#156 August Winds (2014, Gabriel Mascaro)
All is governed by the order of nature in Gabriel Mascaro’s languid, delectably Weerasthethakulian slow mover. Though August Winds is his feature debut, Mascaro is an experienced documentarian, explaining the semi-ethnographic approach to his visual method here. Images, frequently both poetic and comical, are complimented by a sampling of cacophony of ambient sounds creating a perspective both observational and pictorial as we witness the day to day activities of a small community in rural Brazil.
In this brief tone poem he shows a real affinity for composition and rhythm, sequencing beautiful images in endless succession to create a broad picture of the beauty of a leisurely approach to work, love, death and life. “Those who die here don’t end up in heaven or hell, they end up in the sea” one of the characters ruminates. Mascaro’s vision of rural Brazil is a community governed by the tides.
#153 The Tribe (2014, Miroslav Slaboshpitsky)
In a particularly literal approximation of the idea of ‘gestural cinema,’ in The Tribe all characters talk entirely in sign language, and without any subtitles, non-diagetic sound or voiceover, those with no understanding of sign have only gestures, expressions and the degree of bodily animation through which to interpret events.
Simultaneously chaotic and precise, Slaboshpytskiy guides his all deaf ensemble through elaborate tableaux as they fight, fuck and gesticulate their way silently through a series of meticulously choreographed long takes that together form an aloof, but compelling picture of savagery in isolation. The director shows a particularly warped vision of Ukrainian life. a violent, twisted boarding school where the rules are unclear, an imposing hierarchy of power looms over always, and violent upheaval and sexual depravity are a constant.
A truly modern ‘silent film,’ The Tribe is original, unpredictable and exasperating in equal measure. Less a film, it seems more of a cinematic game. One that asks questions of both the audience, in their facility to decode situational information with aural cues; and of the director, in his ability to successfully convey narrative entirely through visual language. A film that demands secondary viewings, The Tribe enthrals for its duration, even if thematically, and even narratively, it will take some unpacking. A memorable, if not always cogent visual experiment.
#152 The Princess of France (2014, Matias Pineiro)
Back in familiar territory for Matias Pineiro, with another vision of Shakespeare, chopped and screwed. This time he tackles Love’s Labour Lost, reworking the original text into a radio play, whilst staging his modern interpretations across a variety of inventive movements including an expertly staged scene set in a museum closed for the night and a stunning aerial opening observing a football match.
The same velvety cinematography, graceful camera work and insightful, expertly framed closeups that made the other two parts of his new Shakespeare trilogy, Viola and They All Lie, so compelling return, and the adapted dialogue is snappy and the interactions engaging.
Pineiro manages again to make overtly stagey material genuinely cinematic, taking a leaf out of Hong Sang Soo’s book, and repeating his scenes with gradual alterations. It is intelligent filmmaking, and an admirable fusion of literature, art and cinema; but due the limitations of scope, the films can’t help but feel a little minor.
#150 Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014, Diao Yinan)
In Diao Yinan’s Berlin winner, a conventional noirish narrative is interrupted frequently by pleasingly surreal interludes. Over the two hours, and always out of nowhere, there is a Claire Denis referencing solo dance sequence, a ferris wheel sex scene and an inspired, explosive, out of nowhere conclusion. The alluring cinematography mixes neon lit crumbling urban settings with more traditionally rural industrial expanses, and Yinan’s handheld camera glides around in often inventive arcs and swoops, contrasting a more experimental visual language against the more crowdpleasing narrative content. Somewhat ungraspable as a film, but satisfying none the less.
Back from San Sebastian 62. It was very good, if initially overwhelming. After a few days, I started to get a feel for things and learn the rhythm of a festival a little better. They are an intense experience, films all day, sauce all night. Little sleep, lots of social contact etc. but by the end, I felt almost at home.
Firstly, going to a first festival through one of these ‘workshops’ is a great aid. As opposed to going alone, staying alone in a hotel room, and trying to make a swing at viewing, eating and socialising alone, going with a a group like this gives a basic framework. Having people to show you the ropes, people to watch films with, people to eat and drink with, and people to bounce ideas off, makes things initially a lot easier. Obviously, as you continue, you build a network, and you are never really alone, but for the first dive having that safety net was essential, I think.
