Diagonale-Dialog 2: I see the sun

not even nothing can be free of ghosts von Rainer Kohlberger

Alle Jahre wieder können Patrick und Rainer ihre Erfahrungen nur begrenzt austauschen, da sie sich selten im Kino sehen. Immerhin hat Patrick nun Die Geträumten von Ruth Beckermann gesehen und ist vom Film ähnlich überwältigt wie Rainer.

Rainer: Mittlerweile glaube ich fast, ich sollte diesen Dialog mit Ioana führen, weil sie sehr oft mit mir Vorstellungen besucht, während wir beide uns (wie üblich) selten über den Weg laufen. Im Übrigen habe ich noch immer nicht den Festivaltrailer gesehen: finden wir heute trotzdem eine Gesprächsgrundlage?

Patrick: Ja. Die Geträumten von Ruth Beckermann, den du in Berlin gesehen hast. Obwohl wir uns nicht über den Weg laufen, gebe ich dir völlig Recht. Das ist ein herausragender Film, der mir Tränen in die Augen trieb und mich neu-konfrontiert hat mit Gedanken zu Schauspiel, deutscher Sprache und letztlich sogar Liebe. Er zeigt auch, dass man das Gefühl vielleicht in der Fiktion finden kann und das ist einer der traurigsten und zugleich hoffnungsvollsten Gedanken, die ich seit langer Zeit in einem Film gespürt habe. Du bist ja der Beckermann-Experte…hat sie schon mal etwas Vergleichbares gemacht?

Rainer: Als Beckermann-Experte würde ich mich nicht bezeichnen, eher als Bewunderer, der leider noch nicht alle ihrer Filme gesehen hat, aber Die Geträumten nimmt meiner Einschätzung nach in ihrem Oeuvre schon eine Ausnahmestellung ein. Sonst findet man bei ihr meist nicht so eine starke Reflexion über das Filmemachen und ein solches Vabanquespiel mit verschiedenen Fiktionsebenen. Der Film ordnet sich dann aber doch irgendwie ganz gut in ihr Schaffen ein, weil sie meiner Einschätzung nach schon immer ein Händchen dafür hatte dem gesprochenen Wort sehr viel an Gefühl zu entlocken. Diese Blicke, diese Unmittelbarkeit, die durch die Schauspieler vermittelt wird – das ist zweifellos etwas, das man auch in ihren früheren Filmen findet. Ich würde sagen Wien retour funktioniert (auf ganz andere Weise) sehr ähnlich.

Patrick: Das könnte gut sein. Ich hatte auch das Gefühl, dass gerade diese Art wie sie diese beiden Menschen ansieht, unheimlich wichtig ist. Sie kommt da tatsächlich zur Seele der Figuren, zu dem was sich unter dem Sprechen befindet und gerade daher wird das Sprechen beziehungsweise Lesen wieder interessant. Auch die Art und Weise wie diese Briefe zwischen Ingeborg Bachmann und Paul Celan zu einer Narration verdichtet wurden, ist brillant. Hast du dich auch von etwas begeistern lassen?

Rainer: Ich bin noch immer von Die Geträumten begeistert, auch wenn es schon ein paar Wochen her ist, dass ich ihn gesehen habe. In ähnlichem Ausmaß hat mich bisher nichts berührt, aber das Programm Innovatives Kino war sehr gut. Man kann ja nicht von jedem (Avantgarde-)Film verlangen, dass er einem mit einer hochkomplexen und perfekt durchartikulierten filmischen Haltung entgegentritt, aber es ist gut, wenn danach wenigstens die Augen bluten. Das hat mir in denen ersten beiden Programmen etwas gefehlt – die waren zu brav und zu leise – aber Rainer Kohlbergers not even nothing can be free of ghosts erfüllt diese Erwartungen vollkommen. Der spielt gleichzeitig mit der Wahrnehmung und versucht dir sehr offensiv die Sinne zu rauben. Ein rhythmisches Flackern algorithmischer Hell-Dunkel-Stakkatos und eine sehr aggressive Tonspur. Das macht schon Spaß sich so blenden so lassen. Einzig die Programmierung war etwas fragwürdig, denn gleich danach kam mit Vintage Print von Siegfried A. Fruhauf ein zweiter Film ähnlicher Gangart, und ich war eigentlich schon nicht mehr aufnahmefähig. Der faszinierendste Film des Programms war aber Wunderschön und ruhig gelegen von Lukas Marxt und Jakub Vrba – über Marxt unterhalten wir uns auch jedes Jahr kommt mir vor?

Patrick: Ich denke nicht in Jahren. Ich denke in Filmen.

Die Geträumten von Ruth Beckermann

Die Geträumten von Ruth Beckermann

Rainer: Nun gut, ich sehe aber seine Filme alljährlich bei der Diagonale und es scheint mir, dass sie immer zum Thema werden. Ich kann dir dieses Programm in jedem Fall nur von ganzem Herzen empfehlen. In welchen Filmen denkst du denn im Moment?

