Friday, 28 January 2011

Time warp

How else to explain a shock such as this? In the middle of Der Mörder Dimitri Karamasoff (which is astonishing for how much of the original novel it maintains to capture, despite butchering absolutely key elements and one of the three brothers of the title, on top of all the other reasons), marked by its debts to Dostoevsky (i.e. the Russian 1870s), formalist strategies partly inherited from the Russian montage school (the Russian 1920s) and sound experiments of Weimar Germany, a shot suddenly materializes which could come straight out of an American film of the 1970s, or maybe rather a French or Czech film of the mid-1960s, or some such miraculous (post-Anna-Karina-in-Vivre-Sa-Vie) period. Gruschenka gives herself up to the music, swirls around with the other gypsies at the inn, Dimitri watches her as very few men have watched a woman, the camera follows the gypsies, the gypsies look at the camera, as the music rises to a crescendo... The camera is drunk.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Quick reaction

Far from me the idea of taking sides in the whole realism mini-debate unwittingly initiated by Adrian Martin last month in De Filmkrant, but his new column, which comes back to that whole debate, strikes me as deeply flawed intellectually and methodologically, and slightly disingenuous, in at least two ways.
I'm referring especially to the last paragraph, in which Martin calls "symptomatic" both the making of those films, and their critical reception. Fine enough, but that's opening a (deceptively simple) can of worms which is simply not dealt with, and which really must be if his argument is to stand any ground: symptomatic of what? What is the "broader pattern of cultural-political correspondences that is necessarily beyond them"? If their common denominator is the illusion of realism, why is the illusion of realism reappearing now? What are the forces shaping this, to what extent do they originate outside or inside cinema? There's a difference between identifying the symptom and the cause, and unless that wider force-field is defined (in his defence, something too big to bite off in a Filmkrant column), I don't see how Martin can make his argument stand.
Secondly, what I find slightly dishonest about that paragraph is Martin's unwillingness to consider his own reaction as equally symptomatic, which would be a logical thing a gentleman-like intellectual sparring partner might do (I don't consider his assertion that he doesn't like being considered symptomatic either up to the task). Not only that, but identifying and questioning the dividing line between the two different "symptoms" would throw light on the whole problematic on a much deeper level: the flip-side to that "symptom" as an alternative? Or as a different form of the same problem?