Monday, January 25, 2010

Eclipse Series 11:Larisa Shepitko - From the Current

Eclipse Series 11:Larisa Shepitko - From the Current

Larisa Shepitko (and her masterwork The Ascent) stole my heart last night.

After having her son, Anton, at age thirty-five, under extreme risk of death due to a serious spine injury, Shepitko began to plan her darkest, grandest vision. “At that time, I was facing death for the first time, and like anyone in such a situation, I was looking for my own formula of immortality,” she would later say. Her cinematic response was 1977’s The Ascent.

At once a visceral, earthy evocation of life on the ground during World War II and a momentous, spiritual Christian allegory, The Ascent, adapted from a ­novella by prominent Russian writer Vasili Bykov, drags the viewer alongside two peasant Byelorussian soldiers, Sotnikov and Rybak, as they attempt to evade, and finally are captured by, marauding Nazis. From the film’s opening images of telephone poles haphazardly jutting out of snowdrifts like bent crosses, Shepitko, with cinematographer Vladimir Chukhnov, plunges us into a nightmarishly blinding whiteness, a physical and moral winter that envelops everything in its path—except, ultimately, the victimized and beatific Sotnikov, whose slow journey toward death brings a strange enlightenment. Such redemp­tion eludes Rybak, whose ruthless desire for survival puts him at odds with the Christlike martyr Sotnikov, and Shepitko charts their twinned passages to darkness and light with a stunning arsenal of aural
and visual experimentation.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"Ecstatic Truth: Documenting Herzog 'Documenting'" - Herzog, et al. - Slought Foundation

"Ecstatic Truth: Documenting Herzog 'Documenting'" - Herzog, et al. - Slought Foundation

this deserves repeating.

regarding 'Herzog's continued explorations of "ecstatic truth" and the boundary between fiction and documentary practice' -

"In my 'documentaries' I have constantly explored the intensified truths of the situations that I have found myself in and of the characters I have met, whether it be abused people who lose their speech in Lessons of Darkness or the chain-smoking African chimp of Echoes from a Sombre Empire. [...] The real Fitzcarraldo moved a far lighter boat from one river system to the next, but he disassembled the boat into little pieces and got some engineers to reassemble it later on. But for what we did there was no precedent in technical history, and no book of instructions we could refer to. And you know, probably no one will ever need to do again what we did. I am a Conquistador of the Useless." -- Werner Herzog, -Herzog on Herzog, 241/179 (2002)

“Minnesota Declaration” / Truth and fact in documentary cinema

Werner Herzog
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 30, 1999


1. By dint of declaration the so-called Cinema Verité is devoid of verité. It reaches a merely superficial truth, the truth of accountants.

2. One well-known representative of Cinema Verité declared publicly that truth can be easily found by taking a camera and trying to be honest. He resembles the night watchman at the Supreme Court who resents the amount of written law and legal procedures. “For me,” he says, “there should be only one single law; the bad guys should go to jail.”

Unfortunately, he is part right, for most of the many, much of the time.

3. Cinema Verité confounds fact and truth, and thus plows only stones. And yet, facts sometimes have a strange and bizarre power that makes their inherent truth seem unbelievable.

4. Fact creates norms, and truth illumination.

5. There are deeper strata of truth in cinema, and there is such a thing as poetic, ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization.

6. Filmmakers of Cinema Verité resemble tourists who take pictures of ancient ruins of facts.

7. Tourism is sin, and travel on foot virtue.

8. Each year at springtime scores of people on snowmobiles crash through the melting ice on the lakes of Minnesota and drown. Pressure is mounting on the new governor to pass a protective law. He, the former wrestler and bodyguard, has the only sage answer to this: “You can’t legislate stupidity.”

9. The gauntlet is herby thrown down.

10. The moon is dull. Mother Nature doesn’t call, doesn’t speak to you, although a glacier eventually farts. And don’t you listen to the Song of Life.

11. We ought to be grateful that the Universe out there knows no smile.

12. Life in the oceans must be sheer hell. A vast, merciless hell of permanent and immediate danger. So much of hell that during evolution some species—including man—crawled, fled onto some small continents of solid land, where the Lessons of Darkness continue.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Nisimazine | Itw/Portrait: Martens, Renzo

Nisimazine | Itw/Portrait: Martens, Renzo

To what extent is the Renzo in the film a character?

I am a character, but I’m acting myself. I tried to be the most realistic and sincere ambassador of us. This means I’m a little interested in them, but not too much. I think they are slightly stupid, otherwise they wouldn’t have been poor and would have colonised us instead. If Bono and Madonna sing songs to help Africa, I can do the same thing. I’m willing to help them, but not if this would mean that the prices of our products will increase - then I prefer them to be a bit poorer. In order to make it realistic, a full exposure of the human being Renzo Martens was necessary. So yes, I’m also very much myself.