Patrick: Vielleicht denke ich wie ein Geträumter, weil wenn man in Filmen denkt und lebt, dann ist man ja irgendwie Teil dieser Fiktionen. So ein Fühlen, das es vielleicht gar nicht gibt und das sich trotzdem so viel echter anfühlt. Gestern hat sich der junge Darsteller aus Henry spät am Abend an unseren Tisch gesetzt. Er hat dann versucht – kurz nachdem Beckermann meinen Glauben an das Schauspiel erneuert hat – diesen gleich wieder zu vernichten. Aber wahrscheinlich war es nur Einbildung. Hat dich auch schon so richtig was enttäuscht oder aufgeregt?

Rainer: Dieser Junge war schon eine ziemliche Enttäuschung… Nein, Spaß beiseite, also die ersten zwei Programme Innovatives Kino waren schon in gewisser Weise eine Enttäuschung für mich. Von der Diagonale ist man da ein höheres Niveau gewohnt, aber es hat sich alles sehr brav, lasch und nichtig angefühlt. Mir fehlte da die Dringlichkeit, die gerade bei diesen Formen des Filmemachens gegeben sein muss, da sie sonst zur Stilübung verkommen. Ich überlasse dir einen Aufreger als wirkmächtiges Schlusswort.

Patrick: Nichts Schönres unter der Sonne/ als unter der Sonne zu sein.

I see the sun

She dawns

She burns

She grows

She feeds

She spews

She dies

Above us

Diagonale-Dialog 1: Der Scherbenhaufen

TRAILER von Sasha Pirker und Lotte Schreiber

Nachdem Rainer nun einen Tag nach Patrick ebenfalls in Graz erschienen ist, setzen die beiden ihre kleine „Tradition“ des Festivaldialogs fort. Sie eröffnen den Reigen mit einer kurzen Diskussion über den Status quo des Festivals und ein paar erste Filmerfahrungen, die sie gemacht haben.

Rainer: Einiges hat sich geändert, durch die neue Festivalführung, vieles ist unverändert geblieben. Kannst du schon etwas dazu sagen, was Peter Schernhuber und Sebastian Höglinger an frischem Wind zur Diagonale gebracht haben?

Patrick: Ich habe schicke Diagonale-Fahrräder gesehen. Ich weiß nicht, ob es sowas schonmal gab. Ansonsten fühlt es sich relativ gleich an, hier zu sein. Hatte das aber nicht anders erwartet. Für dich?

Rainer: Ich teile deine Erfahrung. Einerseits war natürlich nicht zu erwarten, dass sie am gelungenen Konzept von Barbara Pichler große Veränderungen vornehmen (zumal sie aus den eigenen Reihen aufgestiegen sind), andererseits gibt es dann wahrscheinlich auch gar nicht so viele Möglichkeiten in nur einem Jahr wahnsinnig viel an den Strukturen zu ändern. Immerhin hat der neue Elan in der Programmgestaltung dazu geführt, dass dein Film Fragmente einer Trauerarbeit gezeigt wird – gestern war Premiere – bist du zufrieden damit, wie es gelaufen ist?

Patrick: Ich denke schon. Ich fühle mich merkwürdig distanziert dazu, vielleicht ein gutes Zeichen. Als wäre es gar nicht unbedingt mein Film, sondern einfach mein Beitrag, für den ich geradestehe. Der Film hat sich gestern schon sehr für mich verändert, es ist eine Art Geburt ohne mich gewesen. Lass uns lieber über andere Arbeiten sprechen…hast du an deinem ersten Tag schon etwas entdeckt?

Rainer: Die größte Entdeckung war eigentlich schon dein Film, auch wenn das an dieser Stelle natürlich etwas seltsam klingt. Sonst habe ich noch nicht allzu viel gesehen. Das erste Programm der Avantgardefilmsektion „Innovatives Kino“ (die Bezeichnung könnte die neue Festivalleitung ändern…) war unerwartet zahnlos. Ich strukturiere meine Sichtungen auf der Diagonale meist rund um die Avantgardeprogramme und das lohnt sich meistens auch, aber diese sechs Filme waren so selbstbezogen und nüchtern, dass der Funke nie übergesprungen ist.

Patrick: Ok. Wenn wir von Zahnlosigkeit sprechen, kann ich dir auch noch sagen, dass der Eröffnungsfilm Maikäfer flieg mit Sicherheit ein Film ist, der uns hier nicht beißt. Zur Avantgarde noch eine Frage, weil wir sie ja jedes Jahr stellen: Der Trailer , der dieses Jahr den Namen TRAILER trägt. Wie findest du den?

Rainer: Ich habe den Trailer tatsächlich noch nicht im Kino gesehen, diese Frage muss also noch warten. An und für sich habe ich aber durchaus Vertrauen in Sasha Pirker und Lotte Schreiber.

Patrick: Es ist ja ein Wortspiel, also ein neues Genre? Ich überlege gerade, ob es Titel gibt, die man als Wortspiel auf den Film sehen kann.

Rainer: Ich glaube, dass würde ich sehr plump finden.