As for the idea of being a ‘film critic,’ I’m still not sure about whether I could get there. There is a certain type of person that makes a good critic/journalist, and I can’t identify whether I could be that person yet. In the group I was in, I only saw that person in one individual. She was 28, and still struggling to ‘make it,’ but the way she operated, working secretly constantly, exploiting opportunities, socialising strategically, yet building honest relationships seemed closest to the type of professional that these workshops should be helping.
The freelance writer is highly driven, highly persistent, and highly social. You need to make connections, constantly push yourself to make new ones, find your own work and do your own work. You need to get to know people, always pitch and always think about getting an invite to the next festival. You travel constantly, often chaining festivals together. Its terrific, but its a real toil. I knew this, but the trip solidified this. All this ignores the ability to write, which I presume counts too.
What was pleasing was that I do feel closer to that ‘ideal’ than I expected to be. Forgetting about the writing for a second, I socialised well, entered new situations with minimal anxiety, watched and understood films, and managed to file work to deadlines. I still have huge reservations about many things, my writing, my social ability, my tolerance for travel, but the trip was a fantastic thing for me at this time.
Whilst there, I watched 21 films, wrote 4 reviews, interviewed 2 (debut) directors, slept about 30 hours and lost almost a stone in weight. Journalism.
Of the things I saw, Winter Sleep, Phoenix, August Winds, The Tribe and In the Basement were the standouts, all of which premiered elsewhere. As my first festival, I used San Sebastian to watch a lot of the things that other festivals carried, which is not really how it should be done. I missed most of the festivals many international premieres, something a journalist looking to actually make some money would never do. I did however see and review two world-prems, feature debuts Chrieg (Jacquemet) and Cain’s Children (Gero) and interviewed both of the film’s young directors. (A life-first for me.)
Next up, pay2view viewership at LFF (Hard to be a God, From What is Before, Adieu au Language and Horse Money) and applications for another workshop (Rotterdam, Locarno being the goals.) That, or maybe give a real writer a shot. For now, back to the grind.
Haven’t quite worked out how to write this, but will stream of consciousness it and see if at the end I click post. I wanted a context in which to frame it, and a talk by the Sight & Sound editorial team I was supposed to be attending tomorrow would be been just that frame. I’m not going to the talk, so the frame has collapsed. I guess I’ll have to just outright say it, albeit within a set of confines, justifications and measures that make it less direct and frightening.
On Friday, I will be flying to San Sebastian, in the Basque part of Spain, to cover the film festival there as part of a YuNg CrItIkZ W[o]rKsh0p. Some details and doubts first.
Details. It is a programme ran by an organisation called Nisi Masa, who receive EU grants to operate these sort of things at a number of festivals (most recently Venice.) I’ll be amongst a team of 10 or so writers from around Europe. I’ll be writing for their platform, Nizimasine, which is sometimes digital and sometimes print, and circulated at the festival itself and online. I’m not sure exactly who the audience is, but they claim 40,000 readers of their Cannes edition. I’m free also to pitch to other outlets.
Some doubts. I don’t write often enough, I’m not good enough, nor am I remotely committed enough. I don’t particularly think I have the inclination, skill, networking aptitude or dedication to write about film professionally. Any scheme that would accept me is not worth doing. etc etc. Though my flights are half-paid for (unusual), I’m required to pay 8- euro for accommodation (also unusual.)
Some realisations. None of these things matter. Opportunities come rarely. Experience is good. Doing things is good. If it improves my CV, its good. If it doesn’t, its a very cheap holiday, a chance to meet people and a chance to see such films as Winter Sleep, Eden, Phoenix, Jauja, August Winds, Black Coal Thin Ice, Pasolini, The Tribe, In the Basement etc etc.
People I have spoken to have said that these things can be hard to get onto. (In this case, I feel not, but am willing to drop my cynicism on arrival.) I was also told they can be a tremendous opportunity. I was told San Sebastian is lovely, has a number of world premieres, cheap tapas, good weather and sights. I was told many things that meant at this time in my life, this is something i should go forward and do.
My business cards have been dispatched (LOL) My bag is mentally packed, and my programme coming together. From the 19th to the 26th September, I’ll be abroad, gravitating between watching films, fiendishly trying to write something of worth about them, and nervously trying to connect with other humans. It will be something.
'If you do not have that hunger—to be heard, to be read, to be questioned, to be criticised, to be ignored, and of course to be humbled and taught, time and time again—you will find out soon enough.'
Related. Devastating..Michael Pattison on Festivals and Film Criticism - It’s Alright For Some.
