15 Sep 2019

Moon Tiger Movie 1 (Maximilian Le Cain, 2019)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

The mind-boggling culmination of Maximilian Le Cain's first two decades of filmmaking, Moon Tiger Movie is 'the electronic smudge of an inner life, the nocturnal residue of an existence half-dreamed', as the author himself describes it in his statement. The first out of its four parts opens with the titular character - Le Cain's weird and lonesome alter-ego - taking a sit in a comfy armchair, 'in order to see what he has become' (from the official synopsis). The audience are also about to discover what have become of them, while desperately trying to find their way out of the convoluted cinematic labyrinth.

Short films and impromptu sketches that have accumulated over the past years are broken into tiny pieces and re-arranged into an unsolvable VHS puzzle which appears as fragmented as its oft-undecipherable parts. Right from the get-go, the film's wildly experimental nature creates a distance between the viewer and itself, and whenever you come dangerously close to finding your own place in it, everything is suddenly covered in haze, and you're back in the state of inescapable disorientation. Your eyelids feel heavy and you're not sure whether you're still awake or already sleeping, surrounded by the ruins of the author's inland empire, to borrow the title of Lynch's 2006 feature. The images move towards themselves and on the way, they take unexpected detours, making and simultaneously breaking the rules of their irregular moving patterns, and clash against each other, evolving, dissolving, disinvolving... Their reality is of a ghostlike quality; it is a fragile memory, an elusive abstraction.

It goes without saying that MTM1 escapes both the genre and narrative conventions in its exploratory fervor or rather delirium, posing as the essence of a hypnagogic hallucination. A worthy spiritual successor to Scorpion's Stone, it spins you around until you're dizzy and asking yourself what a mermaid puppet has to do with a mannequin leg in a park. Each one of its flickers and soft focuses, dilapidated locations and diverse provocations, irreverent repetitions and ambiguous superimpositions, inter alia, emerges from and returns to what Le Cain and Rashidi dubbed Luminous Void. The experience it provides you with is slightly frustrating, but powerful nevertheless.

11 Sep 2019

Anime meets Experimental Film Society


A couple of months ago, I was approached by one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers and a dear friend of mine, Rouzbeh Rashidi, with a request to draw up a list of anime he could delve into, which elicited the article I had been contemplating to write for quite some time. Although it encompasses 250 titles, Mission Almost Impossible: Recommending Anime is not a definitive list, because I'm pretty sure there are many omissions, both unintentional and deliberate. The world of Japanese animation is so vast, that the space for exploration appears inexhaustible!


And if more than two hundred shorts, features, OVAs and series doesn't satisfy your appetite, maybe you'll find something to your liking amongst 20 anime-counterparts coming from other Asian countries, and sorted in order of personal preference.

1. Big Fish & Begonia (Liang Xuan & Zhang Chun, 2016)
2. My Beautiful Girl Mari (Sung-gang Lee, 2002)
3. Aachi & Ssipak (Jo Beom-jin, 2006)
4. The King of Pigs (Sang-ho Yeon, 2011)
5. Arjun: The Warrior Prince (Arnab Chaudhuri, 2012)
6. Chuang Tapestry (Qian Jiajun, 1959)
7. White Snake (Amp Wong & Ji Zhao, 2019)
8. Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama (Ram Mohan, Yuugou Sakou & Koichi Saski, 1992)
9. The Arti: The Adventure Begins (Wen Chang Huang, 2015)
10. Krut: The Himmaphan Warriors (Chaiporn Panichrutiwong, 2018) 
11. Have a Nice Day (Jian Liu, 2017)
12. Storm Rider: Clash of the Evils (Dante Lam, 2008)
13. The Legend of Muay Thai: 9 Satra (Pongsa Kornsri, Gun Phansuwon & Nat Yoswatananont. 2018)
14. Sky Blue (Moon-saeng Kim, 2003)
15. The Fake (Sang-ho Yeon, 2013)
16. Seoul Station (Sang-ho Yeon, 2016)
17. Yobi, The Five Tailed Fox (Sung-gang Lee, 2007)
18. Prince Nezha's Triumph Against Dragon King (Shuchen Wang, Jingda Xu & Ding Xian Yan, 1979)
19. L.O.R.D: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties (Jingming Guo, 2016)
20. Dragon Nest: Warriors' Dawn (Yuefeng Song, 2014)

8 Sep 2019

INTER:ACTION

My short, yet productive collage-making practice taught me that one of the most exhilarating sensations is when my own artwork takes control over me and leads me through and out of whichever subconscious recess it was conceived in. While transmuting into an increasingly puzzling entity, it gently reshapes my innermost self and makes me feel liberated from my life’s despair. For a while, I become a child who dreams equally vivid in monochrome and color; an architect of disorienting labyrinths, a poison-bearing medic and an insane alchemist; a wizard of many faces which all look the same in the mirror; a soulscapist who strives for the inconceivable as the transcendental form of truth. In the epilogue of creative process, it is not easier to face reality, but the bittersweet memory of the visit to some black hole of the universe alleviates the pain.

And although I still hear my muse whispering (and screaming, if I ignore her), I will conduct a small experiment and try to refrain from creating any new pieces for at least a week. The reasons thereof are varied and mostly related to my fears, frustrations and insecurities, so allow me to keep them to myself. My latest offering, INTER:ACTION, will serve as a test-animal, and I hope that everyone will be kind enough not to do any harm to it...

6 Sep 2019

Cinéma pur + AGITATE:21C + Rouzbeh Rashidi in Kino Klub Split

If you're an alternative cinema aficionado spending the last days of summer (and early autumn) in Split, Croatia, don't miss the opportunity to watch a neat selection of short films by “cinema purists” in Kino Klub Split, on September 13!

