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Showing posts with label Calvet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Calvet. Show all posts

Monday, 24 July 2017

I didn't know the art world, I didn't know living... artists existed ~ Marc Quinn

This is a review of David Lynch : The Art Life (2016)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2017 (19 to 26 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

This is a review of David Lynch : The Art Life (2016)

David Lynch with Jack Nance during the making of Eraserhead (1977)

Film-references (in alphabetical order) :

* Calvet

* Heart of a Dog (2015)

* Marc Quinn : Making Waves (2014)

* The Confession (2016)

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Thursday, 24 September 2015

HAMM : When you inspected my paupers. Always on foot ? / CLOV : Sometimes on horse.*

This is an account of Horse Money (2014) plus Q&A with director Pedro Costa

More views of or before Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

23 September

* May contain spoilers *

This is an account of a special screening of Horse Money (Cavalo Dinheiro) (2014) plus Q&A with director Pedro Costa at The Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge, on Tuesday 22 September 2015

Some people in the Q&A reported that they expected to have to re-watch the film to follow what was happening : they therefore seemed to assume that seeing Horse Money (2014) again would satisfy that ‘need’, not that it is overtly denying such attempts to do so, with its re-enactment of experiences that, because they are deemed not to be ‘normal’ (or even to be dangerous), are usually labelled as psychosis and lead to a diagnosis such as schizophrenia :

When members of Ventura’s family are en masse at the foot of his bed, and one even sits on it, it is likely that they are there for him, but not that they are otherwise present. And, when he is almost naked in subterranean depths of great and striking beauty, it is unlikely that he is literally there, but forever being brought back.

A Beautiful Mind (2001) had us credit John Nash’s world, even if it is perhaps shown to us a little fancifully, and ‒ because it is to make a Hollywood necessity of contrasting it with ‘the truth’ ‒ in such a way that we understand it to have been delusional. Horse Money does not make those concessions to our understanding, but it is implicit in what it does that to ask to follow what happened, on a second viewing, is to expect that Vitalina, in what she says to Ventura (or vice versa), is communicating solely on the ostensible level of her actual words, not that the meaning lies in the interplay, or that the exact interplay ‒ any more than the dialogue in a play by Pinter ‒ may never have happened.

Which is where a connection lies with the work of Jeff Wall, to whom, without disagreement (and with seeming acceptance), Pedro Costa was referred in the Q&A.

For those who had been at Cambridge Film Festival (@camfilmfest), and with Ventura’s experience, Horse Money could have made unpleasant and uncomfortable viewing, as a reminder of sadder days of constraint and forced compliance, and of the perfunctoriness ‒ here reduced to a dull formula ‒ of some psychiatric interviews.

Still, the film cannot well be taken literally (even if Pedro Costa wants to call his film a documentary ‒ so he replied to Loreta Gandolfi (@GandolfiLoreta), who was hosting the Q&A, and who had first, to her surprise, seen Horse Money at a documentary film festival), and that aspect, together with what is characterized in the following question (which was put to Costa), has the likely effect of achieving the worst of both worlds :

Is there a danger in having composed so many shots so beautifully that an already oblique set of experiences becomes over-stylized ?

In other words, for those who do not know this world, Horse Money may be impenetrable (and may just make them believe that they ‘missed something’, and will gain more on a second viewing), whereas, for those who do, it might seem at too much of a poetic remove to do more than remind them, in an artistic form, of their past, but without telling them anything that they did not know from their own hospitalization. This is what is suggested by asking whether it may achieve the worst of both worlds.

As to starting to watch the film at Cambridge, and then finding the emotion too painful (even after obtaining ‘a stiff drink’) to watch beyond around thirty-five minutes, obviously one was able to prepare oneself better for Horse Money, and then take it for what it was ‒ moving from [assertions of] the destruction of family life and livelihood** to wider perspectives of post-industrial decline, the earlier part of which theme was referenced in these #CamFF Tweets :

Pedro Costa clearly finds working with Ventura compelling (even seductive, for, in this connection, one is reminded of Calvet (2011)), and he told the audience how he talks to Ventura about his life and thoughts, but uses those conversations to ground his poetic approach to the text and, ultimately, to making the script with a film-crew of just three (of which he is one).

