a train ride through the city-as-a-location starting to resemble a slow movement towards a distant ice storm.

Awakening (2005), his most recent film in the programme, didn't do much for me. The digital images (transferred to film, and then exposed to chemicals, I'm guessing) are often poetic though. Arktis (2004) is an excursion into the frozen landscapes surrounding the Arctic region. The original images, taken from geographical studies of the area, are relatively more autonomous than in Reble's other experiments, because the beauty and looming architecture here is all ice, water, rocks, and its associated textures, along with the heightened sounds of wind and water, merged with a violin score. Yamanote Lightblast (2005) is the most haunting of all his films that screened, a hypnotic, eerie voyage to an uncertain destination. A description from the Rotterdam programme: "Video images, shot from the Yamanote train that follows its route around the city of Tokyo have been transferred by Reble to Black & White 16 mm film, in order to treat them by hand with chemicals and create a soundtrack using grains. This leads to the creation of a totally different picture. A dark journey through a world made up of cloudy, lost grains of film in a microscopic dimension." Like his 75-minute tour-de-force, Instabile Materie, this is a largely indescribable experience, one that kinda feels like being sucked into a throbbing cosmic vortex of dust and blackness.


Instabile Materie (1995), the longest of his films screened, is the most difficult to talk about. Along with Reble's Das Golden Tor (1992) and Passion (1990) - neither of which I've seen - this possibly constitutes his most important work. The near-complete loss of the original footage allows multiple new perspectives to emerge - the 75 minutes (divided into 8 chapters) of the film virtually a continuous explosion of colour, shape and form, rhythmically propelled by Köner's inobtrusive drones. This 'true' recycling yields pure colour (and its associated interpretive freedom/dangers) from the quasi-disappearance of the source image. Remnants of the images (faces, body outlines, 'cells' undergoing division, Saturn and its rings, leaves and branches of trees, stars, cracking of walls, etc.) overcome by colour and pushed into blackness reinforce the recurring cosmicality of filmic decay that Reble's films are all about, along with its alien-ness and its distance from the perceptible, and the semi-conscious associations of decay and atomisation with nature, anatomy, architecture, and astronomy.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

girl, boy, song.

Some of the most beautiful moments in the rain in all of cinema, with Raj Kapoor and Nargis (no need for subtitles) :

'Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua' from Shree 420 (Raj Kapoor, 1955)


Three or four YouTube users have been devotedly uploading some really awesome (albeit, mostly unsubtitled) classic Bollywood songs. I've been discovering and rediscovering these treasures over the past few days and links to the ones I love the most are listed below (quite a few I know, but they're really must-sees if you, for instance, liked the Kapoor/Nargis song above). Enjoy!
Oh, and I caught Karan Johar's latest blockbuster, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (a.k.a. Never Say Goodbye, a.k.a. um, KANK) over the weekend, my first theatrical Bollywood experience in over 18 months. I'd almost forgotten that watching a masala film with a huge crowd which is totally into the film is such a thrilling experience, what with the collective roars of laughter, gasps, catcalls, sobs, etc. The film itself felt as if the secret love child of Silsila and Kal Ho Naa Ho threw up all over it, but at least you get to see the otherwise-rather-stiff Rani Mukherji as a dominatrix and the curiously underused Arjun Rampal as the film's silent loser.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

fires were started

"As long as the music's loud enough, we won't hear the world falling apart."
Borgia Ginz, Jubilee

Derek Jarman's first film to be produced after he found out he was HIV-positive, The Last of England (1987), was initially titled The Dead Sea - "the Dead Sea of Victorian values (a particularly loaded phrase taken from one of Thatcher's many hectoring speeches to the nation), and of 'post-industrial decline, whose stagnant waters erode the crumbling cities'."* Tilda Swinton talked him out of it, and the film was then named after the Ford Madox Brown painting, The Last of England, of an anxious Victorian couple on a crowded ship of exiles headed out of England, alluding to Jarman's grandparents who left England for New Zealand, forming one of the film's many personal references. The painting is directly evoked in the film's final shot (that follows Swinton's dance), when several displaced figures sail out of a war-torn, post-apocalyptic London.

