Monday, February 29, 2016

Metrograph, a New Repertory Theater in LES

 photo 07b8a347-6dec-4d92-8430-0388680765d1_zpstuaodw5j.jpg
New York's Lower East Side has been the city's cultural center for many decades now. But when it comes to art movie theaters, you had to go across Manhattan to Film Forum or schlep all the way up to Lincoln Center to catch a Lav Diaz or Frederick Wiseman or Sammo Hung film. It is only fitting then it's about time that LES deserves its own repertory movie theater.

Founded by designer Alexander Olch, Metrograph took over an old warehouse on 7 Ludlow Street. It's a state of the art movie theater playing mix of first-run independent & international films and old repertory films both on 35mm and DCP. Two renowned film curators in this part of the woods join the team-- Jacob Perlin, programmer-at-large at FSLC and associate programmer at BAM Cinematek and Aliza Ma from the Museum of the Moving Image and TIFF, to offer you a tantalizing progamming.

On Friday, March 4, the curtain goes up on Metrograph, the first independent movie theater to open in Manhattan in more than a decade. Located at 7 Ludlow Street in the historic Lower East Side, Metrograph showcases first-run and repertory films, and will be devoted to screening archive-quality 35mm prints as well as state-of-the-art digital projection. Theater One, with 175 seats, features a balcony; Theater Two holds 50 seats.

Evoking the spirit of old movie studios--Metrograph expands upon the cinema experience to include The Metrograph Commissary--a world class restaurant, two bars, and a cinema-dedicated bookshop. It is both a destination for cinephiles, and a vibrant cultural hub for New Yorkers.

Here is their Full Spring 2016 Schedule:


March 4 - March 8
Metro graph's Sixteen-Film Debut Repertory Series
Takes Us into the Theater

One of the essential joys of going to the movies is ritual: the lights dimming, the first beam of light on the screen, the familiar fanfare or logo (the arrow and target to announce "A Production of the Archers"), sitting in the dark with a roomful of strangers, waiting to be transported. Susan Sontag wrote of "the experience of surrender to, of being transported by, what was on the screen." As we open Metrograph, we invite you to experience-or re-experience-films that bestow this singular magic, films that kidnap us into the theater and transport us to the world of filmgoing. In these movies, people watch and we watch them.

Titles include: The Long Day Closes (Terence Davies, 1992), Vivre sa vie (Jean-Luc Godard, 1962), Goodbye, Dragon Inn (Tsai Ming-liang, 2003), Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976), Matinee (Joe Dante, 1993), Desperately Seeking Susan (Susan Seidelman, 1985), Variety (Bette Gordon, 1983), Demons (Lamberto Bava, 1985), and more.

March 9 - March 17

"Jean Eustache is a genius. The Mother and the Whore is The Rules of the Game of our generation." -- Philippe Garrel in Cahiers du Cinéma

The giants of film history that defined the cinema-changing Nouvelle Vague were undeniable: Godard, Truffaut, Varda, Demy, Chabrol. But the generation of filmmakers who followed them-- children of May '68-- produced movies as provocative and thrilling as anything seen in any film epoch. The brilliant Jean Eustache is a towering figure of this period, making intellectually searching, unpredictable films that uncovered sharp and raw truths about human nature. His most towering work, The Mother and the Whore (1973), is a rightfully beloved epic of generational angst, but his entire oeuvre-narratives, experimental documentaries, essay films, and interviews-collected here for the first time in New York in over a decade, evinces a mastery of the form, an idiosyncratic, naturalistic humor, and an inquisitive artistic nature.

Extended engagements of Eustache's two features The Mother and the Whore (1973) and My Little Loves (Mes Petites Amoureuses) (1974), along with Bad Company (Robinson's Place) (1963), Santa Claus Has Blue Eyes (1967), and more rare imported prints.

Presented with support from The Cultural Services of the French Embassy and Institut Français. Special thanks to Amélie Garin Davet, Mathieu Fournet, and Françoise Lebrun.

March 11 - March 17
One-Week Revival Engagement
New 35mm Print of Stephanie Rothman's Low-Budget Classic

"A surprisingly sensitive study of youthful aspirations and conflicting interests among three female friends... It's hard to believe there was a time when such progressive politics could be expressed in a drive-in movie."
-- Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

The sole female filmmaker in a renowned boys' club, Stephanie Rothman made a small, but significant series of subversive exploitation films. One of her greatest films is the ensemble drama The Student Nurses, which forgoes cheap psychologizing and sexual gratuity for a nuanced take on the professional and personal options faced by women. Though she was recognized at the time by some astute critics, it's only recently that Rothman's work has been unequivocally acknowledged for what it is: incisive, funny, and bursting with ideas, and a crucial counter to the overwhelmingly male vision of the American seventies. We're pleased to present The Student Nurses in a new 35mm print from Academy Film Archive, with support from the Women's Film Preservation Fund and Cinema Conservancy.

1970 / 89 Minutes / Color / 35mm / Rated R

March 16 - April 21
An Alphabetical History of Cinema According to Metrograph, Part 1

At Metrograph, you will experience all kinds of movies. What will unite them all is-- simply-- that we believe in them, and we think they are films you should see. This is the first installment in a year-long, alphabetically ordered series that offers films we consider must-sees; a pinnacle of a filmmaker's career or an overlooked, demands-reconsideration masterpiece. Call it a very unofficial "Metrograph canon," with one film only per director. A mid-career Scorsese, a left-field Assayas, documentary shorts by must-know filmmaker Madeline Anderson, a classic noir by John Farrow, or Andy Warhol's double-system projected The Chelsea Girls... These are the films we couldn't wait to show, so we had to create a series to justify it.

Titles include: The Age of Innocence (Martin Scorsese, 1993), Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975), The Blood of a Poet (Jean Cocteau, 1932), The Chelsea Girls (Andy Warhol, 1966, image above), The Clock (Vincente Minnelli, 1945), Comrades: Almost A Love Story (Peter Chan, 1996), Deux fois (Jackie Raynal, 1968), The Devil Probably (Robert Bresson, 1977), Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Rouben Mamoulian, 1931), Equinox Flower (Yasujiro Ozu, 1958), and more. All films on 35mm or 16mm, unless notes otherwise.

March 18 - March 24
Exclusive One Week Theatrical Engagement
Featuring the Work of American Artist Tom Sachs
Official Selection: 2015 SxSW Film Festival

" extraordinary film." -- Dazed

World-renowned contemporary artist Tom Sachs transformed New York's Park Avenue Armory into a space station, immersing visitors into a large-scale installation titled "Space Program 2.0: Mars." In his first feature film, director Van Neistat gives viewers an intimate glimpse into Sachs's production-- complex and rich with scientific ritual-- following the crew as they embark on a risky mission to the red planet. A Space Program is a vivid work of art on its own terms.

2015 / 72 minutes / Color / DCP / Not Rated
A Zeitgeist Films release

Sundays beginning March 20
New Preservations and Restorations Every Sunday

Every Sunday starting March 20, we're pleased to present a new preservation or restoration. In some cases, these screenings mark the first times these prints have been shown to the public. Titles include Dorothy Arzner's Craig's Wife (1936), Garson Kanin's My Favorite Wife (1940), Josef von Sternberg's Crime and Punishment (1935), Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Mysterious Object at Noon (2000), Djibril Diop Mambéty's Touki Bouki (1973), and Joyce Chopra's Joyce at 34 (1972) plus shorts from New York's Youth Film Distribution Center. All titles on 35mm or 16mm.

March 25 - April 14
Receive Week-Long Runs in New 35mm Prints
Series Marks the 50th Anniversary of the Start of Wiseman's Filmmaking Career

"Frederick Wiseman... whose sustained acts of attention to various places, institutions and social phenomena constitute one of the great monuments of modern filmmaking." -- A.O. Scott, The New York Times

Among the greatest and most influential documentary filmmakers who ever lived, Frederick Wiseman is more than just a capturer of reality on screen: he's a conjurer of unforgettable images and a true artist, chronicling the last half century of American life. Still going strong at age 85 (his latest film, In Jackson Heights, was one of the very best of 2015), Wiseman began his career in the late sixties. We're proud to show three of his earliest masterpieces-- Titicut Follies (1967), High School (1968), and Hospital (1970)-- in new 35mm prints. The films were preserved by the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center from original camera negatives in the Zipporah Films Collection.