In, Over & Out von Sebastian Brameshuber

Patrick: Ja, das ist auch ein wenig mein Problem damit. Das ist schon eine sehr hippe Idee mit dem Trailer-Trailer. Aber es ist eine schöne Szene. Übrigens musste ich hier ja gleich bei der Eröffnung Angela Schanelec gegen einige Ungläubige verteidig und habe dabei so wild mit meinen Armen herumgefuchtelt, dass ich einer Kellnerin viele Gläser aus der Hand geschlagen habe. Ich erzähle dir das, weil ich finde, dass es hier auch immer ein wenig so ist wie auf einem Scherbenhaufen. Alles spiegelt sich, es glänzt, es ist fragmentiert, es gehört irgendwie alles zusammen, wünscht sich Glück und so weiter. Und in dem Sinn ist so ein Wortspiel vielleicht recht sinnvoll. Es sind Dinge, die nicht zusammengehören, obwohl sie zusammengehören. Das sind einfach die Freuden und das Leid eines nationalen Festivals und da ist Trailer ja ein gutes internationales Wort.

Rainer: Das ist ein schönes Bild, das sicher nicht nur auf die Diagonale zutrifft. Es wird ja seit Jahren versucht dem nationalen Branchentreffen einen internationalen Anstrich zu geben, und in diesem Sinne ist der Titel sicher nicht verkehrt – ich werde darauf zurückkommen, wenn ich den Trailer gesehen habe.

Patrick: Wie war denn der Brameshuber-Film In, Over & Out für dich? Habe den auf der Viennale gesehen und fand ihn schon sehr gut gemacht, aber in seinem Lumière-Konzept etwas unschlüssig.

Rainer: Auch ein ziemlicher Scherbenhaufen dieser Film und das ist durchaus positiv gemeint. Was das mit den Lumières zu tun haben soll, erschließt sich mir auch nicht ganz, aber aus technischer Sicht ist das auf jeden Fall mal interessant. Diese verschiedenen Entwicklungsstufen von Film- und Videokameras Seite an Seite vermitteln schon ein tieferes Verständnis für das Verhältnis von technischem Fortschritt und künstlerischem Ausdruck, herausgestochen ist der Film jedoch nicht wirklich. Ich tue mir überhaupt noch etwas schwer, über die bisherigen Erfahrungen zu berichten, es braucht denke ich noch Zeit, bis ich wirklich etwas Fundiertes von mir geben kann. In diesem Sinne: tomorrow, same place, same time?

Patrick: Very well, Sir.

Youth Under The Influence (of Pedro Costa) – Part 4: Conversa Acabada

Michael Guarneri and Patrick Holzapfel end their discussion about the films they have seen after meeting with Mr. Costa in Munich, in June 2015. But is there really an end in cinema or does it have to be written on the screen artificially, as Serge Daney once stated, in order for us to believe in it and be able to leave the cinema to find out that outside the sun also shines bright?

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Patrick: (…) I want to ask you two questions: 1) Do you think Mr. Costa films more the things he loves or the things he fears?; 2) Do you prefer in cinema to be confronted with the things you love or the things you fear?

Pedro Costa (Foto: Thomas Hauzenberger)

Pedro Costa (Foto von Thomas Hauzenberger)

Michael: 1) I think it is a matter that goes beyond fear or love. I guess that Mr. Costa films the things, the places, the people, the dynamics that interest him. He films stuff that he wants to know more about. He was a student of history in his youth, wasn’t he? Can we say he is a searcher, a researcher, a historian, a chronicler? I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I have always seen a certain (ideal) parallel between some of Mr. Costa’s films and things like Die Kinder von Golzow…Of course, in spite of all the years of hard work and efforts, Mr. Costa will never really know, much less understand, what it was like for people like Vanda or Ventura to grow up/old in Fontainhas: Vanda, Ventura and Mr. Costa  might all be living in the same city at a given time, but they were born in different worlds completely. Nevertheless, what is crucial to me is that Mr. Costa wants to know: he struggles to know more – not everything, mind you, just a little bit more… the color of a shirt, the shape of the creature in Ventura’s nightmare, little details like that… He wants to know more about the things that interest him, and he tries to leave a record, a trace of what he finds out. This is what I admire.

2) I am not sure about what I like to be confronted with. I am open to all possibilities, I guess. Even though, I have my prejudices, as discussed before…

In addition to hearing your opinion on 1) and 2), I’d like to know: can you imagine In Vanda’s Room, Colossal Youth and Horse Money in literary form? Like an essay, or a Riis-esque news report, a novel…

Patrick: No, I cannot imagine those works as written texts. Mr. Costa is very much about the material sensuality as well as the time of things, in my opinion.  There might be another relation to the Straubs: I cannot imagine someone blinking in another medium.

People talk about Hou Hsiao-hsien as a chronicler also, and I have problems with it. Yes, there is history in their works, there is a sense of time, politics and how they relate to each other. But I think to call them historians is wrong. They make cinema. Of course, we can talk about history through cinema, but there is an immediate presence of things that comes way before it… the wind, the movement, the eyes… all these things… and please do not tell me that this is mysticism again! It is not. There is a director and he makes a decision. It is like Godard said: History is with a big, capital “H” in cinema, because it constantly projects itself. It cannot be history without first being cinema, and by first being cinema it becomes presence (when done by those masters). It is a philosophical question, no doubt. Cinema can give me the experience of time… this is not what historians do. Historians – as much as I admire some of them – can also make me aware of time, but they can never make me experience it.

