Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Out 1 Film Journal's Top 13 Films of 2013

by James Hansen 

While not quite on purpose, this list reflects the desire for unique images, assemblages, and experiences outside the confines of traditional narrative, character, and story; further, it illustrates a wide range of artists who expand, complicate, and question this inclination across fiction and documentary, narrative and experimental. These films epitomize a consistently paradoxical, often historical negotiation with images, the process of their construction, and their external (and cultural) mobility. Operating through what Blanchot calls "the happy chance of unconcern," these artists have made solitary, striking, slippery, wonderful works that I won't soon forget.

2. Computer Chess 
(Andrew Bujalski)

 3. Let Us Persevere In What We Have Resolved Before We Forget 
(Ben Russell)

4. Spring Breakers 
(Harmony Korine)

 5. Life Is An Opinion (Fire A Fact) 
(Karen Yasinsky)

 6. Post Tenebras Lux 
(Carlos Reygadas)

 7. Let Your Light Shine 
(Jodie Mack)

 8. Frances Ha 
(Noah Baumbach)

9. Beyond The Hills 
(Cristian Mungiu)

 10. The Lords of Salem 
(Rob Zombie)

 12. Viola 
(Matías Piñeiro)


 Hard To Be A God
(Aleksei German) 

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Exhausting Tomorrow: Michael Robinson's "The Dark, Krystle" (2013)

INEZ: But, you crazy creature, what do you think you're doing? You know quite well I'm dead.
INEZ: Dead! Dead! Dead! Knives, poison, ropes--useless. It has happened already, do you understand? Once and for all. So here we are, forever.
ESTELLE: Forever. My God, how funny! Forever.
GARCIN: For ever, and ever, and ever.
(A long silence.)
GARCIN: Well, well, let's get on with it...

by James Hansen

Over the image of a fire burning blue, we hear the faint, exhausted whisper of a middle-aged woman. “There was a fire in the cabin. I tried to leave, but the door was locked. I died in that fire...” The woman sits in a hospital bed. Her head slightly tilted, she gazes into the distance with a look of despair. “I don’t know who I am.” These sounds and images serve as the prelude of Michael Robinson’s new video The Dark, Krystle. They establish the work’s central premise, that of being trapped in a place with no hope of escape. And yet, the narrator doesn’t die, despite stating her condition as being dead, as no longer knowing herself. She is alive, born new even, but lacks an awareness of herself, of her life, of her history.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Living Variables: Stephanie Barber's "Daredevils" (2013) and David Gatten's "The Extravagant Shadows" (2012)

by James Hansen

On Sunday, as I wandered through David Gatten’s monumental feature The Extravagant Shadows for the second time, my mind kept returning, quite unexpectedly, to Stephanie Barber’s Daredevils, a new feature-length video premiering this Thursday at the New York Film Festival’s Views from the Avant-Garde sidebar.        

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Museum Hours (Jem Cohen, 2013)

by James Hansen

A tender, intimate portrait of care and friendship, life and art, Jem Cohen’s Museum Hours may be best observed in the position of a wanderer. Anne (Mary Margaret O’Hara) makes an unexpected trip to Vienna to care for a dying family member. In Vienna, Johann (Bobby Summer), a museum guard, befriends Anna. He becomes her guide and they travel around a number of unique spaces – the hospital, the museum, and the city at large. Cohen’s fine directorial eye shows Anne and Johann as almost floating around the city. The beautifully rendered scenes softly flow from one to the next, as if they are leaves blowing in the wind or billiard balls gliding across a table.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

NYFF: 2013 Views from the Avant-Garde Schedule

Scott Stark, The Realist, 2013

Schedule for NYFF Views

he Film Society of Lincoln Center announced today the complete lineup for the 17
th edition of Views from the Avant-Garde (VIEWS), taking place from Oct 3-7 during the New York Film Festival (NYFF). The popular yearly touchstone for experimental film returns with curator Mark McElhatten at the helm, and will contain 35+ programs in glorious Super-8, 16 mm and 35mm film and HD formats. Many familiar faces will return, and VIEWS will also feature 45 new artists and several mini-retrospectives of several of these artists including, Aura Satz, Lois Patiño, Sandro Aguilar, and Jean-Paul Kelly. Views will also offer special tributes to the late Stom Sogo and Anne Robertson whose work is a testimony to the power of a Cinema that is fearless, confidential and inextinguishable.

