Thom Andersen além de Los Angeles Plays Itself

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The Thoughts That Once We Had (2015), de Thom Andersen

Muitos cinefilos paulistanos tiveram a oportunidade de conhecer Thom Andersen quando a Mostra trouxe Los Angeles Plays Itself em 2014. Trata-se certamente da obra prima de Andersen tanto como cineasta quanto crítico, mas a partir de amanhã (8/7) o CCSP iniciara a retrospectiva “Hollywood e além: o cinema investigativo de Thom Andersen” que nos dará a oportunidade de conferir o restante da obra de Andersen que vai certamente além daquele grande filme. A retrospectiva inclui até onde sei todos os longas e médias do realizador e grande maioria dos curtas dele, incluindo alguns trabalhos do ano passado que ainda não circularam muito. Andersen é um cineasta essencial justamente porque poucos são tão hábeis em nos colocar diante de como a história das formas (seja numa arte como cinema, seja nos espaços públicos que frequentamos, etc.) ajuda a formar nossa compreensão do mundo. Como costumo dizer o que há de menos importante nos filmes de Andersen e se concordamos ou não com suas teses e conclusões, mas este desejo de expandir o olhar.

Entre outras coisas é uma bela oportunidade para colocar as preocupações com arquitetura, espaço público e políticas de Andersen num contexto mais amplo. Por exemplo, Red Hollywood (co-dirigido pelo Noel Burch) e Get Out of the Car, os filmes que Andersen realizou antes e depois de Los Angeles Plays Itself ajudam bastante a coloca-lo no contexto, o primeiro narrando a historia dos artistas militantes comunistas em Hollywood e o segundo completando a construção da identidade urbana de Los Angeles para além da sua imagem no próprio cinema.

A retro é uma rara oportunidade de assistir ao primeiro média dele Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer que é um dos seus melhores filmes e geralmente circula na internet em cópias de qualidade duvidosa. Um trabalho excepcional de crítica e história e um dos seus filmes formalmente mais interessantes, além de um bom exemplo do senso de humor do Andersen em relação ao seu tom professoral que sempre ajuda os filmes a fluir melhor. A retro também inclui a primeira exibição paulistana do longa mais novo de Andersen The Thoughts That We Once Had, que acho só passara por aqui no Fronteira ano passado. É um filme intrigante justamente porque tira Andersen do seu habitat natural do pragmatismo da crítica americana e numa direção mais especulativa da tradição francesa. O ponto de partida são os dois livros de cinema do Deleuze, mas é bom destacar aos deleuzianos que eles são mais um veículo para as ideias de Andersen do que o foco do filme.

A retro também inclui alguns trabalhos de cineastas próximos e as vezes parceiros do realizador como Peter Bo Rappmund, Billy Woodberry e Ross Lipman.

No dia 14 após a segunda exibição do The Thoughts That We Once Had haverá um bate papo entre o Andersen, Remier Lion e o Aaron Cutler (que fez a curadoria da mostra junto da Mariana Shellard).

A programação esta disponível aqui.

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Alguns favoritos de 2015

Belos filmes vistos e revistos ao longo de 2015 realizados até 2012.

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Carmen (Cecil B De Mille, 1915)

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The River (Frank Borzage, 1929)

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Man to Man (Allan Dwan, 1930)

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The Champ (King Vidor, 1931)

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Platinum Blonde (Frank Capra, 1931)

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Meus Favoritos de 2015

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Noite Sem Distancia, de Lois Patiño

Como sempre o critério aqui são filmes vistos pela primeira vez este ano que tiveram as primeiras exibições nos últimos 3 anos.