Jarman is at work here - the author visible, as in his subsequent film, The Garden (his physical presence caught in the process of creation, and the collage of home movies shot by his father and grandfather manifests Jarman-the-person and Jarman-the-history as inextricable from the text) - within the political context of post-Falklands' Thatcher era and framing a place for his sexuality within it, while freely utilising the art forms of painting (the aforementioned Brown painting, plus Caravaggio's Amor Vincit Omnia, which is fucked in an early scene by a wandering semi-nude male prostitute, Spring - an ex-lover of Jarman, according to Jarman's biographer, Tony Peake), poetry (primarily T.S. Eliot, as explored here), prose (his own diaries, Hitler's speeches), and cinema (some of the imagery and poeticism recall the films of Pasolini, Cocteau, Genet, and most importantly, Jarman's own post-apocalyptic punk film, Jubilee, while, in spirit being somewhat antithetical to Humphrey Jennings' Listen To Britain), and it's all set to an ominous electronic score by frequent collaborator, Simon Fisher Turner and songs by Marianne Faithful, Diamanda Galas, et al.

This film is a storm of heightened imagery! Super 8mm shots transferred to 35mm, the images flow between black-and-white and various states of sepia and colour, between slow motion and fast motion effects, culminating in the film's third orgasm: the immortal shot of Tilda Swinton, tearing up her wedding dress with scissors, and dancing next to the recurring shot of the fire along the Thames, with the sun rising in the background, the shot rendered and protracted until she's indistinguishable from the fire. The temper of this image is a gorgeous paradox - her anger and outrage seem to be morphing into a release of sorts, translating into an emancipation for the prisoners of this nightmarish land. (And I haven't seen Jubilee in a long time, but I remember there being a similar scene in it where a woman dances next to a bonfire on the street, deepening the links between the two films. It was a film I disliked then - it may be due for a revisit now.)

* quote taken from Derek Jarman: A Biography, by Tony Peake (1999).
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And just because I haven't dropped an mp3 link here in a while... The following are just some of the songs which I've been listening to over and over in the past week or so (not all are linked). Some of these are favourites, others 'merely' current obsessions. Available for a couple of days.

In The Evening (It's So Hard To Tell Who's Going To Love You The Best) - Karen Dalton
Black Haven - Jana Hunter
An Die Musik - Josephine Foster
We Want You To Stay - Bill Fay
Voodoo Woman - Silver Convention
Let's Mend What's Been Broken - Gloria Gaynor
P.S. Goodbye - The Chameleons
100,000 Fireflies - The Magnetic Fields
Masttillah - Ghost
Miekkakala - Ø
What Is Love - Haddaway
Good Old Germany - Giorgio Moroder

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

impressions of a festival

(Note: I'm sorry for the unformatted version of this which ended up here earlier - Blogger was being very difficult today.)

This was the second consecutive year when I actively attended (i.e. saw 25+ films in the two weeks) the Auckland International Film Festival, without taking any time off work. Naturally, that means having to miss out on some of the supposedly-good stuff (most regrettably, Avi Mograbi's Avenge But One of My Two Eyes, Maurice Pialat's Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble, Ashim Ahluwalia's John and Jane, and Shin Dong-il's Host & Guest), but, at the end, I think I'm satisfied with what I managed to see, all things considered. Vague impressions of some of the films I caught follow - mostly on films I liked.


Playing catch-up with films from the past year: I finally saw Philippe Garrel's dizzying masterpiece, Les Amants réguliers (which, by nature, is a film of multiple impressionistic highlights, one of which involves Clotilde Hesme silently crying in front of the camera in an undisturbed take, recalling the similar scene from Warhol's Chelsea Girls when Nico breaks down in front of the camera), and also what might be Hou Hsiao-hsien's best film since Goodbye South, Goodbye - his Three Times - which gracefully sways from the blissed-out romanticism of a 90s Wong Kar-wai film (not to mention, an exquisite, cautious tenderness distinctive of 80s Hou), to a silent, shimmering mood piece recalling Flowers of Shanghai and Mizoguchi, to an altogether jarringly dis-intimate and immediate final segment, when the smoke thickens and the performers (super-hot duo of Shu Qi and Chang Chen) are beginning to disappear into it. Characters communicate with each other increasingly with text rather than spoken words, seemingly drifting apart even when they come together, as informed by Hou's meandering long takes which often breaks space into layers and isolates each character into it (such as the scene when Shu Qi sings in the bar with Chan taking her close-ups, comparable in its movement and texture to the scene when Boyan 'molds' Mélania during her dance in Grandrieux's La Vie nouvelle), each shot creating its own personal memory and history.

