10 Dec 2019

Holy Sand (Miroslav Antić, 1968)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼


It is only recently I learned that the prominent Serbian poet Miroslav 'Mika' Antić (1932 – 1986) directed two features which had the misfortune of being brushed under the communist carpet just like many of the Yugoslav Black Wave offerings. His debut Holy Sand (originally, Sveti pesak) - for me, the most precious blast from the past of 2019 - was not officially banned, but it never received regular theatrical distribution.

Told in a lyrical tone, the story revolves around a former political brigade commissar, Aleksandar Vinski (Čedomir Mihajlović, as worn-out as his character requires of him), who returns from the Goli Otok labor camp, only to realize he has been ostracized not only by the society, but by his comrades as well. Neither alive nor dead, he roams the sullen demimonde in the state of pseudo-existence, pushed further into despair by meaningless encounters with other lost souls.

Without any 'warning', his sparse, fragmented narrative jumps back and forth in time, establishing a disorienting atmosphere which is deepened by deliberate discordance between the image and the sound. A perfect example thereof is a brilliant cross-cutting of Aleksandar and a mysterious, mentally challenged girl frolicking around some (WWII?) ruins, and his fellow prisoner having a sexual intercourse with a flirty woman whom the protagonist previously picked up at a bar. Occasionally, the dialogue is completely muted or replaced by the incongruent noises, adding another layer of confusion and simultaneously, putting the viewer in Aleksandar's shoes or rather, head.

What's most impressive about Holy Sand is its black and white cinematography by Petar Latinović. Initially almost expressionist / noirish in its use of shadows, it takes a sharp turn into naturalistic domain, with a few scenes near the end appearing as if they were influenced by the surrealist cinema. The film's formal 'trickery' is (oddly) complemented by unaffected performances from its mostly non-professional cast, and even by a few technical downsides...

The film is available on Delta Video's official YouTube channel, but if you're not fluent in Serbian, I'm afraid that you will have to embark on a bootleg hunt...

8 Dec 2019

Forbidden Without Exception (Dejan Klincov, 1990-1999)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Balancing on a tightrope stretched between political video art and personal experimental cinema (closer to the former point), Dejan Klincov employs dizzying / anarchical stop-frame montage of old photos and postcards, newspaper and magazine cut-outs, documents and found footage, sketches, drawings and paintings to challenge the notion of national identity, blur the lines which separate ostensibly opposed ideologies and reflect on the turbulent Yugoslavian past. The impressive number of images ranging from the depictions of WWII atrocities to Tito-iconoclasm to Makavejev references to fading memories to bridges that separate and residential complexes that alienate converge into a deliberately messy and slightly overlong, yet uncompromising piece of ‘handicapped’ animation which celebrates artistic liberties in the face of an increasingly dehumanizing society.

4 Dec 2019

Zan (Shin'ya Tsukamoto, 2018)

☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

Not bad, but neither great, the latest offering from the father of the cult-favorite Tetsuo: The Iron Man is part period drama filled with tropey and sketchy characters, part formal exercise in raw, shaky camera aesthetics and animesque violence, and all an uncompromising, if somewhat clunky deconstruction of the samurai genre that almost appears like Seven Samurai in reverse, interwoven with bizarre interludes. Although the frenzied editing, contrived emotions, fill-in-the-blanks narrative and the mystery surrounding rōnin protagonists do have some charm attached to them, the film's flat lighting often takes away from the beauty of rural locations and thick forests where the increasingly violent action is set. Its greatest selling point is most definitely a gloomy, pulsating score which is the late Chu Ishikawa's swan song. If Zan had been a firsttimer's experiment, its flaws probably wouldn't have felt so jarring... Nevertheless, one viewing won't hurt.

3 Dec 2019

Kinoskop Afterword

The inaugural (read: shoestring-budget) edition of Kinoskop - the 1st festival of analog experimental cinema and audio-visual performance on the Balkans - concluded on Sunday evening, and went pretty well (for a baptism of fire), notwithstanding some unexpected technical hiccups for which the curators, Marko Milićević and yours truly, sincerely apologize. Our profound respect goes to the audience members who were standing during the first day of screenings, because 60+ chairs didn't suffice, and our heartfelt gratitude is sent to all friendly and enthusiastic people involved in making this ambitious dream come true, from the members of the jury, Nina Lazarević, Nevena Popović and Marko Žunić, to the personnel of art space Kvaka 22 who hosted the event, to the great team of musicians and photographers who participated in the 5th anniversary celebration of Live Soundtrack, and the exhibition of analog photos and collages EndFrame(s). The visitors had the opportunity of seeing some pieces of my artwork like never before - as giant projections on the gallery wall, and I have to admit than even I was caught by surprise!

Picked amongst 220 offerings which met our Call for Entries requirements, more than 50 films were shown in seven selections of the main program and four acts of Live Soundtrack. One particular ciné-thingamajig was bestowed with loud ovations, which is why we decided to have another award in addition to the Grand Prix, Best Original Soundtrack and Audience Favorites (to be announced very soon!). Judging by the post-festival commentary, best-received were the alchemical experiments and sci-fi deconstructions, although the subtleties of micro-poetics, non-human explorations and acts of found-footage sabotage, as well as the diversity of documentaries also garnered positive reactions. The highlight of the festival was the aforementioned Live Soundtrack which opened with metaphysical musings of a hyper-cosmic expanded cinema trance Elementary Particles / Where Do We Come From? from the minds of Aleksandar Lazar and Marko Milićević. This hypnotizing, brilliantly conceived multi-channel experience was followed by the powerful post-industrial performance from Tearpalm - Marko Dabetić's one-man project - whose crescendos must've reached the stars along with Emmanuel Piton's Exposed and Müge Yıldız's A Trip to the Moon. Telemach Wiesinger's Wings to Hear was given the dark, moody and, in a way, post-apocalyptic sonic treatment by Dobrivoje Milijanović and Vladimir Riznić of their fresh collaboration Falling Elevator Music, and the last, but most definitely not the least was the masterful improvisation on analog synthesizer by our guest from Brazil Marcelo Armani (under the moniker of Elefante Branco). Giving each film from the medley of political and personal cinema a new aural identity, ranging from edgy (Window Shopping by Michael Woods) to ethereal (Camelia Mirescu's Telluric Beats of Veil), he succeeded in creating a rhythmically compact oneness - a minimalist, contemplative soundscape...