Primeiro um comentário rápido sobre curtas. Meu favorito do ano foi Noite Sem Distancia do Lois Patiño. Outros 9 curtas que gostei muito em ordem alfabética: Bitch Better Have My Money (Rihanna, MegaForce), Fort Morgan (Alexander Stewart), Hunter (Scott Barley), I Dalio (Mark Rappaport), Ihomtep (Leo Pyrata), Message de salutations: Prix suisse / remerciements / mort ou vif (Jean-Luc Godard), Um Século de Energia (Manoel de Oliveira), Sem Título #2: La Mer Larme (Carlos Adriano), World of Tomorrow (Don Hertzfeldt).

Vale apontar que optei por não contar Visita ou Memórias e Confissões do Manoel de Oliveira como um filme de 2015.

Menções honrosas (100-76) À Beira Mar (By The Sea, Angelina Jolie), The Airstrip (Heinz Emigholz), Aloha (Cameron Crowe), Being Boring (Lucas Ferraço Nassif), La Buca (Daniele Cipri), Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (Spike Lee), Daughters (Tochter, Maria Speth), Everest (Baltasar Kormákur), Experimenter (Michael Almereyda), Gangster Payday (Lee Biu-Cheung), Garotas (Bande des Filles, Céline Sciamma), Gett: o Julgamento de Viviane Amsalem (Ronit Elkabetz, Shlomi Elkabetz), Hill of Freedom (Hong Sang-soo), A Incrível História de Adaline (The Age of Adaline, Lee Toland Krieger), Mia Madre (Nanni Moretti), Ming of Harlem: Twenty One Storeys in the Air (Phillip Warnell), A Misteriosa Morte de Pérola (Guto Parante, Ticiane Augusto de Lima), Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhang-ke), Noite (Paula Gaitán), Pasolini (Abel Ferrara), Sabor da Vida (An, Naomi Kawase), Selma (Ava DuVernay), Temporary Family (Cheuk Wan Chi), Teobaldo Morto, Romeu Exilado (Rodrigo de Oliveira), Vício Inerente (Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson)

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Mostra Godard Programação SP

JLG/JLG - Autoretrato de Dezembro

JLG/JLG – Autoretrato de Dezembro

Post de serviço público a todos com a programação de SP da integral do Godard.

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Dois filmes poloneses e uma dica

O-bi, o-ba, o fim da civilização, de Piotr Szulkin

O-bi, o-ba, o fim da civilização, de Piotr Szulkin

Começa nesta quinta, dia 15, uma retrospectiva das mais interessantes no CCBB-SP, Histórias de Transformação: mostra de cinema polonês, que já passou pelo Rio durante o Festival de Cinema. São 6 filmes pouco conhecidos por aqui (em alguns casos nunca exibidos no Brasil antes) que vão do começo dos anos 60 (Como Ser Amada, 1962, de Wojciech Has, que o cinéfilo brasileiro provavelmente conhece pelo seu filme seguinte O Manuscrito de Saragossa) até o fim dos anos 90 (Dívida, 1999, de Krysztof Krauze). A ideia é fazer um apanhado de formas de representação da vida polonesa no período incluindo a passagem da sociedade socialista para o modelo capitalista. Do pouco que vi a Mostra consegue isso com ecletismo notável. Os filmes vão ser exibidos em DVD, mas são tão obscuros e pouco vistos que acho vale o esforço de ir ao CCBB.

Faço o post não só para destacar a mostra, mas também comentar os dois filmes dela que eu vi. Como Viver (1977), do Marcel Lozinski e Obi-Oba, o Fim da Civilização (1985), do Piotr Szulkin. O filme do Lozinski é o único documentário da seleção, mas é uma sátira engraçadíssima sobre a vida no país do fim dos anos 70, centrada num grupo de jovens famílias que vão participar de uma competição de “famílias modelo” num campo de jovens socialistas. A contradição entre a ideia da competição e o ideal socialista é responsável por parte considerável do conflito e humor do filme, mas o que me parece mais notável aqui é como ele costura bem as suas situações de tal maneira que passaria facilmente por um filme de ficção.