The web introduction article written by yours truly is posted right after the program which begins with Short(s) Petting powered by AGITATE:21C group of contemporary cinexperimenters.

19:15
SHORT(S) PETTING 
Powered by AGITATE:21C GROUP

Usama Alshaibi - The Flowering (USA; 2017) 04:25
David King - Lost in a Borgesian Labyrinth (Australia; 2018) 07:01
Takatoshi Arai - Color Sex Death/Quantity Amount Quality/Night Mother Scent (Japan; 2017) 25:50
Matt T Helme - Under the Sea (USA; 2018) 03:11
Matt T Helme - Intersect (USA; 2019) 01:35
Matt T Helme - A Dance In The Dark (USA; 2018) 03:25
Ivan Li - Finding Uranus (Canada/Hong Kong; 2019) 06:56
Jeff Zorilla - The Impossible Flowers (Argentina; 2019) 08:21

Program duration: 60:44
CO-SELECTOR: DAVID KING (Portarlington; Australia)

20:30
MAIN PROGRAM: CINEMA PUR ARCHIVE

Henri Chomette - Five Minutes of Pure Cinema (1925) 04:40
Walter Ruttmann - Lichtspiel Opus I-IV (1921-1925) 18:02
Viking Eggeling - Symphonie diaganale (1924) 07:29
René Clair - Entr’acte (1924) 20:08
Hans Richter - Vormittagsspuk (1928) 08:45
Hans Richter - Everyday (1929) 16:33

Program Duration: 75:37
WEB INTRODUCTION: NIKOLA GOCIĆ (Niš; Serbia)


Still from Entr’acte (René Clair, 1924)

Cinéma pur

A filmic answer to Dadaism, “cinéma pur” (lit. pure cinema) was born in “the City of Light” – the cradle of many artistic movements – as a counterpoise to traditional, narrative cinema. Being liberated from any literature, theater and even painting influences, it shifted focus from the elements such as plot, story, setting and characters towards form, motion, rhythm and visual composition. Although its existence is linked to the 20s and 30s of the last century, its spirit has survived the test of time, and it still shines brightly through the art practice of contemporary avant-garde filmmakers who propose the endless evolution or rather, mutation of the film language.

“... The cinema can draw from itself a new potentiality, which, leaving behind the logic of events and the reality of objects, engenders a series of visions that are unknown – inconceivable outside the union of the lens and the moving reel of film. Intrinsic cinema – or if you will, pure cinema...”

As quoted by René Clair in Cinema Yesterday and Today (New York, Dover Publications, 1972), Henri Chomette’s words are reflected in crystalline configurations of his 1925 abstract “fantasy” Five Minutes of Pure Cinema (Cinq minutes de cinéma pur). Suggesting clarity and eventually turning into scenes of nature, these formations, paradoxically, come off as opaque and mysterious, especially in their relation to the easily recognizable imagery they precede. Equally puzzling are Viking Eggeling’s white line “illustrations” of his Diagonal Symphony (Symphonie diaganale, 1924), resembling alien musical notation and operating as the earliest examples of real-time audio visualizers. The cacophonous “symphony” they accompany in an “aural before optical” twist may be identified as the fragmented cry of the distant future.

In a similar vein to Eggeling, Walter Ruttmann “choreographs” abstract shapes to sweeping symphonic orchestrations, indexing not only natural phenomena, as Jan-Christopher Horak notes in Discovering Pure Cinema: Avant-Garde Film in the 20s (Afterimage No. 8, 1980), but also man-made creations. Although it is highly probable that not a single segment of his hypnotizing Lichtshpiel opus is intended to connote any meaning, one cannot help but notice a struggle between the forces of nature and architectural colossi in the interplay between the curvy and angular forms, both vividly animated in a hand-colored spectacle that looks as if (the parts of) Suprematist paintings were brought to life.

Much more concrete than all of the previously mentioned films is Hans Richter’s Everyday (1929) – a poetic docu-drama (for the lack of a better term) that often feels like a condensed version of Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera (Chelovek s kino-apparatom) released in the same year. What these two have in common – apart from the utilized visual techniques such as quick editing and machine close-ups – is their closeness to Marxist ideology. While Vertov idealizes Soviet model of socialism, Richter criticizes capitalism and sharply portrays the human-grinding monotony of routine office work. On the other hand, his Ghosts Before Breakfast (originally, Vormittagsspuk, 1928) is an entirely different, occasionally toothless animal whose “voice” was destroyed by Nazis, being condemned as “degenerate art”.

Nonsensical, irreverent and somewhat ironic, this Dada-phantasmagoria plunges the viewer in the world ruled by the absence of logic. If there is any plot to be found in a jocular parade of non-sequiturs, then it’s about the four hats desperately trying to get back to the heads of their rightful owners. Time flies inevitably, and neither a sequence slow-motioning in reverse, nor a clock breaking in half can stop it, yet Vormittagsspuk appears timeless in its anarcho-absurdist zeal which makes it a great companion piece to René Clair’s masterful fiver ciné-dream Entr'acte (1924). Produced as the second act overture of Francis Picabia’s ballet Relâche, Clair’s debut is essential viewing for undserstanding or rather, feeing the traits of “cinéma pur”, not to mention that it features one of the most astonishing chase sequences ever to grace the silver screen. Its oneiric superimpositions, frenetic montages, upside-down shots and disappearing acts are all magically and disorientingly set to the proto-minimalist score authored by the French composer Eric Satie whose eccentricity parallels that of ciné-purists. 

Just like the heads of those three air-dolls standing before what may be the inside-wall of a railcar, Entr'acte inflates and deflates itself, sometimes simultaneously, with many inanimate objects revolting against man’s supremacy, to paraphrase Horak, and deliberate self-mockery / self-destructive impulse defining the name of the game. In conclusion – after the encounter with it, you should not be surprised to get hit by a vision of a camel-propelled hearse the next time you nibble on your bagel... 