March 25 - March 31
Revival One Week Theatrical Engagement
Directed by Johnnie To
Starring Chow Yun-fat and Sylvia Chang

"If Mr. To were an American, his name would fall from lips as easily as Martin Scorsese's, another artist alive to cinema's past as well as its present... sharp and exceedingly playful." -- Manhola Dargis, The New York Times (Critic's Pick)

Hugely popular Hong Kong auteur Johnnie To, primarily known for his action movies, surprised and delighted his fans this past year with the remarkable Office, a stylish, buoyant musical shot in 3D featuring grand, eye-popping set design reminiscent of Jacques Tati's classic Playtime. Adapted from her own stage play by Sylvia Chang, who also costars, Office takes place in an austere yet exquisitely realized high-rise, where two new assistants attempt to climb the corporate ladder and please the head honcho (played by the imperious Chang). Office received a limited New York release in 2015, and has been steadily accruing a major cult following ever since. Metrograph is thrilled to bring back this unmissable cinematic treat-- also starring the legendary Chow Yun-Fat-in a special week-long run.

2015 / 119 minutes / Color / DCP / Not Rated
In Cantonese with English Subtitles
A China Lion release

April 1 - April 7
Exclusive One-Week Theatrical Engagement
Directed by Tsai Ming-liang and featuring Lee Kang-sheng
Official Selections: 2015 Venice Film Festival and Toronto Int'l Film Festival

"Afternoon is a rare and lovely cinematic expression of gratitude."
- Michael Sicinski, Cinema-Scope Magazine

Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang (The River, What Time Is It There?), one of the most tirelessly brilliant filmmakers in the world, sits down for an extended conversation with his long-time muse Lee Kang-sheng, in a ramshackle rural house to discuss all manner of things professional and very personal. True Tsai fans, prepare to bliss out.

Presented with support from Taipei Cultural Center of TECO in New York.
2015 / 137 Minutes / Color / DCP / Not Rated
In Taiwanese with English Subtitles

April 15 - April 21
One Week Theatrical Engagement
Best Actor: 2015 Cannes Film Festival

"Through it all, Lindon takes in every atom of every situation, every pointer, every negative word, considering what's of value, discarding what's not. This is one of the most sensitively shaded depictions of listening I've ever had the pleasure to watch. He's playing the pressure, but his way: tense, cool."
-- Wesley Morris, Grantland

One of the most robust and dynamic actors currently working in French cinema, Vincent Lindon won the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015 for
The Measure of a Man. Vincent Lindon is subtly overwhelming as unemployed everyman Thierry, who, after losing his factory job, must submit to a series of humiliating ordeals in his search for work. After numerous dead ends, Skype interviews, ritualized personal critiques by fellow jobseekers, Thierry finds a job, which proves no less soul-sucking. Brizé's drama is powerful and moving depiction of our contemporary economic reality.

On the occasion of the release of The Measure of a Man, we're pleased to present a selection of films that showcase four of his greatest performances. Each of them uncovers a different facet of this generous and vital leading man, a tough-guy and a romantic hero in equal measure. Films include Welcome (2009),
A Few Hours of Spring (2012), and Bastards (2013).

The Measure of a Man
2015 / 93 Minutes / Color / HD
In French with English Subtitles
A Kino Lorber release

April 15 - April 21
Exclusive One Week Premiere Theatrical Engagement
Iconic Portrait of Puerto Rican/Dominican Community in 1980s S. Williamsburg

Thirty years ago, South Williamsburg was known as "Los Sures," a place imbued with vibrant life, a community of close-knit Puerto Rican and Dominican families living amidst everyday economic struggle. Today, with the neighborhood fully gentrified, it feels vital to remember this lost world, and Diego Echeverria's essential documentary, shot in the early eighties on 16mm, brings it all back to life, through the eyes of five different residents. Rediscovered in 2007, the film has become a cornerstone program of the Williamsburg arts nonprofit Union Docs, which not only restored the film but in 2015 began the "Living Los Sures" historical memory project, which helps fund filmmakers in continuing to document the neighborhood.

1984 / 60 mins. / 16mm presented on DCP
A Union Docs release

April 22 - April 28
One Week Theatrical Engagement
The Defining Portrait of the British Pop Artist

For the first time, the brilliant artist David Hockney has given us access to his personal archive of photographs and home movies; the result is an unparalleled visual diary of his life. Randall Wright's new documentary Hockney weaves together a portrait of the multifaceted artist from this intimate, never-before-seen footage and frank interviews with close friends. One of the great surviving icons of the 1960s, Hockney started his career with nearly instant success, but in private he has struggled with his art, relationships, and the tragedy of AIDS, making his optimism and sense of adventure truly uplifting. Hockney is funny, inspiring, bold, and visionary, the definitive exploration of one the most significant artists of his generation.

112 minutes / English / HD / Not Rated
A Film Movement release

April 22-28
Fassbinder's Top 10
April 29 - May 5
Exclusive One-Week Theatrical Engagement

"Intimate, unsentimental... Thomsen builds a fascinating film around a fascinating man, but never, despite his evident deep affection for him, allows it to fall into hagiography." - Jessica Kiang, Indiewire-The Playlist

In the new documentary Fassbinder: To Love Without Demands, writer and filmmaker Christian Braad Thomsen delves into the life and work of singular New German cinema bad-boy artist Rainer Werner Fassbinder, starting with incredible footage of Fassbinder winning the grand prize at the 1969 Berlin Film Festival for his debut feature Love Is Colder Than Death- amidst boos and catcalls. Official Selection of the 2015 Berlin Film Festival.

As a countdown to our release of this probing, entertaining new film, we present Fassbinder's expectedly idiosyncratic Top 10, as published in 1982, a year before his death. What a lineup: we start with his #1 of all time, Luchino Visconti's decadent The Damned (1969) and then count down the rest- The Naked and the Dead (Raoul Walsh, 1958), Lola Montés (Max Ophuls, 1955), Flamingo Road (Michael Curtiz, 1949), Salò (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks, 1953), Dishonored (Josef von Sternberg, 1931), The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955), Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954), and The Red Snowball Tree (Vasiliy Shukshin, 1971).

Fasssbinder: To Love Without Demands
2015 / 106 minutes / HD / Not rated
In English and German with English Subtitles

Just Announced:


Todd Haynes's CAROL on 35mm
Old School Kung Fu Fest
Noah Baumbach's Dream Double Feature
Henry Street Settlement Presents SIDEWALK STORIES
and more

Following the recent announcement of the first slate of programs, Metrograph is thrilled to reveal new additions to the March/April calendar.

On April 6, Metrograph launches the inaugural event of a new collaboration with the world-renowned Criterion Collection. Titled The Criterion Collection Live!, these events, hosted by Criterion staff members, will feature very special guests, screenings, and audience prizes, and will offer unique insight into the company’s process and the stories behind the films they release in deluxe edition Blu-rays and DVDs. “We’re proud to be joining forces with Metrograph to be kicking off Criterion’s first ever live event," says Criterion president Peter Becker. “This is an exciting opportunity to expand our relationship with our audience in what we think is going to be a really lively and exciting night. We know Metrograph is going to be a vital part of New York film culture, and we’re so pleased to be a part of it as it makes its debut.” Speaking of the partnership, Artistic and Programming Director Jacob Perlin says, “The Criterion Collection is a crucial part of any film lover’s life, and with this program, audiences will have the chance to go deeper, and experience even more of what makes Criterion one-of-a-kind."

The first Criterion Collection Live! will focus on the groundbreaking documentaries of Robert Drew and his associates, including the legendary D. A. Pennebaker, who is scheduled appear in person, along with other special guests.

A special screening of Charles Lane's landmark film Sidewalk Stories on April 5 marks the start of Metrograph's collaboration with Henry Street Settlement, a nonprofit providing social services and health care, as well as arts programs, to enrich the lives in New York residents. "We are thrilled about our new partnership with Metrograph, which will include film events relevant to our poverty fighting mission and community programs. We appreciate Metrograph's commitment to provide a dynamic cultural space for the Lower East Side," says David Garza, Executive Director of Henry Street Settlement.

On March 5, a pairing for the ages: director Noah Baumbach will present George Miller's Babe: Pig in the City and Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, for a one-night-only 35mm double feature on the opening weekend of Metrograph. Baumbach says of these two films, "They feel like dreams I had as a kid, or movies I once pretended to have seen." This screening will mark the start of a reoccurring series.