Ainda melhor é Obi-oba no qual saímos do universo da observação cômica para a ficção cientifica distópica de cunho alegórica. Uma espécie de versão pós-punk do O Processo do Welles ou um romance do China Mieville antes do tempo. O filme compensa o pequeno orçamento com uso dos mais imaginativos de direção e construção de espaços. O mundo da pequena sociedade construída aqui é muito bem imaginado. Ao contrário da maioria de filmes similares a paranoia de Szulkin é animada por um incomodo político que nunca sugere mera impostura de gênero. O filme sabe cortar suas situações com humor sem com isso sacrificar a potência dramática delas. Não conheço outros filmes do Szulkin, cineasta até recentemente bem desconhecido no ocidente, mas este é parte de uma espécie tetralogia de ficção cientifica cujos outros títulos (Golem, Guerra dos Mundos: próximo século e Ga-ga: glória aos heróis) parecem igualmente muito interessantes e que eu planejo assistir em breve.

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Mostra 2015

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Um Dia Quente de Verão (1991), de Edward Yang

Não é uma das Mostras de São Paulo com seleção mais apetitosas, mesmo assim tem muita coisa a se ver.

Filmes que mais me interessam:

Hors-concours: Visita ou Memórias e Confissões (Manoel de Oliveira)
Ao Longo dos Anos (Nikolaus Geyrhalter)
Os Campos Voltarão (Ermanno Olmi)
É o Amor (paul Vecchiali)
Garoto (Julio Bressane)
John From (João Nicolau)
As Mil e Uma Noites (Miguel Gomes)
Para o Outro Lado (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
Ryuzo e seus Sete Capangas (Takeshi Kitano)
Três Lembranças da Minha Juventude (Arnaud Deplaschin)

Filmes que me interessam bastante:

Aferim! (Radu Jude)
O Apostata (Federico Veiroj)
Através da Sombra (Walter Lima Jr.)
Campo Grande (Sandra Kogut)
Experimentos (Michael Almereyda)
Meu Amigo Hindu (Hector Babenco)
Meu Querido Hans (Alexander Mindadze)
Montanha (João Salaviza)
Para Minha Amada Morta (Aly Muritiba)
O Prefeito (Bruno Safadi)
O Quarto Proibido (Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson)
Quase Memória (Ruy Guerra)
Sob Nuvens Elétricas (Aleksey German Jr.)
O Touro (Larissa Figueiredo)
Volta a Terra (João Pedro Plácido)

Outros Brasileiros que me interessam:

Aspirantes (Ives Rosenfeld)
Boi Neon (Gabriel Mascaro)
California (Marina Person)
O Espelho (Rodrigo Lima)
Fome (Cristiano Burlan)
Futuro Junho (Maria Augusta Ramos)
Mais do que Possa Me Reconhecer (Allan Ribeiro)
Mate-me por Favor (Anita Rocha da Soliveira)
A Morte de J.P. Cuenca (João Paulo Cuenca)
Origem do Mundo (Moa Batsow)
Piadeiros (Gustavo Rosa de Moura)
Ralé (Helena Ignez)
Seca (Maria Augusta Ramos)
Todas as Cores da Noite (Pedro Severien)
Tropykaos (Daniel Lisboa)

Outros filmes de interesse:

El Abrazo de la Serpiente (Ciro Guerra)
Armadilha (Brillante Mendoza)
Boxe (Florin Serban)
A Bruxa (Robert Eggers)
Bone Tomahawk (S. Craig Zahler)
Cinzento e Negro (Luis Filipe Rocha)
Coração de Cachorro (Laurie Anderson)
Desde Alla (Lorenzo Vigas)
Enquanto Estamos Sonhando (Andreas Dressen)
Mistress America (Noah Baumbach)
Ornamento e Crime (Rodrigo Areias)
Pardais (Runar Runarsson)
La Patota (Santiago Mitre)
Sabor da Vida (Naomi Kawase)
Son of Saul (Laszlo Nemes)

