Dir. Kim Ki-duk
South Korea, 2000, 90 min., Unrated, Korean w/ English subtitles
Dir. Kim Ki-duk
South Korea, 2000, 90 min., Unrated, Korean w/ English subtitles
Dir. Steve Oram
United Kingdom, 2015, 79 min., Unrated
(Introduction provided by Allison Inman and Jason Shawhan)
Pre-show at 11:30pm
Alpha Male, Smith, and his Beta, Keith, make a move to take over a local community. They hook up with restless Female, Denise, igniting a deadly feud in which emotions run high and deep-seated grudges resurface amongst the tribe. Are we not men? Or are we simply beasts?
Shot entirely in a language of grunts and gibberish, Steve Oram’s debut feature is a celluloid primal scream—an anarchic, hilarious, disturbing and touching look at the human condition.
View Trailer (Contains mature content)
“…One of the great British films of the new millennium….Placing the film’s magnificent technical achievements aside for a moment, the other key reason for its greatness is because it’s plainly and simply hilariously funny.” —David Jenkins, Little White Lies
“An experimental work for the arthouse crowd, certainly, but it’s also one of the funniest and most poignant movies of the year. The lives of gorillas and other primates, their hierarchies, interactions and rituals, serve as chief inspirations for Oram’s anthropological social satire/horror-comedy.” —Martyn Conterio, CineVue
Dir. Godfrey Reggio
USA, 1982, 86 min., Unrated
Koyaanisqatsi is a visual tone poem focusing on humanity and the natural world.
Dir. Věra Chytilová
Czechoslovakia, 1966, 76 min., Czech w/ English subtitles
Introduction provided by Dr. Ted Hovet
“Maybe the [Czech] New Wave’s most anarchic entry, Věra Chytilová’s absurdist farce follows the misadventures of two brash young women. Believing the world to be “spoiled,” they embark on a series of pranks in which nothing—food, clothes, men, war—is taken seriously. Daisies is an aesthetically and politically adventurous film that’s widely considered one of the great works of feminist cinema” (Criterion).
“If there’s something you don’t like, don’t keep to the rules – break them. I’m an enemy of stupidity and simple-mindedness in both men and women and I have rid my living space of these traits.” – Věra Chytilová
Daisies is often regarded as a cornerstone of feminist cinema (and this is a valid assertion), but Chytilová herself would much prefer to be recognized as a general rule breaker and nonconformist.
While an overall anarchic attitude is clearly evident in the acts on display in the Daisies, this rebelliousness is evident just as strongly, if not more so, in the formal choices that Chytilová makes throughout the film.
Daisies maintains a sense of absurd playfulness and adventure (while thumbing its nose at convention) throughout its loose episodic structure that might be taken as naive or nonsensical, but if one looks closer there’s some amazing technical proficiency on display and, it becomes apparent that Chytilová isn’t just haphazardly piecing things together. She has a clear command of her formal choices.
The film opens with a title sequence cross-cutting between shots of churning gears and POV shots from the cockpit of a fighter plane. (The soundtrack alternates between rhythmic drums and an obnoxious bugle and complete silence in conjunction with the cross-cut shots.)
Cut to a black and white shot of Marie I and Marie II on a checkered blanket. (Squeaky hinges sound effect synced to their joint movements.)
Cutaway to collapsing building wall.
A perfect match on action as Marie I slaps Marie II from the urban environment depicted in black and white to a flowery field shot in color.
Insert of a time-lapse shot of green leaves moving through the frame. (Ringing sound effect.)
Jump cuts as the Maries dance around a solitary fruit tree.
Seamless cut between locations—from the field to the interior of their apartment. The use of the traditional orientation technique of matching the eyeline is used really well but in an unconventional way.
(The introduction non-diegetic ticking clocks to the soundtrack.)
Marie I walks to the window. Black and white POV shot of the empty street below. (Non-diegetic parade music).
Back to apartment.
Cutaway to apples falling on checkered blanket.
Temporal manipulation: Cut back to earlier sequence but tinted green… Close-up in color… then orange.
So, within the first five minutes of the film (including the opening credits sequence) there are around a dozen unconventional formal choices. And it only gets more increasingly experimental in its approach as the film progresses. While some of these techniques—cross cutting, inserts, match on action shots—are utilized in more traditional filmmaking, there they are used to reinforce continuity, whereas Chytilová uses them as tools of disruption.