***

Still from Phantom Islands (Rouzbeh Rashidi, 2018)

Only a week later, the visitors of Kino Klub Split will be able to immerse themselves into Rouzbeh Rashidi's masterful docu-fantasy Phantom Islands, preceded by All Female Evening.

19:15
SHORT(S) PETTING
Powered by AGITATE:21C GROUP
“All Female Evening”

Marie Craven - Rodeo Days (Australia; 2019) 03:40
Donna Kuhn - Make America Great Again (USA; 2019) 03:26
Salomé Lamas - Extraction: The Raft Of The Medusa (Portugal/Switzerland/Italy; 2019) 07:28
Sarahjane Swan/Roger Simian - Alphonso’s Jaw (Beauty And The Silver Mask) (Scotland; 2019) 07:59
Camelia Mirescu - Nacre Fields (Italy; 2018) 04:15
Camelia Mirescu - Wings from Somewhere (Italy; 2018) 03:08
Camelia Mirescu - Promised Clouds (Italy; 2019) 02:44
Susanne Wiegner - The Light - The Shade (Germany; 2017) 07:07
Laura Huertas Millán - El Laberinto (France/Colombia/USA; 2018) 21:06

Duration: 60:53
CO-SELECTORS: MARIE CRAVEN (Queensland, Australia) and NIKOLA GOCIĆ (Niš; Serbia)

20:30
MAIN PROGRAM:
ROUZBEH RASHIDI – PHANTOM ISLANDS (2018)

A Pictorial Film By Rouzbeh Rashidi
Produced by Experimental Film Society 2018
Funded By The Arts Council Of Ireland / An Chomhairle Ealaíon under the Reel Art scheme

Duration: 86 minutes / Country: Irska / Language: English
WEB INTRODUCTION: ROUZBEH RASHIDI (Dublin; Ireland)

All programs are curated by Darko Duilo.

1 Sep 2019

Cinematic Favorites of August

These monthly listicles has already become traditional here on NGboo Art, so I won't yatter much in the introduction, and will cut to the chase right after warning you not to read my impression of Tarantino's glorious ode to ciné-magick and ye olde Hollywood (at the bottom of the article), if you haven't seen it yet.


Features:
2. Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino, 2019)
3. Sudoeste (Eduardo Nunes, 2011)
6. Battledream Chronicle (Alain Bidard, 2016)
8. Another Day of Life (Raúl de la Fuente & Damian Nenow, 2018)
9. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (André Øvredal, 2019)
10. Bird Island (Maya Kosa & Sergio Da Costa, 2019)


Shorts:
8. Islands (Yann Gonzalez, 2017)



Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

I didn't know a hippy could be so darn creepy, and that beating the crap out of creepy hippies could be at once so funny, yucky, heartwarming and quintessential not only to the film it's happening in, but to the (magic of) cinema as well. Watching Tarantino's latest offering feels like there is only you and the big screen, and that pretty much nothing else matters, which is most probably why I couldn't wipe off the smile on my (45-minute-long) walk back home. Just like it's title suggests, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood is a fairy tale, a dark and twisted one at that, in which a small, but crucial part in the history of 'The Dream Factory' gets rewritten in the most irreverent and satisfying fashion, with the exceptional Margot Robbie being its 'Princess of the Sun' who has the 'male planets' - Brad Pitt, ever-reliable, and Leonardo DiCaprio, slightly overacting his heart out - as well as all the 'satellites' revolving around her. The bittersweetness of this 'throwback to the groovy 60s' dramedy is deeply felt, whereby its 'oxymoronic' nature comes off as inimitable. A wonderful experience!

The Riddle of Jaan Niemand (Kaur Kokk, 2018)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

The arresting two-minute-long opening shot which is masterfully counterpoised by the profoundly effective final frames depicts a mass of jagged rocks covering a beach bathed in winter sunlight representing the last beacon of hope, as we are about to learn very soon. A couple of figures approaching from a distance appear as some forlorn souls wandering with no sense of direction, their ragged clothes betraying their social class and historical setting likewise. They turn out to be Hinrik (Peeter Volkonski) and Tiidrik (Pääru Oja), a local baron's most trusted servants who discover an enigmatic man lying unconscious at the shore, and bring him to their lord's manor. After waking up, the wretch (excellently portrayed by Meelis Rämmeld) realizes that he can't remember who he is or how he got there, which renders him a stranger not only to everyone around him, but to himself as well. Many questions arise, but the circumstances for seeking answers are far from ideal, because the land - Estonia at the beginning of the 18th century - has been ravaged by war, plague and famine, with a sad bunch of survivors scraping for bare sustenance.

The first hint at the titular protagonist's identity arrives in the form of a well-equipped doctor's traveling case which belonged to someone called Jaan Niemand. Initially confused, the uninvited guest is bound to accept the 'man of medicine' role, especially after fluently reading and instantly recognizing the Latin names for muscles in a book provided by his blue-blooded host (Andres Lepik). For the two of them, this hypothesis works as a blessed convenience, given that the aged baron's only child has been in a near-catatonic state of shock for a while, with no medic around to treat him. However, both Jaan's presence and scientific knowledge happen to be a curse in the eyes of superstitious villagers whose anxiety and despair keep growing rapidly... And the way Kaur Kokk - a young Estonian filmmaker of lavish talent and skill - weaves all these elements into a puzzling, deliberately paced story is just astounding.