Imperdivel claro é a retrospectiva do Film Foundation. A seleçáo é otima, alguns filmes como A Cor da Romã e Coronel Blimp passaram na Mostra nem tem tantos anos assim, mas valem muito a pena. Tem pelo menos dois clássicos do cinema americano que raramente são discutidos desta maneira (Bom Dia Tristeza do Preminger e Um Caminho para Dois do Stanley Donen), três filmaços pouquíssimo vistos (Aguaceiro, do Bahram Beizai, Garota Negra, do Ousmane Sembene, e Manila nas Garras da Luz do Lino Brocka), além é claro da exibição de Um Dia Quente de Verão do Edward Yang, que é junto do filme do Manoel o maior evento da Mostra, até porque por questões de direitos segue sem nenhum lançamento em DVD/Blu-Ray de qualidade.

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Farber/Patterson sobre Chantal Akerman

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Diante da terrivel notícia da morte de Chantal Akerman reproduzo aqui Kitchen Without Kitsch que Manny Farber e Patrcia Patterson dedicaram a Jeanne Dielman em 1977. Trata-se do último texto que Farber e Patterson escreveram, antes de Farber se aposentar da crítica e se dedicar exclusivamente a pintura. É uma das melhores coisas escritas sobre a dela e creio não estava disponível na web.

Kitchen Without Kitsch

Manny Farber and Patricia Patterson

The lay of the land, in the Seventies film, is that there are two types of structure being practiced: dispersal and shallow-boxed space. Rameau’s Nephew, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Celine and Jutie Go Boating, Beware of the Holy Whore are films that believe implicitly in the idea of non-solidity, that everything is a mass of energy particles, and the aim, structurally, is a flux-like space to go with the atomized content and the idea of keeping the freshness and energy of a real world within the movie’s frame. Inconclusiveness is a big quality in the Seventies: never give the whole picture, the last word. A distinctly different structure and intellectual set-used in films as various as In the Realm of the Senses, Katzelmacher, Nostalgia (the Hollis Frampton film in which a set of awful photos are presented and destroyed on a one-burner hot plate), the various short films of minimalist sculptors and painters – is to present a shallow stage with the ritualized, low-population image squared to the edges of the frame. Facing a fairly close camera, the formal-abstract-intellectualized content evolves at right angles to the camera, and usually signifies a filmmaker who has intellectually surrounded the material. In both cases, the strategy is often encasing a strikingly petty event: a non violinist scrapes away on a violin in a Richard Serra film; the limp Laurel-and-Hardy high jinks beginning Rivette’s Celine and Julie has one mugging charmer chasing another through Paris to return a book left on a park bench; Rameaus Nephew creates linguistic/filmic systems using avant-garde types in low comic dress; and in Fassbinder’s Katzelmacher, two indolents gossip their way toward a reverse tracking camera-a startlingly handsome image encasing absurd, inane conversations. Each film picks up the current fascination with keeping things a little bit amateurish, as though that were an automatic connection to drollery and wit. In all the above-mentioned films, grandness and pettiness are blended in skeptical visions that significantly go against heroic careers.

The thing that strikes one about the early-Seventies Fassbinder Beware of the Holy Whore is the movement of both camera and actors, a kind of lurching serpentine of petulant drawling sounds, inside jokes, and minute-long temper tantrums. They’re all like flicks within a flux of sexual liaisons. Everyone is distracted, anxious: they’re weeping, betraying, at the level of two cents. Kurt Raab collapses onto the bar, exaggerated and whining, very melodramatic, “I can’t bear it!” The circular, 360-degree pan of a hotel lobby picks up bits of decadence from strays around the room: one girl saying she likes a Spanish light technician sitting nearby, another member of this desultory film crew saying to his new acquaintance, “I could help you if you came to Rome.”