Todd Haynes's masterful Carol will be screened on 35mm on March 26, with Oscar-nominated cinematographer Ed Lachman appearing in person.

On March 19, Metrograph "begins its advocacy for the declaration of a new holiday: IB Technicolor Day," says Perlin. Presented in support of this petition, we present Ultimate IB: Three Technicolor Classics: Singin' in the Rain, Vertigo, and Hatari!

On April 8-10, with programs including rare 35mm prints of Pedicab Driver (1989), The Man from Hong Kong (1975), Rumble in the Bronx (1995), and more, Metrograph will host The 6th Old School Kung Fest."Subway Cinema rose from the ashes of the shuttered Chinatown theaters," says its co-founder Goran Topalovic, "so bringing the Old School Kung Fu Fest to Metrograph is one way for us to honor our roots. We are also super-excited to be part of Metrograph's inaugural program, as we share their passion for cinema, and support their vision for reinvigorating the theater-going experience for the audience."

Finally, we have special guests attending the following screenings:

Variety with director Bette Gordon & critic Amy Taubin - March 6, 7:00pm
Desperately Seeking Susan with DP Ed Lachman & director Susan Seidelman - March 8, 7:30pm
The Mother and the Whore with actor Francoise Lebrun - March 9, 7:30pm
*Lebrun will also conduct a lecture on March 12.
The Student Nurses with director Stephanie Rothman - March 11, 7:00pm
Bad Company/Santa Claus Has Blue Eyes with writer Molly Haskell - March 13, 3:15pm
Craig's Wife with director Bette Gordon - March 20, 1:00pm

Tickets will go on sale 2/29, please visit Metrograph website for more info.

Dustin Chang is a freelance writer. His musings and opinions on the world, cinema and beyond can be found at

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Iron Maiden in HD

Pig Iron (2010) - Benning
 photo 03f4d5f6-67d7-4917-9666-d2bcd32417e5_zps6xcufi3o.png
Watching Pig Iron, a 30 minute static shot of a German smelting factory in crisp HD commissioned by Jeonju Digital Project, makes you wonder about the effects the HD cinema has on experimental filmmaker giants such as James Benning. Benning shot all his films on 16mm film prior to Ruhr (2009), his first foray into HD and first film shot outside US. What HD affords him here is pretty epic. Known for his 'landscape' films where you hold a shot for a long period of time to have audience engaged and familiarize with its surroundings, had a limitation of 10 minutes- a 1,000' of film (maximum capacity in 16mm) runs out at around 10 min. It also gives you better latitude than a 16mm film stock in underexposed areas and a lot sharper than what 16mm lens are capable of. Pig Iron, when seen on a full screen in good resolution, is breathtaking: you can make out every grimy industrial details- gigantic, rusty airducts, sparks, smoldering heat (look at the pipes just above car 103), gaseous clouds rolling in from the sides, combined with Benning's precise framing and timing.

Pig Iron is a great example of taking advantage of HD technology: as far as experimental filmmakers are concerned, they can't afford to create films such as Pig Iron in traditional filmmaking - hire train conductors, smelters, smoke machine, some extras in construction worker's garb and block the shot the way one wants precisely to a tee. Maybe this isn't the point and I am rambling here. But the film is so cinematic since its image quality is so superb. Why am I not making experimental films?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Start Making Sense

Cosmos (2015) - Zulawski
 photo 0fa0df2e-e48c-425b-8ea3-c35af89eb2c3_zpsa0v3n4wt.jpg
Andrzej Zulawski lost his battle with cancer last week, adding his name to mounting number of cultural icons who passed away this year. His death came as a shock especially to New York cinephiles, who's been waiting patiently for the chance of seeing Cosmos, his new film in 15 years, ever since it made a world premiere at Locarno Film Fest last year.

When the good folks at Film Society of Lincoln Center announced the roster for this year's Film Comment Selects series, I was overjoyed that Zulawski's new film was included. Incidentally, they also added A Spotlight on Zulawski, a mini-retro consists of his digitally restored Polish films, including the seldom seen Sci-fi epic, On The Silver Globe.

The good news is that Kino Lorber has acquired the film and will be distributing it this summer in North America. The Bad news is, Cosmos is not quite the (last) film you expected from Zulawski; the master of emotional paroxysms. Rather, it's filled to the brim with non-stop psychobabbles and many intrigues that don't deliver on an emotional level. Its non-sensical wordplay is reminiscent of his My Nights are More Beautiful than Your Days, sans all the sex scenes. And it plays out like a chamber comedies of later period Alain Resnais.

Failed law school student Witold (Jonathan Genet) and his aggressively anti-intellectual friend Fuchs (Johan Libéreau) are on vacation on a picturesque rural town by the sea. They end up in a quaint bed and breakfast run by an eccentric couple, Léon (manic Jean-François Balmer) & Mme. Woytis (Resnais regular/wife Sabine Azéma) and joined by their newly married daughter Lena (stunning Victória Guerra) and housemaid with a grotesquely deformed harelip, Catherette (Clémentine Pons).

Witold is highly intrigued and aroused by flirtatious Lena and innocent Catherette in different ways. Lena is married to a handsome, but moody architect Lucien (Andy Gillet) and they seem to be very much in love. But there seems to be signs everywhere that suggest Lena is somehow coming on to Witold. Is it all in his mind or does everything in life have some sort of meaning and that everything is connected and that there is some kind of order in this seemingly chaotic world?

After finding a dead sparrow hanging from a wire on a blue string, Witold is obsessed by the imagery. Who put it there? What does it mean? In his mind, the only way to find out is to counter signal it with a larger animal.

Cosmos operates in its own baffling, internal logic. From what I hear, the film is quite faithful to its source material - a beloved cult novel by Polish author Witold Grombrowicz.

Léon, whose verbal acrobatics provide much humor in the film, seems at first a foolish old man, but turns out to be Prospero-like character, providing film's many philosophical musings. Mme. Woytis has a tendency to freeze in mid-sentence while excited. Veteran actors, Balmer and Azema seem to be having a lot of fun with their over-the-top characters.

Raven haired Guerra's bewildering beauty promises yet another tempestuous Zulawskian heroine but alas, she remains an object of desire and mystery from afar. Clémentine Pons adds another layer in this complex film playing dual roles, as I try to decipher and digest this intricate, Mulholland Dr. level puzzle piece. I'm not even gonna attempt to unravel what Tolo the country priest (Ricardo Pereira) and the swarm of bees in his pants is about.

Cosmos may lack Zulawski's manic energy and sexual/psychological frankness of his earlier films. But it's any less enigmatic. The fact that he chose Grombrowicz's supposedly unfilmable novel to be his next project after 15 years of absence shows his maverick spirit as an uncompromising artist up until the last moment of his life. RIP Zulawski.

Zulawski won the Best Director award at Locarno for Cosmos. Kino Lorber is the film's North American distributor. It will be in theaters in summer 2016. Please visit FSLC website for showtimes and more info.

Szamanka Review

The public Woman Review

Most Important Thing: Love Review

My Nights are More Beautiful than Your Days Review

L'amour braque Review

Possession Review

Thursday, February 18, 2016

In the Trenches

La peur/The Fear (2015) - Odoul
 photo 36a31f7f-b3d4-4f48-bc89-5139be7708c6_zps0bxujgg3.jpg
We've seen this before. War is hell: Young men, full of curiosity, join the army to fight the krauts, find the front line a hell on earth and lose their humanity. It happens in Damien Odoul's La Peur. Gabriel (Nino Rocher), a 19-year old full of enthusiasm, leaves his love Marguerite behind to fight in the Great War. He loses his sensitive poet friend first even before going to the front to mental breakdown, then loses his best friend Bertrand in the early days in the trenches. As he narrates through his letters to Marguerite, he loses his humanity, little by little.

I was impressed with Odoul's Rich is the Wolf, couple years back at Rendez-vous with French Cinema. Visually audacious mystery/investigative story was full of memorable, strong imagery. What distinguishes La Peur from other war films is its visual authenticity, the mood and the feeling, the somber HD look is at once gorgeous and frightening at the same time. It depicts the horrors of war in natural muddy details in a labyrinthine trenches dug in frozen earth. It's heartbreaking to see someone's soul being destroyed slowly and Odoul's imagery does justice to reflect the immediate physical fear but the fear of losing humanity. Hallucinatory, nightmarish sequences blend in as Gabriel goes deep end. It's a quietly audacious film that leaves a lasting impression.

