Independent Cinema Office Blog

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Posts from January 2007

Rotterdam 2007 - Tuesday 30 January

Posted Tuesday 30 January 2007 by George Clark in Festival Reports

My last day at the festival I was determined to see as much as I could before I left so I started early with La Prestige de la Mort / The Glamour of Death by French director Luc Moullet, the New Wave's best kept secret. His hilarious film chronicles the struggle of 'Luc Moullet' (played by the director) in getting a Thomas Hardy adaptation off the ground. He stages his own death in order to raise his profile, but Godard dies on the same day, starting off a whole series of failures. In a totally different register was Fantasma by Lisandro Alonso, one of Argentina's most formally rigorous filmmakers. The film departs from his previous work that meticulously observed people in the natural world. Fantasma unravels in the corridors of a metropolitan arts centre where the lead actor from Los Muertos, Alonso's last film, wanders through the building before attending a screening of this film.

I caught a programme of restored prints of Saul Levine's super8 films, brilliant collages rapidly inter-cutting abstract and domestic images with documents of social movements and protest, the most powerful of which sketch a fascinatingly intimate picture of the interaction of politics and everyday life. I spent the remainder of my time in the videotheque where I browsed over 50 films, sampling a wide range of work and caught a few gems. These included a brilliant new film by Lithuanian artists Deimantas Narkevicius. Revisiting Solaris adapts the last chapter of Stanislaw Lems novel, ignored by Tarkovsky in his famous film, creating a complex meditation of the passage of time and the legacy of the Soviet Union. Clair Fowlers' Portrait As... spoke volumes about underground filmmaker Steve Dwoskin through a study of his home. Finishing with a surreal stream of consciousness Japanese animation from Naoyuki Tsuji called Children of the Shadows..

I finished the festival with Mark Arial Waller's Wayward Canon event Simon and the Radioactive Flesh . Together with Giles Round and Sophie Brown, the screening inserted video art into the Buñuel classic Simon and the Desert. The videos are shown when the devil appears to tempt Simon, here tempting the audience away from the films narrative towards something altogether stranger. As the temptations build up the room is slowly transformed into disco complete with mirror ball, smoke, laser show and dancers. Brilliant, perverse and wholly enjoyable it should have been the festival's closing night event, which it was for me.

Rotterdam 2007 - Monday 29 January

Posted Monday 29 January 2007 by George Clark in Festival Reports

For better or worse Monday was a slow day where I met with Ben Cook from LUX and some other distributors and curators and visited the main group exhibition Borderline Behaviour at The exhibitions organized by the festival sought to link light projection, animation and drawing in order to explore the relationship between cinema and visual arts. The exhibition featured the early animations of Emile Cohl alongside conceptual projects like Tony Conrad's ‘jars of picked film’. The strongest pieces were Dark Light, a series of light bulbs covered with tiny collages by Saul Levine (whose super8 films were also showing in the festival) and a large installation by Juliana Borinski that simply created a proto-cinema through the use of a light to cast the shadow of the organic ripples of a suspended strip of magnetic tape, propelled by two fans.

In the evening I managed to get into a packed screening of Jai Zhang-ke's Still Life, an incredible film shot along the villages and houses due to be flooded by the Three Gorges Dam project. The film is beautifully shot in and amongst the ruins and demolished houses charting communities due to be lost through two characters that came to the area to find partners they have lost contact with.

This slow day was compensated for by a busy night as the Venster/Lantern venue hosted the short film award ceremony and the many visiting filmmakers and artists were around to celebrate and have a great last night in Rotterdam. The night was spent with the only prize winner I knew, Kvken Ergun from Turkey along with new and old friends including Ian White, Ben Rivers, James Harding from the UK, ultra short filmmaker Ling Lee as well as a whole gang of American artists and filmmakers lead by Ben Russell, and Mark Arial Waller who'd just arrived with two friends in order to present their Wayward Canon event the following night. The night quickly passed and when kicking out time came at 2.00 we all found a new spot and continued drinking into the night!

Rotterdam 2007 - Sunday 28 January

Posted Sunday 28 January 2007 by George Clark in Festival Reports

I spent Sunday morning in two programmes of experimental film and video the highlights of which were Ben Russell's hypnotic trance-like film made during a performance of the notoriously intense music duo Lightning Bolt (Black and White Trypps Number Three), and a video that created its own urban cosmology of neon signs and musical fragments (Driv Thru by Gretchen Skogersson). The following programme Lights On! suffered under the weight of too many similar films but included Duncan Campell's excellent ‘O Joan No...’, the standout film, which brilliantly creates an absurd play between glimpses of street lights and a chorus of sighs, squeaks and ahh's.

After a quick break from the cinema to visit Knut Asdams' twilight park installation to show his films (with authentic woodland smell), I dashed over to the huge Pathe cinema to watch Lou Ye's new film Summer Palace. The film chronicles the passionate relationship revolving around the protagonist as she moves to Beijing to study and is caught up in the Tiananmen Square uprisings. Her turbulent love life (very graphically depicted for a mainland Chinese film) parallels and is used to explore the social and political confusion of this generation. The film covers over 10 years following the ongoing reverberations of Tiananmen Square, creating an intense and fractured study of the collapse of ideals in love and politics.

With the first day of CineMart, Rotterdam's international co-production market under way, the festival is really starting to fill up with guests. Rather than see another film I went to dinner with friends including the British filmmaker Matt Hulse, who told us about his first day in CineMart where he is looking for support for his first feature project ‘I Cycled into the Artic Circle‘.

I finished the night with a long programme of restored works presented by 14 international distributors of artists' film and video. A great opportunity to hear a little from the many distributors and see a wide range of work, the programme included an excellent video of precarious wooden structures captured and replayed at the moment of their collapse (Holzst\Cke by Jean-Francois Guiton) and a series of stilted poses by a range of uncomfortable men in front of an artificial waterfall (Her Mona by Klaus Telscher)

Rotterdam 2007 - Saturday 27 January

Posted Saturday 27 January 2007 by George Clark in Festival Reports

The festival this year has turned one of its venues into a seatless cinema to present expanded cinema events, installations and performances. This space was taken over today for a reconstruction of an underground cinema in Amsterdam called the Electric Cinema which hosted a wide series of events through the late 60s and early 70s. Despite the fascinating presentations and recollections of the visiting artists including Malcolm Le Grice, and Valie Export the organisers didn't seem to see the contradiction in re-creating a non institutional space within an institution, missing the fact that not having seats in the original cinemas was not an aesthetic choice but an economic necessity.

Anyway I left this strange event to attend something much closer to the present and my own life, the world premiere of the film Build a Ship, Sail to Sadness. This is the debut feature of a close friend, Laurin Federlein, who I studied with at university, so it was great to be among the huge sold-out cinema for its first ever showing. The film is an independent production largely improvised by a very small crew in the Scottish highlands following the absurd efforts of the lead character Vincent (played brilliantly by Magnus Aronson who also provides the films weird pop soundtrack) to alleviate the sadness in the local area with his plan for a mobile disco. I loved the film but as a friend I can't really say that with any objectivity.


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