Nowe Horyzonty Film Festival 2012 – part two

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Nowe Horyzonty Film Festival 2012 – part one gave you coverage from the first four days of the festival, below is coverage from the festivals concluding days.

Day 5

WR. Mysteries of the Organism: (dir. Dusan Makavejev, Yugoslavia, West Germany, 1971, 86min, colour/b&w, English, Serbian, Russian, German)

I’ve waited many years to see WR: Mysteries of the Organism on the big screen, and it was every bit as bonkers and genius as I remember. Even though I didn’t get a lot of the anti-communist sentiment, the Reich segments were brilliant, the revolutionary satire spot on, and the whole thing just so well put together. The juxtapositions of hymns, Communist imagery, penises, humour and the guy with the helmet and the gun are brilliant. He juggles three or more forms and narratives so easily, I can see why this is considered his masterpiece (though Sweet Movie was yet to come, crushingly, it was sold out)…And once again, as with his first film, the beautiful Milena Dravic is fantastic as Makavejev’s transsexual, naïve on-screen persona (in my opinion).

I was shocked though, at the Q&A, to see just how old Makavejev is; it’s easy to forget that the majority of his work was made in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and I’m still startled when it dawns on me that the 80s were 30 years ago. So yes, old he may be, but his wit is still sharp as a razor, though his hearing is bit off…That he compared himself in a way to Wilhelm Reich in his mixing of psychology/politics/sex was very interesting.

Day 6

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One: (dir. William Greaves, USA, 1968, 75min, colour)

One of those legendary films from the 60s that everybody had heard about but nobody had actually seen. It’s good. Really good. Basically, it is about a film crew filming a scene between an actor and actress in Central Park. They are being filmed by a second crew who are in turn being filmed themselves. They work on, through police interference, actor problems, crew plotting and a wonderful Polack tramp called Wiktor. The different levels of meta-narrative that develop from this fairly simple conceit is incredible.

Decoder: (dir. Klaus Maeck/Muscha, 1984, 87min, colour/b&w, German, English, Portuguese)

German film from 1984, of interest to me only really because it has William Burroughs in it, and on the soundtrack, and is about sound as a control machine and cut-up mechanisms. It is about sound-terrorists attacking a burger chain in Hamburg as a revolution against Muzak, using cassettes of Einsterzende Neubauten racket. Genesis. P. Orridge has the weediest Midlands voice ever, which doesn’t really work as a high priest of sound. Spoke to the writer/producer Klaus Maeck afterwards, about Burroughs as influence and collaborator. Very nice guy, who now works as producer for the phenomenal Hamburg based film-maker Fatih Akin.

Montenegro – Or Pigs and Pearls: (dir. Dusan Makavejev, Swedem/UK, 1981, 96min, colour, English/Swedish)

Makavejev’s first film after his leaving Yugoslavia is a different type of film altogether. Shot in Sweden, using Bergman’s stable of actors and crew, it is a sex/comedy about an American woman who ends up spending time with other fishes-out-of-the-water in a bar/nightclub, while her wealthy husband and children remain at home, not sure what has become of her. It is remarkably funny, and still has traces of Makavejev’s anarchic juxtapositions and sense of rhythm. It is the only one of his films that does not contain footage from other films. One of his minor films, to be sure, but would be many other director’s greatest achievements.

Q&A with Makavejev afterwards was funny and informative, and the great man is willing to talk about anything, with humour and enthusiasm. A couple of the things I learned: in the early 70’s, having fled Yugoslavia and living in Paris, he was approached by Francis Ford Coppola to direct a small picture he’d written called Apocalypse Now. Makavejev turned him down, saying it was not his place to criticise the American Army, and besides, his sympathies were very much with Kurtz and those in his compound; the main character in Montenegro had her name changed to Lucy Jordan when they realised that with a new Marianne Faithfull album coming out, her older songs would be much cheaper to license; the set design was “genuine Romanian lunacy…”

Day 7

The Last Real Men (dir. Ulrich Seidl, Austria, 1994, 60min, colour, German – pictured)
Pictures at an Exhibition: (dir. Ulrich Seidl, Austria, 1995, 45min, colour, German)

Two documentaries back to back by Ulrich Seidl. Both brilliant. One can see why Herzog so admires Seidl. The first shows different groups of people responding to a series of paintings, in a stark, talking heads kind of way. Beautiful to look at. The second is about Austrian misogyny and Philippine brides, following one Austrian divorcee as he interviews fellow Austrian men who have Philippine brides, in order that he might make the right decision. Both hilarious and uncomfortable.

