May 27, 2020

Matierica (Keita Kurosaka, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

How does one even begin to describe something that has a form deeply rooted in formlessness, something so uncanny, yet so fiercely absorbing? Is this the portrait of our Universe before its very existence or a tangled yarn of lost memories unwinding in search of their owner? The purifying essence of Nothingness, or the liquefied (sub)consciousness of Omnipresence? Could it be the penetrating gaze of the abyss transmuted into a complex web of linear and textural emanations?

Whatever the answers may be (and they may be more puzzling than the questions!), Matierica is nothing short of a revelatory piece of modern animation - an experiential, unapologetically ambiguous cine-phantasm of metaphysical proportions. Created in 'the process of continuously overlapping about 5,000 pencil drawings', according to the author himself, it adapts to the viewer's state of mind, hypnotizing you to a meandering 'promenade of imagination'. In turns but often at the same time, it provides you with spiritual energy, injects you with existential dread, comforts you as the most placid dream and creeps under your skin, sending your inner self on a nightmarish journey into the Unknown.

Its sublime, pareidolia-inducing visuals of otherworldly qualities invoke both luminous and dark apparitions who - transcendental in their purity and liberated from the confines of the narrative - roam the abstract, shapeshifting 'landscapes' of liminal space(s). Once they're close to become materialized, Kurosaka dissolves them and sends them back into the ethereal (and eternal) realm or rather, limbo where they spiral into the formidable primordiality. Shrouded in a delicate veil woven of the finest, evocatively disconcerting sound threads (many kudos to Haruyuki Suzuki), these mysterious entities languorously glide through seamless transitions and plunge you into a rapturous trance.

Riveting and uncompromising in its elusiveness, Matierica is an acquired taste (though, that probably goes without saying), and more importantly, a shining example of the medium's limitless possibilities for artistic expression. 

This half-hour masterpiece is available for rent @ Vimeo on Demand.

May 21, 2020

Tabu (F.W. Murnau, 1931)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

An evening spent with a silent film is an evening well spent, especially when the film in question is as great as Murnau's swan song - a fatalist ballad of doomed, star-crossed lovers. From the very opening which is the only scene directed by the co-writer Robert J. Flaherty, it is apparent that we are in for a delightful treat.

Taken to an earthly paradise of the Bora Bora island, we are introduced to a group of indigenous fishermen one of whom will turn out to be the tragic hero. This young man by the name of Matahi falls for a beautiful maiden, Reri, but their romance gets nipped in the bud when the girl is chosen as the successor to the sacred virgin of the Fanuma tribe. From that point forth, she is tabu and to break that tabu means death, as we are informed by an elder, Hitu, who delivers his chief's message. Fleeing from the clutches of strict customs embodied by the said geezer, the couple arrives to another island, only to be unknowingly caught in the gnawing maw of western civilization which has already infested those parts. Initially, their escape appears successful, but Fate has something else in the bag for them...

Essentially, Tabu is a Romeo and Juliet story ably relocated to the breathtaking Pacific setting and transformed into a compelling piece of docufiction. Split in two parts aptly titled Paradise and Paradise Lost, it is both poetic and anthropological, and a fine example of the 'show, don't tell' method, with text cards utilized sparsely, as well as creatively, and with good deal of information being provided by virtue of the wonderfully captured imagery (many kudos to DoP Floyd Crosby). Murnau elicits outstanding performances from the non-professional cast who reveal a surprisingly wide range of emotions through their gestures and facial expressions, thus making their characters convincing, sympathetic and impossible not to root for. The chemistry between the leads is natural, and their struggle against the cruel side of tradition is deeply felt. As the viewer is immersed into the islanders' simple, sunbathed and ostensibly carefree everyday, the gloom gradually seeps in, dissolving the aura of joy and innocence that once surrounded Reri and Matahi.

Brimful of kinetic energy reaching its maximum in the lively hula dancing and boat rowing sequences, and imbued with ravishing, exotic beauty whose colors can be seen despite the monochromatic cinematography, Tabu progresses at brisk pace, putting motion (with capital M) in motion picture, with the evocative mixture of classical and traditional music operating as the propellant. Its universal appeal and undeniable timelessness are reflected in simultaneously candid and idealized depictions of those small, yet meaningful moments that people experience in their pursuit for happiness, whether they decide to break some rules or not...

May 15, 2020

Last and First Men (Jóhann Jóhannsson, 2020)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

"The whole duration of humanity, its evolution and many successive species, is but a flash in the lifetime of the cosmos.
Looking at the heavens and at the violet splendor that seeks to destroy us, we are filled with awe and pity: awe for the inconceivable potential of this bright host, and pity for its self-thwarting effort to supplant the universal spirit."

