Cinema as Duration: Part I
Why a program of films selected specifically for their length? Is it a test to our attention span? Is it boring? Is it meditative? To quote Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, cinema is a matter of "sculpting in time"... So let's think about time—about large chunks of time, small spurts of time, time as material, time as experience, time watching films in public versus in private.
Our first installment of the series—duration and the everyday—will focus on Chantal Akerman's JEANNE DIELMAN 23, QUI DU COMMERCE 1080 BRUXELLES (1975), a film best known for its matter-of-fact portrayal of the everyday life of its title character. In the film, we see Jeanne cook, take baths, go grocery shopping, have dinner with her adolescent son—live a certain type of life—all in over three hours and all of it fashioned in non-dramatic real-time. The time is filled with words and interaction then by silence and stillness. As viewers, we share something like life while the time continues to move. A fixed, low camera forces us to observe someone else's time, and, through reflection, our own. The day keeps going minute by minute for Jeanne, as it does for us.
JEANNE DIELMAN 23, QUI DU COMMERCE 1080 BRUXELLES
by Chantal Ackerman
1975, DVD, 225 min
The Dream on the Screen: Synth and Surrealism
This month filmfront presents a double bill of surreal films accompanied by a Chicago-based multi-artist modular synth set. We will be watching Germaine Dulac's THE SEASHELL AND THE CLERGYMAN (1928) and Jean Cocteau's THE BLOOD OF A POET (1932) side by side for a short and improvised performance/screening.
THE SEASHELL AND THE CLERGYMAN
by Germaine Dulac
1928, digital projection, 41 min
A priest's erotic hallucinations drive the film through castles, churches, and the nondescript outdoors, as he fantasizes about killing a general and groping his high-class wife. Seashells, glass objects (always shattering), and close-ups of body parts (faces, eyes, breasts) reoccur. Dulac slows down and speeds up frame rates to create a visual rhythm, in line with her goal of "pure" cinema, which she spoke of as "musically constructed" films or "films made according to the rules of visual music."
THE BLOOD OF A POET
by Jean Cocteau
1932, digital projection, 55 min
It is interesting to think Jean Cocteau refused any sort of connection with the surrealists. THE BLOOD OF A POET is something like a meditation on the working mind of an artist, only the artist’s imagination is materialized in the film through striking, sometimes metaphorical images that seem larger than life. These images trick their way into the audience’s mind as visual rhymes, spatial relationships, choreographed theater and playful juxtapositions. The film’s opening—an artist seeing the mouth of one of his portraits-in-progress move—plunges us deep into the kind of subconscious visuals that compose the rest of the film.
Special thanks to Sergio Munoz.