Then a 90min press-conference and interview with Dusan Makavejev, held outdoors at the amazing Teatr Lalek, a puppet theatre (http://www.teatrlalek.wroclaw.pl). He seemed a little prickly at first buy eventually discussed everything from shooting his first film in 30 days, all done, to being exiled, to the reasons behind his anarchism, to his views on life, film and darkness, politics and everything in between, obviously, being in Poland, there were many questions about Anna Pucnal, the young Polish actress he cast in Sweet Movie who was subsequently exiled due to her role in the film. A true original and, sadly, probably unique. Footage can be made available as and when as I sneakily filmed the whole thing. Though 90 min. was nowhere near long enough, really, for all he has to say. Stood next to Klaus Maeck for a lot of the conference; it was nice another film-maker interested in what Makavejev had to say.

Makavejev did at one point say something about having a “big problem” with Emir Kusturica, but didn’t actually say what it was. Damn.

Day 8

Seven Easy Pieces by Marina Abramovic: (dir. Babette Mangolte, USA, 2007, 95min, colour, English)

Wow, 98 minutes of near silent, near motionless shots of Marina performing classic performance pieces from the 60s and 70s, among them bits by Bruce Naumann and Joseph Beuys. It can be seen two ways: either as a meditative connection between artist and public (which is almost palpable) and is broken only by her screams and moans; or as an episode of Jackass with all but the awkwardness and blood stripped clear. As compared to The Artist is Present, it is really interesting to see Marina entirely focused on her artist performance, with none of the candid interviews or levity. Uncomfortable, but very good.

Holy Motors: (dir. Leos Carax, France, 2012, 110min, colour, French)

I honestly couldn’t tell you. Dennis Lavant is great in 11 roles (as a motion capture artist having a sex/fight with a female counterpart; as an old bag-lady; as a bizarre leprechaun/troll creature/man who kidnaps Eva Mendes from a cemetery photo-shoot; as an assassin and his victim and a few others). Working with Lavant at the bizarre agency called Holy Motors is Celine, played by the amazing Edith Scob (from Franju’s 1960 Les Yeaux Sans Visage), his limo driver.
It makes no sense. There is a narrative, sure, there is cohesion and a chronology and rhythm and pace, but it makes no sense. Perhaps seen as a small collection of unconnected scenes about dreams made flesh in Paris it kind of comes together, but the cars conversing at the end does accept that it works as a whole somehow. Bugger me if I know. But I loved it either way.

Leos Carax was there before the screening but could not stay for the Q&A afterwards (obviously with his leather coat and hat and dark glasses and cigarette permanently present he was desperately needed to be cool and French somewhere else). His introduction was great though: [applause] Thank you. This film needs no introduction. I hope you like it. If you don’t like it, if it’s a nightmare for you, I hope it’s an interesting nightmare…and if you have any questions after the screening…there’ll be nobody here to answer them.

The Bosom Friend: (dir. Ulrich Seidl, Austria, 1997, 60min, colour, German)

Incredibly bleak story about a 50 year old teacher called Renee Rupnik, who lives with his mother in a flat of newspapers he has been collecting for god-knows how long, a collection he adds to every day. When he is not using breasts as an analogy for mathematical formulae, he is using everything else as an analogy for breasts. He is the saddest man in the entire world. He even admits to having stalked Senta Berger. What is so depressing about this one is the honesty with which Rupnik declares all of his problems.