Two small films from the Berlinale earlier this year, which should not be allowed to disappear: The lonely image of a drunken man dancing to Robbie Williams' 'Feel' is held in a long take, before an extramarital romance develops, morphing calmness into violence in the deeply romantic bedtime story that is Valeska Grisebach's Sehnsucht (/Longing). And Lucian Pintilie's Tertium non datur, a lovably absurdist mix of minimalism and wine, politics and mathematics, the logical and psychological - probably best approached with zero prior knowledge of its narrative. Both are remarkably simple films, especially Grisebach's feature-length debut, which has a deliberate sense of awkwardness about it (not least because of the non-professional performers) that only intensifies as the film progresses, its long silences and inarticulate gestures carrying the weight of the characters' personal crises, its symmetrical use of two suicide attempts establishing Fate as a silent protagonist.


A program of three digital short films included Apichatpong Weerasethakul's DV project from last year, Worldly Desires, along with Abbas Kiarostami's Roads of Kiarostami and Victor Kosakovsky's Svyato. Weerasethakul's film was the easily the strongest of the three. I didn't care much for Svyato, which is essentially a protracted shot of the director's titular two-year old son and his reaction upon seeing a mirror image of himself for the first time - cute for the first two minutes but I'm really not sure of its extension to 40-something minutes of baby-talk/-walk. As for the Kiarostami - I can admire his photography and unforced metaphors about the vulnerability of nature (and the vulnerability of images of nature - to interpretation), but sadly, I found his own unnecessarily explicit exposition to be self-defeatist and, well, a little too obvious (I'll admit to being perplexed by the entire project). The 42-minute Worldly Desires, also a meta-excursion into its maker's own recurring 'melodic passage' (the jungle is to Weerasethakul what the road is to Kiarostami, etc.) in the form of an experimental landscape film, captures the mysterious essence of Weerasethakul's previous two narrative features and creates avenues of excursion for both the maker and the spectator. There are fragments of sound (crickets chirping, the crushing of dead leaves) and impressions of discohesive images (a man dancing on the road, Joe discussing a shot with his cameramen, etc.) but a relationship emerges: Two film shoots (by the same crew - Joe's assistant 'directing') are happening in a forest in Thailand: a soap opera by the day (during which an eloped couple seek a mythical tree) and a music video by the night (the lyrics of the song not as innocent as it first seems), both getting linked by image and sound to strangely disturbing results. Of course, there is the other film shoot, with Joe invisibly filming his assistant's direction, the two shoots inextricably linked and further compounding the nature of the images we're seeing, but the centre of the film is the dense jungle - Joe's melodic passage - which still resists sheer interpretation, thank God.

Staying with the meta - I enjoyed Mitsuo Yanagimachi's playful, cinephilic, eccentric Who's Camus Anyway?, which references Altman, Godard, Truffaut, Visconti, and Resnais (among others) in camera movement and choreography, but goes on to develop its own tensions between the fictional and the real. More warped is Caveh Zahedi's I Am A Sex Addict, which continues to expand upon Zahedi's interesting persona (which I first encountered in In the Bathtub of the World) in an inventive and resourceful re-enactment of Zahedi's addiction to prostitutes during the 80s, the entire film narrated by an intermittently on-screen Zahedi as guests arrive and wait in the hall next door for his wedding to Mandy, who was fought over, fought with, clung to, in Bathtub. His films remind me of Ross McElwee's documentaries (this one is kinda reminiscent of Sherman's March), who also explores his relationships/obsessions/woundings in a similarly self-deprecating manner, with an honesty that is often both hilarious and moving. (Darren at Long Pauses has a great essay on the film, which explores the tonal variations in the 'narrative'.) Another film which seemed to dissolve the borders between fiction and documentary is Liu Jiayin's Oxhide (which I saw a month ago on a screener - I'm told the festival projected a shitty beta-SP anyway), one of the highlights of the festival and surely one of the most striking debuts of the past couple of years. I wrote a capsule on it here (the title and the paragraph gap are not mine, by the way), and would like to reiterate that the dry humour and familial affection that is really at the heart of the film transcends the seemingly intimidating formalism (23 static shots in Liu's claustrophobic apartment - on DV - capturing 'empty' space and whatever sound or movement happens to enter the frame). Sadly, this film seems to have disappeared off the festival circuit with only a few isolated exclamations of its greatness.