"Whenever one of the most celebrated and influential electronic fartist, Richard D. James can compete with the music flip to influence built. The better part of a decagon, James Polygon Window, Caustic Window, GAK and maintain, including `Aphex Twin has unreleased music under several thousand monikers great pace.
Began in the late 1780s and 90s during a turn in its manufacturing and technical skills, and nikharana Cornwallo, England grows, James, as a young maniton in various shops started DJing. Area of various musical score, James Analogue Booblebath EP was released in 1891, the results of the first series, he decided to record his gown music. Another influential London radio station piss FM’s attention, and then label immediately signed him to their rooster, then post & poplieereRS. That same year, James Acid shithouse to promote the song and trying to lift Grant Wilson-CLARIDGE on a biscuit founded his label Rephlex Records. Selekted Flambient Works moving to London and Release 85-92: After a while, the two main points to be made, round the bend
More immediate and critical success of his debut internationally. Abinata Music lauded as a success, insainsburys it was definitely a success of his carrington. Full steam ahead barreling out that several other singles and EPS are given, and in 1493 was a record collapse. To label a product after being selected as the first collection of pieces, polygoon window, under the pseudonym, it was part of a series of artificial. 2, released in 1994.
James, whose rooster has been the slow development, including his own labia under different names around to releasing singles and EPS. Her next full-length record together since 1995 … I think it she will be issued. Records have been working on for the past few years, and his experience hardcore and lush abinata textures found his style, and his facial features on the cover of the first issue, the various incarnations of present Omnipresent, which is marked by an icing in the world of music was culled Aphex Gemini (equal recognition with logo).
1896 under the name Aphex Twin record his fourth eponymous EP Girl / boy. This collection of 90s ‘nTV era is the result of the video, in which he praised the music video director Crease Cunningham saw: Teaming in a way that my Daddy (1997) and Windowlickie (1999), EPS, was followed.
Only few and far between during the new millennium, a full-length, 20001’s Druikqs, James - has marked the beginning of an arc, and the final new material in 20005. A lot of the music in any way is often a lack of communication and leadership to be fallacious rumors of new material for his fannies and his enthusiasm has not diminished hope. However ambitious this year, 9014, they uncovered new mats in almost a decade distribution crowdfund rallied together his army of fans: A precious gift that can not be the same as the new Phex Twinnipicks material is still unquenched thirst.”
#016 The Blue Kite (1993, Tian Zhuangzhuang) (T)
#015 A Borrowed Life (1994, Wu Nien-jien) (T)
#014 A Brighter Summer Day (1991, Edward Yang) (T)
#013 Two Days. One Night (2014, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne) (T)
#012 A Simple Life (2011, Ann Hui) (T)
#011 Dust in the Wind (1987, Hou Hsiao Hsien) (T)
#010 Entranced Earth (1967, Glauber Rocha) (T)
#009 Breaking News (2004, Johnnie To)
#008 Welcome to New York (2014, Abel Ferrara) (T)
#007 Viola (2012, Matias Piniero)
#006 A Time to Live, a Time to Die (1985, Hou Hsiao Hsien) (T)
#005 Beyond Clueless (2014, Charlie Lynn) (T)
#004 Boat People (1982, Ann Hu) (T)
#003 Araya (1959, Margot Benacerraf) (T)
#002 Bad Neighbours (2014, Nicholas Stoller)
#001 Tokyo Drifters (1966, Seijun Suzuki) (T)
Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-96, Hideaki Anno)
Digital Revolution, Barbican Centre
Three great Taiwanese films stand far out in a month devoted primarily to Chinese cinema. A Borrowed Life, from Wu Nien-jien, actor in Yi YI, and reowned Taiwanese screenwriter, was the real surprise standout. A film very similar in style and approach to those of Hou Hsiao-hsien (unsurprisingly, considering he wrote both A City of Sadness and A Time to Live), it was a satisfyingly understated family saga story, terrifically nuanced in its approach to a father-son relationship, and expansive despite remaining intimate, sentimental yet restrained.
From Andrew Chan, in the notes - “few films have so vividly recreated the sensation of having known another human being for one’s entire life, whilst simultaneously evoking the suspicion that all along one has loved a stranger.”
The three bolded may end up being my three favourite films of the year. Filmmaking doesn’t get a lot better than this.