Possessing great confidence and firm directorial grasp which gives him full creative control over every single aspect, he leaves the impression of an experienced / old-school film veteran who effortlessly brings his atrabilious vision to life. From the entire cast, he elicits magnetic performances that primarily rely on actors' physiognomy and body language due to the sparseness of dialogue, and long periods of brooding silence. The latter becomes a powerful tool in establishing a dense, deeply immersive atmosphere of pre-apocalyptic darkness and hopelessness amplified by claustrophobic interiors and depressing winter scenery of leaden skies, bare trees and muddy grounds. Gorgeously captured by the brilliant DoP Mart Taniel (The Temptation of St. TonyNovember), the imagery of physical and spiritual dreariness finds its faithful sonic counterpart in the ominously humming score by Ülo Krigul who also worked on Veiko Õunpuu's fascinating neo-surrealistic drama The Temptation of St. Tony.

A cinematic equivalent of some slow-tempo gothic-doom metal album (let's say, A Dream of Poe's An Infinity Emerged), Kokk's debut feature may not be 'a grandiose costume drama', but it sure is a magnificent 'kammerspiel mystery', to borrow the phrases employed in the official synopsis. Part feverish journey of self-discovery and part sullen tone poem, The Riddle of Jaan Niemand (originally Põrgu Jaan, lit. Jaan from Hell) is the work of an author more than worth keeping an eye on.

29 Aug 2019

Every Sun That Died

Composed of seven pieces, the last of which amalgamates the preceding six, my latest collage series, Every Sun That Died, is an attempt at transmogrifying bio-organic forms into an introspective dreamscape - a living flesh boat sailing across the void...

Hi-res images available for my Ko-fi supporters.

Bliss I


Bliss II


Bliss III


Bliss IV


Bliss V


Bliss VI


E.D.E.N.

23 Aug 2019

The Flying Fish (Murat Sayginer, 2019)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

The stuff that our wildest dreams are made of gets disintegrated, then crystallized into a strange, luminous matter, and finally filtered through whatever lies inside a black hole, to be assimilated into The Flying Fish. The question arises: What is the titular creature? Is it the embodiment of an eternal, restless spirit? A lost thought of some supreme entity? Or could it be the essence of an alternate, unparalleled universe about to be born? Whatever the answer may be, Sayginer's sublime, highly mysterious or rather, mystical fantasy pierces one's soul and gradually melts, creating a protective velum around it.

Thoughtfully composed of ten (very) short films created over the period of several years, The Flying Fish is not a simple sum of its parts, but a fusion of the highest order; a singular vision that burrows deep in the collective subconscious and plants the seed of the Great Unknown. Following its puzzling inner logic of blurred dichotomies and meta-mythological thought, it plunges you into an infinite, continuously mutating world, both compelling and somewhat frightening in its open-minded amalgamation of the mental, the physical, the virtual and the transcendental. During an uninterrupted series of neo- or cyber-alchemical processes, we witness, inter alia, the metamorphosis of a solid sphere into a liquid micro-universe, the birth of a brand new constellation preceding a psychedelic delirium, skeletons performing a ritualistic dance around an ominously looking deer-goddess, and a tower (silo?) of enigmatic hooded figures observing Ascension from their cryogenic capsule-like cages!

And somehow, one feels and intuitively knows that everything makes perfect sense - the abscence of words (for the most of the film's running time), the idiosyncratic utilization of glossy, hyper-stylized CGI, as well as the occasional pokes at contemporary society in an otherwise poetic, esoteric, symbolically charged narrative which crescendos in astonishing scenes of a neonized afterlife underscored by a pulsating synth music.

Official page:
The Flying Fish


(This review is based on the private screener provided by the author.)

21 Aug 2019

Emotive Transmigrations (Camelia Mirescu, 2016)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼


The epitome of Camelia Mirescu's inspiring body of work, Emotive Transmigrations speaks or rather, softly whispers directly to one's soul, as its very title may suggest. Dubbed 'experimental film retrospective' by the auteur herself, it gives an entirely new meaning to the 'recycling' of previously used footage, providing the viewer with the highly contemplative and difficult-to-describe experience. Think falling through the liquid embodiment of silence, or bathing in the crystalline sea of immaculate dreams...

It eschews plot and traditional narrative in favor of mood, lyricism and the elusiveness of feeling, and it does so magnificently. Replete with phantasmal and/or phantasmagoric superimpositions that turn everything from landscapes to human portraits into abstract sensations, this transcendental ciné-reverie is lensed in gorgeous, high-contrast black and white, and musically veiled with a delicate, somewhat melancholic piano piece, What If, composed by Marina Vesić (aka Black Marine). In other words, both aurally and visually it manages to conjure some peculiar magic, and leaves you wanting more...

Emotive Transmigrations can be viewed on Mirescu's official Vimeo channel.

20 Aug 2019

Furnace (Kent Tate, 2019)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼


There seems to be an undeniable continuity or rather, an unbreakable flow in the self-possessed, ecologically conscious art of the Canadian filmmaker Kent Tate (Catalyst), with each of his 'ciné-scientific' shorts adding to his never-ending exploration of the dichotomy between the natural and the manufactured. The same goes for one of his latest offerings, Furnace, which depicts the hypnotizing interplay of light and shadows under the conditions of 'Global Dimming'.

Shot in 'the vast interior of British Columbia' over the period of three years, as the official synopsis informs us, the film opens with a subtly altered B&W archive footage which could be (literally) interpreted as a symbol of an eye-opening warning, or as a nifty 'trick' to attract the viewer's attention, in a similar vein with the eye-slitting scene from Un Chien Andalou. Its 'docu-face' is revealed via a special (and visually wobbly) appearance by Jay Forrester who explains that the problem solving doesn't go along the straight line, but rather in loops, with both us and our environment (in the widest sense of the word) changing in the process.