La peur plays on 2/18, 19 at FSLC Walter Reade Theater. Please visit FSLC website for tickets.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Well done 80s Sci-Fi Pastiche

Turbo Kid (2015) - Simard, Whissel & Whissel
 photo 6a6660ba-dd5d-4f07-90e5-6a38dd6668b6_zpsyzchvnkk.jpg
The year is post-apocalypse 1997. The world is mostly barren wasteland that looks like rural Canada. A kid (Munro Chambers) scrapes by scavenging, cruising on his tiny, colorful kid's BMX bike. He mostly stirs clear of danger by keeping to himself and escapes the cruel reality by reading his beloved comic book, Turbo Rider. One day, he runs into a freaky blonde girl Apple (Laurence Laboeuf). She's like a puppy dog, cute but doesn't quite understand personal space. The area is ruled by ruthless Zeus (Michael Ironside) who grinds down his gladiators bodies in a meat grinder for water after his famous arena (empty pool) battles. After being chased by Zeus's murderous goons (who killed his parents) on BMXs, the kid discovers a secret bunker where actual Turbo Rider gear were hidden. The message from yesteryear on the ancient looking monitor and graphics tells him that Turbo Rider is indeed the only hope for humanity. The turbo glove, which very much resembles Nintendo Power Glove, when charged, can blow up enemies with turbo power!

If anything, Turbo Kid is unabashedly, immaculately done pastiche of the 80s kid's movie from the title to music to costume. It also makes good use of excessive amount of blood bags practical prosthetics and dummies as it is ultra-violent, harkening back to old Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi grinder movies. Directors are fully committed to keeping a straight face and that helps the film from being a third rate parody. And I love its smart and economical production design. Chambers and Laboeuf are adorable. I really hope this isn't the one hit wonder from these peoples.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


Nuit Bleue (2010) - Leccia
 photo c4331dc0-968a-4b8b-b9d4-4aca2882d8aa_zpsjq3e9ga6.png
 photo 2fe221c2-4243-4433-8f11-9b9e9849d55c_zpsvgeap8qg.png
 photo c0f78334-9cb6-4c3e-bd31-723a881d8bfe_zpshomrcjqr.png
 photo 3a1b428d-2ed5-435c-ba9f-4622d61eb35c_zpsklf46eu6.png
 photo cc32869b-fa1f-4fe3-8006-b1c3a4a06c63_zps12zaat8u.png
 photo 728d25ec-af07-4dab-ab8a-8dd3ad1cad00_zpsv80tcqjo.png
The setting is Giraglia, a craggy coastline surrounded by tempestuous sea at the northern tip of Corsica. You can feel the cold. You can feel the wind. Told with minimal dialog, Nuit Bleue relies heavily on its rugged, beautiful yet violent nature it presents. The the jagged Pyrenees terrain is dominated by brusque, serious men who are engaging in armed struggle, reflecting their harsh surroundings. There was a shipwreck and Jean's gone missing. Antonia (Cécile Cassel), a Parisian relative comes back in these difficult times. There is a slight love triangle developing with Antonia and two men who are in the armed resistance but the narrative falls short of making Nuit Bleue a totally engaging experience. It's all about brooding atmosphere Leccia creates. With his video art background and immersed in his Corsican upbringing, he seems to have a deeper understanding of the harsh surroundings and its effects on people. I didn't know that the sizable island right above Sardinia is a French territory and has a tumultuous history.

Christianity is a second-rate religion without Bach

Die Stille vor Bach (2007) - Portabello
 photo f70ff106-17e4-4d78-b0c6-4d919a64207c_zpsrq9f2n4i.png
 photo 0db108cf-8c13-4529-b204-16ec89a3d903_zpshupifupq.png
 photo 3668b7f7-99fc-4005-a409-a7688dbac24e_zpsxsbouycq.png
 photo 8a669646-8e07-441b-9533-c0c42ef46597_zpsr4unjedn.png
 photo 71222085-d55c-44b4-bfbe-e156f53ae2b5_zpstz9n14d9.png
 photo a61cf3fc-1331-443c-b4e0-e92dddc35b03_zpszrekyy66.png
 photo c2b51343-3d79-44c7-98e8-c5a196b4a205_zpsvgjdinau.png
Catalan director Pere Portabella pays tribute to Bach and his glorious music in Die Stille vor Bach, a film that takes many forms. It starts with an empty gallery space as we go through room to room and finally finds a player piano on a automated dolly, playing Goldberg Variations while milling about. We jump to two truck drivers talking about what they do to take the stress of the job off- they play chamber music. Then we jump to a blind piano tuner and his dog, and so on and so on. The film includes reenactments, anecdotes, legends, musical segments in various places, dressage, female nudity, St. Thomas church where Bach was a Cantor and wrote many religious pieces, etc. Camera always floats around like a piece of fluid music and it's a very engaging, elegant filmmaking. The music is really great. One tells the other, quoting "Christianity is a second rate religion without Bach's music". The current cantor of St. Thomas tells the new recruit, a Catalonian musician who looks like a Botticelli painting, that many students are agnostic when they come in, but before they have their first concert at St. Thomas, they all ask to be baptized. Die Stille reminds me of two other unconventional music films I've seen- 32 Short Films about Glenn Gould and Herzog's Gesualdo: Death for Five Voices.

Friday, February 12, 2016


Szamanka (1996) - Zulawski
 photo a7a3631f-7163-41f6-b52d-21b549753b22_zpsa63nraxa.png
 photo ccedafc2-7c20-49c8-b1ec-ca3220ffaf82_zps6sb1wbv1.png
 photo 53257535-ed30-4b1d-9d9a-dda7d85f0986_zpsub4z6qee.png
 photo fe0ef486-fb8b-4afc-8286-6fc32e36cc26_zpsabgt97xp.png
 photo 8f24a1d4-7242-40aa-a1f5-45b85efe754b_zpswgym0ec6.png

A feral engineering student, only known as Wloszka- the Italian (Iwona Petry), for her pizza making skills begins an intense physical relationship with Michal (Boguslaw Linda), an anthropology professor. Her uninhibited behavior and mannerism are somewhere between animalistic and schizophrenic, as she jerks back and forth on the street/in bed or slobbering on catfood on the floor or smearing red meat on her face. Michal somewhat connects Wloszka's manic energy to his new discovery, an ancient body of a yogi/shaman he dug up. The extensive tattoos on the back of his body from his tailbones to the head and missing of the back of his skull suggest that his brain is blown out by some physical ecstasy he experienced. Because of Wloszka's intense physical grip on him, Michal slowly descends into madness and loses his career and rich wife.

As usually the case with other Zulawski's obsessive love stories, the carnal desire and its profundity wins over the intellect. Iwona Petry's raw, unpolished performance brings another dimension to already towering Zulawski heroine mould. His jab at catholicism and visual metaphors (Wloszka works at a construction site with big machinary and meat factory and so on) are sometimes too unsubtle, but at the same time gives us some of the most striking images. Simple and honest, it might be the most thematically uncluttered Zulawski film I've seen so far.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Consider the Lobster

The Lobster (2015) - Lanthimos
 photo 90f40f02-df6e-4152-9d47-2a788a1dc9ab_zpswos4dqrq.png
 photo d4c9e461-9a74-41c1-b538-b3db03148383_zps7jkzn0ta.png
 photo dd5c6001-4cca-4972-b409-36ad97eebf2f_zpseyqeljlo.png photo e982c904-4326-46f5-ae8f-2f01ceed6fae_zps3k6seufo.png
 photo 5b08de85-082d-4163-b385-73dc522b33f2_zpseum7c72m.png
An absurdist satire on modern relationship, The Lobster is the first English feature, with an international cast, by Greek badboy Yorgos Lanthimos. An unnamed middle-aged schlubby, bespectacled protagonist (Colin Farrell) is relocated to a remote lakeside hotel/sanitarium after his wife of 12 years dumps him. The place is full of such rejects, trying to fall in love with someone while staying there before they turn into an animal (of their choice). Our protag wants to be a lobster if the time comes, because it lives long, blue blooded and remains fertile all its life. There he befriends with two men- the man with a lisp (John C. Reilly) and the man with a limp (Ben Whishaw), both awkwardly, desperately trying to make connection with the opposite sex any way they can to avoid turning into an animal. Then they have to hunt loners in the woods (former hotel guests who ran away to avoid turning into an animal) with tranquilizer guns to prolong their stay.