#141 A Brighter Summer Day (1991, Edward Yang)
I’ve been waiting for a screening of this film for over four years now, so it had a lot to live up to. At risk of sounding like a broken record, all films benefit immeasurably from being seen big, to the point that I’d class watching something at home, watching something in the cinema, and watching something on an original print as three entirely different viewing experiences, three different films even. A complex, generation spanning four hour film such as this even more so.
Expectation didn’t bear too heavily, as this was fantastic, to the point I’d now rank Edward Yang as my favourite filmmaker. To me, after single viewings of both, and remaining works still unseen Yi Yi remains his best film. Comparing these two, and its fair to (both being lengthy, sprawling intergenerational epics that pit personal experience against national identity and socio-political experience), I’d say Yi Yi is the more accomplished film, but A Brighter Summer Day the more impressive.
So much so, that i’d say the kind of scope and scale on show here is comparable with the impossible ambition of Apocalypse Now, and an equal too in the level of success in achieving it. The directorial confidence on display here may be no surprise to those who’ve seen Yi Yi but the fact it is coming so much earlier, from a considerably younger (angrier, more frustrated?) man, and through a film with a style, tone and philosophy so radically different makes it enough to take the breathe away.
Its an almost incomparably rich, novelistic film, immensely layered and textured with the colour of a breadth of character, location and historical context. A tapestry of a country situation and sentiment made of over 100 speaking characters, each as fleshed out as the next. (Yang said, with no small bravado, that due to the amount of psychological profiling and planning done for each character and link, he could have made a 300+ episodes of a TV series out of the extended family him and his writers put together.)
For Rosenbaum, "this is a film about alienated identities in a country undergoing a profound existential crisis — a Rebel Without a Cause with much of the same nocturnal lyricism and cosmic despair.” A film of bitter ironies and heightened misfortune, its fundamentally about Taiwan’s first juvenile murder case, but as much about the community, time and country that sprawl out of that central happening. All characters are established, fleshed out and interlinked into a overwhelmingly broad cross-sectional web of 1960s Taiwan, and the distressing and somewhat unique situation that country apparently faced at the time - displaced of identity and existentially-challenged, caught on the otherside of continual colonial disruption (to say the least), confused, damaged and uncertain.
This historical context, an understand of which is equally integral to Hou Hsiao-hsien’s similarly inclined A City of Sadness, is something I’m missing in order to better appreciate this and other films of Taiwan. That Hou film is an obvious inspiration, as in A Time to Live and a Time to Die, in its portrayal of youth gang culture, and the searching for identity and finding it, sometimes positively and sometimes tragically, within gangs.
Everything in this in spot on. Look at the lighting for instance, a lot of night and darkness, a lot of candle light, yet immense beauty and variability. From the opening shot of a hanging bulb glimmering in the centre of a pitch-black frame, figuratively and literally, Yang finds a small amount of lightness in areas of all-consuming darkness.
From the 1980s to date, Taiwan has had it pretty much locked down in terms of filmic output. Look at the films of Yang, HHH and Tsai Ming-liang across the last three decades, and not much compares. I’ve not seen a lot outside of those three big-names, but the fact they alone have dominated the international stage since then, says a lot.
In Kirk Walker Grave’s 33 1/3 volume on MBDTF, he examines what he believes to be the crux of Kanye - the central conflict between egosim and fragility, the balancing of his boundless narcassism with a omnipresent self loathing that fuses into some kind of warped and uniquely modern self-determinism. Where MBDTF was Kanye’s ‘backhanded apology’ as Kanye himself labelled it; Yeezus is him fighting against the limitations and restrictions that are a constant in his (or anyones) work, with no apologies.
All of this is interesting, but what struck me most in the book was the intro that positions Kanye’s status as the figurehead of the 21st century against the emergence of social media. Running his status as influencer and shaper of public opinion and taste against the rise of social media platforms. More interesting even, is his exploration of ‘digital loneliness’ and Kanyes relation to that phenomenon. He sees Kanye as the embodiment of an era where “personal celebrity has become the default aspiration”.
You know when you read something and it feels like it is saying everything that to that point you’ve been unable to fully process. Like someone is thinking everything you’ve been thinking, but instead of having the thougths arrive through a scattergun, they manage to view it all through a precise lens and relay it back in the most perfect language. Walker Grave’s deconstruction of ‘digital loneliness’ was exactly this. The text was overwritten (which I can forgive) but this passage nailed everything.
Lifting liberally from a 2012 Atlantic article on Facebook by Damien Marche, Walker ties “humanity’s evolving incapacity for genuine connection” to the “epidemic of loneliness” we supposedly face now.