Central to the Seventies dispersed movie is the lack of big statement (as there is in Citizen Kane, L‘Avventura). It is a profoundly rhythmic filmmaking, with a lot of lower-case observations, a brusque, ragged movement in Mean Streets and a ballad-like rhythm in Altman’s McCabe with its clutter of ideas about frontier life, starting with the individual-vs.-the-corporation problem, the bewildered love of a foolhardy romantic for a practical down-to-earther, etc. etc. What is picked up about the trudging, muttering McCabe character, with his derby and long overcoat, is a half sentence (“got poetry in me-ain’t gonna put it down”), a suspicious and balky glance. Centering upon a person or event is not involved. Celine and Julie Go Boating is a new organism, the atomization of a character, an event, a space, as though all of its small spaces have been desolidified to allow air to move amongst the tiny spaces. A bit like a Cezanne watercolor, where more than half the event is elided to allow energy to move in and out of vague landscape notations, Rivette’s slaphappy duo in a musical without music can’t be defined. Each is a series of coy and narcissistic actions. They appear out of nowhere, no past profession or character traits: at one moment Celine is a sober librarian, and at another she is a stage magician, suddenly a fantastic extrovert. Who are those people in the large Gothic establishment? A shaft of air encircles each bit of information about the two mysteries; things are deliberately kept uncircled.

The Straubs – Daniele Huillet and her husband – are the penultimate exponents of shallow space filming: a very hard presentation of minimal visual information with the one major difference, that the composition is angled diagonally into the shallow space. While they move back and forth between grand spatiality (Moses and Aaron) and movies in which the subject matter is tight to the surface (History Lessons), the Straubs are always major spade-and shovel workers in framing that places the material close to the surface, whether they are doing classical theater on a sun-baked Roman terrrace or a long tracking on the Landsbergerstrasse in Munich’s red-light district, or staging a telescoped filmed play. Their Bach film is a breakthrough in filming an undramatized act: underlining the editing rhythm, a very programmed camera, and the geometry of groups: adding a documentarian’s respect for the subjects and asserting the most rigorous respect for a movie’s text ever perpetrated. The Straubs’ upfront framing is interesting in that it creates both a feeling of cement blocks and extraordinary poetry at the same time.

It’s also interesting here to mention Ozu’s far-earlier-than Seventies work with shallow-boxed frame innovations, using still-life interstices to do the work of an establishing shot, framing the most jagged husband-mistress conflict across railroad tracks as a two-dimensional emblematic design, playing out entire episodes in bars and modern “project” rooms so that every door frame, every crossover move by a snotty six-year-old, is schematized and abstracted into a perfectly poised, becalmed world view. Ozu, without drawing a heavy breath, predicted many of the conditions in upfront boxed movies: a limited cast, very domestic situations, abstract placements, the sense of people trying to break-out of or living within the rules, super-controlled direction.

The images of the wife and daughter waiting at the dinner table for Hans to come home in Fassbinder’s Merchant of the Four Seasons had the same visual stillness and handsomeness containing suppressed nerves at the dinner table as the scenes with mother and son in Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai de Commerce Bruxelles: the same sparsity of dialogue, phrases like “Isn’t the beef better this week than last, I added less water this time” or “Don’t read at the table” or “I’ve received a letter from Aunt Fernande in Canada.” Each of Jeanne’s isolated remarks is responded to by a oui, a grunt, a nod, and each one preceded and followed by an uneasy but unaccented silence. This is Bressonian territory. But unlike the dinner-table scenes in Merchant, in this film one gets the entire meal: its purchase, preparation, consumption, the cleaning up of the table and washing of the dishes, all this conveyed through images of terrific clarity. Each step in this meal’s progress necessitates passages from kitchen to hallway, through doorway rectangles of flower-printed wallpaper and painted woodwork, the figure of Jeanne framed over and over as she moves from room to room, putting lights on and off, changing into and out of her work smock, her cardigan sweaters, her street coat.