Fun Without Limits: (dir. Ulrich Seidl, Austria, 1998, 45min, colour, German)

We follow adult-child, abuse victim Dorothea through the Europa-Park theme park, as she talks about her past, her many hundreds of trips to theme parks, her dreams and hopes and how the only time she is happy is when she is in a theme-park. This is juxtaposed to shots of the Theme Park, what goes on behind the scenes, and how fun is a commodity to be created and distributed. Truly shattering stuff. Despite Seidl’s attempt at humour (we are shown other park visitors blasting fake laughter directly at the camera) there are certain scenes that border on the painful, for instance Dorothea, surrounded by hundreds of theme-park prizes, explaining what they are and where they came from, and then immediately talking about her abuse.

Both films are shot in Seidl’s unique, perfectly framed, perfectly still, brilliantly composed style (each shot could stand alone as a perfect screen-shot). Often, the character is the only thing that moves in an otherwise symmetrical frame. Or the absence of characters frees up trains, traffic, the scenery of the theme-park or, earlier, an ethereal image of Rupnik’s mother (and even, in one hilarious and creepy scene, a Christmas tree), to move without human constraint. Perfect.

Day 9 (hottest day yet, it’s literally so hot you could explode into a heat-hot-fire-flame)

This Is Spinal Tap: (dir. Rob Reiner, USA, 1984, 82min, colour)

As part of the History of Mockumentary season, the funniest film ever made, on the big screen. I need not say more.

Well that was fun.

Last day of the Festival.

American Movie: (dir. Chris Smith, USA, 1999, colour)

Another famous mockumentary about a wannabe film-maker and the trials he goes through in order to get his awful short film made. This film is different to others of its kind in that the main character, Mark Borchardt, is utterly unlikable, his film is rubbish and in the end our sympathies lie with those around him who have the heart to encourage him to carry on, particularly his uncle, who funds the film, Coven. As a glimpse of what goes on in the life of an arch amateur, it is interesting, though not as funny or as touching as it could be. It reminded me a lot of a Canadian mockumentary from 2003 called Fubar, directed by Michael Dowse, which is an altogether better film.

After this everybody rushed off to the closing gala and the screening of On The Road. Hah! to them, I said. Whilst all that was going on, I strolled across town and sat down for the 146 most profound minutes of film yet. All the usual words like ‘sublime’ and ‘art’ and ‘sombre’ don’t even come close to doing this justice.

The Turin Horse (dir. Bela Tarr, Hungary, France, Germany, Switzerland, USA, 2011, 146min, b&w, Hungarian, German)

Just two humans (a farmer and his daughter played staggeringly by Janos Derszi and Erika Bok), a horse, a farmhouse, raging winds, a gypsy caravan, a monumental monologue (delivered by Mihaly Kormos) and an aborted attempt to leave make up the 30 shots of the film. The film tells us of the last 6 days…of what? The world? Cinema? Both? We don’t absorb them, we don’t understand them, we merely see. Each of the days is given the same attention but the last, which one must see to believe. Through it all, Tarr moves his camera with an assuredness that is nearly cosmic, and the only word I can think of to describe some of the shots is ‘absolute’. Yes it is slow, glacially slow at times, but all the more hypnotic for it, and the sound, my god the sound of the wind and the repetitive music (Mihaly Vig supplies the score again, and this Hungarian organ dirge is just as immense as the film), well, yes…There is also The Greatest Opening Shot in all of cinema. And if this is indeed Bela Tarr’s last film, as he has intimated it might be, then the modern master has finished with a masterpiece, in every sense of the word. Crushing.

Oh yeah, and I spoke to him after the screening at the Q&A. He was very enigmatic and profound himself, and a few of the answers he gave to some of the questions were met with gasps of awe (Q: Why did they return to the house? A: YOU know why. The other side? The hill? Just the same. (Okay, it doesn’t sound so impressive now, but a) this is me typing it and b) you had to hear him say it…)). He also kept on repeating, in his warmly deliberate way: “There is no symbol, no allegory, no metaphor…” And his voice is the best speaking voice in the world. He talks like Leonard Cohen sings. And on the way out, I stood next to Bela Tarr. Bela Tarr.

1 Comment
  1. Kevin Matthews says

    Was that Bela Tarr that you stood next to? LOL
    Agree that The Turin Horse is a great film indeed.

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