One has to agree that the ‘look’ of his film is, likewise, a clear reaction against so much film-making that is not cinematic ‒ and, of course, Costa is right in this (and in striving for a visual quality in his work), and that such films give scant regard to the history and early achievements of film. Whether, though, we find Ventura (despite all his perspective on life) a persuasive voice remains to be seen :

Some might find that distilling / channelling Ventura through Costa and back into Ventura may have made what we see and hear too rarefied ?***


* Endgame, Samuel Beckettt, p. 15 : Faber & Faber, London, 1964.

** In recognition of the content of the Tweets that follow, Costa was presented with a copy of the Calder edition of Beckettt’s trilogy (Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable).

*** Even if (because ?) Costa says that he prefers Spinoza to Wittgenstein (he also said that he had slept in the latter's bed at Trinity)... ?

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Thursday, 5 March 2015

On the go¹

This is a review of Sobre La Marxa* (The Creator of the Jungle) (2013)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

5 March (Tweet and image added, 7 March)

This is a review of Sobre La Marxa* (The Creator of the Jungle) (2013) as screened in the series Catalan Avant-Garde (#CatalanAvantGarde) at the ICA (@ICALondon)

Sobre La Marxa¹ (The Creator of the Jungle) (2013) opened the season of films Catalan Avant-Garde, which screens at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (@ICALondon) in association with the Institut Ramon Llull (@IRLlull_London) and Reel Solutions (@ReelSolutions, whose Ramon Lamarca hosted the Q&A) :

The season opened with this film on 28 February 2015, and runs until Friday 18 December, the full programme being (all screenings at 8.50 p.m.) :

Saturday 28 February
Sobre La Marxa (The Creator of the Jungle) (2013) followed by a Q&A with director Jordi Morató

Tuesday 28 April
El Cafè de la Marina (The Marina Café) (2014) followed by a Q&A with director Sílvia Munt

Friday 26 June
Tots volem el millor per a ella (We All Want What's Best for Her) (2013)

Friday 28 August
Born (2014) followed by a Q&A with director Claudio Zulián

Tuesday 27 October
La Plaga (The Plague) (2013)

Friday 18 December
El cant dels Ocells (Birdsong) (2008) followed by a Q&A with director Albert Serra

General observations
For some, the subject-matter of a [documentary] film is what makes or breaks it (even if such may not be their general approach to film-watching) : one might feel this, say, with The Imitation Game (2014), on the assumption that a desire to celebrate Alan Turing’s achievements may have blinded them to the liberties taken both with history and with portraying him².

For others, taking the example of documentaries such as Blackfish (2013) [whose review has the implausibly high number of page-views, which exceeds 6,000] or The Armstrong Lie (2013), the subject-matter and the footage (both contemporaneous, and shot for purpose) may be as remarkable and worthy as one likes, but that does not make for a good film per se : for one can still wish that the construction of the narrative were tighter or more coherent in terms of the story told (and of organizing the elements employed to tell it), since it seems that it can be too much assumed (because the story is overfamiliar to the director ?) that what the film objectively presents actually tells it...

Thankfully, Sobre La Marxa (2013) has been put together with much care. Which is not to say that it does not still pose questions about how it was made (or even how the subject came to be chosen) – indeed, the Q&A, with director Jordi Morató (and hosted by Ramon Lamarca of Reel Solutions (@ReelSolutions)), at The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA, @ICALondon) was enthused by discussing it, and was lively and inquisitive.

Particular comments
Mainly employing footage from the early to mid-1990s and the director’s own, carefully scripted narration (with three script supervisors also credited), the film allows us to discern quite clearly what story is being given to us, whether or not we query (or even wish to reject) the interpretation that the latter contains (overlays the footage with, even), or doubt whether the former can be genuine (as Ramon Lamarca told us that he had done when first watching) : in fact, watching with that eager uncertainty is enriching, not destructive, and is conducive to feeling that one is a co-creator with the film-elements. The quality of the narrative voice is, it was suggested to Jordi Morató, hypnotic in delivering a highly poetic (as well as recursive) text, and he was asked whether it bore some relation, but by contrast, to the impulse in Werner Herzog that had him call his documentary³ (set in a not dissimilar landscape, with, as well as a cave, afforestation, water, and an arched bridge) Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010), but where its lyrically poetic content is narrated quite differently.