Curator of Views from the Avant-Garde, Mark McElhatten said, “Cinema existed before Film and will exist long after film's twilight and digital's decay. Cinema exists as an innate way of perceiving the world through light, through cadence through juxtaposition and as a way of sensing and organizing reality. VIEWS celebrates Cinema in its material marriage with film, in its honeymoon period with an ideal medium, projecting super-8, 16mm, 35mm, sequential slides. We celebrate the lightning fleetness of digital that is able to translate the cinema of consciousness in a way than is very different than film, giving it a different elasticity and a different body. We are screening work that ranges through the ethnographic, abstract, psychological, documentarian, essayistic, devotional, parotic, scientific-naturalist many different impulses and directions along with the latest archival preservations of rediscovered works from earlier decades. The goal is to offer a festival of works that is evidence of true exploration coming from individual impulse, showing what can happen when exceptional artists absent themselves from the concerns of a consensus commercial aim and authentically pursue the limits of their art.”

Some highlights this year include, work by Lois Patiño who will showcase multiple programs, group shows, solo and amphitheater cycles. Opening night offers the North American Premiere of Patiño’s first feature COSTA DA MORTE, which just won an award of distinction at the 66th Festival del Film Locarno for Best Emerging Director. Filmed in a region of Galicia, Spain called Coast of Death, derived from the numerous shipwrecks that happened in this region. The film crosses this land observing the people who inhabit it, witnessing the traditional craftsmen who maintain both an intimate relationship and an antagonistic battle with the vastness of this territory. The wind, the stones, the sea, the fire, are characters in this film, and through them, approach the mystery of the landscape, understanding it as a unified ensemble with man, his history and legends.

Sandro Aguilar is known internationally as the founder of the production company, “O Som e a Fúria,” responsible for acclaimed films by Miguel Gomes, Manoel de Olivera and many other notable directors. His extraordinary films have been receiving nominations and awards from dozens of festivals worldwide over the last decade or so. Aguilar’s latest film Dive: Approach and Exit will be shown in its New York Premiere along with a selection of short films from 2007 to 2013. In addition his film A Serpente will screen once with the New York premiere of Scott Stark’s The REALIST.

VIEWS will present the World Premiere of Aura Satz’s just completed work Doorway for Nathalie Kalmus, a film centered around the use of color in moving image technology and exploring the disorienting technicolor prismatic effects of the lamp house of a 35mm color film printer. Through minute shifts across an abstract color spectrum, punctuated by a mechanical soundtrack, the film evokes kaleidoscopic perceptual after-images (bringing to mind Paul Sharits, Dario Argento and the Wizard of Oz).

SUNKEN TREASURE will be part of a special closing day of VIEWS that seeks to dissolve boundaries in the way we categorize and approach cinema of different origins and genre by presenting relative rarities directed by John Stahl and Max Ophuls, along with the works of Stan Brakhage and Nathaniel Dorsky. The evening will conclude with the last presentation in this year’s edition of VIEWS titled Kodachrome Dailies from the Time of Song and Solitude (Reel 2)by Nathaniel Dorsky, includes screening unreleased materials for the first and only time to a public audience.

Over 200 individual works will screen this year from all over the world, including: Argentina, Austria, Australia, Brazil, Burma/Myanmar, Canada, Ethiopia, France, Germany. Israel, Italy, India, Japan, Palestinian territories, Mexico, Nepal, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, Vanuatu and Venezuela.