This is an emotional topic for me. I don’t know why. Concerning the questions about fear and love, there is a strange relationship going on between them in life, and also with Mr. Costa, I think. We were talking about that before: this fear of desire… When I was a child, cinema could make me be afraid of something, and this is why I have loved it. But now it is the other way around. Now, it can make me love certain things, and this is why I am afraid of it.

Have you seen any John Ford after we met with Mr. Costa? You have written a great article comparing Colossal Youth, Horse Money and Sergeant Rutledge (LINK).

JMonteiro

Michael: “Histoire(s)” with a capital H and – Godard added – with two “S”, as in “S.S.”. Which naturally brings us to that good old fascist John Ford. Nah, just kidding. To answer your question: yes, I have seen some Ford after we met with Mr. Costa. Let’s go straight into eye of the cyclone: 7 Women. What do you think about it? I think it is quite a ridiculous film.

Patrick: I have seen 7 Women after having seen many Ford movies in a row and, for me, it was one of his weakest. It touches the ridiculous, especially in terms of casting. But then I couldn’t help seeing 7 Women in relation to its being the last of Ford’s films. His last film… It is full of bitterness and cynicism. There is a statement in the end. Moreover Ford got rid of many things there, it is a film that goes to the essence which in this case is survival for me. And he seemed much less a fascist in the end, didn’t he?

What makes you dislike it? Mr. Costa has talked about abstraction in the past and how he observed that filmmakers are heading towards abstraction in their later works. Would you say he is right, also in regard of Ford?

Michael: Firstly, I don’t agree with your placing such an emphasis on closure, or finality. Ford couldn’t and didn’t know that 7 Women was to be his last film. Maybe his next project (I am sure there was a next project, there always is…) was a romantic comedy, who knows? I think it is one of the fallacies that affect last films: their importance tends to be overestimated (in dramatic, bitter and cynical terms, more often than not) because they are THE END of an author. This annoys me, I have to be honest. It is as if at the end of his life a man couldn’t help be bitter and cynical, which Ford certainly was, but no more in the ending of 7 Women than, say, in the ending of Stagecoach that I have already described and praised at the beginning of our conversation. And just imagine Ford dying after Donovan’s Reef, a film made a couple of years before 7 Women, but completely devoid of gloomy atmosphere, rape, infanticide, madness, suicide. Donovan’s Reef is a charming, heart-warming romantic comedy that totally looks like an old man saying goodbye to life and closing his eyes in peace with the world, doesn’t it? In the utopic atoll everything turns out fine for the main characters, Wayne gets the city girl and they all live happily ever after. I mean, the worst thing that happens in Donovan’s Reef is that the city girl might be a bit uppity and racist at the beginning. Nothing that a good spanking can’t cure…

7 women

Anyway, back on the main subject, yeah, in 7 Women the casting is kinda meh. Plus, the characters are not only too many (specifically, there are too many women, some of whom are overlapping in their “distinctive characteristics”), but also one-dimensional, cartoonish and uninteresting. The lines are awful most of the time, and the acting… ouch! The Anne Bancroft character is tough and cool, but watching her playing a johnwayner version of John Wayne is just painful. Plus, Mike Mazurki wrestles Woody Strode and wins? No fucking way. However, I believe that at that point in his career Ford was experienced enough to make a film in which everything is intentional, so if he did things like that, he wanted the film to be like that, for some reason I cannot grasp. It was intentional, I am sure, to make the mother-to-be SO annoying… that is kinda interesting, as a matter of fact: the big hero(ine)’s self-sacrifice for this nagging, unsympathetic, ugly, old woman who was stupid enough to get pregnant in middle-of-nowhere China, fucking her nagging, unsympathetic, ugly, old husband. Wow! Which leads me to what I believe is the essence of Ford’s cinema: to me it is not survival, as you say, but duty. If the core was survival, there would be no need for the Bancroft character to kill herself: she could have killed the big bad wolf and try to survive the aftermath of her action… Running away or something. Worst case scenario, the henchmen catch her and kill her. But no. She kills the baddy and immediately commits suicide. Why? Because she must fulfill her duty: to be a hero (and a fallen woman). Just my two cents, sorry if it sounds dogmatic.

I don’t know if there’s a connection between directors getting old and their movies moving towards abstraction, as Mr. Costa says. Do you think so? On the matter of aging filmmakers, I agree with Quentin Tarantino, who said that as a filmmaker gets old, his films tend to be not so good as the first ones. There are many exceptions, of course, but in my opinion this is generally true.

