Explore by #Experimental
Does filming oneself and one’s own partner acting as non-professional actors equal documentary filming? Does exhibiting the process of fiction-making, or the making-of of fiction, equal non-fiction cinema? What if the non-professional acting finally gets an influence of your daily non-acting? Is reality also the result of our exercises in fictionalising reality? If two non-professional actors say that they stop acting when the camera continues to record, did they “really” stop acting? Is any exhibited making-of of a film, even the making-of of the making-of of the film, potentially fictional? Would the fictionality of the making-of be more real than the reality of the fiction which the making-of refers to? What if a dying man or a two year-old child participate in an explicitly staged fiction? Can they be prepared enough, manipulated enough, in order to not bring some non-fictional reality into fiction? If the explicitly staged fiction displays the drama of a non-professional actress being manipulated by the rules of acting, does this mean that the non-professional actress is less manipulated, in reality, because she accepts being manipulated in order to express through her acting how bad it would be to be a manipulated non-professional actress? Does a meta-cinematic reflection rise when we realise that the ethical questions discussed in the drama coincide with the classical ethical questions of documentary filmmaking, like the question of filming and, in a way, seeking for suffering? If the pact between the non-professional actors would be to perform their own real life, would the non-scripted moments of improvisation go beyond the limit of their acting domain and show an effective non-fiction? Which should be the position of the spectator when, the explicit ambiguity between fiction and non-fiction notwithstanding, the highly credible dialogues make us suspend our disbeliefs? Should we resist the suspension of disbelief only because the realistic dialogue of a couple stops at once with the couple revealing their acting? When the non-professional actors, a couple themselves, start then to behave as if in their acting performances, should their previous dialogues be taken as even more credible or even more staged?
All these questions arose in me during the viewing of Xiaozhen Wang’s two-hours long Love Poem. Even if the film is not devoid of genuinely dramatic moments, which we experience when we surrender to the cinematic suspension of disbelief, its main filmic experience coincides with our own intellectual inquiry on fiction and non-fiction. The climax of the interlocking layers of fiction and non-fiction comes in the last scene of the film, where the filmmaker takes the initiative to stop the camera, but this scene will confirm the impossibility of attempting to disentangle fiction and non-fiction. Then music will appear. Yes, Love Poem is mainly intellectual cinema, and I cannot but immediately add: so what? For in speaking of “intellectual cinema”, I already feel the pressure, today, of having to defend its legitimate existence against the anti-intellectualism that seems to loom among film scholars and cinephiles… Cinema has told, tells, and will always tell the story of the reflection on its own dispositive and fundamental issues.
Love Poem | Film | Xiaozhen Wang | CHN-Hong Kong-SAR 2020 | 114’ | Visions du Réel 2020, Burning Lights
Europa - «Based on a True Story»
This is probably the most radical film I saw at the Solothurner Filmtage. The documentarist perspective of a Swiss film production, which is often the Swiss one on a foreign country, is completely overturned in Kivu Ruhorahoza’s Europa – «Based on a True Story». Not only is Kivu a Rwandese filmmaker but his focus is London and, through London, Europe.
He tried to tell an essayistic love story with a film, A Tree Has Fallen, but the difficulties suffered in London due to the British conservative anti-migration agenda finally involve both his characters and himself as filmmaker. The fictional tale expands on parallel documentary images of the rallies in London. Here the political identities are often blurred in a common reduction of language and ideas. An intense and intelligent text is squeezed onto an elusive voice-over layer, the narrative lines of fiction and documentary fragment and compose each other. There are enough of these elements to put us at a certain distance, the distance of an intellectual reception, which echoes the distance of Kivu’s migration back to Rwanda (where he tried to complete the “European” film).
In its strengths and weaknesses, Europa – «Based on a True Story» shows an incredible justness, insofar as it expresses the urgency of dialogue through the dismantling power of exclusion and separation.
