Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Danièle's hands, and the chorus of trees

New world

and a brazen vault

Heaven hangs over us, a curse
freezes the limbs of mortals, and the strengthening,
joy-giving presents of Earth are like chaff, the
Mother mocks us with her gifts
and all is mere semblance --
O when, when

will it break at last,
the flood over the parched land.

[Danièle Huillet, as the Chorus in Schwarze Sünde (Black Sin, Huillet-Straub, 1989).]

"That which happened forces me to painfully concentrate on the joyous memory of Peccato nero (1989), the first film by Straub I ever saw in the cinema. It is an image that continuously comes to mind in these days. Danièle is sitting on a mound of earth. She is holding her head in her hands, as if she were delicately holding full amphora, suspended like a just sculpted statue; her gesture is violently angry yet meek. She has the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen, and the ground shakes for her. She is sitting on a volcano. She manages to be both the friend and the custodian of the fire." (Giulio Bursi, for the 24th Turin Film Festival.)

[Jean-Marie Straub und Danièle Huillet bei der Arbeit an einem Film nach Franz Kafkas Romanfragment Amerika (Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet at work on a film based on Franz Kafka's Amerika, Harun Farocki, 1983)].

"Harun Farocki documents two days of rehearsal (1st and 3rd March) and a day of shooting (23rd August) only in sequence shots, an essay that invents cinematic forms of empathy, of pure visual Witz: this is, first of all, a smile, in the form of a cut to Danièle Huillet: the first day, Jean-Marie, who is out of shot, calls action; Danièle claps, so Harun cuts his film - formal sylleptic gag, since it is as if Danièle's hands were scissors on Harun's film stock, but, at the same time, Harun stopped filming her to give Jean-Marie's mise-en-scène its full range. The second day, Danièle gets ready to clap, but Jean-Marie anticipates her out of shot; Danièle smiles at Harun's camera and the gesture of joined hands is transformed into a profane prayer." (Nicole Brenez, 'Harun Farocki and the Romantic Genesis of the Principle of Visual Critique' (2009)).

*** *** ***

(Of a people who are missing.)

*** *** ***

[Kuhle Wampe oder: Wem gehört die Welt? (Kuhle Wampe or: To whom does the world belong?, Dudow/Brecht, 1932)].

"The modern feeling of nature—and its representation that would culminate in Cézanne—was invented at the dawn of the nineteenth century. Hölderlin is the exact contemporary of this audacious representation of nature that dispenses with the justification of a prerequisite and explicit discourse (religious, philosophical, or poetic). Also it is not by the accident of a vague intellectual attraction that drove the Straubs to direct this Death of Empedocles by Hölderlin and to draw the text—without forcing it very much—toward a cry of anguish in regard to the outrages to which nature submits today." (Dominique Païni, quoted in Barton Byg's Landscapes of Resistance: The German Films of Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub.)

[Der Tod des Empedokles, oder: Wenn dann der Erde Grün von neuem Euch erglänzt (The Death of Empedocles, or: When the green of the earth will gleam for you anew, Huillet-Straub, 1987)].

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