After pairing with a sexy but heartless hunting champ (Angeliki Papoulia) by faking his heartlessness and things horribly go wrong, our protag escapes to the woods, only to fall in with a group of loners, headed by Léa Seydoux. This loner leader takes a polar opposite view on relationship, prohibiting any flirting or hooking up among members and punishing them severely if they break the rules. It's as if the hotel symbolizes (it does/doesn't really) the consumerist capitalism, the loners are like the emotionless commies. There he meets a fellow short sighted person (Rachel Weisz) and falls in love.

There are bunch of rules and inner logic in the world Lanthimos creates that are just as complicated as the hidden rules of our mating rituals in the modern world. He hits home hard that our arbitrary criteria in dating and finding a companion in our world largely depends on trivial matters like putting heavy emphasis on matching attributes (nearsightedness, types of music you like, whatev). That you can just easily reject someone by not liking that person is prone to nosebleed or having a lisp. Just like his other films, Lanthimos has a mean streak (especially against animals- obviously fake but still). But I can see many people shrugging it off as a lackluster film. It is visually, emotionally subdued by design. Its black humor pitched and delivered perfectly by Farrell, Reilly, Whishaw, Seydoux, Weisz, Olivia Coleman, and two stunning Lanthimos regulars - Papoulia and Ariane Labed.

While it's never laugh out loud funny, nor extremely disturbing, the film has a lot to say about the hollow nature of human courtship. I was touched by how sweet the film was: characters in the film still abide by the social conventions, but their desire to be with someone and not be lonely is stronger than anything. It's the most romantic movie I've seen in a while.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Scott Barley Interview

scott barley
I've come across many visual artists/filmmakers since I started this blog. Most of them have been for Twitchfilm during film events, such as festivals, promotions for their film releases, etc. An interview usually lasts 15 to 20 minutes. I get 30 minutes if I am lucky. The PR firms usually keep a tight schedule and you have to be very alert and ready to get what you want out of these artists. It's not always easy. There are always huddles- the New York traffic, the timing of the day (early vs later interviews), weather, technology malfunction (cell phones, skype and my 10 year old ipod with a microphone), individual characters of the artists themselves. But I'm not really complaining. I get to meet some of my heroes and discover many interesting artists. Since I've been doing this for a while now, I think I'm getting pretty good at asking the pertinent questions to satisfy my preoccupations. But at the same time, I've always felt 20 minutes is nary enough to scratch the surface: to find out someone's artistic point of views or artistic processes or personalities or crafts or philosophy on their practices, or anything for that matter.

I've come across Scott Barley's work at a film torrent site. The screen caps and description of the film look intriguing. And it was marked as KG Artist (filmmakers who upload their own work on Karagarga torrent site). Watching Barley's Hunter for me, was a watershed moment. I was immediately drawn to his beautiful, mesmerizing images. The mood and mystery and melancholy he conveyed in that short, majestic film was exactly what I've been looking for in films both as an adventurous spectator and occasional practitioner. I pm'd him immediately and to my surprise, he responded. And that's how our correspondences began.

As much as I love narrative filmmaking, I strongly believe film is a sensory medium first and foremost. And the medium still remains to be the most exciting art form, still founding its ways and holds a lot of possibilities. As I go through Barley's films one by one, they give me a strong sense of assurance in my belief that it is not foolish to think that film is not only not dead but only just have begun living despite all the naysayers.

Preparing for Barley's interview, I decided to take a different approach: I'd send him questionnaires and he'd take time to reply. There'd be less pressure and it would be more in-depth. Indeed. What you are about to read is quite a long and completely unedited correspondence, between an interviewer who is very much excited about discovering an artist & his practice and the subject who generously pouring his heart out.

Barley is a prolific artist whose background conveys wide range of artistic practices - painting, music, literature, constantly working, outputting his thoughts and visions in many forms. I just finished watching Closer- his David Bowie tribute film/poem. It's achingly beautiful. Wise and intelligent beyond his years, it has been a truly inspirational experience to communicate with him. For that, I thank him from the bottom of my heart. So without further a do:

For the readers, I can't not mention how I found your work first - at an elite film torrent site. Therefore I can safely assume that your cinephilia runs deep. For many filmmakers I know, there was one defining moment in their lives how viewing of a particular film turned them into being a filmmaker. You mentioned Stan Brakhage, Phil Solomon and Michael Snow at some point in your career. I am wondering if there was such a film that made you pursue your career as a filmmaker. And who are some of your biggest influences on your work?

Scott Barley: Well, there have been quite a few “milestones” in my life that have really defined a strong sense of a creative path for me; not just films. Please bear with me, as I trudge sporadically through them - and the in-betweens.

Cinema actually came quite late to me, when I was 14. On a whim, I went to see Pan’s Labyrinth in the cinema with my father. I had never seen a foreign film before then, and had no idea going in to the theatre what Pan’s Labyrinth was about, or even that it was in another language. But the film spoke directly to something nebulous yet very concrete, beyond the surface of my self, in a way that no film I had seen before had done. It transcended language. It was an epiphanic moment for me; this understanding: language was no longer necessary to understand or feel on a fundamental level. It was more fundamental than language. It was simply humanness. I was not a big “film person”, and Pan’s Labyrinth changed everything. I didn’t know that films could do this to you. It moved me to tears, and while watching the film, I felt like my heart stopped several times. I remember getting so frustrated with friends in school, who dismissed or ridiculed the film, simply because it had subtitles. Pan’s Labyrinth taught me something which I’ve lived by very strongly to this day, and will continue to do so for the rest of my life: let art and experience wash over you like an ocean. Submit to it. Don’t think too much. Just feel.

I felt very alone in my teenage years, and art - however - or rather, the more - dissonant, stygian, and difficult - became my refuge. I am a romantic, very sensitive and idealistic to this day, and art felt purer than the exterior world, and more in line with my own interior world. I liked simply “feeling”, whereas the exterior world - however insidiously - seemed to portray this notion that feelings were a superfluity.

Before Pan’s Labyrinth, I wrote a lot. I used to write many poems and stories. I was obsessed with language. For many years from the age of 7, I would go to bed each night, reading the dictionary from page to page, memorising the words and their definitions. I would practice my cursive for hours on end, on the same letter, for no reason other than my own unorthodox recreation. I loved the ability to express myself with exactly the right word, even if others didn’t necessarily understand what I meant; at least I knew that I was being earnest, truthful, and precise. From the age of 7, I read a lot of King and Poe. I loved Poe in particular; his eruditeness and (what the philistines call) ’verbosity’, but also the rigour to it. That has remained the same to this day; my love for Krazsnahorkai, Proust, and Joyce in particular knows no bounds. Naturally, being a lover of Poe, I was drawn to the darkness. I am a nyctophile; both literally and metaphorically. I feel most at ease under the cloak of darkness, adrift within tenebriousness and the undeterminable. I had a rule: I would only ever create, or watch, or read at night; for that was when I was at my most percipient, and when I felt most in-tune with the experiential resonance of the “art world”. The only oil that I burned was Midnight’s.

The Ethereal Melancholy of Seeing Horses in the Cold

I was not particularly interested in or understanding of visual arts before Pan’s Labyrinth. But after that film, I became very passionate about it, as well as mood, experimentation, and allegorical work, but I was not yet making films; not for another 5 years or so. I left writing behind a little, and from 15 on-wards, I was doing a lot of painting instead. I loved Bacon, Auerbach, Kossoff, Kiefer: the masters of emotional darkness and texture. For a little while, I was simply regurgitating the things that I loved in a lesser form. But as time went on, I found that I was able to truly draw from my own feelings, and still inherently capture what drew me to those artists in the first place: the personal, art that scarred, art that acted as a nepenthe or catharsis, and the obfuscation - either through texture, or the literal Latin origin of the word: ‘fuscus’, meaning, the ‘dark’. I believed that genuine art could only be created when you submitted yourself to - and embraced your own - vulnerability, and to be entirely authentic and honest; essentially, you had to pour your soul into it. That has remained the same ever since, and is probably the most important element of my own creative praxis. To paraphrase Cassavetes: you must dare yourself to fail. Why bother, if you’re not going to put yourself on the line?