Patrick: You are right, I was wrong (sounds like a Locarno winner) about survival not being the essence, but I don‘t think it is duty either (though there is an argument that the duty in this film is survival). I think duty in Ford is not a question of morals, getting an order or something like that; it is about a political statement and the fiction that is built around it. In this regard, the ending of 7 Women may not be as dull as you described it. For me, it is also a film that takes place in a lost paradise (there is some strange turn-around connection with Donovan’s Reef). It is not China as China. As far as my perception and memories of the film are concerned, you take things very literally. The question of being a hero(ine) is not so simple here, because the question in Ford is always more about the: “What does it take? Where is the lie/fiction? Do we accept it?”. Here, his solution is killing, which leads to suicide. Is this a dull statement, or do we find something in-between, maybe more on an abstract level? 7 Women speaks to many things Ford has done during his career. The dry way suicide is shown is far away from heroism in my view. Maybe Ford even had the same thoughts as you about the stupidity of duty? I tend to find always both sides in Ford, especially in his endings. The romanticism of the hero, which he most clearly shows in Young Mr. Lincoln, is not always pure. There is a doubt, an irony (The Irony Horse, very bad play on words…)… Let’s take The Lost Patrol, a film I mentioned earlier which is also set in a supposed paradise, the Mesopotamian desert.  This film is far more abstract than many others and it is not a late work of Ford… There is an invisible enemy and a feeling of sad impuissance in the face of war.  Feelings we can understand today. There are also suicides. In the end, there is a kind of savior. A Sergeant defends himself against all enemies until another patrol saves him. For me, in The Lost Patrol as well as in 7 Women (though the former is a much, much better film, I am only trying to state that the latter is not dull), Ford tells about the fictional nostalgia of heroes in the shadow of a reality that overpowers anyone in it. There is a constant inability to explain, to communicate in these enclosed worlds of men or women. The only things that are able to reach out are violence and friendship/love, and both of them do not really work. 7 Women asks about the thin line between being victim and perpetrator, and in the end – like in The Lost Patrol – Ford talks about the salvation of destruction and the destruction of salvation. Maybe those words are much too big, but I find your approach to Ford in terms of narration, and how casting justifies it, a little narrow. For me, he is not a director that can be watched without his formalistic choices. Who does he show, what doesn’t he show, where is the close-up and so on. It has been almost a year since I have seen it, so my arguments may feel a little basic. Sorry for that. But I feel like defending Ford here because, firstly, he has done worse than 7 Women, and secondly with Ford there is always another film that speaks with the one you were seeing and which enriches the experience. This may be the reason why Alexander Horwath has called Ford’s cinema “an ocean” (though he does that with almost any director…).

the-city-under-the-sea

Concerning the topic of the “last film”:  probably you are right and we place too much value on some film being the last one of a filmmaker. But then, there is a fiction in film-watching, too… We print the legend, so to speak, and if a last sentence in Ford is “So long, ya bastard!”, or the last word in Kubrick is “Fuck”, then I WANT to believe though it is nothing more than an anecdote. What would cinema be without these mythologies? Moreover it surely stimulates thoughts about the worldview of this or that filmmaker. There are not many last films I really love. Gertrud by Dreyer is one of the few, L’Atalante by Vigo, of course, but in the case of Mr. Costa’s favorites, I tend to think that neither Ozu, nor Ford, nor Chaplin, nor Tourneur achieved something tremendously worth-wile in their last works. I don’t know about Tarantino’s notion of films getting worse with the age of their maker… I observe that some older filmmakers seem to get a bit lazy, they find their language and I miss the doubt in their late works. There is no doubt, no struggling visible any more. The problem for me is when I sense that somebody knows too well what he is doing. I often miss the burning fire, the impossibility of not-doing the film… like you said, there are filmmakers who manage to keep that fire or doubt… Godard is one of them and I wouldn’t know how to talk about De Oliveira.

In terms of abstraction I certainly feel that it is the case with Mr. Costa. Which leads me to an obvious question: do you think that Mr. Costa can be included in Tarantino’s (self-)observation? Is Cavalo Dinheiro in your view worse than O Sangue? Is there the still same fire?

Michael: Thank you for defending your opinion with such passion. I totally disagree with you, and our views are kind of “not-reconciliable”, but I see your point. Also, I took note of your insights on The Lost Patrol, which I haven’t seen: not a big fan of McLaglen in superdramatic roles here, I must admit… I didn’t like The Informer at all, for instance. And I will purposefully ignore your mentioning Young Mr. Lincoln, because it would take us too far into a dangerous territory (Young Mr. Lincoln is a film I find difficult to digest, together with another film in which Henry Fonda plays a sneaky, mephistophelic manipulator who bullies the crowd into being good, 12 Angry Men).

I, too, think that “some older filmmakers seem to get a bit lazy, they find their language and I miss the doubt in their late works. There is no doubt, no struggling visible any more. The problem for me is when I sense that somebody knows too well what he is doing”: Lars von Trier, anyone? But then, to connect to your last one-in-three (triune?) question and spitting it back to you, isn’t Mr. Costa actually trying to find a filmmaking daily routine, to find some solid – possibly boring, white- or even blue-collar – basis in such an erratic profession, so that doubt, pressions, paranoia, deadlines, artsy bullshit, me, you, the festivals can be cast aside? Hasn’t he spent the last 15 years looking for a tranquility of sorts, a home-studio where he can get old making movies with his friends? O Sangue, too, was an attempt to make a movie with a bunch of friends…