While the much of the “wanton” behavior depicted in the film didn’t sit well with the Czech government, the formal elements were just as troublesome. “In the late 1960s, Czech films that experimented with form, or film making techniques, were criticized by the political authorities for their inaccessibility. There avant-garde nature was attacked for being too difficult to understand and, therefore, ‘unintelligible’” (Facets DVD Special Features).
From a Speech to the Czech National Assembly Condemning Daisies:
“We request all responsible news media to take up the matter and prevent these few individuals, who are understood by just a few other individuals and for whom we are not building socialism, from poisoning our lives.”
It is this element of unintelligibility that often causes viewers to be resistant or downright opposed to formally challenging cinema.
Film, like any other medium/mode of communication or expression/industry, has an established system of conventions that are widely accepted. Traditional narrative cinema is built upon a series of techniques or “rules” and a continuity editing system—the 180-degree rule, shot reverse shot, etc.—that is largely concerned with orienting the viewer in the space of the narrative and allowing for visual and aural information to be displayed in a fashion that is clear and easily understood. To challenge these conventions is a filmmaker’s tacit acknowledgment that her/his concerns lie outside the norm and what is easily digestible. To challenge the conventions is to challenge the boundaries of the form itself as well as the larger institution or social structure that has reinforced and found comfort in those conventions.
SOY CUBA (I AM CUBA)
Dir. Mikhail Kalatozov
Cuba/Soviet Union, 1964, 108 min., Spanish and English w/ English subtitles
The Steadicam [is] very much abused. But if you realize what it feels like, which is kind of dreamy, and kinda floaty, and you apply that and you know that that’s what it’s gonna do, then you’re using it well. – Paul Thomas Anderson
If the Cuban/Soviet Union Communist propaganda film Soy Cuba is recognized for one thing, it isn’t the politics… it’s the cinematography—specifically the mobile framing. The film predates the invention of the Steadicam by a decade but manages to showcase several incredibly fluid tracking shots and long takes that seem incomprehensible. Watching the film with PT Anderson’s statement in mind (and the recontextualization of the film as a midnight movie) the surreal, dreamlike quality that the moving camera lends to the film is elevated. Much of the film has an ethereal quality to it.
In addition to this specific trait, the moving camera also has the ability to visually present an artistic/expressive quality, something akin to a visible brush stroke—or maybe more specifically in this case, a gestural swath of paint flung against a canvas in a Jackson Pollock action painting. Like the application of paint, the camera’s movement emphasizes the physical act of moving through space as well as presents or conjures up an emotional or psychological state. The paint might reflect the state of the artist, but the camera movement reflects the state of the subject and/or elicits a specific emotional response from the viewer. When the camera is paired with a wide-angle lens the movement is emphasized to an even greater degree and the world of the film becomes even more distorted and otherworldly. The image isn’t directly representative of the world as we see it, but (hopefully) it is in service of achieving a visual representation of how we as viewers, subjects, artists, and humans feel. (In contemporary cinema, this seems to be what Emmanuel Lubezki is working toward. There are several noticeable similarities between camera movement, shot composition, and lens choice in Soy Cuba and The Revenant.) Interestingly, upon the film’s release, the Cuban public recognized these exaggerated qualities that the camerawork presents and were dissatisfied with the result, feeling that “the camera pyrotechnics overwhelmed and distorted the realities of the uprising, and leaned heavily on clichéd, simplistic portraits of their people” (AV Club).
While the film’s early tracking shot at the party and the funeral sequence in the third segment are likely the most referenced due their acrobatic nature and sheer technical prowess, the camerawork in the second segment, in which a sugarcane farmer descends into despair when the land and crops he has been cultivating are sold, is likely the most expressive and dreamlike/atmospheric. The camera is objective and subjective. It is the farmer’s perspective, the viewer’s perspective, a nation’s perspective, an idealist’s perspective. It is both limited and omniscient. It is the farmer’s nightmare and his blade. His hope, rage, and desperation.
Dir. Qaushiq Mukherjee (as Q)
India, 2010, 85 min., Unrated, Bengali w/ English subtitles
Banned in India. This visually-aggressive and sexually-explicit “rap musical” directly challenges India’s censorship laws and is counter to what most audiences think of when they think of Indian cinema.
Check out this interview with the film’s director prior to Gandu‘s first approved public screening in his home country and this article from CNN Travel, published shortly after Gandu garnered international attention. Also, here is a candid video conversation with Q on “100 Years of Cinema.” And finally, here is a more recent interview in which Q gives his thoughts on film as art, Bollywood, the freedom of working with a small budget, and nonconformity.
DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY
Dir. John Hough
USA, 1974, 93 min., PG