Of the six or so documentaries I saw, Philip Gröning's majestic Into Great Silence stands out among the others. With no narration and only fragments of speech and echoes of footsteps heard during its 162 minutes, its images of the day-to-day life of reclusive monks of the Grande Chartreuse Monastery in the French Alps, make the spectator part of the depicted isolationism and boredom and ritualistic duty. The film repeats the routine of the silent monks (the ringing of bells, tending to the gardens, offering prayers, cooking and consuming food, nocturnal Gregorian chanting, weekly shaving of their heads, etc.), and slowly evolves into a hypnotic study of the silence of its subject, comparable to the arresting contemplation of a Spiritual Voices (Sokurov, 1995) or a Confession (Sokurov, 1998). Similarly, Michael Glawogger's Herzogian, latitude-spanning beast, Workingman's Death (:Five Portraits of Work in the 21st Century), lends beauty, through its striking compositions, to some of the world's most unattractive jobs. The absence of narration gives the film an imagistic dominance as it proceeds to document - sans any false glorification - how these beings wilfully surrender their bodies to perpetual disintegration to survive. Such aesthetic distance only brings us closer to the subject. (A clearer understanding of the film's dialectic is laid out by the last paragraph of this essay on the film, by a Pamela Biénzobas.)


Harutyun Khachatryan's Armenian documentary/travelogue, Return of the Poet, also devoid of any narration, evokes the presence of a place (rural Armenia) by taking the spectator directly into its landscape of incidental rituals, its sights and sounds, its people and fauna, with very occasional emphatically recited poetry of 19th century Armenian poet, Ashugh Jivani. It was a trying film to see at the end of a very long day, but I can appreciate it in retrospect. Also, a special mention to Gary Tarn's quasi-Mekasian 'experimental documentary', Black Sun, which while not essential viewing, is still beautiful to behold - a gorgeous flow of distorted imagery, of the narrator's places of visitations, as estimatedly assembled/edited by Tarn (who also provides the lush score), and accompanied by Hugues de Montalembert's feature-length narration of how his perceptions on life and 'seeing' changed after an attack that left him blinded. No other film in the festival was as expansive as Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar's nearly four-hour-long A Lion in the House, at least half of during which I was fiercely battling to hold back the tears. Simplistically, it can be said to be a document of the passing of time and imminent death (like Cristi Puiu's The Death of Mr. Lazarescu or Pialat's masterful La Gueule ouverte, seen within the same week), but it's much broader than that description and ultimately unclassifiable. A build-up of 'small' incidents and gestures (as the film follows the central five children dying of cancer, along with their unraveling families) that escalate into the complex emotional dynamics of life, as any aesthetic is crushed by the totality of existence. I don't think I'll ever see it again.

(And because this is getting unbelievably long-winded, I'll just list the others...)

Others I liked, not discussed above: The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Puiu), Battle in Heaven (Reygadas), follows a natural progression after Japón and one that is surely worthy of further viewings, Offside (Panahi), In Between Days (So Yong Kim), Mary (Ferrara), Police Beat (Trevor Robinson), 12:08 East of Bucharest + Liviu's Dream (Corneliu Porumboiu), and much of The Science of Sleep (Michel Gondry), which is an extension of his music videos, especially recalling his videos for Bjork's 'Bachelorette' and The Chemical Brothers' 'Let Forever Be' (my favourite Gondry video). Still, my recent-Gondry-film of choice would be the exuberant, Dave Chappelle's Block Party, where the recognisably Gondrian pleasures are down-to-earth.