In fact, Herzog does so in such a way as to heighten our incredulity at what we are seeing, by seeming to have a tone that could perhaps be characterized as one of gentle mockery (or irony) – visually, it is his art to catch those who feature in his films in as fantastical a way as if he were actually directing Klaus Kinski in the title-role of Fitzcarraldo (1982) (even if it was originally to have been Mick Jagger), and it is the juxtaposition of caught sound and visuals with the narration that makes films of his such as Encounters at the End of the World (2007) so memorable. The mesmeric quality of Morató’s delivery of the text is partly accounted for by the fact that, in his answer, he called himself ‘dull’ in comparison with his subject, Garrell (one might be reminded a little of the admiration, at a suitable distance, in which the title-character of [Alan-Fournier’s novel] Le Grand Meaulnes is held ?) :

In a way, one senses that, unlike Herzog (where we are always quite clear whose vision we see in the film, even when Herzog has others before the camera), he does not wish to detract from Garrell, and so is restrained, because – perhaps if he were he not – the mythologizing nature of the words would be a competing force. For example, the language reverts, again and again, to motifs such as the historical precedence of water over fire – as if to reinforce truths at its heart, as might a passage from scripture (or a fairy-story). The narration, then, is Sobre La Marxa’s chosen bond for unifying disparate periods of footage (by the teenage Aleix, by a US academic researcher into outsider arts, and by Morató himself) :

Garrell, when not being himself, is nothing if not in character in his jungle⁴, but he needs Morató to put him in context – to be, as it were, the Laurel to his Hardy. This is what Morató has rightly divined in how he has put this documentary on the screen.

For, at the level of its hypnotic quality, we have to snap out of it, if we are to be at the sort of distance from his subject that Herzog is, rather than - alongside Garrell - integrated with and into his story. That we feel seduced by Morató’s almost flattened, almost expressionless voice [in the Q&A, he seemed to use and endorse such characterizations] means that we can give ourselves to the film, but that is not because (as averted to above in General observations) any film on this subject would be sufficient to convey what this one means, but because this one allows it to speak.

Put this documentary alongside other films, too, and there are useful distinctions (or parallels) to be drawn. So, in Calvet (2011), maybe Dominic Allan fails to put even this respectful distance between his artist, French-born Calvet, and him – we sense that, with the figure of Calvet (and who he is / what his experience means), Allan leaves it less open for us to decide for ourselves (richly inviting and persuasive as Morató’s voice-over may be). In Gerhard Richter : Painting (2011), director Corinna Belz’s desire to immortalize the artist at work is so great that the filming actually spoils him being able to do so – whatever persona Richter may have, it does not (in this respect, at least) thrive before the camera-lens as Garrell’s (and Garrell 'himself') appear to do (though we do question not a little where what seems to be a persecution fantasy, at the hands of the generalization of ‘civilized man’, stems from in Garrell’s fictional, on-screen psyche⁵…).

Where, perhaps, we find a fruitful point of contact is in regarding Timothy’s Spall’s hands, contorted behind his back in Mr. Turner, although Turner himself appears confidently aloof (when confronted by his daughter’s mother with bad personal news) (2014) : Garrell, maybe we sense, is no more really sharing himself with us, in relishing fire and destruction, than Turner is in this front to his estranged family, for (to begin with in the film) Turner only seems truly at ease in his relations with, and in relation to, his father ? Here, Morató’s informed choice is to show us Garrell only in the context of his created world within a world – we can see him treating the forest as a jungle, within which he places himself (as a child might imagine a doll’s hose, or a diorama, the world, and a figure him- or herself within it), and must guess at the rest of him.

Poignantly, in fact, a close similarity may be in Toby Amies' (@TobyAmies') detailed portrait of the man who theatrically calls himself - as he regarded himself as always on stage (and as performing) - Drako Zarharzar (@DrakoZarharzar), in the documentary The Man Whose Mind Exploded (2013). As Oliver Cromwell is said to have directed when he was to be painted, the film gives us Drako warts and all, and, when it was brought to Cambridge Film Festival in 2013 (@camfilmfest / #CamFF) with a Q&A, Toby Amies said to The Agent, when interviewed, that someone had told him that he had made the first mistake of documentary film-making, falling in love with his subject.