A marginal life away from the progressing mainstream, with all the traditional forms and strictures, is chronicled with a static wide-angled lens, using structural traits first found in Warhol’s fixed-frame film (early Sixties) and developed in other repetitive films (Ernie Gehr, Michael Snow, et al.) in which the space becomes spiritualized and proliferates ideas. The Dielman film- in which the spectator peculiarly becomes a coolly curious voyeur and jurist watching a case history – is often a breathtaking, crisp, and luminous example of shallow-boxed framing.

The drily pugnacious title (Jeanne Die/man, 23 Quai de Commerce-Io80 Bruxelles) is a give away on the movie’s politics and mental set. It suggests that Chantal Akerman, a shrewd young Belgian who is bridging the gap between the commercial film and the structural (every part, every shot is representative of the movie’s shape), has a passion for the factual, is not going to make the heroine, a field marshall of the kitchen (Delphine Seyrig), any more or less than what she is; has a contemporary yen for a blunt presentation of objects, spaces, proper names, and geography; and is concerned with defining a puritanistic and routinized woman in her space, describing her existence, how she moves from sink to table, her daily rounds in a one-bedroom, fusty flat. There is a definite respect for surfaces; a lot of this is Babette Mangolte, whose dead straight cinematography, impeccably framed, is responsive to the cool hardness of a tile wall, the flat light cast by one ceiling fixture, the crisp whiteness of bed linen, light changing on a casement window. The movie is thoroughly a product of Seventies sensibility: the integrity of things as they already stand, the presentation of a text as a concrete object, and out-front admission of the means of production.

This still-life film-a genre painting by a Seventies Chard in (to quote Babette Mangolte: “a Forties story shot by a Seventies camera”)-is vivified by a welter of louder than natural noises on the sound track. What an inspired idea, to treat the sounds of the kitchen as music: sounds of pot covers, ladling, a kettle hissing, water running, splashing, sponge against pot, sponge against plate, plate against table. And in the image, there is the incessant turning on and off of lights by the penny-conscious Jeanne, the small intricacies of housekeeping, opening and shutting drawers, handing up scrub brushes, returning dish towels to their place, and replacing lids on pots. It’s a movie in which neither the heroine nor the director cuts any corners, except on dialogue. The only line spoken in the kitchen: “Did you wash your hands?” She’s a logician who turns firm material into brilliantly sound equations: an industrious loner living a static existence is equaled by a space filled with noises; a life of routines going right, clicking, turn midway in the film into the same life of routines misfiring in little ways. The perfect symmetry of Akerman’s constructions operates also in the plot, in which an everywoman’s life is glued to a flashy red-light-herring idea.

A forty-year-old widow, mother of a dour son (obedient but pampered, like a fifteen-year-old De Gaulle) runs a matriarchal household without a wrinkle on the few bucks she makes from turning one trick a day. One might think that the luridness of the Simenon-like plot-that Jeanne Dielman is a prostitute, conducting her business in her tidy uptight bedroom once each afternoon, and that she scissors to death one of her clients on a mysterious post coital impulse – came out of a pragmatic desire for more audience by a director whose heart belongs to the structural film but who wants more audience than a Gehr-Frampton-Sharits film gets at stray film clubs and college dates. But it’s just as likely that the sex-gore material is an extreme expression of the director’s radical feminism. Analysis of the luridness issue is further complicated by the fact there is an off-screen murder in which a near-corpse staggers into the frame in Wavelength, which has to be a big item in any structuralist’s background.

Jeanne Dielman is the persevering woman’s film, a conscientious mom forced into “the life” for the sake of son and s-income (before Seyrig’s performance: Ruth Chatterton, Dietrich, Bankhead, Constance Bennett, and Garbo), reconsidered by three sophisticated women of the Seventies. The three pronged effort: a purified performance (Delphine Seyrig’s) sustaining one suppressed note; a mesmerizing colored image (Babette Mangolte’s) that uses the troublesome wide angle lens to suggest the entirety of Seyrig inside each frame, from her chaste pumps to the flat lighting of a single ceiling fixture; and, using some of its heroine’s obsessive control on traditional detail, a feat of recall and engineering (Chantal Akerman’s) which rearranges this second-by-second tragedy so that it has a bold, electric frontality, very close to the effect in Mike Snow’s The Central Region.

