A few final films I savored seeing at the Flaherty:
Sylvain George’s Tu resteras hyène etc (L’Impossible – Part V) (2009, 17 minutes) was a much-needed caffeine jolt of life-affirming negativity. The montage, which frequently established a total discontinuity between image and sound, sought to orient the film’s viewers away from representation entirely and focus them on the actual events and physical environments which triggered the film. In this sense, George is clearly working in a Situationist-inspired vein. Some at the seminar felt George’s work was too classically modernist (and in that sense, a failed attempt at politicized and politicizing art), and I can see where that critique is coming from. I don’t entirely agree, however, and I still found the work’s political aesthetics relevant. I appreciated his invitation to spectators to approach the film in an alternative interpretative mode, one bypassing representational identification.
Isaki Lacuesta’s Los Pasos Dobles (2011, 90 minutes) was extraordinary. I was gob-smacked upon leaving the screening! It was kind of a queer, Malian, pomo, impossible-to-decipher faux biopic about little-known artist François Augiéras that prominently features well-known artist Miquel Barceló in the role of Augiéras as a sort of omniscient storyboarder. The film is a paean to creative plasticity in the visual arts, in dance, in dialogue, in persona, in sexuality and in mythic narrative. It’s informed heavily by both Sergio Leone and Souleymane Cissé. It was absurd in a way that is extremely difficult to describe–the kind of sublime absurd that somehow involves legacy, or royalty, and never knees down into straightforward farce. Just great! I want to see it again.
It was a huge pleasure to meet and talk with Laila Pakalniņa. It was an equal pleasure to watch her masterfully-crafted, compassionate films. They were without a doubt the most generous films in the festival. Theodore (2006, 29 minutes) left its titular subject a mystery while revealing volumes about the elderly man’s habitus, his community, and its shared rituals.
Three Men and a Fish Pond (2008, 52 minutes) left the audience both giddy and thoughtful after its quick-witted suite of thematic and graphic matches paralleling the lives of humans and wildlife. Watching it, we felt like true participants in the montage, like a communal table of card players.
Sami van Ingen’s brilliant Fokus (2004, 40 minutes), was a film that I instantly wanted to teach as an exquisite example of how unseen networks of power can be glimpsed, upheld or contested with images. The film is painstakingly thought out and its duration is perfect. It begins with a totally deconstructed sequence from vacation footage and methodically assists the spectator in putting it back together to make sense out of each shot’s fleeting seconds. Then it takes the images apart again with the help of an optical printer, so that the micro-transactions of power and powerlessness are revealed in faces, gestures and glances.
Bravo, and thank you to all involved in this fantastic week of cinema.