So Amies' film, though hiding nothing, is very affectionate, and immensely touching. In Morató’s film, he has a man fully as eccentric and even as whimsical as Drako (or, for that matter, Turner), but, despite showing obvious affection and regard for Garrell (actually, probably on account of having those feelings), he only has Garrell present his purely public face(s) - as if the striking figure of Drako, with his cape, waxed moustache and mauve make-up highlights, had paraded around Brighton for the whole film, never returning home.

Closing note : on forests
As Ramon Lamarca had brought El Bosc (The Forest) (2012) to Cambridge Film Festival (@camfilmfest / #CamFF) in 2013 [where the forest itself is both a physical and metaphysical escape from The Spanish Civil War], it seemed worth asking whether the idea or experience of the forest had some resonance in Catalan culture (since, in the convenient fiction of British history at least, the forests were cleared and the wolves made extinct in mediaeval times).

In fact, as we heard in contributions from Catalan-speaking members of the audience, making constructions in the forest – which sounded like something more than a tree-house, if not resembling Garrell’s Daedalian-style labyrinths (with all that they invoke) – was something that struck a chord in their past…


¹ This is how Ramon Lamarca translates the Catalan title, and Garrell, the film’s subject, is rendered in sub-titles as saying that his approach to creating, within his chosen environment of the forest / jungle, is always going on the go.

² However well Cumberbatch may play the part written, it is hardly faithful to every facet or trait of Turing, and so, as some agree in calling it (e.g. @MovieEvangelist), is caricature.

³ Although those interviewed in the documentary scarcely support Herzog’s interpretation, about the origin and meaning of the artefacts under study (i.e. that the ancient cave-paintings that it features (best viewed in 3D) recorded the makers’ dreams) he used this description as its title anyway : the cave itself has only lately been rediscovered, hence 'forgotten'.

⁴ However, in the Q&A, Morató tells us that Garrell (apparently, in real life, a mechanical engineer) went a year after the two men had been in close contact without mentioning the films that Aleix and he had elaborately put together over several years (because, Morató informed us when questioned, Garrell could not see the merit in them that Morató found, who said that he immersed himself in them for a very long time). (We do wonder, then, what they were for, e.g. in terms of who ever saw them (at the time) ?)

⁵ It is only the fictive ruffians (on quad-bikes, etc.), in some of the films made with Aleix, whom we ever witness as forces of destruction, and the only ‘real’ and gratuitous destruction that we see (rather than have vandalism, and even harm to creatures, reported to us), is when Garrell smashes up his own ground-level building on camera, doing so – as he counter-intuitively explains – to show that anyone can destroy, even he, and that he knows how to do it totally, and will. (The distinction is with times when, nigh gleefully, Garrell topples and torches his own creation [because ‘required to’].) As he says to camera at one point (via sub-title), In order to live decently, I have to complicate my life.

This fits in, in psychological terms, with Garrell’s over-arching, self-proclaimed fantasy as king of the jungle, but he, thus pictured, is unlike his original (who was orphaned in the jungle by chance, but ends up adopted and brought up there by nature – itself a sort of riff on Jean Jacques Rousseau’s ideas about the ‘noble savage’ in the ‘state of nature’ [e.g. in his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1754)]). In comparison with that king of the jungle, Garrell’s king always seems to have been there – but (not unlike Wagner’s Wotan in Der Ring des Nibelungen ?) has temporal concerns that require a succession (and so Garrell’s real nephew, and a friend of Aleix’s, play his film-son, even a semi-Christ-like character ?).

Yet, as king, Garrell is more a sort of Adam (who maybe once had an Eve), and in whose story civilized man plays the role of seeking to enter Eden from outside to destroy it (a descent, both physical and moral, memorably dramatized in Paradise Lost [where the poet sees his task as ‘to justify God’s ways to man’]). At the same time, we may suspect that it could well amount to a paranoid projection of Adam’s own [internal] disobedience onto outside forces of evil, to distance himself from it [as in and from the world that is situated externally to Adam’s own])… (Something, again, about the nature of the artist’s vision / story of himself, in relation to his art, in Calvet (2011) ?)