Director Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez’s film Manakamana will be co-presented by Views from the Avant-Garde and was previously announced in the Spotlight on Documentary section, Motion Portraits. The film will screen on September 28 and 30 with the filmmakers in attendance. Visit Filmlinc.com for more information.

The 17-day New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema, featuring top films from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent. The selection committee, chaired by Kent Jones, also includes: Dennis Lim, FSLC Director of Cinematheque Programming; Marian Masone, FSLC Associate Director of Programming; Gavin Smith, Editor-in-Chief,Film Comment; and Amy Taubin, Contributing Editor, Film Comment and Sight & Sound.

Gain access to the 34 programs in Views from the Avant-Garde with a $99 NYFF Views Badge, which will be available for purchase exclusively online. The badge as well as tickets to individual programs will go on sale September 12th.  More ticket information for the New York Film Festival will be available on Filmlinc.com/NYFF.

Complete schedule after the break.

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Has-Been History: The Impossible Call and Response of Lewis Klahr's "Candy's 16!" (1984)

by James Hansen

This is the text from a paper presented at the 2012 Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Boston, Massachusetts. It is [much too] heavy on theory and remains a work in progress.

A girl named Candy sits alone at her 16th birthday party. A pop record plays quietly in the background. It starts to skip. An untouched birthday cake rests on a table in front of her. Sixteen candles remain unlit. There is no need to light them. For Candy, they are already extinguished. Her friends didn’t come to her celebration. In fact, they couldn’t come. It turns out this party wasn’t today or yesterday. It was years ago. But, for Candy, it is tomorrow. It is always tomorrow. She awaits an event – a future – which will never come, although perhaps it already has. Instead, she lingers in a present moment, hermeneutically sealed off from the yesterday of her adolescence and the tomorrow of her adulthood. She isn’t on a precipice – she is locked in it. As such, she becomes a forgotten figure in her own world. A has-been in her own being. 

This is a vision extrapolated from Lewis Klahr’s 1984 short film Candy’s 16!, part of his “Picture Books For Adults” series (1983-1985). In this series, Klahr gestures toward history as both static and moving. Constructed of eight 8mm short films, Klahr uses a variety of techniques – found footage, splicing, as well as his well known cutout animation style – and creates collages from ephemeral, cultural fragments – home movies, comic books, advertisements, and pop music. with a career and signals many of the concerns of which he continues to work through – history, memory, and the recent past. Stripping objects from their specific contexts, Klahr’s films reference the outmodedness of their objects through a self-referential temporal lag – that is, they are lapsed historical objects. The objects and images enter into dialogic communication allowing them to intersect both historically and aesthetically; his films display a process of an ongoing, irresolvable dialectical history: a history of the present’s past and the past’s presence – or, as Klahr himself says, his films illustrate “the pastness of the present.” 

This paper will examine Candy’s 16! as a model of what I am calling, following Walter Benjamin, “Has-Been history” – a conception of history understood through outmoded, forgotten objects and commodities. For Klahr, objects are “has-beens” lying dormant in historical ruins waiting to be revived. The stakes of this revival is central to this paper and Klahr’s work in general. Klahr has become well-known for his cutout animation techniques, yet Candy’s 16! is a more traditional found footage film. This may make it a somewhat odd choice for extended analysis. However, I argue Klahr’s approach, even in the early stages of his career, indicates the mission of has-been history  – the purpose is not to pace an object historically, but rather to uncover the irresolvable tensions between the historical context and the cultural moment in which materials are extended. Candy’s 16! operates as a transhistorical exchange in which the images of has-been history are revealed as irretrievably fractured. Klahr grants them new visibility only to have them quickly evaporate and remain unrealized. Candy’s 16! questions how personal materials, cultural memory, and the audience negotiate such a schism. Is this all an introduction or a farewell? As Candy awaits her party, celebrating her passage from adolescence to adulthood, Klahr indicates that has-been history can be called, but it cannot respond. History reverberates. Klahr’s films gesture toward its incommensurable aftershocks.

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