Europa – «Based on a True Story» | Film | Kivu Ruhorahoza | UK-RWA-CH 2019 | 93’ | Solothurner Filmtage 2020
Rien que l’Europe tout entière, son histoire — jusqu’à ses sources mythologiques —, son présent, sa variété, ses défis : voilà le sujet de l’essai filmique de Felix Tissi. Élément de restriction de la focale : Europe, la déesse grecque, parle en voix off avec Dieu de sa situation, ses plaisirs, ses malaises, elle se plaint de son absence, ou de sa présence trop multiforme. Une belle idée, sur le papier ; mais nous avons l’impression que le thème religieux de l’Europe est plus une occasion saisie qu’un véritable sujet d’approfondissement. Aussi parce que plusieurs chapitres se suivent dans la structure de Gottlos Abendland, touchant d’autres thèmes comme la migration, l’exploitation des ressources, la bureaucratie, les grandes différences de coutumes, etc. Une liste réfléchie, certainement bien choisie, mais qui pour chaque chapitre ne réussit qu’à effleurer le début d’un approfondissement, exactement comme pour la relation « occasionnelle » d’Europe à Dieu. Gottlos Abendland est un film plein d’occasions, comme un livre réduit à sa table de matière et à sa préface. Oui, « occasion » et « occident » partagent la même racine, mais puisque le trait caractéristique de l’Europe est certainement sa complexité, Felix Tissi lui fait-il justice avec son approche panoramique ?
« Panorama », voilà une autre invention européenne, qui après l’encyclopédisme a su se développer jusqu’à ce qu’on appelle aujourd’hui « globalisation ». Mais l’obsession si européenne pour le global, pour le catalogue, pour l’inventaire, une fois résumée dans le temps d’un long-métrage, s’apparente plus au délire qu’à l’analyse ou à l’originalité. Par contre, du côté des images — dont un panorama ne peut se passer —, le voyage filmique que nous faisons avec Gottlos Abendland est riche et impressionnant. Pierre Reicher à la caméra sera le dépositaire de mes principales louanges pour une œuvre qui aurait pu dire, exprimer davantage en accordant la centralité aux images plutôt qu’aux mots de la voix off. On aurait peut-être perdu le fil quelquefois, en l’absence d’informations, et on se serait peut-être posé plus de questions que l’on aurait reçu de réponses — et n’est-ce pas là justement une des essences de l’Europe ? La piste sonore signée par Fred Frith est également assez suggestive : elle semble rester toujours sur une tonalité de mystère, ce qui finalement sert à contrebalancer le registre déclaratif et démonstratif du contenu verbal du film.
Gottlos Abendland nous promène un peu partout sans vouloir défendre une véritable thèse, préférant une approche critique très généraliste. Le chemin filmique vaudra le parcours, peut-être plus pour ce que chacun de nous peut cogiter par soi-même, particulièrement en réaction à la piste visuelle. En ce qui concerne le « gottlos » du titre (un adverbe ?) il restera un choix peu crédible, bien que notre Europe demeure dans les faits encore bien sécularisée — et j’ajouterai : Dieu merci !
Gottlos Abendland | Film | Felix Tissi | CH 2019 | 71' | Solothurner Filmtage 2020
Screenings in Swiss cinema theatres
My Life Is a Gunshot
Screenings in Swiss cinema theatres
”My life is a gunshot”, when said by the Swiss artist Joke Lanz, can mean at least two things, the first being that his life was determined, for better or for worse, by the gunshot with which his father killed himself. Marcel Derek Ramsay dedicates a large part of his film to this traumatic episode in the life of the young Lanz, whose consequences still weigh on his life today, mostly in terms of consciousness of the suffering and of the need for freedom and liberation from the societal conformism. This theme, which is connected partly to his relationship to Switzerland, recurs obsessively in My Life Is a Gunshot, but not as frequently as the image of Lanz’s face, which appears to be Ramsey’s own obsession. These two obsessions actually work as ballast to balance an explosive, high-paced and high-spirited filmic journey into the amazing world of an artist who is able to transform anything into an occasion of expression and creation.
Here is the second meaning of “my life is a gunshot”; referring to the volcanic mode of creation of Joke Lanz, for whom the matter of sound – music and noise confounded – is in perfect continuity with the matter of humanity and the matter of the world. Lanz’s fundamental intuition is that the shout of suffering can be seen as, heard as or transformed into the cry of a newborn baby – and that is why his life-long project is named “Sudden Infant”. The destructive power of a gunshot therefore becomes more than just liberation from a hostile world; it is a regeneration that gives a narrative form to the seemingly shapeless shout.
In this, Ramsay’s formal choices for the film are brilliantly coherent with Lanz’s art and philosophy: thanks also to Peter Bräker’s impressive sound editing, Ramsay was able to manage a huge amount of material, blending an explosive and fast rhythm with a narrative structure that alternates the emotive moments with the informative ones. When form matches content in cinema, a stronger experience is guaranteed –experienced here with the discovery of a highly original sound artist or, better, sounding artist.
My Life Is a Gunshot | Film | Marcel Derek Ramsay | CH 2019 | 91’ | Solothurner Filmtage 2019
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