Tuesday, October 13, 2009

my hand outstretched to the winged distance and sightless measure: a confluence of fragments

"For a long time I have wanted to try and see if I could create a drama with the simplicity of action which the Ancients so favoured. There are those who believe that this very simplicity is a sign of a lack of inventiveness. They do not consider that, on the contrary, all invention is to create something out of nothing." [Racine, in the preface to Bérénice (1670), revisited in Jean-Claude Rousseau's De Son Appartement (2007).]

I started filming myself. A hand, a foot, what was nearest at that moment. Then I started filming other people and the character of the hands and feet turned into another character, whose whole figure never appears, I don't know why. I didn't make any toil in this film. Places appeared, actors appeared, music appeared. Nothing was foreseen, everything appeared, like in a dream. (Adolfo Arrieta, on one of his recent films, Vacanza permanente).

The words of Philippe-Alain Michaud, on the 16mm short films of Hannes Schüpbach: "The distribution of the figures, isolated by black intervals and placed in a network switching and repetition, sets out a formal link from assembly work to the gesture of weaving. Cinematographic images, which often caught detail and are sometimes blurred, overlapping or colored with a filter as if they were dyed, succeed and meet each other in the distance, and thus act as a distinct events color and placed in a temporary canvas. "

Nathaniel Dorsky in Devotional Cinema: "If you have ever looked at your hand and seen it freshly without concept, realized the simultaneity of its beauty, its efficiency, its detail, you are awed into appreciation. The total genius of your hand is more profound than anything you could have calculated with your intellect. One's hand is a devotional object."

If a film fails to take advantage of the self-existing magic of things, if it uses objects merely to mean something, it has thrown away one of its great possibilities. When we take an object and make it mean something, what we are doing, in a subtle ot not so subtle way, is confirming ourselves. We are confirming our own concepts of who we are and what the world is. But allowing things to be seen for what they are offers a more open, more fertile ground than the realm of predetermined symbolic meaning. After all, the unknown is pure adventure."

(Gregory Markopoulos: It is in the insignificant moment that significance becomes disturbed and the power of filmmaking is established.)

(Robert Beavers: Sustained by the awakening of emotion united to strength, I reach beyond the life-likeness of the actor and the shadow of performance to the figure gathering the light-- the life itself of the image.

How was the strength found to gather the images? From within a solitude of being, enduring/accepting the moment when a single color is the only sign of feeling in an environment of which all else is opposition... )

"Never mind where we are, we see things. And, within these all things we do see, there must be something that is of the order of vision. In Spanish there is the same ambiguity as in French with respect to the “vision”. In French it is said “to have visions”. The vision is to see; but also, in a way, it is to lose vision. Having a vision is to be absent. It is the look directing to a non-concrete object. Image is, for me, that. It is an absence, and the prefect picture is the one that keeps the look in a sort of vision that makes the look go through it; that does not hit against what is being shown and can be indefinitely kept, because it is not just placed on anything." (J-C Rousseau)

The movement of atoms is eternal.
Thrown through the void,
either by their own weight
or by the impact of other atoms,
they wander
until chance brings them together.
Some of them manage to cling together;
they form the most solid bodies.
more mobile,
are separated by a greater distance;
they form the less dense bodies,
air and light.
Some have not been admitted to any group;
they move around uselessly in space
like dust motes lit up by rays of light in a dark room.

[from Lucretius' De Rerum Natura, recited by Rousseau in La vallée close.]

Sunday, October 11, 2009

the limit of the metaphor

Some brief things on the films and feelings of John Abraham.

Amma Ariyan (Report to Mother, 1986) :

"This film is an analysis of the extremist movement in Kerala during years' 70. Many of my friends legacies to that movement killed. They were much intelligent, sensitive and with a great aesthetic sense. Their dead women obsessed to me and that provoked in me desire to make this film. According to me the cinema would have to speak to people and people to speak through the cinema. The cinematographic experience would have to arouse the social conscience of the public. Through the Odessa Movies I want to show my films to people and who will not have the moneies in order to pay will be able to see them gratis."

- from the 1987 Torino Film Festival brochure.

On Agraharathil Kazhuthai (Donkey in an Elite Colony, 1978), from here:

"The neighbourhood is an agraharam, the settlement of Brahmins (considered one of the higher social classes in ancient India), where the mere notion of a donkey (an icon of the working class) replacing the sacred cow as a domestic animal breeds hostility."

*** *** ***

A Tribute to Ritwik Ghatak
by John Abraham :

Ritwik Ghatak,
in partition, not physically of willingness
-the country departed
Out of his outer consciousness - cosmic consciousness
none of his mistakes,
Reactions - natural reactions - reflections
Ritwik Ghatak,
refugee, unborn, unwanted, unbearable
penetrative towards the Victorian hangover
of the Tagorian corruption of thinking

Life was more important to him
than the words in praise of god,
the god of Victorian Tagorian thinking.

Hence, he was rejected from the Bengalian thinking
Ritwik Ghatak - the name doesn't suit
the hierarchic thinking of
the Raynian Zamidarian thinking
Perhaps, the long echo of the forgotten factors
that becomes reminiscence of
the 'death of the salesman' or otherwise
the long columns and no more Chhabi Biswas,
Cardiac arrest is common.
The death of Ghatak is uncommon.

Nay, Ritwik Ghatak
I remember, a tall man
his hands moving around my shoulders,
catching me with the feeling of nearness,
rather than imperialism-
the man who stands before me
questioning my manliness
loosing his hands to shake my hands
in appreciation of manliness
recognizing each other-
abiding in each other
kicking on my an's and telling me
"Get up, awake shoot"
I remember, not with sentiments
with awakening proud, Ritwik Ghatak

Ritwik Daa,
let me call you Ritwik Daa,
I know that you are no more.
But I am, alive for you
Believe me. When the seventh seal is opened
I will use my camera as my gun
and I am sure the echo of the sound
will reverberate in your bones,
and feed back to me for my inspiration.

( ... )

*** *** ***

Of his films, seemingly impossible to see just a few months back and still with no dvd release in sight, Amma Ariyan is now partially available to watch (to be aware of) on YouTube and Donkey in an Elite Colony is available as a torrent download. But -- means to what end? Abraham, who is now labelled as an "avant-gardist", "anarchist", or "nomad of Indian cinema", was actually more directly engaged with people than any other Indian filmmaker of the period or since, having initiated the Odessa Collective, which managed to fund the production of the film through contributions during screenings of Chaplin's The Kid, and thereafter released non-commercially -- "for whomever so desires them". Donkey in an Elite Colony, with echoes of Vertov and Buñuel (and less significantly, Bresson), astonishes, considering the conditions in which it was made, put together, not for such substantial use of non-professional performers (unprecedented in Indian cinema?) nor for its rough manner of incorporating didacticism and poeticism, but for the delirious, short montage effects (in particular, the university graffiti sequence and later, a mountaintop killing) which articulate the visceral force with which Abraham is driving toward expressions of emotion and consciousness.

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