gertrud dreyer

Patrick: That’s an interesting one. Is Mr. Costa making friends and develops a desire to work with them, or does he have a desire for working with someone and in the process befriends the person? I think it is the former, but somewhere he had to start. For a filmmaker there must always be the potential of a film, in every movement, in every face, don’t you agree? I am not entirely sure that he really tries to find this quiet place you talk about. He seems to enjoy travelling the whole world, he seems very much to enjoy talking to cinema-people around the globe, to live in this world of cinema… he is searching for the last places where this idea of cinema exist, but as much as I believe in his films, I think now, for the first time in our conversation, you are the romantic believer and I am the skeptic… of course, I couldn‘t know. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Mr. Costa is searching for fame or anything like that… no… but he likes his films to be shown. Let’s take the event where we met. The Munich Filmmuseum was screening a Fontainhas retrospective. That is a perfectly suitable place for Mr. Costa to show his films. Not because it is a museum, but because it was programmed there with passion, with an idea of cinema, it was a cinema-experience. But one day later Cavalo Dinheiro was screened at the Munich Filmfest (it was screened in the same cinema, but it was a different event)… though it is great of them to show the film (they even awarded him the main prize thanks to Sam Fuller’s daughter who apparently knows something about cinema) it is a horrible industry-event, full of money, German tastelessness, no respect for cinema. Mr. Costa accepted their invitation without hesitation. Is that because of duty or survival? I completely understand Mr. Costa, of course, his films should be shown everywhere because they enrich the life of everyone who sees them, and it is the only way for him to keep on. It is also a way to fight for cinema. But I don’t think he is trying to have a quiet life with friends… I think the opposite is true… he is one of the very few filmmakers that are fighting for an ideal, that feel the need to make, talk and defend cinema in and against an unaware public. He was complaining in Munich that he is weaker than Straub in this regard, but I think he is just different. I think a part of the doubt I can still sense in his work is due to the bitterness of this contact with reality. It is a contact with friends, places but also with the industry of cinema… and he has to be part of it to fight it. It is just speculation and I feel a bit bad about it but these are just my thoughts. He is not David Perlov, Vincent Gallo or even Terrence Malick, avoiding festival life and so on. And we can be grateful for it. What do you think?

Michael: Yeah, there’s no easy answer, thanks for pointing out all the complexities… Even though I think that, given the chance, Mr. Costa would stay in his native Lisbon and shoot his stuff, haunting the rooms he loves like Pessoa did with his (imaginary) friends.

But you were talking about cinema and friendship. Let’s go back to that, I think it is important, last but not least because our friendship (I mean, you and I becoming friends) was mediated by cinema…

counttess

Patrick: You know that these are perfect words to finish our conversation, don’t you?

Michael: Better than those in the last title card of The Long Voyage Home? More perfect than “The rest is silence”? I don’t think so. But, please, let us not go astray: continue your discourse about cinema and friendship, or I’ll break our friendship, by devil!

Patrick: Many of the greatest worked, and are working, with their friends and relatives. I think it is very hard to create art in film without “friends”. Just a few random names to underscore my argument, and to stimulate our thoughts in a tender way in the midst of all this heat I still feel burning inside my fingertips concerning John Ford: Jean Renoir (another one of those who, for my taste, found their language too easily in his late works), Andrey Tarkovsky (may be fired after one or two drinks), Ingmar Bergman (too close), Tsai Ming-liang (Lee and melons at least), Fassbinder (a bit like Bergman, only without control) or Cassavettes (did not go to Fontainhas to find friends though)… But then there is something I also feel with Mr. Costa about this kind of friendship. It is another doubt, or let’s call it fear again… It is a question: Will it last? Are things mediated by cinema meant to last, or are they just ephemeral illusions, mechanical ghosts, memories? What do we have by talking about friendship via e-mail? What does Mr. Costa have making cinema with digital means? Oh, now I am very trendy philosophical. As I started this conversation you will have the final word, or shall we just close the door and leave everybody, including ourselves, guessing?

Michael: Refreshments!

THE END

Youth Under The Influence (Of Pedro Costa) – Part 3: The Natural Sexual One

Michael Guarneri and Patrick Holzapfel continue their discussion about the films they have seen after meeting with Mr. Costa in Munich, in June 2015. Quite naturally, in this part, they end up talking about Mr. Costa’s films and find something between sexual desires and ethical distance in cinema.

Part 1

Part 2

Michael: (…) Maybe it’s an Italian thing, an Italian take on poverty, but when I asked my grandparents about Chaplin’s films, they said something I find very interesting: “Yeah, I remember the tramp guy, very funny movies, I laughed so hard… but being poor it’s another world entirely”.

Please mind that I have consciously chosen Chaplin as he is one of Mr. Costa’s favorite filmmakers. Is Chaplin a traitor, in your view?

Patrick: Again, you make me think of Renoir, who said: “Filmmakers are the sons of the bourgeoisie. They bring to their career the weaknesses of their decadent class.” Did Chaplin know what poverty was/is? If he knew, was he really interested in it? We know that, as opposed to Renoir, Chaplin did not come from a rich household or a secure life. We know that Chaplin enjoyed his money, the money he earned, he was proud, living the capitalist dream by showing its downside. Compared to Ventura almost every other actor seems to be a traitor.