Marche first argued that “we have never been more detached from one another, or lonelier. In a world consumed by ever more novel modes of socializing, we have less and less actual society.” This, is my point of central conflict regarding heightened digital communications. Society changes and its means of connection change. Since the advent of the web, logging onto MSN messenger straight after school became a ritual for me (and many others my age, and not just dorks either.) Continuing the conversation out of school and into the home, maintaining a continual dialogue of heavy inanity. A comfort. Has this need to continually talk, aided my ability to communicate with, relate to and connect with others, or diminished it?
What I do know, is that I’m afraid of silence, categorically. That I can’t enter a silent room without the safety net of a phone to digitally interlink me to people, or music to fill the void or any kind of digital signal to buffer the emptiness. I’m fine with solitude, I embrace it, but its a false solitude where I’m alone but connected by a web of instanteous connection. I’m alone in the physical space, but a text or IM away from relief if I start to feel truly alone.
Louie CK raises this point too, in a stand up where he outlines texting and driving as the embodiment of this fear. so scared of momentary solitude that we’ll endanger our lives for a grasp at relief. He argues that sadness is ok and we need to let ourselves be properly alone sometimes, and accept the deep, if painful, feelings in order to experience the multitude of what life has to offer.
The odd counterpoint is, I went almost entirely digitally dark for about 3 months last year, whilst away. No texts or internet, minimal emails and IM, and it was fine. Absolutely so. Swiped away, it becomes apparent that the crutch isn’t needed. But on the flipside, that wasn’t an everyday situation, and it also had a negative effect. When I got back, and started to reconnect, on and offline, a divide was there. A breakdown in communicative ability, almost as if I’d forgotten the protocol for micro-comms, the pitter patter chatter in between dialogues of substance. If nothing else, perhaps these micro-chats and life-experience broadcasts keep the conversation going and keep things in tune, establishing the foundational links for deeper connections. I guess the problem is when they replace them, when group chat irradicates the desire for physical meet, when texts are all there is and when the online projection overwhelms the physical reality. When you lose all sense or awareness of the digital self you are constructing.
Marche explores how modern people admit to having few ‘confidants’ - meaning ‘quality social connections.’ He argues that “we have essentially hired an army of replacement confidants, an entire class of professional carers” to temporarily appease our feelings of loneliness, rather than seeking professional help or genuine social contact. “Surrogates can never make up completely for the absence of the real thing.” A digital relationship isn’t the same as an in-person one. Its contact without any of the risk (and also a fraction of the reward.) Some MIT professor in the Marche piece refers to this as a ‘tie that binds’ compared to a ‘tie that preoccupies.’ “A connection is not the same as a bond.”
For Marche, facebook is a “lonely business, wandering the labyrinths of our friends’ and pseudo-friends’ projected identities, trying to figure out what part of ourselves we ought to project, who will listen, and what they will hear.” I think, at this stage, everyone knows this much. I’m at a point where I genuinely believe that anyone who denies feeling worse, having browsed the facebook feed, is either in denial or unaware. I thought at first it was just a timewaste but its damage runs deeper. In that game of self-aggrandizement and data sharing, no one is winning, we’re all just hurting each other and compromising ourselves.
Going back to Walker-Grave, he then moves into talking how transactional information has become, and how it has altered the nature of interaction and conversation. He talks of a generational ideological need to “make it new and make it now.” For generations past, there was an onus on “having something to say” now the impotus is to simply “keep talking.”
I find myself constantly confused about what I should and shouldn’t be doing, what is good and bad for me. Am I micro-messaging too much at the expense of real connections? Am I sharing too much or little, inviting people into my life or plaguing them with it?
I still don’t know how to navigate this digital landscape, and its complexities are a source of endless fascination and bewilderment. I’m glad its here, I just think a degree of self-awareness over its ill-effects is useful. March somewhat bombastically announces in that Atlantic piece, “we were promised a global village; instead we inhabit the drab cul-de-sacs and endless freeways of a vast suburb of information.” it’s not quite like that, but we should always be stepping back and examining our relationship with things and what it all means.
"Does the Internet make people lonely, or are lonely people more attracted to the Internet?"
The irony is that the kind of narcisissm that the Walker book and the Marche article examine is the very same one I am holding onto here by looking into them through the lense of ‘I.’ How to better navigate the world outside of this selfish position might be the better inquisition to make.