Whatever image one has of Delphine Seyrig is bound to be involved with her haute-couture sinuosity, her graceful undulating body and voice. But the Seyrig of Last Year at Marienbad and India Song doesn’t even resemble the straight-up-and-down puritan, Jeanne Dielman: seduction is out here. The A-l intent of this fugue-like movie is to divulge the molecules of moment-to moment existence, the repetitious conditions of life: eating, sleeping, cleaning.Both Seyrig and Akerman nail this single-track woman into her condition of doing and redoing; her elevator trips, dishwashing, rising from bed in cold pre-dawn are magnificently fulfilled by a performance that doesn’t obfuscate the movie’s routinized, repetitious mise-en-scene.

It’s a resolute film that knows exactly what it wants. Its three makers are seemingly in perfect accord as to what they want to say about a tradition-pound treadmill whose back-forth, up-down existence is the phenomenological stuff of this movie, what other movies leave out. The hallway scenes-which take on a shoving force and awkward angularity as Seyrig’s one-track woman goes over the same tasks, errands, exits, and entrances–convey her driven state of mind. With its sculptural capture of hallway surfaces and the unchanging gaze of the factual camera, Seyrig’s force as a human metronome hits the spectator with the monotony and poignance of such a life. When this movie’s going right, it makes the spectator aware not only of repetitiousness but of the actual duration of a commonplace act. What’s wonderful is that we are made to feel the length of time it takes water to filter through in coffee-making, the length of time a sponge bath consumes, the number of spoonfuls it takes to eat soup, the number of steps from the kitchen stove to dining-room table, how many floors it takes the elevator to move Jeanne from her flat to the ground.

In the morning Seyrig-Dielman awakes to the alarm. She is buried inside the voluminous, white, linen-encased comforter which is like a tidal wave across the entire lower half of the screen. Next to this arctic white mass is a dark-looming wardrobe, and at the foot of the bed a window opens up into the room. Jeanne throws off the covers in one gesture, gets up and stands at the open window, looking out as she puts on her pale-blue flannel robe. She stands abstracted, still groggy, buttoning her robe. A hard, minimal space, with early morning air wafting through a modern composition, thrusts each shape at the audience as though the surface of the form had been flattened and weighted.

Within this sharp, cold dampness (it is one of the few moments of distinct climate in a largely indoor film), Jeanne moves to the kitchen, beginning the elaborate start of the daily ritual, grinding the coffee, putting on the kettle, polishing her son Sylvain’s shoes, setting the kitchen table for his breakfast. The kitchen is like a shallow stage of black and white tiles and green curtains, a stage that has a peculiar still-shot-shallowness and seems estranged, cut off from neighbors, the rest of the city. As in Vermeer’s equally bounded painting, pettiness and grandness are blended in a seamless domesticity in which every item carries precise information and registers within a color that looks both slow and full.

Her traits are those of a monumentally efficient housewife, totally routinized, detail-obsessed. (A great example: she searches all over Brussels to match a button for a jacket.) Jeanne Dielman is brought up to a certain point of portrayal and then left an abstraction, a symbol of the repressed woman. Repressed in many ways: she can’t express herself in anything but formularized paths. She doesn’t know how to use language personally, and can only say things like “My son is a wonderful boy. I don’t know what I would do without him.” She serves the same meals in the same sequence each week.