What follows is a recognizable procession of images which beautifully capture not only the balance-retaining struggle between Mother Earth and men-made pollutants, but also the inexorable passage of time reflected in the solemn march of gray clouds above the silent fields and mountains. Although pervaded by the feeling of calm, with Tate's camera acting as a stoic observer, the ostensibly rigid compositions have a painterly quality to them that is simultaneously complemented and counterpoised by the pulsating music created by the author himself. His occasional digital interventions are delicately woven into what one may dub the prudent poetry of the Anthropocene.


(This review is based on the screener copy provided by the author.)

17 Aug 2019

The Prince's Voyage (Jean-François Laguionie & Xavier Picard, 2019)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

Armed with a simple, yet compelling, subtly nuanced story of both societal and intergenerational tolerance, The Prince's Voyage (originally, Le voyage du prince) marks a new milestone in Laguionie's five-decade-long career, welcoming the audience into an alternate, steampunk-ish world inhabited by 'simius sapiens', and providing them with the meticulously composed visuals of soft, desaturated colors gracefully complemented by Christophe Héral's elegant, mellifluous score. The connoisseurs of the 'French school' of animation will certainly find a lot to enjoy here (and be left with wanting more!), whereby the omnipresent 'Golden Age of Hollywood' vibe and a handful of classic cinema references (from Alexander Nevsky to Planet of the Apes) may act as a lure for the film buffs.


The film is playing for free on Festival Scope until August 31, 2019!

16 Aug 2019

Ko-fi Exclusive

Today, I upgraded my Ko-fi account to Gold which essentially means that now I'm able to offer exclusive content to the most loyal supporters of my creative work. For the minimum price of  'one coffee', you'll have access to hi-res / print-ready versions of my collages, and if everything goes well, I may start selling commissions (at the moment, available only through my Fiverr gig) and provide other benefits. The first 'offering' is a sort of a minimalist experiment titled The Day They Arrived... 

I would like to express my utmost gratitude to every generous soul who has supported me so far, and promise that I'll try to keep the 'artwork or two per day' pace. You can contact me via e-mail (nikola [dot] gocic [at] hotmail [dot] com) or my Facebook page on which dozens of my pieces are exhibited (in their web-optimized size), and make a Ko-fi request.


Triglav's Rebirth

12 Aug 2019

Ralf's Colors (Lukas Marxt, 2019)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

"A total void, that’s all I’ve learned."


Neither a documentary, nor a (science) fiction film, Ralf's Colors (originally, Ralfs Farben) can be described as a wry, deadpan, eco-friendly "half-fantasy", to borrow the term coined by the titular protagonist. It may also be labeled as a pre-apocalyptic mono-drama somewhat comparable (yet superior) to Nikolaus Geyrhalter's Homo Sapiens, as well as a spiritual younger brother of In Praise of Nothing by Boris Mitić. 

Whatever you choose to call it, one thing's for sure - Marxt's feature is a strange beast. At first glance, it doesn't bite (although it features an enigmatic black and white dog in several scenes), but when you approach it from a tilted angle, it suddenly sinks its teeth into your preconception of it. Dyed with Ralf's meandering musings - often elusive ramblings of a schizophrenic recluse - it is an intriguing portrait of a man whose inner workings are shaped by his desolate surroundings.

The windy locations of Lanzarote, Canary Islands, are beautifully captured in austerely magnificent compositions interrupted by glitchy psychedelics halfway through the film, and a dizzying superimposition involving an old, scratched helmet and a flickering shot of volcanic rocks. Time seems to stand still in Marxt and Michael Petri's imagery, and physical space turns into a puzzling abstraction. An extra dose of mystery is injected by an evocative, sparsely employed flute tune which eschews the meaning in favor of a disorienting feeling best reflected in Ralf's following words: "I still haven’t really arrived in this world."


Ralfs Farben is playing as a part of Locarno FF selection on Festival Scope until August 31, 2019.

10 Aug 2019

A Selection of Recent Artworks (II)

Inspiration comes in many different forms - sometimes disguised as the backyard darkness, and other times, through a pallid dream about to be born. She is the burning whisper of a summer heat, and a liminal space between meandering thoughts; the devil's acidic spit and the sanguine touch of angelic arms...

Stardust Pirouette


She Said 'I'm Your Death', but Refused to Show Me Her Licence


The Third Law of Ancient Magic


Ascension


(Un)born


Chaos Sisyphus


Starchild's Vampiric Dream

(open in a new tab to enlarge)

6 Aug 2019

Little from the Fish Shop (Jan Balej, 2015)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Czech cinema has a long tradition of stop-motion animation, Jan Švankmajer being one of its most revered representatives, and the latest feature from Jan Balej (One Night in a City) appears as its logical continuation. Quite similarly to the abovementioned auteur's oeuvre, it is decidedly an adult affair which treats its source material with an extra dose of grittiness and bleakness, as it simultaneously strives to keep the original message(s) intact.

An adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's signature fairy tale, Little from the Fish Shop (originally, Malá z rybárny) comes with a modern twist co-written by Balej and Ivan Arsenyev who refrain from sugar-coating and opt for the exact opposite approach. It opens on an ecological note, along the first of very few instances of computer generated imagery, introducing us to the once wonderful ocean depths now polluted by the land-dwellers' toxic waste. The royal merfolk family - a disabled mater familias, her son, the king, and his three daughters - are forced to move into the nearest port town and conform to the new lifestyle, their exile accompanied by a fish orchestra's solemn performance.

In a "drastically macabre betrayal of their natural environment", as Guy Lodge notes in his Variety review, they start a fish-selling business in one of the harbor's seediest districts, their shop surrounded by night clubs and frequented by men of loose moral. One of them is a cocaine-dealing waiter whose face is a physiognomic equivalent of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari sets, and the other is Bogan - a smutty brothel owner whose disheveled Don Juan-esque looks and appreciation for techno beats make him a charmless prince stand-in, yet somehow act as a bait for the Sea King's youngest child simply referred to as Little.

