Explore by #Jorge Yglesias
In the beginning of Abyssal, a camera follows a man ascending through an iron spiral staircase to the top of a lighthouse in a silent bay of West Cuba. In the highest part, while the source of brightness gyres and gyres, the anamorphic face of the man sets the tone of this trancelike portrayal of a community of scrap merchants working in a landscape where time seems to come to a stop.
Gloriously far from the socialist realism commandment of “typical people in typical situations”, the workers of Abyssal wander around abandoned places as phantoms trying to make gold out of the waste. The hypnotic quality of the film, its whisper-more-than-a-cry substance, weave an unusual science fiction story where Andrei Tarkovski and Werner Herzog shake hands, and human beings are treated as “beautiful forms” exposing illusions (to be Superman) or wondering about other worlds. In one of the most suggestive shots of the film a man is peeping at life through a hole in a shipwreck, as if this metaphysical abyss upon earth were a vast dungeon. No doubt the scene of an indoor pursuit through narrows corridors of what, at the end, turns out to be a carrier pigeon shows Alonso´s incredible gift for poetry.
Surrounded by a motionless sea, these men, who believe that ships have a soul, compare their visions and thoughts as if they were dead people lost in a reverie. Absorbed by their task of recycling wrecks, these dialectical Sisyphus soften the sense of confinement that permeates the picture with their childish innocence when discussing reality. Though practically every area seems to be part of a prison (in fact, some of the workers are ex-convicts), sometimes closed, sometimes open to the air, their dreams are the windows they need to breathe.
Avoiding the pornographic exploitation of misery or blind engagement style, Alejandro Alonso has given sense to a reality he knows well, translating it into a “nowhereness” made of garbage and fragments, rags of memories and fantasies. Every image, every sound, is conquered with wisdom and respect towards this group of dreamed dreamers living in the waste. He is probably the Cuban filmmaker that has found the most original metaphors to reveal aspects of daily life in his country. In his films there exists a dignified home for cinema, between a culture cheapened by the rise of tourism and the excess of political propaganda of both sides. The eroded territory populated by suffocating cabins, mute nature, tales of apparitions and disappearances depicted by Alejandro Alonso with restrained piety in Abyssal is the nightmare naïve travellers fears the most: no old cars, no sensuous pieces of flesh dancing, no happy poor.
Abyssal | Film | Alejandro Alonso | CUB-FR 2021 | 30’ | Visions du Réel Nyon 2021
The Green Fog
Capriciously related to the plot of Alfred Hitchcock´s Vertigo, Guy Maddin and brothers Evan & Galen Johnson´s The Green Fog is a parodical Frankenstein assembled from pieces from movies and television shows set in San Francisco. As it was commissioned by the San Francisco Film Society to be premiered at the close of the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival on April 16, 2017, the film has been easily classified as a tribute or homage, even a remake. Maddin himself has employed terms such as «emotional geography» and «rhapsody on Vertigo» when asked about this lecture on creative stealing and film scholarship with plenty of funny (sometimes sombre) echoes of a romantic thriller.
In some way The Green Fog invite us to forget Hitchcock and play with the idea of how ridiculous can be a film and/or some ways to watch it. Radical subtractions and humorous additions become tools to construct a weird artefact to prove that authorship survives any attempt to supplant its genuineness; it doesn´t matter who is implied, if Mr. Ed Wood or Sir Orson Welles. At the same time, Maddin and his witty henchmen emerge clear winners from this unsafe zone where Vertigo is a stimulating absence. Its exercise of style consists of unpicking the seam of this classic of suspense and replacing it with an anthology of homeless shots and guillotined conversations.
In this deliciously campy Atlas Mnemosyne of Frisco portrayed by cinema and TV, Maddin & the Johnson Brothers tie the tongues of some characters, launch a Hamletian, contemplative Chuck Norris, and reduce its main referent to a fragment of the stairs seen in the rooftop chase. Throughout this process what was a detective movie turns into a comedy, seriousness gives way to cunning frivolity. If it’s true that there’s always something of burlesque in films that supplant the mood of an original story by strained gravity sthen in The Green Fog any operation is permeated by a disquieting and typically maddinesque malice. The awareness of dealing with shots that have lost their natural hors-champs increases the strangeness of this creature begotten by cinephilia and an acute sense of the uncanny. Ceci n'est pas Hitchcock.
The Green Fog | Film | Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson | USA 2017 | 63’
Screenings in Swiss cinema theatres