But maybe there is more to being poor and human than the reality of social conditions (which Chaplin in my view was merely addressing, addressing in a very brave manner because he was talking about things in his films that others wouldn’t have dared to – his films are always meant to be a film, an illusion and his acting is the best way to detect that: it is very clear that he is not really poor, he does not lie about it). Maybe there is some truth in his films that goes beyond their credibility. I think cinema would be much poorer if only those were allowed to show certain issues that lived through them.

casa de Lava7

Nevertheless I can perfectly understand your points and there is certainly some truth to them. I never really was overwhelmed by Chaplin’s worlds, it is somehow very distant for me, I watch his films in an observing mode. I never understood how one can identify with the Tramp. But while observing I identify with the filmmaker. Which brings me to a rather curious and certainly stupid “what-if”… I just asked myself why Mr. Costa is not visible in his films. He talks so much about the trust, the friendship and his life in Fontainhas. He should obviously be a part of this world. I don’t mean in the Miguel Gomes kind of way, but just in order to be sincere, because we shouldn’t forget that there is someone in the room when Ventura shakes, maybe he doesn’t shake at all, maybe someone tells (I think Mr.Costa has already talked about that) him: “Shake a bit more, Ventura.” But then I know that Mr. Costa and his camera are visible if you look at his films… It is just a question of his body being there, the presence. Do you know what I mean?

Michael: I am not sure if I understand what you mean, especially because I am not well-acquainted with Miguel Gomes’s body of work. Anyway, there is this scene in (near the end of?) In Vanda’s Room: Zita is in the frame, with her little half-brother if I remember correctly, and in a corner you can see a camera tripod against a wall. Maybe it is shy Mr. Costa “revealing himself”? I think so. Otherwise, yeah, as a person, he’s pretty much in the dark, behind the camera, in the 180 degrees of space in which we have been trained to pretend that everything and nothing exists. But is he really “hiding” in the dark? I am not sure. Sometimes it seems to me that Mr. Costa is all over the place, and not just a presence looming at the margins of the frame, off-camera. There’s a lot of autobiography in O Sangue. In Casa de Lava, Mariana is lost in Capo Verde just like Mr. Costa lost himself during a Heart-of-Darkness-esque shooting adventure in the tropics…

About Ventura shaking more than he actually does in real life: yeah, I read that too. I think it has to do with the way the camera captures movement. Did it ever happen to you that something that was perfect in real-time/real-life speed was awful when filmed? Like, you shoot a certain scene, and when you watch it on the screen you realize that this or that real-life movement must be done more slowly to look good once filmed? I think it is the same with Ventura’s shaking. It had to be exaggerated to become “cinematic”, to become visible, comprehensible, dramatic, melodramatic. I guess this is why Chaplin rehearsed on film…

Ossos7

Patrick: I just looked up the scene with Zita and her half-brother but couldn’t make out the tripod. Can you maybe send me a screenshot? I think it is due to my bad copy of the film or the darkness of the screen I have here because I cannot really see what is in the corners of the frame.

You are completely right about Mr. Costa being all over the place in his films though. I think it is most obvious in Ossos and his portraits of artists at work, Ne change rien and Where does your hidden smile lie?. I think it is a question of approach, the distance to the filmed ones always tells us something about the one who films with Mr. Costa. It is not only his position in spatial terms, but also in ethical and emotional terms. I am very careful with autobiographical aspects though you have your points. After all the way of a shooting, personal desires and memories are part of many, many films. It is very hard not to have more or less obvious traces in a film.

As for the way camera captures not only movement but anything, I think… the notion of something being empty or crowded, speed, relations like big and small and so on, yes, I know that and yes, this is surely a reason to shake more… but still… it only shows me that cheating is part of making films. So for me what counts is what is on the screen.

Gomes often has his film crew acting out in front of the camera including himself. It is a very hip thing, full of irony and self-reflexion. In Our beloved month of August it worked for me because from the absurd body of the motionless director who is Gomes here, searching for money, without motion – without a picture – derives something important which is the fact that cinema can be found, will be found. In Arabian Nights he went for something similar (much bigger, of course) and he is always flirting with his own disappearance or death, the disappearance of the author, the idea of illusion as an escape from reality, maybe he desperately wants to escape because he is a traitor like all of them, like all of us – look at us! But Gomes and the question of the body of the director leads me to another recommendation of Mr. Costa I followed after our meeting: João César Monteiro. Are you familiar with his work?

 Ne change rien

Michael: I won’t send you a screenshot of the tripod-thing for the same reason Straub-Huillet didn’t put an image of the mountain when the mother looks out of the window in Sicilia!: I want to give you a space to imagine things. Nah, jokes aside, I cannot find the shot right now, skimming through the movie. But it’s there. Zita is there, I don’t know about the kid. She is in a sort of storage closet, the tripod is leaning against the wall in the background. Or maybe there is no tripod at all, I don’t know. Maybe it’s like the smile in Mr. Costa’s Straub-Huillet film, or the twitch in the neck of comatose Leão at the beginning of Casa de Lava: sometimes it is there, sometimes it isn’t.

