Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Week in Review

[Edit: link added] Synopses of the 12 Kieślowski documentaries from the 2-DVD set.

  • Céline et Julie vont en bateau (Celine and Julie Go Boating, Jacques Rivette, 1974)
  • Le coup du berger (Fool's Mate, 28min, Jacques Rivette, 1956)
  • Melbourne International Animation Festival: Preview of Program #1
    -Once Upon a Time (Jerome Dernoncourt, Samuel Deroubaix, Corentin Laplatte, France, 5'30)
    The Foxhole Manifesto (Nick Fox-Gieg, USA, 4'15)
    A Journey Across Grandmother (Meghana Bisineer, UK, 5'15)
    Burning Safari (V. Aupetit, M. Maleo, J. Irzenski, F de la Taille, A. Presal, CW Trebutien, France, 1'45)
    La marche des sans nom (L. Vigroux, N. Laverdure, J Constantial, France, 5'45)
    The Lecture (Clint Cure, Australia, 4'00)
    Journey to the Disney Vault (Robert Marianetti, David Wachtenheim, Glen Steinmacher, USA, 3'15)
    The Red Shoe (Magnus Fredriksson, Sweden, 4'15)
    Carlitopolis (Luis Nieto, France, 4'00)
    Ten Thousand Pictures Of You (Robin King, UK, 3'00)
    Weiss (Florian Grolig, Germany, 5'15)
    Blindman's Bluff (Isabel Herguara, Spain, 7'15)
    Dreams & Desires: Family Ties (Joanna Quinn, UK, 9'45)
  • Prześwietlenie (X-Ray, 13min, Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1974)
  • Życiorys (Curriculum Vitae, 45min, Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1975)
  • Klaps (Slate, 5min, Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1976)

  • Almodóvar on Almodóvar (Revised edition, 2006, Frédéric Strauss)

Le coup du berger
This was Rivette's fourth short film. At half an hour long it could easily have been a TV episode. Its content is more conventional than the three Rivette feature films I have seen - the style and sensibility are very much like Hollywood movies of the time (including those by Hitchcock). A woman is cheating on her husband and the film concerns itself with the various posturing a deceitful person goes through, the film-maker's tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Rivette did the narration, and the party depicted contains a veritable who's who of the French New Wave including Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, François Truffaut and Jean-Claude Brialy. I found this very accessible (unlike his feature films) and enjoyable.

Celine and Julie Go Boating
I admit I had only four hours the night before watching this celebrated 193 minute Rivette film. That I stayed awake for the length of it is testimony to its ability to enthrall an audience. It had fantasy themes in common with Duelle and was a film that leaves itself wide open for interpretation. As I commented in relation to the previous week's screenings at Melbourne Cinémathèque, Rivette's films feel like there's always something or some piece of information that's being withheld from us being able to completely know exactly what we're seeing.

Celine and Julie are superficially two very different people, yet are magically drawn to each other. They partake in a fantasy world, perhaps sharing a dream, or visiting another dimension where a reality repeatedly acts itself out as if theatre on stage. Theatre and fantasy/supernatural seem to fascinate Rivette, and he takes his time telling his stories. This is testing for a modern audience who expect everything to be handed on a silver platter, with easy explanations and in a tight time format. Rivette reminds me of surreal/absurdist film-makers like Luis Buñuel, Raúl Ruiz and David Lynch. I think I need time to appreciate his films; for now I feel like a child looking in on an adult's world, in wonder of what I'm seeing but not quite understanding it.

A review of the MIAF screening will come in the next few days. Festival director Malcolm Turner introduced the session. He mentioned MIAF is one of the largest animation festivals in the world and that a phenomenal 2200 short films had been submitted to the festival this year, of which some 350 will be screened.

Short Documentaries by Kieślowski
After Melbourne Cinémathèque screened the Kieślowski season earlier in the year, I purchased every Kieślowski film on DVD I could find, including a 2-DVD set of his early documentaries that I purchased from Poland (via It was a little tricky, as I speak no Polish and used an online Polish language translator to navigate my way through the transaction.