Disappointed by, or mostly neutral on: Ten Canoes (Rolf de Heer), The New World (Malick), The Wind that Shakes the Barley (Loach), Lunacy (Svankmajer), The Forsaken Land (Vimukthi Jayasundhara), Drawing Restraint 9 (Matthew Barney), Vers le sud (Cantet).

The film itself may be a forgettably slight embodiment of pansexual paradisial bliss, but special mention goes to Shortbus (John Cameron Mitchell) for providing one of the most memorable scenes of the entire festival (no, not the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner into bodily orifices during the gang-bang scene): the very YouTube-able moment when Sook-Yin Lee frantically jerks out an out-of-control, vibrating egg from her vagina and madly, vainly, attempts to crush it with a wooden decorative leg torn off the walls of the Shortbus! I could almost tolerate the film again for this gloriously insane moment alone.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Arthur Lipsett


"Ah, yes, Arthur, it's been a long time since we spoke, you been dead, since 1986, and they say you killed yourself. I know, I was at the funeral. There was only six of us there. Not many. Buried way down in the East end of the City, not far from the river, not many like you buried on down there . Among those people you didn't know, who cared not a bit for what you would have been doing. Those weird amazing movies, jerky as a jagged girl walking down the street to make my love."

-- Clifford Duffy

"He's (Lipsett's) trying a choreography of emotional expression... He did not just use footage, he shot some of his own footage. First of all, his audio collage. I think he is more in the world of documentary, producing a kind of essay through a kind of a verite, observational cinema and then finding links between the shots and not necessarily going out there with an a priori idea, but opening himself up to the events of the street over the course of many months and then finding connections in the process. His films are more sophisticated because he would create some of the material in the first place and then make a collage out of it. It was more of a polymorphous thing. It was an essay. In my case there is more of an argument that is more literary based in the sound facts. In his case it has that same what I call extroversion, it moves out, not towards the centre, but decentred. There is a series of ideas that come that resonate with another bunch of ideas, not necessarily in a linear way, opening up a field, a space, there are certain themes that ring through it, but the way he makes the points is through audio visual gesture, not by dialogue or script writing, not the kind of things that come from drama."
-- Craig Baldwin

Arthur Lipsett began his career at the National Film Board of Canada in 1958 at the age of 21, working in the Animation Department around the time when Norman McLaren had acquired legendary status there. His separate interests in acquiring and splicing together sound recorded off discarded footage in the NFB's editing room, and pieces of disposed film - predominantly documentary outtakes and archival footage (all black-and-white images), led to his first and most famous/well-received film, Very Nice, Very Nice (1961). Nominated for an Academy Award and admired by Stanley Kubrick (who, as legend has it, invited Lipsett to provide the trailer for Dr. Strangelove - he declined the offer), the rhythmic, seven-minute collage is composed of photographs taken in Paris, London, and New York by Lipsett himself, along with photographic shots from documentaries, magazines, and stock footage, set to an independent, fragmentary soundtrack of anonymous voices. The unnerving disruption between image and sound (serving a consistently Lipsettian obsession with the contrapuntal relationship between the lost man of the twentieth century and his mercilessly restrictive/consumptive environment composed of nature and the self, politics and religion, science and technology, even, to an extent, art and philosophy) that informs his body of work exists here in a lot more digestible form than in his later, more personal films like N-Zone (1970), the poor reception and apparent incomprehensibility of which led to his reportedly-forced resignation from the NFB in 1970.