When I was 16, I discovered Bergman. I think Persona is THE gateway drug for cinema lovers. That film changes you biologically, and by the time the film reel in the film stops, and the light goes out, your DNA is different; you are then far more perceptive to - for a lack of better words - “artistic” or “difficult” cinema. I am drawn to that sort of work: art that changes you from who you were before you experienced it. After Persona, my love for cinema became akin to a snowball gathering speed as it descends from the summit. I would watch up to 40 films of varying lengths in a weekend. I would do nothing else. It’s a miracle that deep-vein thrombosis didn’t set in. Then I discovered Tarr, and perhaps more so than any other of my personal experiences with art, it changed me. Upon experiencing Werckmeister Harmonies, I felt like I had an out-of-body experience. My body surrendered and I saw my soul, stark, fragile and utterly naked before me - for the first and only time in my life. It moved me to tears. I shook a lot. It completely changed me. Words cannot do any justice.

The Sadness of Trees Part 2

In my first year of university, I became obsessed with avant-garde, particularly lyrical avant-garde, like Phil Solomon, Stan Brakhage, Jean-Claude Rousseau, and Nathaniel Dorsky, and they remain my favourites to this day.

As for elite film torrent sites, like Karagarga - they interest me. I don’t always fully agree with what is shared on there. An artist needs to be paid for their work, just like anybody else, but I feel very passionate about the idea of bringing down the walls of economic elitism and socio-political censorship that prevent a lot of people from accessing vistas of great esoteric cinema, music, and literature. But I still think that sites like Karagarga could do a lot more to ameliorate that problem. I would never share any other artist’s work on Karagarga. I only upload my own work - as that is the only work I have the moral authenticity and legitimacy to share with others online. I do share a lot of my cinephilia with my friends and younger students though, and throughout my degree I organised film screenings such as La Région Centrale, La Vallée close, American Falls, Meshes of the Afternoon… lots of Antonioni, Brakhage, Bresson, Godard, Yoshida, Epstein, a lot of Eastern European cinema from the 50s 60s and later too (that was my most earnest passion during that time) like Vláčil, Wiszniewski, Jan Jakub Kolski, Bartas, Tarr, Fehér, Stonys etc.

I was fighting for a more artistic environment that sadly, my university did not convey. It was a very philistine and anti-intellectual environment actually - not that I am an intellectual by any means, but I yearned for that sense of being a scholar, not simply a “regurgitatior" of other people’s “old” ideas. I wanted to embrace the new and unique, the daring. Lots of people, including the majority of the tutors, sadly, were afraid of feeling or of mystery - whereas for me, those are two of the most empowering elements of art - along with hope. Thankfully I was able to create a small Bande à part of friends who shared my passions and interests and that stopped me from going under.

As for literary influences in my life, they include Georges Bataille, Nietzsche, Camus, Barthes, Sartre, Hegel, Deleuze, Freud, Deleuze, Sontag, Blake, Beckett, Stanley Donwood, Joyce, László Krasznahorkai, Daphne du Maurier, Baudelaire, Pynchon - off the top of my head. Bataille and Sartre in particular are very present in my what I consider to be my best work (Nightwalk, Hunter, Shadows) but I don’t consciously consider any of these things when making a film. I just “feel” my way through the dark - much like the (visual) content of the films themselves.


I realise this may come across as being pretentious, but I have made a list of the filmmakers that I most admire, in the order they came from memory: Jean-Claude Rousseau, Béla Tarr & Ágnes Hranitzky, Phil Solomon, Nathaniel Dorsky, Michelangelo Antonioni, Pedro Costa, Pere Portabella, Yoshishige Yoshida, Barbara Meter, Stan Brakhage, Philippe Grandrieux, Sharunas Bartas, Wojciech Wiszniewski, Peter Hutton, Jack Chambers, Franco Piavoli, Jan Jakub Kolski, Maya Deren, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Éric Rohmer, Artavazd Peleshyan, Ingmar Bergman, Veiko Õunpuu, Konstantin Lopushansky, Dimitri Kirsanoff, Jean-Sébastien Nouveau, Jean-Pierre Melville, Zoltán Huszárik, Jean-Luc Godard, Aleksandr Sokurov, Robert Bresson, Marguerite Duras, Wang Bing, Bruce Baillie, Audrius Stronys, Kaneto Shindô, Jan Němec, Chantal Akerman, Andrzej Żuławski, Paweł Łoziński, Mikhail Kalatozov, Jean Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet, Amy Kravitz, Bill Viola, Guy Sherwin, Robert Beavers, Harun Farocki, Florence Pezon, Ben Rivers, Elem Klimov, Lav Diaz, Djordje Kadijevic, Jean Epstein, Raúl Ruiz, Dušan Hanák, Bert Haanstra, Mário Peixoto, Robert Todd, Tengiz Abuladze, Yorgos Lanthimos, Margot Benacerraf, Roy Andersson, Peter von Bagh, Abel Gance, David Gatten, Darezhan Omirbaev, Aleksandr Kajdanovsky, Walter Hugo Kouri, Pierre Perrault, Joris Ivens, František Vláčil, Michael Haneke, Yves Allégret, László Moholy-Nagy, Philippe Garrel, Allain-Robbe Grillet, Sergei Eisenstein, Larry Gottheim, Frans Zwartjes, Harmony Korine, Sava Trifkovic, Marjorie Keller, Grzegorz Królikiewicz, Andrei Tarkovsky, György Fehér, Mário Peixoto, Christian-Jaque, James Benning, Teinosuke Kinugasa, Nicolas Rey, Sara Driver, Piotr Dumala, Devin Horan, Terrence Malick, Wallace Berman, Jonathan Glazer, John Frankenheimer, Sohrab Shahid-Saless, Leighton Pierce, Maurice Pialat, Vitali Kanevsky, Vittorio De Seta, Vojislav Rakonjac, João César Monteiro, Jospeh Cornell, Jean Vigo, Werner Herzog, Bill Morrison, Jan Schmidt, Jean Daniel Pollet, Raymond Salvatore Harmon, Dore O., F.W. Murnau, Frank Borzage, Jacques Tourneur, Ken Jacobs, Jonas Mekas, Aleksandar Petrović, Sergey Loznitsa, Albert Serra, Charlie Chaplin, Jem Cohen, Saul Levine, David Perlov, Georges Franju, Werner Nekes, Miguel Gomes, Alan Clarke, Mike Leigh, Julian Schnabel, Aleksei German, Juraj Herz, Peter Nestler, José Val Del Omar, Martin Arnold, Djibril Diop Mambéty, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Dušan Makavejev, Jesse Richards, Matthew Allen, Mikel Guillen, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, François Truffaut & Sylvain George.

Can you tell me the philosophy behind Remodernist Film Movement and how you incorporate it in your practice?

Well the story of how I got involved in Remodernist film is a very strange one. It was in my first year of university and one of the few good lecturers was discussing different film movements, and he somewhat threw shade on the Dogme 95 movement and said that a more recent movement, Remodernist film, was more interesting. Remodernist film seemed to speak to me very profoundly - what the founder, Jesse Richards talked about: the authenticity, the embracement of nuance and human fallibility, the autodidactic. That was very interesting. Anyway, later that same day, I was in a careers advice meeting, and I saw that I had several Facebook notifications come through on my iPad - and they were from a guy called, “Jesse Richards”. I couldn't believe it. It was uncanny, perhaps even fate. He had found my Facebook page of my paintings and early film work the same day I had learnt about him in university. I messaged him, telling him what a crazy thing this all was, and very quickly we became good friends, and we have worked on several projects together since. I consider him to be an idol of mine, a mentor, and yet he is the most down to earth person you could ever meet. A truly great, great man who has his heart and brain wholly in the right place. I am very interested in autodidactism, wabi-wabi, making yourself vulnerable, the anti-elitist element, the purity and liberation of it all really; the idea that the most perfect image cannot exist, but if it did, it would be imperfect anyway. It’s reassuring and a breath of fresh air. I think those things are littered both in front and behind the camera throughout my filmography.


Certain melancholia and sadness are always present in your work, how much of it is related to your surroundings? How big nature figures in your work?

It’s related to my inner environment. I try desperately hard to speak from the soul, and for it to never be conceited. I try not to make anything if I don’t have something to say. Like I said previously, I am drawn to the darkness, I feel most comfortable in darkness, and so my films convey that, literally and metaphorically. And I believe in an interconnectedness within the universe, and so what I feel inside, I anthropomorphise and project on to the trees, the water, “the hand”, “the horse” etc. …There is an uncanny semblance of man in the spirit of the horse - the simultaneity of elegance and vulgarity… and also pathos - so I am naturally drawn to that creature in my work.