As there was nowhere else online advertising these films, and as it was such a laborious process, I purchased three copies to both spread the cost of postage as well as to make the effort worthwhile (when I figured friends would want to purchase a copy). It ended up costing under $25 per set and surprisingly arrived within a week - matching Amazon for service and excellent value indeed.

Four of the twelve documentaries screened at the
Kieślowski season, and I'm gradually catching up on those I haven't seen. X-Ray is fascinatingly cryptic in a clearly Kieślowski fashion. Various talking heads talk about their respective conditions that have affected their lives, crippled them and changed their outlooks. Yet we never learn whether any of these men (and they are all men) are connected in any way or what condition they have suffered (it may be tuberculosis). Kieślowski is clearly wanting to interest us in these men's lives while withholding vital information, ironically not unlike Jacques Rivette. Kieślowski's style is also similar to Errol Morris who similarly seems content to just hold a microphone and allow his subjects to speak in their own time.

Curriculum Vitae is a fascinating inside view at a Communist Party meeting that seeks to expel a member who has taken part in a worker's strike. It is astonishing to see the access that Kieślowski received - like a fly on a wall. The various angles and lighting were mesmerising. The subject of the film gives some indication of the director's fascination with politics that were later explored in films like Camera Buff and especially Blind Chance. It's quite chilling to see justice meted out by committee and recalls McCarthyism and George Clooney's Good Night and Good Luck. Yet the end is ambigous and demands further inquiry as to what happened to this poor sod.

Slate seems more like an experimental film than a documentary. To quote from a post on IMDB:
When a director films, or 'takes' a shot, each is identified by having a 'slate' or 'clapperboard' with the information regarding the shot written in - what shot number it is and which take it is. The clapper is used when making a sound take, the visual information of the clapper closing synchronized with the jump on the graphic read out of the sound track. The sound and visuals are recorded on different media and this is necessary to match sound and visuals or else everything would look like a poorly synced cheapo chopsocky epic. When it comes to editing the final film the states are all cut out of the film.

What Kieslowski has done her is a little experiment of recovering the clappers and splicing them into a short film. They are all taken from his film The Scar (Blizna). As such Klaps qualifies as another workplace documentary from Kieslowski The experiment produces a strange result of presenting the characters from the photoplay as the actors they are. Its sort or magic/anti-magic. The presence of the clapper renders the actors as people in costume saying scripted things. The suspension of disbelief is suspended.
I didn't find this very short film of much interest other than as an example of Kieślowski's work. This is the only short film by the director that I have had this impression of.

[Edit: link added] Synopses of the 12 documentaries


Anonymous said...

I recently bought Rivette's Story of Marie & Julien on DVD and was mightily suprised. This is a terrific film and though a slow-burner at 150 minutes, it really stays with you. I agree that Rivette has a way of not revealing everything and making every frame seem interesting and captivating. Story of Marie & Julien which his most recent film to date (although he has just made another one after it) is a masterpiece and showcases a director at the height if his talent. It also does not talk down to its audience and is totally mesmerising from start to finish. An intriguing and original love story with a difference. Check it out if you haven't yet, paul.

Paul Martin said...

Thanks for the tip, Anonymous. I don't watch much on DVD as I'd rather wait for something to come on the big screen. While reading about Rivette yesterday, I noticed that Va Savoir is also by Rivette. I bought it several months ago as Palace Cinemas had a sale on (I think I bought 10 DVDs for $80). I didn't realise it was by Rivette, but remembered having wanted to see it and missing its theatrical release. I still haven't seen it or the other 9 DVDs!

You might think it contradictory that I buy DVDs and don't watch them. It's like books - I buy more than I can read, it seems. It's a case of 'it seemed like a good idea at the time'. ;)