The films which immediately followed this unusually successful debut (for an outright experimental film at that time and place, that is) ranged from the rather straightforward yet interesting documentary on experimental film in the early sixties, simply titled Experimental Film (1963), with heated debates (and precious featured clips) on the works of Robert Breer, Walerian Borowczyk, George Dunning, Norman McLaren, and Lipsett himself, to the Artavazd Peleshyan-esque (whom Lipsett's cinema has a deep affinity with, moreso than his often-compared-to contemporaneous counterpart, Bruce Conner) Free Fall (1964), which features some of Lipsett's most frenetic juxtapositions (this time, of repetitive, banal human behaviour with imagery of nature and captive animals) and the disturbing and hypnotic 21-87 (1964), an apocalyptic circus of insanity, suffering, and disorder. Free Fall and 21-87 together form, in my mind, Lipsett's best work of the sixties, when traces of the artist begin to reflect on the movement and tone of what we're seeing, without ever fully revealing a persona - only fragments of a mind that is in the process of an acute unravelling. A Trip Down Memory Lane (1965) is an eccentric time capsule of the post-war years (his only 'pure' collage film?): documentary footage is segued to form an essay film of sorts, a wry commentary on the scientific, political and religious disparities in the early years of the Cold War. This disparity morphs into the pure, palpable despair of Fluxes (1968) when "the military motif, religious rhetoric and newsreel footage of the trial of 'final solution' architect Adolf Eichmann, accompanied by dialogue from a trashy 1950s science fiction film, collides history and popular culture into… 'a phantasmagoria of nothing.' " (Andrew Munger). At 24 minutes, Fluxes is a longer film, its imagery is more disseminated and in many ways, it's a more mysterious film than Lipsett's previous work (and from what I've read, this film marks the beginning of Lipsett's progressively disintegrating mental state). I need to see it a few more times before I can touch its surface.


I like all the Lipsett films I've seen, but N-Zone (1970), his free-associative, psychodramatic, intimately personal masterpiece - his last while at the NFB (I'm amazed he got this far, to be honest) - might be his best. For the first time, Lipsett extensively incorporates footage of himself and his friends, talking about nothing in particular, along with repeating footage of animals (such as the camel and the 'domesticated' elephant, a central creature in Lipsett's late films) and fish, masks and skeletons (both recur in his late films as well). His montage has become less dense but the footage is more erratic, the behaviour depicted significantly more mind-boggling. It's a completely overwhelming film about... many things possibly, but mostly Death. Lipsett's films complement each other so as to form some kind of an asynchronous but lucid anthropological document from an unravelling, deeply pessimistic perspective, and this comes to a kind of full circle in N-Zone. A quasi-evolutionary pattern is established by its random images of dinosaur fossils, insects, amphibians, and mammals such as the elephant and the human being. Disconnection is stressed ("your connections to other people are rotten. They are based on deception. Lies. LIES, I SAY!"). He juxtaposes a shot of his talking friend with the squealing of a pig on the soundtrack. Empty spaces. Folks staring into the camera. Two mice in a cage going round in circles, chasing their tails. Water vapour swirling hypnotically over a cup of black coffee. Lipsett lies on his bed, dressed in black. His profile suddenly cuts to a white screen. He lets his fascination with Buddhist rituals reign free in the film - from shots of rituals and statues, to the soundtrack which for a long stretch is an undisturbed chanting/humming, occasionally breaking into tribal drums. The final shot is, naturally, upside down.

Strange Codes, his final completed film wherein Lipsett films himself alone within the confines of his apartment, will come two years later, but he was already preparing for his early death in N-Zone. Through his films (especially his late films), I get the impression that I'm seeing secrets and private abstractions that are never completely revealed, but are definitely felt, sometimes overwhelmingly so. Perhaps a source of this worldview is the fact that Lipsett witnessed the suicide of his mother at the age of ten? In any case, he was diagnosed with chronic paranoid schizophrenia in 1982, and (reportedly after several attempts) committed suicide in 1986, making this the twentieth year since his death. His first biographical documentary, Remembering Arthur, will be premiering at the Toronto Film Festival in September (preceded by Very Nice, Very Nice) and dedicated Lipsett-ophile, writer/filmmaker Amelia Does (who I thank for making it possible for me to see these films), is working on a book and another documentary on Lipsett, so perhaps Lipsett's time has finally come.

(This is a very late addition to the Avant-Garde Blog-A-Thon. A full list of participants is to be found at Girish's.)

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