The 'love is blind' phrase pretty much applies to Little's infatuation, though it could be her naiveté and childlike curiosity that lead her down to the tragic denouement. After all, her knowledge of the outside world is limited to fancy re-interpretations of her older sisters' stories and she is not allowed to leave the confines of their store until after her sixteenth birthday. Now, despite the fact that she and the last of her kin have adjusted their tails for walking the mean streets, our heroine still has to make a sacrifice, because Bogan finds legs more to his liking. Thankfully, there's a witch in the sewers ready to make a magic concoction in exchange for a pearl and 'hair extensions', because voice-selling would be unbefitting of this dialogue-free rendition...

Under the surface (no pun intended) which clearly reflects some of the contemporary social issues, such as immigration and the (unjust) treatment of women, Balej's narrative remains fairly faithful to that of Andersen's, eschewing the spiritual, Kingdom-of-God dimension of Little Mermaid's death in favor of a more down-to-earth conclusion. "No matter how far, how stormy the ocean, chase your dreams, risk it all." - in his wise old man tone, eventually advises the narrator (Oldrich Kaiser) whose soothing and resonating voice brings John Hurt's performance in The Storyteller to one's mind.

Where Little... shines the brightest is the delightfully grotesque design of its unique world brimming with life, albeit a suffocating one as the depressing palette of desaturated colors superbly conveys. A great attention to details is paid in both the construction of scenery, and the creation of puppets who are often given fish-like features in correspondence with the central character's origin. Their pale complexion and dark circles around their eyes are almost certainly caused by the smoggy air of the imaginary town they live in - on several occasions, we can see a forest of factory chimneys towering in the background. A couple of extra layers of vividness are provided by grungy, tangible textures, and the whimsical, eclectic score by French musician Chapelier Fou (also credited under his alias Louis Warynski).

1 Aug 2019

Cinematic Favorites of July

For the latest edition of Cinematic Favorites, I shall pull focus on recent offerings, honorably mentioning Antouanetta Angelidi's Variations on the Same Theme as the best of (only four) 'oldies' I saw in July. The features list comes off as a mixed bag, with the first and only film in Haida language, Edge of the Knife (originally, SGaawaay K'uuna), being its most exotic entry, whereas the list of shorts is reserved for outstanding cinexperiments, whether they're shot on 16mm or sculpted in CG. Some of the included works were 'discovered' through a recently formed group of avant-garde artists AGITATE: 21C.

FEATURES


1. Seduction of the Flesh (Júlio Bressane, 2018)
(I talk about Bressane's idiosyncratic (mono)drama in the interview for Film Panic.)
2. In Praise of Nothing (Boris Mitić, 2017)
3. Krasue: Inhuman Kiss (Sitisiri Mongkolsiri, 2019)
4. Edge of the Knife (Gwaai Edenshaw & Helen Haig-Brown, 2018)
5. Five Stories (Roger Deutsch, 2019)
7. Ten Years Thailand (Aditya Assarat, Wisit Sasanatieng, Chulayarnnon Siriphol & Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2018)
9. The Cannibal Club (Guto Parente, 2018)
10. Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds (Yong-hwa Kim, 2017)

SHORT FILMS


4. Obatala Film (Sebastian Wiedeman, 2019)
9. SD103: Snakes & Ladders (Daniel Fawcett & Clara Pais, 2019)

27 Jul 2019

Auricular Confession (Martin Del Carpio, 2019)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

A spiritual sequel to both The Antiteater of Ten and Mother's Milk, the latest effort from Venezuela-born, NYC-raised musician and filmmaker Martin Del Carpio marks a significant milestone in his career. Opening with a dedication to his ailing father, and channeling the spirit of his late mother, Auricular Confession is his most personal work to date, yet it is equally universal in its exploration of innate / essential dualities of human existence. Inspired by the author's Catholic upbringing and imbued with his intense desire to relieve himself of the emotional and mental ballast, this experimental monodrama has a lot to offer.

Once again, Del Carpio orchestrates a successful collaboration with photographer William Murray who provides the film with the exquisitely composed and tightly edited B&W visuals, making the most of a claustrophobic shooting location. An almost empty room furnished with an old chair and table (with the inscription that reads 'in remembrance of me'), and an abandoned bathroom adorned with a stylish lamp are effortlessly turned into a solitary confinement for the unnamed protagonist. Almost certainly the author's alter ego, he is portrayed by Esteban Licht who often bares his all, and in such vulnerable state, pours his soul into a commanding performance ranging from expressionist to mime-like. His enigmatic character can be interpreted as a figure who is simultaneously a saint and a devil, life and death, conductor and the conducted one, which is reflected in minimalist costumes involving a plague doctor mask, inter alia, as well as in props such as tarot cards (The Moon, to be more specific).

Molded by a firm directorial hand, Auricular Confession also boasts a brooding, somewhat esoteric atmosphere established through the great synergy between Murray's adept cinematography and Del Carpio's own music which switches from eerily ambient (Camera Obscura) to - this may sound like an oxymoron - mournfully carnivalesque (El Tirano). Fascinating!

(The review is based on a private screener.)

25 Jul 2019

The Underworld (Jann Clavadetscher, 2019)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

A more than worthy successor to Jann Clavadetscher's 2018 debut feature Kino Hospital, The Underworld takes a similar meta-fictitious approach, with a couple of EFS own filmmakers, Atoosa Pour Hosseini and Michael Higgins, joining a dangerous cave expedition led by an unnamed explorer greatly portrayed by the Irish company's regular collaborator Cillian Roche. The mission, without any doubt, mirrors the Society's exploratory endeavors, whereby a 'bizarre mutation' the protagonist undergoes stands for the(ir) cinema's transformative qualities. In fact, it appears that it is the very film that makes Roche's character go nuts.