I also think that people who are self-aware can feel too much, and I am one of them, and so I purposely place myself in a vulnerable position when making films, so hopefully the process will act as a catharsis or nepenthe for what I am experiencing. It is a good way to combat negative feelings, in my experience. Whatever makes you afraid or anxious, just go for it! Hunter was a a very important film for me. I was suffering with very debilitating depression and that film perhaps saved my life. It sounds stupid, but it’s true. It gave me something to live for - just making something kept me occupied, and I poured all my feelings of utter aimlessness into something cohesive. The film itself is a mirror and meta-retrospective of my previous films and my own personal filmmaking praxis, as well as a comment on my own existential anxieties as a person and as an artist... It also mirrors life's evolution. From water, to land, to sky.


I remember that I had been editing Hunter for a few months - every day, all day (I am a perfectionist when it comes to editing) and I was stuck on the shot of the horse, and I knew that that shot couldn't be the ending. I was frustrated. I didn't know how to end the film. So I went to sit outside in the garden. It was nighttime. I looked up at the stars, which were very clear and bright that night, and then quite suddenly an idea came to me, that gave me a sense of purpose - however tenuous it was: We know that science has proven that we are made of stars. We are literally stardust. And we also know that if we look at the Sun, we are witnessing it in the state it was just over 8 minutes prior to how it is in reality, now - because of how far the light has to travel. And then I thought, is it possible, that we could, on a clear night, look up at the vistas of constellations and see the very star that gave birth to us?; a ghost of our former self? And it gave me a sense of purpose, that perhaps, our only aim in the vastness of time and the universe, is to one day return to the stars that gave birth to us. And it was that thought that made me decide upon the ending of Hunter that you see in the film. I try to turn my melancholy in to something beautiful, but still keep it true. I think that people don't always realise just how vicinal sadness and beauty, or horror and beauty truly are. They are very closely aligned. They can blend into each other.

Polysemy is a big thing for me too with my work, and I encourage it. I think that polysemy is too often regarded as being a weakness rather than a strength in art. Some people seem to think that when a piece of work is interpreted in divergent ways that it says something about the lack of articulation in the artist. I couldn't disagree more. Whilst all my films have very strong personal meanings for me, I embrace multifarious interpretations, and often adopt stream-of-consciousness and intuition in my praxis. To be entirely honest, I have in the past, made an entire film, released it and still not known what it was, or why I did it “that way”. But a few months later, I understand - for me. I love the feeling of being lost when I create, or when I experience art. It permits you to search deeper in to your self. Your feelings know better than your logic. People think too much. We should learn to trust ourselves more. I have a vision – but I am not a dictator, and I don’t wish to assume or force anything. I love that people are able to project their own feelings, searches and life experiences on to my work. One person in particular got into contact with me, to tell me when he watched Hunter, he saw the hand as himself, reaching out for the woman he idolised and loved, whom he felt was always out of reach; she was the beyond: the water, the mountains, the stars. Since then, we have become good friends, and he recently told me that Hunter has inspired him to make a film of his own, to communicate his feelings for/to her. I’ve have been privileged enough to have been contacted by a few people, telling me how my films have changed their life, and even inspired a few of them to pick up a camera and make a film for the first time. You cannot ask for more than that. Hearing from people you have never met, and them sharing these personal feelings with you is ineffable. It makes “whatever-it-is-that-I-am-doing” worthwhile. In a way, I make films out of hope. And hope is a tenuous but underrated thing. It’s one of the most profound and precious of all things.

In my view, the filmmaking process is mine. Once the film is finished it is no longer mine. It is yours; it is anybody’s, and it can be whatever they wish it to be, and whatever suits, pleases, disgusts, angers, or I daresay, helps them. And of course, the creation of a film or any work of art is only the very beginning. It mutates and changes, and lives on in different, brilliantly unique people, within their mind, soul, dreams… under closed eyelids. Simply, it lives… It lives on - isn’t that wonderful?! I would not have it any other way.


Loved the soundtrack on Polytechnique. Can you tell me your collaboration with Easychord on Polytechnique and how important is music in your artistic endeavor?

Music is a huge influence on my work too. The musician, Grouper (Liz Harris) has perhaps influenced my praxis more than anybody else. It’s that obscuration, the textures, the dark, the ethereality, the mood, and the catharsis that comes from unravelling pain and other emotions in one’s life. I could never thank her enough for what she gave me with her music. Also Radiohead, Portishead, Scott Walker, King Crimson, David Bowie, Neil Young, Ligeti, Penderecki, Death Grips - they are all very “cinematic” artists. They create worlds, characters…atmospheres. The rhythms of my films are based around music too. It is why some of my films are silent, and others are not. You have to feel the rhythm. I want to create “visual music” with my films. For me, cinema - in its purest form - is closer aligned to music and architecture in praxis than any other mediums.

For Polytechnique, I was contacted by Roberto Siguera (Easychord), asking me if I would make a film for some of his new music. It was a pleasant surprise. We had not communicated previously. For a while, we talked about what we were both interested in… I remember James Benning coming up a lot at the time, and before I had the music, I had the impression that Roberto wanted something in a similar vein to my first film, The Ethereal Melancholy of Seeing Horses in the Cold. But when I heard the music he had produced - this wonderful, low-frequency, pulsating echo chamber that resisted the corporeal and the concrete - I realised I couldn't make a film like “…Horses in the cold” for him. The music immediately made me feel like I was listening to my own body, as if I was a microscopic, lost traveller, traversing internal bodily terrain. I had recently been doing some purely recreational research into phenomenological concepts such as prisoners cinema, as well as concepts like astral planes, fundamental entity, and the primordial body (something which has become a huge part of my work as time has gone on), and I realised that the music had this quality to it of being dimensionless, but very present, abstract yet lucid too, so I worked around that when making the film. It took about four months to make, if I remember correctly. We never ever talked about it as a music video. It was always an “audio-visual collaboration”. We were both having fun, but we were serious about the project at the same time. It’s actually one of my favourite pieces of work that I have been involved in. I recently released a blu-ray of my work via my website for sale, and seeing and hearing Polytechnique on blu-ray was a revelation for me. I saw these details, light streaks, textures, and abrasions in the film that I forgot I had put in. It’s also me at perhaps my most abstract. It was an honour for both of us that Polytechnique was hand selected by Kim Kascone (assistant sound director on Twin Peaks) for his Drone music cinema film festival in The Netherlands. It has that dark, drone-like quality, I think. I would love to do another collaboration with Roberto at some point. We discuss it now and again. I’m sure it will happen. It’s just finding the right time, and music, and idea.

Hunter, Shot entirely on iphone 6 Plus

Hunter is absolutely stunning. Considering it is your more recent work and having seen your (relatively) older work on your vimeo page, I can see the progress/evolution of your style if you will. I feel that there is more stately and formalist approach in Hunter. Even though I take each of your film as its own entity singular piece of work, I'd like to know, as an artist how you yourself perceive the change and your directions with each project.

First of all, thank you. There is certainly a progression there. More rigour (I hope), more attention to detail, but still very much part of the same idea, the minimalism, the nature etc. Perhaps, more than anything, I am just paring back what was there before.

I think I have somewhat distanced myself, and I think Jesse has too - perhaps not consciously - from remodernist film more recently. Remodernist film still exists, but it has changed shape and matured. The remodernist element of my early work was more superficial - more to do with the “look” of the film. I wanted it to “look” autodidactic, amateurish, and nuanced. Hunter is still very much a remodernist film, but it has transpired beyond that into something that can only be found in the cracks, in the dark - if you look for it. The films have become more professional and polished, but the human sensibility, the human searching is still very much present. The abrasion and nuance doesn’t live so much in the actual film’s images anymore, but more so in what the images project in the spectator. The films have become more liminal. They're on the threshold of something. Darkness? The unknown? There’s something mercurial beyond the threshold that I want to make palpable when people watch Hunter and my more recent films… a hidden tension, but a powerful one, perhaps. It’s become much more about the “in-betweenness” for me now. As time has gone on, I understand that “aesthetic” can become a dangerous word, because I’ve realised that great art can only exist when you cannot separate the aesthetic from the form or the substance of the piece. They co-exist, and exist as one. Without the other, the other cannot be. So nowadays, the aesthetics of my films alter from film to film, but that is because they are governed by the substance of the film itself; the idea. They are innate and inseparable; born at the hip, as it were. Some films like Shadows actually change aesthetic, canon, mood, style and form, as the film progresses - because the actuality, context and meaning of the film dictates it so. I am not really in charge - the film is. The film tells me what to do.