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Friday, 16 September 2011

Painting makes you healthy

This is a Festival review of Calvet (2011)

More views of - or at - Cambridge Film Festival 2011
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

17 September

This is a Festival review of Calvet (2011)

* Contains spoilers *

It cannot have been a coincidence that Rembrandt Fecit 1669 was timed in such a way that it could be watched back to back with Dominic Allan's film Calvet about the French artist of the same name, who lives in and discovered his calling in Nicaragua.

(However, I do have to take issue with the account, in the brochure, of Calvet as 'hardly inspir[ing] sympathy' on account of being '[t]attoed, pierced and heavily-built' - he had no more than two earrings on each side, his tattoes were not unusual for a man with a military background (apart, perhaps, on the back of his neck), and, as someone who would have known about exercise regimes from it, he was not out of shape.)

Given that I nearly walked out thirty minutes into the film directed by Jos Stelling (as I did, later in the evening, with The Illusionist, having decided to try one of his later films), I know which I have more to say about. I have just looked at the IMDB web-site, and cannot disagree with any of these comments: 'obviously the director is fascinated by his subject but little of this passion manages to reach the audience', and 'the actors bear a awesome resemblance with the painter, but up to a point who cares?'.

Likewise, with me, Stelling had my attention, but lost my interest, and the other positive comments (about the visuals and the use of an old mirror) were about things insufficient to retain it. I'd really just have happily spent a few minutes reading some paragraphs that set out the facts and events that were presented in the film, e.g. Rembrandt was drawn to artefacts of all kinds in auction-houses, and not being able to afford them - or the effect that acquiring them would have on his family and household - appeared not to concern him, when, in themselves, he could see value, beauty and quality in them.

Calvet was a different proposition. I do not profess to have heard of him, and although, of course, I wish him well showing in New York galleries, one should not get the value of his art out of proportion, for he is not the Rembrandt of his age. It is almost the opposite to that artist's story, because there were periods of his life when Rembrandt seemed to squander the opportunities both that were offered to him in his career and that his family and those who cared for him sought to give him for close and intimate relationships. Calvet acknowledges having thrown away similar chances, but, through painting, fought back against the highly nihilistic and self-indulgent and self-destructive view of life that he had grown into.

The documentary was sensitive, gave a strong sense of all the locations to which Calvet's story took it, and employed a sparing, and so effective, use of time-lapse scenes to evoke differing moods. There is no doubt that Calvet's figure dominated it, either by the scale and coloration of his works, or by the way that he gave an account of himself. For some, though not for me, his repeated focus on the son, Kevin, whom he had deserted seemed a little too much as though it were public self-flagellation, and did not seem to acknowledge that Kevin's mother, Nathalie, had just as much been abandoned by him. (She only got a mention in the closing third of the film, when he goes to France in search of Kevin.)

In this, the film-maker was doing his job, letting his subject talk for us to make our own mind up. Afterwards, in the session that David Perilli led, I asked Dominic Allan whether there had been anything that Calvet told him that he had been unable to check. I was thinking not so much of the work that had brought him to the States on false pretences or those externally verifiable issues, but his extended time in the house in the cul-de-sac, where he had found that he could quell his rage against life and the hallucinatory voices that beset him by attacking the main wall, and then all the surfaces, with paint and any other material (he described burning wood to make charcoal) that he could muster.

Afterwards, Dominic clarified that the images that had been used in the part of the film where Calvet revisits the property were made before work was done on the property (and it was put in the state of repair in which we see it). They, therefore, were the surviving testimony to that time, and, for all the anger and self-disgust that were directed to a suicide of a highly torturing complexion (rather than mere death), they struck a chord, when I saw them, that spoke too much of an ordered rationale arising out of the chaos. Perhaps Calvet had painted before - and he says that he needs that discipline to keep him well - as I otherwise found it hard to understand such an eloquent redemption in art coming to him, when the sort of frenzy and panic that he describes would not have been the time for getting acquainted with painterly method and technique.

The contrast, finally, is with Rembrandt, played in his later years by a second actor, and seeming to paint on not to find or be with his family, but despite them. Not a paradigm of the artist (whether painter, musician or writer), but one that seems to intoxicate some, and to give a different form of contented life from that sought by Calvet.