Similarly to Phantom Islands, the line between a finished piece and 'behind the scenes' gets broken on a few occasions, the first of which sees 'Dr. Baron Von Mertzbach' himself assisting the shooting (for the uninitiated, read The Metamorphic Portrait of Jann Clavadetscher). Those spontaneous 'pokes' at the fourth wall act as the intrusions of alien forces that take possession of the explorer, and send him down the spiral of madness. They could be identified as Entity of Haze (remember the 'paradigmatic impulse' from Homo Sapiens Project?), especially considering the fact that The Underworld's author starred in Rashidi's short of the same name. Oh, the wonders of avant-garde science fiction!

Whatever the case may be, Clavadetscher's (meta)film stands tall as a riveting, mystifying and somewhat quaint audio-visual experience, boasting the suggestive, increasingly unnerving sound design and magnificent 16mm cinematography dominated by dark blues of (the color-graded) Aillwee Cave and piercing reds of the uniforms. The dense, 'patinated' texture of its dazzlingly edited imagery makes it a perfect candidate for a dream double bill with the recently reviewed Kinetics - you can bet your money that their complementary energies feel amazing on the big screen.

(The review is based on a private screener.)

24 Jul 2019

Kinetics (Atoosa Pour Hosseini, 2018)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

A gloriously beautiful shot of the Waxing Gibbous Moon high in the dusky sky of mellow violets and soothing oranges marks the silent introduction to the latest offering by the EFS 'memory weaver' Atoosa Pour Hosseini. The memories that she weaves into a soft dream-tapestry could be interpreted as the reflections of the auteur's inner workings ('turmoil' may be too strong of a word) transformed into 'intensely lyrical explorations of displacement' through the medium of film, as noted in the official synopsis. They are carried - metaphorically speaking - on the wings of an ostensibly fragile hybrid creature (the Simurgh's long-forgotten daughter, perhaps?) who appears as a young woman wearing a golden, bird of prey mask. 

This 'primeval female figure' (embodied by Katie O'Neill in a magnetic and uninhibited performance) finds herself secluded on a sunbathed island (the uninhabited Blaskets of the west Irish cost, according to Aidan Dunne's article) surrounded by the wistful blue of the sea - the central leitmotif. Simultaneously lost and deeply invested in the unfamiliar (not to mention breathtaking!) surroundings, she sets on an introspective quest that will end in a rapturous, ritualesque dance of self-discovery, at the remnants of a fortress or rather, a sacrificial ground. Through a series of elegant movements, Ms O'Neill enchants the viewer, retaining the aura of mystery which surrounds her character who, at one point, embraces her feral nature (code: a goat carcass). As day turns to night, her timidity is replaced by determination, as the piercing gaze in the final shot suggests.

From both technical and aesthetical point of view, Kinetics is nothing short of brilliant. Drenched in Karen Power's brooding score, Pour Hosseini's grainy, 16mm cinematography perfectly captures the mood of a lost time and space, turning her film into a cinematic equivalent of a deconstructed myth informed by personal experience. Engagingly edited, the delicate visuals speak eloquently and directly to one's soul. Eleven minutes of pure delight.

(The review is based on a private screener.)

22 Jul 2019

Film Panic Q&A: Nikola Gocić


Brilliant directorial duo of Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais who I consider the alchemists of modern cinema granted me the honor of participating in the Q&A series for the official page of their Film Panic magazine which I've recently contributed to. In this short questionnaire, I speak of my earliest cine-memories, dream double bills and profound film experiences which have influenced my collage art practice. Follow THIS LINK to find out more!

19 Jul 2019

Variations on the Same Theme (Antouanetta Angelidi, 1977)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Left or right?
Père ou peur?
Black or white?
Man or woman?
Abstract or rational?
Quotidian or peculiar?
Universal or individual?
Emotional or intellectual?
Natural or theatrical?
Ellipsis or horizon?
Film or metafilm?
Art or life?

Opening with a couple of symmetrical takes so stoically long that they may irritate the impatient viewer to the point of giving up after the initial five or ten minutes, Antouanetta Angelidi's debut is the epitome of daring, uncompromising experimentation with both cinematic form and content. To call it unorthodox would be a severe understatement. Semantically playful and aesthetically austere, this thesis film - a manifesto-esque, politico-poetic video essay of sorts - mesmerizes with its irregular rhythms achieved through the alternation of Greek and French lines, as well as of rigid and provoking images accompanied by on-screen text and the swaying cacophony of sounds. Subtly transgressive, apart from the scene in which a black chicken is being mercilessly plucked by a bald, god(dess)-like figure, Variations on the Same Theme (originally, Idees Fixes / Dies Irae, aka Parallages sto idio thema) revels in its razor-mouthed, post-structuralist and somewhat Dada-inspired masculinization of femininity and vice versa, managing to retain its dignity even when the auteur's tongue is planted deeply in her cheek. Recommended as a double bill with Jackie Raynal's Deux fois.

15 Jul 2019

In a Nutshell: Takatoshi Arai

Still shot from Night Mother Scent

On his right forearm, he has a Popeye tattoo that he got inked during his visit to the USA, and he wears a permanent bow tie on his chest, because of some film festivals dress codes, as he says jokingly. There's an aura of sincerity and unpretentiousness surrounding him, and just a faint hint of eccentricity which marks his works. He names Robert Bresson, Sergei Parajanov, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Aki Kaurismaki and Tsai Ming-Liang as his role models, and claims that he usually eschews screenplay, and doesn't employ metaphors in the creative process, yet his films, especially the latest and longest one, Sakana (Fish), appear as allegorical, not to mention insightful and multilayered.

