In a New Light

A discussion dedicated to expanding notions of fiction and nonfiction in the movies.

Sherlock Jr.

06.20.15

Framed by a rival suitor for a crime he did not commit, the “boy” (played by Keaton) is a hapless projectionist who fantasizes of becoming a world-class detective and solving the mystery that has estranged him from his romantic interest. But the detective plot of SHERLOCK JR. is largely a set-up for the real target: an exploration of the relationship between real life and the illusion of the cinematic world. Falling asleep on the job, Keaton dreams himself into a mystery movie within the greater narrative that parallels his romantic predicament, one in which the magnitude of Keaton's comedic genius is utterly unrestrained.

SHERLOCK JR.
by Buster Keaton
1924, Blu-ray, 56 min

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Close-Up

06.21.15

Abbas Kiarostami's close-up follows the story of working-class Hossain Sabzian, a man who is tried in court for deceiving a middle class Tehran family by posturing himself as famed Iranian director Mohsen Makmalbaf and promising the family members a role in his next film. One of the most significant legal transgressions is their loaning Sabzian money under the pretenses that he can repay it when in fact he is an unemployed printer from an entirely different class. Kiarostami revisits the events leading to the trial in the form of a docu-fiction, through reenactments and testimonies, casting the real life participants in the scandal as themselves. Whether Sabzian's intentions are criminal or innocent remains a matter of perspective, one that Kiarostami's camera deliberates upon but does not determine.

CLOSE-UP
by Abbas Kiarostami
1990, Blu-ray, 100 min

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Chronicle of a Summer

06.27.15

In CHRONICLE OF A SUMMER anthropologist-filmmaker Jean Rouch and sociologist Edgar Morin use the documentary form to question its inherent assumption of truth. Part social survey and part observational portrait of a changing society, the film begins with a simple strategy asking random Parisians if they are happy. Rouch and Morin set out to make a film about how people live, from their daily routines to their beliefs about interracial sex and marriage to one woman's particular memories about her experience in the holocaust; it implicitly raises the issue of whether a documentary can ever be objective, and explicitly, of whether it can be true. The film captures fragments of the changing state of France as a post-war nation moving away from a deep history of colonialism as well as its filmmaker's trend toward cinema-verite, and tackles head-on a question inherent to cinema: what is the power of the camera (and filmmaker's) presence?

CHRONICLE OF A SUMMER
by Jean Rouch
1961, Blu-ray, 90 min

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Mysterious Object at Noon

06.28.15

Inspired by the French surrealist's playful process of collaborative drawing known as exquisite corpse, director Apichatpong Weraseethakul travels from the north of Thailand to the south, inviting those he meets along the way to construct and reconstruct a fictional tale about a disabled boy and his teacher Dogfur. A radically innovative take on the way stories are created for film, Apichatpong's first feature is part documentary and part fiction, constantly cutting from the real life storytellers to a fictional performance with non-professional actors of the story being told.

MYSTERIOUS OBJECT AT NOON
by Apichatpong Weraseethakul
2000, digital projection, 89 min