Monday, February 08, 2010

work, red persimmons, time

"“Documentary”: an action more than a genre, a commitment to the matter, a transformation of the world as it is always to be reviewed like an immediate and concrete utopia. Documentary action: operation about the world and the image expressing it, where the filming subject forgets what he knew initially about the filmed subject to the benefit of a new relationship born from the cinematic action itself in the present time of filming and editing, with the availability of their contingencies. The film work designed in such a manner, as it builds up, is precisely what documents at the same time the world, the cinema, the filmmaker and ultimately the viewer in front of a screen."

(Patrick Leboutte, from the programme notes of the 2004 États généraux du film documentaire.)

"... The Ogawa method was born: complete immersion in the filmed community, the repetition of the filmed gesture to the point of exhausting the subject matter (the Narita cycle finishes five years later). This method was refined in 1974 when Ogawa decided to settle in the province of Yamagata where he and his team mixed with the farmers to learn, to physically experience the cultivation of rice before deciding to film it. The crew lived as a community on meagre rations. The budgets were microscopic and the films hardly shown, but Ogawa obstinately continued in spite of difficulties and successive splits with crew members and collaborators... "

"Hence the splendid surprise of Manzan Benigaki directed by a young Chinese woman filmmaker who wanted to finally show the unfinished work of the master. The film deals with knowledge and transmission. We find the classical components of the Ogawa method: words which form the narrative (much more than interviewed testimony), the length necessary to enter a world and the rhythm of a scene, to understand technically how it works. Ogawa's fascination with the gesture of craftsmanship (or the gesture of the cultivator) resonates with his own conception of his craft. He films as one craftsman working with another, including himself in the process."

"With time, even though Ogawa has often filmed gestures and tales on the point of disappearing, his very method seems itself threatened with extinction, this generous and expensive use of chemical film, this taste for collective work. This explains the emotion provoked by Manzan Benigaki; these images shot twenty years ago bring to life melancholy ghosts. Ogawa filmed the individual anchored in History through myth... "

(Gaël Lépingle, from the programme notes of the 2002 États généraux du film documentaire.)

("Because when you do a film, it's generally five, six or seven weeks at the most. We had the ambition to do it for a year and a half, and that changes a lot of things and we were not in the same state of mind... When you spend a year and half with the film, you are just there and life is much more together. You have lots of other things. You have people who are born, people who die and seasons change. So the film becomes, really, almost organic. You don't really think about the film. Or you think about the film and life at the same time. So it's good. It's because it brings down the importance of cinema. The balance is more correct, I think. In what you live, that a film should not be the main thing in your life. Perhaps it's one of the things. It's your work. It's like the guy in the office, or the guy who makes food, or the guy who makes shoes. They do it everyday, from 9-7. It should be the same thing... It's like the idea of trying to make it all your life, because I like it, it's what I chose, and make it day to day, everyday... And with this small budget crew and in this place where people are very generous." - Pedro Costa )

[Images from Shinsuke Ogawa's Manzan benigaki (Red Persimmons, 2001), completed by Xiaolian Peng after Ogawa's death in 1992.]

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