Monday, May 26, 2008

the Oliveira Touch

Your films, swimming in magnificent light and splendid women, need no explanations. One of your titles sums them up perfectly: The Uncertainty Principle. Strange and sublime metamorphoses recur in your work; changements à vue, as they say in theater, changes in plain sight. (...) Please excuse me. I'll cite one single example of the Oliveira Touch. It's in I'm Going Home, with the great Michel Piccoli. Remember, every morning, his character goes to the same Paris café, sits down at the same table, and orders a cup of coffee, which he drinks as he reads Le Figaro. Then he leaves. Almost as soon as he gets up, another customer comes in, rushes to the same table, and reads Libération. Another day, after Piccoli is gone, the Libération reader hurries in as usual, but the table is already taken by another regular, who is riveted to Le Monde. What is it about this enchanted table that attracts such a varied sample of the daily press? ...The only thing one can be certain of is that there's no explanation. That's just the way it is. But the very fact that we asked ourselves all these questions, and smiled, is a revelation of our whole universe, my dear Manoel, and, in this representation, of the entire history of humanity.
- Gilles Jacob to Manoel de Oliveira.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

why sometimes the images begin to tremble

The subject of their contemplation - whether intense (Vite, Acéphale) or seemingly in passing (Chromo sud) - originates in the period surrounding May '68, but perhaps the most striking intersecting feature is the (at times, unnerving) intensity of the expression, the materialisation, the performance, of emotions - contempt or radical solidarity, disillusionment or hope, boredom or rapture - that emerges in these Zanzibar films and their close cousins. Daniel Pommereulle's enigmatic severity in Rohmer's La collectionneuse is transformed into a near-Artaudian rage in Vite, which invokes bodies - human and celestial - toward nothing less than a reorganisation of civilisation itself. Pommereulle spits and hisses at the camera, creating a sensory vibration that is, at the very least, equivalent to the bleeding montage of Etienne O'Leary's Chromo sud, or the handheld-camera-in-action in Pierre Clementi's The Revolution is Not Over, Let's Continue Fighting, or the interplay of light/dark, extended silence/call for revolution in both Détruisez-vous and Acéphale.

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