Friday, January 30, 2009

sometimes the images begin to tremble (2)

"...the normal behaviour of the starving is violence; and the violence of the starving is not primitive.... From Cinema Novo it should be learned that an aesthetic of violence, before being primitive, is revolutionary. It is the initial moment when the colonizer becomes aware of the colonized..." (Glauber Rocha, 'An Aesthetic of Hunger', 1965)

Glauber Rocha's A Idade da Terra (The Age of the Earth, 1980) is an epic exercise in 'amateur' filmmaking, a relentless convergence of Soviet montage, Carmelo Bene, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg and Cinema Novo, in the form of the essay film, the didactic film, the film poem. Beyond all labels. Here Rocha returns to his earlier manifesto, 'An Aesthetic of Hunger', by turning it over its head and presenting the spectator instead with wild excess. Excessive force, necessary chaos. The weight of the image and the magnitude of the sound that would announce a rejection of the industrial, Western cinema (here represented by the porcine imperialist, Brahms - as performed by the astonishing Maurício do Valle from Rocha's Antonio Das Mortes).

Everyone here seems to work with their gestures and voices towards the creation and transmission of sensations that are thrust into the chaotic dialogue between religion and politics, the saint and the revolutionary. The film, I think, is really a search for a language that can adequately express this struggle. Its epic scope and haphazard progression through near-symphonic movements means it occasionally drifts into long-winded, seemingly improvised passages (monologues and speech-duels, the psychedelic rigor of these scenes recalls Kenneth Anger) that we can easily lose ourselves in, but, perhaps as a formal reflection of the film's vortex of contradictions, punctuating these somewhat hypnotic, montage-driven exercises in the speech-act are extended plan-sequences that seem to render an awakening of a people as riotous street theatre ("The street belongs to the people, as the sky belongs to the condor").

Daney has said of it: "Like nothing known to man... a filmic flying saucer, no more, no less."

Among its most breathtaking ruptures is this sequence by the ocean, where we witness what seems to be nothing less than the birth of a revolution:

A man and a woman shout to each other, to the skies, to the ocean, to the earth, to all who would listen:

An atomic implosion has taken place at the earth's core.
A war between unknown beings.
Earth's core has imploded.
At any moment we may be swallowed by the abyss.

Kill Brahms! Kill Brahms!

Movement (of the camera) sans any defined vectors,
theatrical intonation,
rehearsal/repetition - a recurring weapon of the film - of passages...

...that contains within all its spontaneous motion and the fluxes in exposure, the materiality of its creation and that of a new world.

(Images from A Idade da Terra and Novyy Vavilon (Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg, 1929.)


Blogger bruno andrade said...

The scene you mention, with the wonderful Tarcisio Meira (our Charlton Heston) and Ana Maria Magalhães, is quite possibly the greatest filmic accomplishment of all times.

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An incredibly impressive film, much, much better now than when I first saw it around 1980. And a good idea to associate it with "New Babylon".
Miguel Marías

5:26 PM  
Blogger Mubarak Ali said...

Bruno, thank you for adding names to the faces. The scene is, for me, the centre of the film, perhaps even of whatever of Rocha's films I've seen.

Miguel, I, like many others, am hoping your full 2008 list shows up at the (delayed?) Senses' World Poll, if it does ever happen. Just out of curiosity, I wonder if you've considered starting a film blog? I, for one, would be an eager reader...

8:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the interest. As you probably saw, Senses of Cinema will not publish this year any lists. I don't know if there's a way of sending it to you by e-mail, instead of collapsing Supposed Aura. No, I don't think I'll ever have a blog. I don't find myself interesting enough, and don't have the time. I would risk wanting to comment extensively everything I see, read, listen to, and would have less time to do all that and instead would certainly become a bore.
Miguel Marías

10:45 AM  
Blogger josé neves said...

maybe because i'm portuguese, just maybe, i've never been a Rocha admirer (and brasilian stuff in general), even though some moments are trully magnificent, like that you describe. Probably too baroque?

LOVE "New Babylon" and your association.


9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Impressive. Where'd you learn to write that way?!

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Manuel Asín said...

Have ypu seen "Cabezas cortadas", the film Rocha made in Spain (and, to me, one of the most important 'Spanish' films of the last forty or fifty years)? Here in Spain is not very known, and quite difficult to see (for example you don't find any copies in Madrid or Barcelona filmmuseums, and it's not among the Rocha's films released in DVD last year.)
Cabezas cortadas is a quite irregular film, but I suppose this is part of the risks Rocha used to take and which made of him a hugely creative filmmaker. Probably you could separate Cabezas cortadas in plans or sequences which are among the best or Rocha filmography (I'haven't seen Jorjamado no cinema, nor Maranhao, nor some others...) and other shots or sequences which are not that good, and even quite difficult to follow today. But the "good" sequences, are astonishing. For exemple the presentation of Clementi's character at the beggining of the film, or the eisensteinian-like (a "minimal" Eisenstein) sequence of the soldiers and the horses, or of course the slow travelling at the end of the film, which shows a group of players of traditional spanish music.
I managed some time ago to get a copy of Cabezas cortadas, ripped from portuguese TV. As it is one of the most difficult Rocha films to see, but not one of the less interestant, if you are interested I could send it to you.
Congratulations for this great post on Idade da terra-New Babylon.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Mubarak Ali said...

Thank you for your comments, everyone.

José, if you're still reading, I'd be curious to know what you think of Júlio Bressane?!

Thank you, Manuel, for your perceptive thoughts and your kind offer! I'm sorry to reply so late and hope you're still reading. I've got a copy of CABEZAS CORTADAS but have not seen it yet as its unsubtitled. Maybe I'll give in to it some day regardless since it stars Clementi...

11:45 PM  

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