Jeanne D., locked within her three-room flat existence, fits the conditions of a structural film to a T or a D. Her life unfolds in perfect mathematical inhale-exhale clarity, first running well and then at midpoint falling apart over the same routines. The conditions of a minimal underground classic-that the shape of a film be discernible in any single frame; that a single-camera strategy be the basis for the movie’s metaphysic and any situation within the film; that the repetitions of the camera, which is always obviously present, creates a spirituality; and that the field of examination be more or less static, durational, and un-romanticized–couldn’t have found a better narrative than the one in which a life dedicated to perfection breeds its opposite, an apocalypse of sinister results

The movie’s key is that it presents one full day as the handy heroine’s norm, and then shows it spinning out of control midway in the tragedy when the wooden [eanne is jolted. Her attention, which till now has been exclusively focused on timing (her paid coital encounters are timed to fit into the act of boiling potatoes for her momma-regulated son’s dinner), is distracted by a new bedroom experience with her second day’s customer. Only after having seen a normal twenty four-hour cycle does a spectator discern the signals of Seyrig’s distress. The potatoes burn because he’s washed the tub before taking the spuds off the fire; her hair is allowed to escape from its helmet-like perfection (“Your hair’s all tousled” is her son’s flat, Bressonian remark); she forgets to turn on the radio after dinner, and can’t concentrate on a letter to her sister Fernande. “No inspiration,”asks Sylvain from the couch.

With its still-shot vision and durational attitude toward recording chores in full, Seyrig’s ladylike stylization stimulates speculations of all types. Akerman’s probable reaction to such spectator psychology work would probably be boredom: “O.K., if you want to find a polemic against the nuclear family, go right ahead.” But the fact is that the movie proves itself by generating intellectual action. It is no minor plus, the wealth of questions that are thrown up (Is this a diatribe against housework? Is it a Marxian examination of the isolated individual in an every-man-for-himself society]’) to keep earnest eggheads ruminating long after its handsome image and flat sculpted shapes have disappeared.

In the background of its three artists are such prestigious Manhattanites as Robert Frank, Annette Michelson, Yvonne Rainer, Mike Snow, P. Adams Sitney, ad infinitum. These and other voices echo through this acute and impressive work: the look of the film, its geometric clarity (Ozu, Straub, Snow), the heroine’s psychology and behavior (Bunuel and Bresson), the script’s coexistence of respectability and prostitution (Belle de Jour and Godard’s Two or Three Things): As in Bufiuel’s El, the fetishistic handling of items that resonate sexuality gives a movie that is close mouthed and dour a lot of humor, intentional or not. Basically, three women are insisting that the conventional world of a woman be seen straight in a film that is stylistically somewhat domesticated, being a delta of the most influential style-content movies in the less straight film world-the one called variously as radical, visionary, avant-garde, or underground.

Partly it is the early Warhol gig: almost like a silent movie, no music, very little dialogue, a self-willed woman’s working is pinned by one unbudging four to-five feet high camera. As in Warhol’s Nude Kitchen or Bike Boy, a movie that is stylized from first to last moment makes a theater of the mundane act of Jeanne’s every chore. The final long extended glimpse of a staring Jeanne seated at the dining-room table suggests the final Warhol shot freezing an image of his sleeper.

The same strategy which presents Gustav Leonhardt playing an entire harpsichord piece within one diagonal camera setup in Straub’s Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach is used to present Delphine Seyrig making a meat loaf. In both cases what is presented has complete documentary integrity within a self-contained frame. A virtuoso of the arpsichord or mixing bowl is being allowed a full imprint or registration without types of filmic spicing (fancy mimicry, seductive camera shots, editing for impact or psychology).

Though somewhat pat in comparison to its fiercer influences, the Akerman revelation is a political thrust against the box-office hype of the straight press, which has convinced audiences that it needs Vito Corleones, Johnny Guitars, or Carries, constant juicing, dramatic rises and falls for its satisfaction. The audience has been brainwashed to believe it can’t stand certain experiences, thanks to the Mekas propaganda wheel as well as the media hypesters. Watching the luminously magical space of a washing-smoothing-cooking-slicing-kneading near-peasant is particularly provocative in that it suggests a workable parlance between the structural and commercial film.

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