Based on Olaf Stapleton's 1930 novel of the same name and softly narrated by the inimitable, ever-reliable Tilda Swinton in a manner that suggests great wisdom (which is to be expected from a voice representing the 'group mind' of the '18th human species' in the two billion years distant future), Last and First Men is both the feature debut and sadly, the swan song of the revered Iceland composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (1969-2018), famous for his collaboration with the French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Arrival).

Part experimental science-fiction film and part quasi-documentarian essay on transience, our legacy and inevitability of doom, this contemplative tone poem is the work of austere, yet awe-inspiring beauty that is channeled through the concrete memorial monuments of the socialist-era Yugoslavia. The brutalist colossi which have been unjustly forgotten and neglected for years are stripped of their original purpose to be respectfully employed as otherworldly objects built by the advanced civilization that is threatened by extinction. Imposing in their mysterious silence, the sharp-edged, gargantuan 'gargoyles' of surrealy geometric forms act as the perfect stand-ins for spaceships, architectural wonders or even containers for collective consciousness that is addressing us - the titular 'first men' - through Ms. Swinton's solemn, strangely comforting voice. Not to mention that they are gorgeously captured, together with their contrasting natural environment, by Sturla Brandth Grøvle's delicately grainy B&W cinematography, in the hypnotizing series of lingering takes almost certainly influenced by the masters of 'slow cinema'.

Expertly complementing the astonishing visuals is Jóhannsson's elegiac, ruminating score in which minimalist orchestration and ethereal vocalization interweave into a sonic fabric that dissolves into the mist only to recompose itself and soar high into the sky above the mountains of Balkan region where the film was shot, paralleling the theme of death and rebirth. The dense, immersive atmosphere established by virtue of the aural veil and its inseparability from the stark imagery it covers provides the viewer with a sublimely melancholic experience.

May 11, 2020

A Hypothesis on the Singularity of Delight

On the road that was believed to spiral into Nowhere, he found her bathed in divine light. She was waiting far too long to be gazed upon with the eye of inherent blackness, barely standing on her feet. As soon as her butterfly whisper reached him, he realized that the cocoon had to be opened, regardless of the night’s indifference...

(open in new tab to enlarge)

May 4, 2020

Dreams of Brown Sugar and Sand

My second solo exhibition MeleM (lit. Salve) encompassing twenty five of my collages printed on canvas was set to be opened on March 21, but due to the C19 lockdown, it was postponed to unspecified date. For that reason, I have decided to post an online selection of fifty pieces of artwork (created between June 2019 and the first days of May 2020) including seven brand new ones which haven't been previously published anywhere.

Draped in shimmering haze of introspective musings, these images exist on the very edge of innate chaos, somewhere between shapeshifting myth, amaranthine mystery and crumbling reality. Stubbornly phantasmagorical, they continually dissolve into the blinding light of unconsciousness from which the fragile world of agitated serenity emerges. They are heralds of primeval secrets yet to be awaken from their timeless, fairy tale-like slumber; they are Dreams of Brown Sugar and Sand in an endless desert of hope and despair... 

Invocation of the Fallen God ~ A Centaur Prepares to Shoot an Evil Heart ~ The Fifth Horseman Took the Wrong Pill
The Pilgrimage ~ The Revelation
Achilles : Mysterious Distances Converge ~ The Witch Doctor's Transmutation ~ Spilling infinity

Yume no Tamago ~ Perpetual Evanescence
Softer Than Clouds ~ Harder Than Water

Lilith's Perseverance ~ The Rabbit: Out in the Cold
The Gleaming Haze Above the Fields of Oneiros ~ Filigree Faustian Fugue
Das Nachwort ~  Jesenja apoteoza Lesnikova

Daemonium : All the Swans Are Dead ~ Pandaemonium
Mnoge tišine ~ The Impossibility of Emptiness
A Smile Is a Lie, in Paradise They Don't Fly

Dream Whisperer ~ For Now, For Now, I Am Fall, Tomorrow Will Be My Souvenir
St. Onanist ~ St. Enigma ~ Colossus (The Naked Truth)
Lost in the Fog of Everlasting Hypnagogia ~ Moranin jesenji ples (Od zlata lobanja) ~ The Altar of the Great Whale

Caressing Otherness ~ The Fallen and the Flower of Nothingness
Infected by Beauty ~ The Portrait of Solitude With a Snake and Peaches ~ Mundus Alius

Z.O.R.T. ~ Dolor Dolor
Panspermic Divinations ~ A Letter to the Void (Panspermic Divinations II) ~ Panspermic Divinations III : Zilch Candies

Niti jedna reč u pismu za oblake ~ K.R.I.K.
Her Oldest Familiar ~ The Wizard's Triumph

Angelus Tenebris ~ Three Stages of Enlightenment
Asymptote ~ Tech-Noir ~ On the Top of the Mt. Olympus