How does the new technology figure into your working method? Is it just another way for artists to express themselves or is it necessity in 21st century?

Artists cannot always express everything that they wish, or need to convey in just the one medium. As an example, for me, I write, I paint, I make films, I make music. There are things I can do with film that I cannot do in writing, but at the same time, there are things that I can do in writing that I can’t do in film. That excites me: having a genuine reason to explore a different medium for your expression. That is what is so wonderful about film: it is a bastard. It is a bastardised medium, and so there is more “headroom” as it were to express yourself. I embrace all kinds of tech. I see different types of tech as akin to different mediums. They can be surprisingly independent of each other, depending on how you utilise them. I’ve shot stuff on a 240p camera with a 0.3 megapixel censor, through to an ARRI Alexa. Some of those who have the money to afford expensive kit think that suddenly makes them professional. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s nothing to do with the kit. It’s all about how you choose to use it. And sadly, those people who think it’s all about the kit usually have no creative personality. They are faceless, forgettable, and very boring. The medium and tech you choose should be governed by what you wish to express. And so, no, I don’t think new technology is a necessity - outright. It all depends on what the artist is wishing to express, and what will enable them to have that suitable form of expression. I am really enjoying trying to push the tech of the iPhone at the moment. Hunter was completely shot on an iPhone 6 Plus, and it felt really liberating, going to an iPhone after lugging a heavy ARRI Alexa around on the previous project.

A project I am working on at the moment also features some of my hand-drawn illustrations composited into actual film imagery, so that’s exciting too. I’m just experimenting, and trying to avoid complacency. I embrace digital, but love film too. It’s all great, but they are definitely two separate mediums, and I think that we are only beginning to truly see what makes them different in a formal sense, or to begin to see artists truly utilising the differences of digital to film to achieve something that was unachievable with film. Take James Benning’s Nightfall for instance, or Godard’s Adieu au Language, or Phil Solomon’s Rehearsals for Retirement. These projects are incredibly exciting - because these artists are fully embracing a medium, rather than having one foot in digital and one foot still in film. They have a courageousness and embracement for the new and unknown that most filmmakers lack.

Stills and artwork from Sleep Has Her House:
sleep Screen Shot 2016-12-07 at 10.05.23 PM
Tell me about new projects you are working on.

A few different things. I’m working on what might end up being my first feature, Sleep Has Her House. It plays out very differently to my other work, in a formal sense. It's a very, very slow moving film. 10 minute takes. No camera movement. Only movement within the frame. An observation of the more profound elements of life that we don’t often pay attention to: The wind carrying the clouds across the sky… the light changing over time… animals moving through a scene… the moon being obscured by the clouds… and of course silence!… even nothing! That’s something I want to explore more: what qualities or elements does “nothing” harbour? I want to focus on that particular kind of nothing in my future work.

It is a film that I hope people will give themselves over too, and let it wash over them like an ocean. I embrace the idea of people falling asleep whilst watching it, and waking up later on - without that being a problem. I want it to have that very strong meditative quality. In a sense, it’s my idea of the apocalypse: how I see the world ending. It wouldn’t be violent or fast - not right at the end. People would already be long gone. The last few animals would dwell in the hills, in the fog. The film follows that idea. The animals sense that the end is coming and retreat deep into the forest. They cry out in the dark, as they fade into the black. That’s how it will end. A quiet, slow death. Not explosions or tears. Just a long quiet trill… like an elegy. Perhaps the quiet cry of the last animal, as they fade into the dark… into the ground. That’s all.

Too young to die
Too Young to Die

I have a very bad attention span, so at any time, I’m working on about half a dozen different films - most that never see the light of day. I like to switch between each project as I work through them, or when I start questioning myself too much - almost like when you stare at or repeat a word for so long that it no longer makes sense somehow. It also helps me improve each piece, as one technique that I use on one film may inspire me to do something that I had not thought of previously on another project that I had hit a creative block on. I’m sure some people will say it’s a terrible creative process, but it seems to work for me. So right now, Too Young to Die is on hold (what originally was going to be my first feature), and Sleep Has Her House is something I’m more focused on - but that might change!! I’m working on about four features right now, simultaneously.

I’ve also just finished a poem for an anthology book to celebrate the legacy of the late David Bowie. It will be published in the next couple of months, and all proceeds go to the charity, Cancer Research UK.

Closer, shot in 4K, in 1:1 aspect ratio

Hunter is getting a screening at The Museum of Modern Art, Mar del Plata, in Argentina on 12th February, 2016. That is a big deal for me. I started making films just a little over 3 years ago, and to have come to this point where my work is being screened in that sort of environment means more to me than I can eloquently put into words. It was around 2 years ago, that Phil Solomon and I became friends, and I am now screening a film of mine alongside his film, Rehearsals for Retirement (in my view, the most sublime digital film ever made - and one of the most embracing of the digital medium too) at The Museum of Modern Art. I can't really get my head around that, and I have so much to thank Phil for, not least his comradeship of being part of this screening along with the "little fish" like myself.

Please visit Scott Barley's website and support his artistic endeavours. Then go on over to vimeo and check out his work.

Friday, February 5, 2016


Die Macht der Gefühle (1983) - Kluge
 photo 18ecb12b-51ac-4c72-8dde-248faf3ab15b_zpswk9qkuwv.png
 photo dca19bb5-67ec-4aaa-9879-6df1728a974e_zpstrkqtkmv.png
 photo fd9a87f3-c9a7-45fd-9ef8-2923ce7548e6_zpsyyxxn3ni.png
 photo 09f81d36-6d45-40ae-86b1-31e405f39772_zpselj0llrc.png
 photo 5433d75c-6de8-4e50-a901-3311531d5bfb_zpscmaytx8j.png
 photo c8c7658a-d126-44b6-ab6c-2946fd45e434_zps1kct3eba.png
 photo edf74aa9-68a1-4790-b453-84d1465707a3_zps21bfuqbu.png
 photo 0e481f78-2518-471f-b8bb-5b3d4bd4ecd2_zpsdizwfetx.png
 photo 64ab3894-1320-4a85-8570-eefd64aed480_zpsjf4zitvi.png
Complex, layered examination of the nature of emotions. With old movie clips, newsreel footage, opera, and a narrative storyline, Alexander Kluge's segmented yet cohesive film reflects upon the relationship between objects of war and materialism and human emotions.

A desk lamp, telephone, torpedo, shotgun or nuts and bolts don't have emotions. But it can affect people emotionally in how it's used. Opera is if not anything, full of amplified emotions. An opera singer is asked that in Act I, he has a glimmer of hope on his face, even though in Act V, everyone knows the tragedy strikes. How can he? He sang in that opera 28 times before, he must know what happens at the end. He replies repeatedly, "I don't know that in Act I."

In a murder trial, a judge is puzzled about the case of a woman who shot her husband. She insists that it was an accident, even though her husband had an incestuous relationship with their daughter. Her lack of emotion doesn't make sense logically to the judge. A woman who was dumped by her lover and heart broken, attempts suicide by swallowing pills, a man sees the unconscious woman and revives her then rapes her. He is both a rescuer and assailant. The woman, who was unconscious at the time, forgives the man because she was not emotionally involved in the act.

Kluge's examination of German war past is also there - in order to heal the wound, you have to first remove the scab and treat it. The images associated with German romanticism are often juxtaposed with war footage. Fire takes central role too in linking many of philosophical musings presented here. Repeated old song about impermanence of love and unusual camera angles on an opera stage and spyglass vision of many scenes, remind you of fleeting and subjective nature of emotions.

Then the last 1/3 of the film jumps over to a crime story involving an attractive and young gang of four. They are somehow involved in diamond heist, near murder and revival of a foreign man and crossing the border. Loosely related to the theme of the film and not, the narrative is nonetheless an absorbing one.

Godard's influence on Kluge is very evident in Die Macht der Gefühle/Power of Emotion. But Kluge holds his own. His less on the nose about his contemplation of war and history than his idol. His visual sense is just as sharp as Godard's but yet different. I am very much eager to explore Kluge's other films.