Thursday, 15 April 2010

"The Decade" est mort, vive "The Decade"!

"If one adopts a cyclical theory of film history, the next golden age of internationalism will be the first decade of the next century."
Jonathan Rosenbaum, September 1987.

If we posit the beginning of the decade, in film terms, with Movie Mutations, in 2003, and if we consider that the number of internet users worldwide has increased by 400% between 2000 and 2009, how gloriously long will this decade turn out to be?

Monday, 12 April 2010

"L'art moderne doit se montrer à la hauteur de la grande industrie et non pas se contenter de la prendre pour thème", Adorno, Aesthetic Theory.
Que dire d'un film qui fait les deux?

Sunday, 11 April 2010


Pitching two directors "against" one another is more useful as a way of comparing approaches than as a way of making value judgements. So when I compare Jia Zhang-ke's 24 City and Wang Bing's Tie Xi: West of the tracks, it's clear to me that both films are truly great, among the key events of the decade in terms of cinema.

Yet what vast differences! I just saw 24 City again a few days ago to write about it in the student paper and concluded that Jia was more interested in truth than reality. Wang Bing is almost completely interested in reality, but truth shines out of his work just as much as it does from Jia's, though in very different ways. The two most striking differences lie in the fact that firstly, Wang Bing shows people working, which Jia almost doesn't do at all, and secondly, that while Jia films a factory on the scale of cinema, Wang films it to the scale of men, elevating cinema to the scale of the factory rather than vice-versa. This is most apparent in his travelling shots (I'm here referring to Rust I and Rust II, not the long shots taken from trains in Rails): they exist only as the steps of the cameraman walking through a space. No smoothness of aesthetic gestures enabled by the cinematic apparatus (dollies, steadicams...). A camera, placed slightly lower than eye level, accompanying every step Wang Bing makes. Whether the factory unfolds as a monstrous space, or as a wonderful one, or a desolate gradeur, it is the way it unfolds to an individual: any gesture, for WB, will start there, with the simplest, richest scale there is: 1:1.