His name is Takatoshi Arai and he is a young and promising Japanese indie filmmaker whose approach to cinema could be described as intuitive and impromptu, and it's pretty safe to label his methods as 'experimental'. Five of his recent shorts - ThiefColor Sex Death, Quantity Amount Quality, Night Mother Scent, and the aforementioned Fish - were screened at the Labeerint bar in my hometown of Niš last night, with the humble, yet commendable event hosted by the Taka association and their cultural exchange representative, Ms Naoko Kamba. In the Skype Q&A, the audience had the opportunity to discuss with Mr Arai himself who was eager to show a traditional bamboo flute (Shakuhachi?) utilized as a prop in Color, Sex Death, as well as frula that he bought in Belgrade a few years ago when JSFF (Japanese Serbian Film Festival) took place. He also revealed his shooting equipment - iPhone, digital camera and 'a cheap tripod', in his own words - which should've come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the shoestring budget filmmaking of our time.

Remaining secretive about the themes and meanings behind the oft-puzzling and dialogue-free juxtapositions of moving images and sounds, he asks the viewers to be active / open-minded and leaves plenty of space for their own different interpretations. The reality of his creations comes off as twisted, whether it's fragmented into a series of rhythmically edited B&W photographs (Thief) or transformed into a full-blown (introspective?) nightmare (Night Mother Scent, the most surreal of the bunch and this writer's personal favorite). In Quantity Amount Quality and Color Sex Death, Arai demonstrates childlike playfulness (or rather, impishness), applying stop-motion technique to apples and a pair of Converse shoes, respectively, whereas in Fish - his most accessible and well-rounded offering - he explores guilty conscience of his protagonist, if the google translation of the trailer description is any indication. (To my question about the possible 'Lynchian' connection between fish and ideas, he answers that he simply enjoys fishing.) Common to all of his films - reflections of his versatility - is a certain performative quality, the keen sense of visual composition, the collaboration with non-professional actors and the skill to make the most out of a tight budget. Arai currently strives to complete his first sci-fi feature, 2222, which will be followed by a horror and a comedy.


Trailer for Sakana

10 Jul 2019

L.U.X. 0: Mysterium Magnum

"Nudity is an art. Besides, art is only nudity...
Art is loneliness... Nothingness is perfect nudity."

Inspired by the above-mentioned lines from Raúl Ruiz's masterpiece Three Crowns of the Sailor (originally, Les trois couronnes du matelot, 1983), my latest artwork identifies nudity with purity, one of the prenatal kind or rather, of intact primordiality. It could be regarded as an attempt at portraying the 'parents' of a puzzling, irrational 'emptiness' by means of the archetypal imagery.

(open in a new tab to enlarge)

4 Jul 2019

First Half of 2019 Top 12 Films

With the first six months of 2019 behind us, I decided to make a list of twelve features which impressed me the most, the focus being on the films released during the last three years, including a single exception. Unsurprisingly, most of the entries could be categorized as 'alternative cinema', so I guess that No. 12 is an intruder that exposes my soft spot for Far Eastern fantasies. The end of 2019 will probably see some changes in this selection, because I have great expectations for some upcoming, highly anticipated offerings, such as Scott Barley's The Sea Behind Her Head or Daniel & Clara's Plot Points.

3. Jonaki (Aditya Vikram Sengupta, 2018)
4. Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Gan Bi, 2018)
6. Delirium (Ihor Podolchak, 2013)
8. Unicórnio (Eduardo Nunes, 2017)
9. Lazzaro felice (Alice Rohrwacher, 2018)
10. Quién te cantará (Carlos Vermut, 2018)


(My aplogies for cropping some of the stills to fit into this collage.)

3 Jul 2019

Too Old to Die Young (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2019)

Unwatchable out of 10☼

After watching... pardon, barely sitting through the first two episodes of NWR's latest offering, 'auteur' mini series Too Old to Die Young, I feel compelled to share a few thoughts on it, especially considering that it is the first piece of cinema (now, this epithet is highly arguable) that managed to transform my frustration into an unpleasant and hence unwanted physical sensation. In a preposterous attempt to out-revolutionize David Lynch's sublime, inimitable return to Twin Peaks, the acclaimed Danish helmer overestimates his own skill and, strongly believing he is making boundary-pushing efforts of metaphysical proportions, creates a dull and listless self-parody. Uninvolving on every level imaginable, and moving slower than molasses without any rhyme or reason, it sadistically torments the viewer with unjustifiable pauses between the pulpy, B-movie-like lines delivered in a deadpan, quasi-meaningful manner, with protagonists' blank stares thrown in for good measure.

Adding to its poisonous unwatchability are the unapologetically garish, superficially attractive visuals hyper-stylized to the point of being (paradoxically) quickly stripped off their initial, somewhat forced charm, which results in the unwitting downgrading of the whole proceedings into an obnoxiously kitschy equivalent of some 'eau de parfum' commercial... and who wants to watch a vacuous, hour an a half long ad?! The worst thing about the languorous opening to this cold, epically miscalculated project is the scent or rather, stench of intolerable narcissism. Now, don't get me wrong - I'm all for boldly personal, self-indulgent filmmaking or art in general, but I'm definitely not crazy about having the artist's sticky spit of arrogance smeared all over his/her work, as in this case (or the case of that other notorious Dane's recent atrocity). So, without further ado, I'd like to put a period to my outpour of negativity, while trying to aleviate the pungent disappointment by reminding myself of how much I admire Refn's delighfully gloomy viking saga Valhalla Rising and glamorously nightmarish extravaganza Neon Demon...