About João César Monteiro, I have watched his film about the aftermath of the Carnation Revolution Que Farei com Esta Espada?, and A Flor do Mar. What did you see? Were you impressed?

Patrick: I have seen Silvestre, As Bodas de Deus, Vai e vem and O Ultimo Mergulho. Mr. Costa advised me to see Monteiro’s debut feature Veredas first, but I could not find subtitles.

Silvestre is really an amazing film. It is full of beauty and manages to have one serious and one ironic eye on folkloristic tales and the way they are told. Rarely have I seen such a depth in artificial imagery. O Ultimo Mergulho is also great. It is a sensual comedy of tragic circumstances, and also a documentary on a Lisbon night. For the other two, which happened later in his career, I can only say that I found them to be curious little charmers. No more, no less. But they are very interesting in regards to what we have been talking about: the body of the director in Portuguese cinema. With Monteiro we have this recurring character he plays, João de Deus. As I have seen only two of those films I cannot say too much about it. It seems to be something close to Buster Keaton, just a little madder and sexually deranged (if you google the name you will also find that this is the name of a medium and psychic surgeon from Brazil).

But Monteiro really gives his body to his films. Whereas Gomes tries to disappear, with Monteiro it is all about the presence of his body. He is much more serious as an actor, I think. There is another thing that strikes me about Portuguese cinema which is the use of language. How do you perceive that as someone whose mother tongue is much closer to Portuguese than mine? For me, no matter if Monteiro, Gomes (not as much), Lopes, Villaverde, Pinto, Rodrigues or Mr. Costa, almost all of them, the use of language is closer to poetry than anything else. It is very hard to do that in German though some directors managed to.

O Sangue4

 

Michael: I wish spoken Portuguese was closer to Italian! On the written page, the languages are very similar, but because of the way Portuguese is spoken – the pronunciation, I mean – it is just impossible for me to understand. I can understand little things and try to infer the general meaning of a given sentence, but most of the time it is impossible for me to follow. Bottom line is: I need subtitles, too, and I won’t risk any judgement to the poetic quality of Portuguese.

Anyway, about Vai e vem, do you know the scene in which Monteiro sits under the big tree in the park? That is the park – Principe Real – where he and Mr. Costa used to meet many many many many many years ago to read the papers together, drink coffee and talk… But it would be really hard to find strict similarities between their films, wouldn’t it?

Patrick: Do you really need to understand to hear poetry? For me, it has more to do with rhythm and sound. Of course, knowing the language is essential for poetry, but to get a feeling if something is poetic or not…well, I am not sure.

Thanks for the info about the park! I think there are some similarities concerning their use of montage especially related to Costa’s first three features. It is certainly hard to grasp. I would have to see more of Monteiro.

So now the youth under the influence of Mr.Costa talks about the influences on Mr. Costa. Do you see any connections to Portuguese cinema with him?

Silvestre5

Michael: For what I have seen, and heard, and read, I think the biggest similarity between Monteiro and Mr. Costa is their being “natural heterosexual filmmakers” (I am more or less quoting Mr. Costa, as filtered through my memory). How did they use to say back in the days? Cinema is a girl and a gun… This is also very Chaplinesque, of course. Rest assured that I am not alluding to anything deranged (though I read that there is some kinky sex and weird stuff in Monteiro’s João de Deus). It is just this idea of approaching interesting girls by means of a camera… I won’t ask you your opinion on this because you told me that you have a girlfriend: we will discuss that in private maybe.

For a more general take on the Portuguese scene, the names Mr. Costa always names are António Reis and Paulo Rocha. The former was his teacher at Lisbon Film School, and together with Margarida Cordeiro made a few films that Mr. Costa really likes, especially Ana and Tras-os-Montes. The latter made Os Verdes Anos and Mudar de Vida, which Mr. Costa recently helped restoring (they are available in a DVD boxset with English subtitles now).

If I had to be didactic, I’d say that the influence of the two early masterpieces by Rocha is more pronounced in O Sangue (whose title could have easily been “Os Verdes Anos”, i.e. “The Green Years”), both in the imagery and in the coming-of-age/maudit/enfant terrible/doomed love mood. I think that Reis, being not only a filmmaker but also a poet and an anthropologist, influenced a lot Mr. Costa’s approach to the cinematic expeditions in Cape Verde and Fontainhas… Reis used to say: “Look at the stone, the story comes afterwards…”. These words must have been a great inspiration for Mr. Costa as he was researching and searching his way into cinema after O Sangue. But of course things are more complex than this… Do you follow me? Have you seen Rocha’s dyptic and Reis and Cordeiro’s films?

O sangue2

Patrick: I can follow you very well, though of the above I have only seen Tras-os-Montes. I think that this midway between a (natural sexual and political conscious) poet and an anthropologist by means of film and work with film is much of what Mr. Costa is all about right now. There is something António Reis once said when talking to Serge Daney that strongly reminds me of Mr.Costa’s work in Fontainhas: “I can tell you that we never shot with a peasant, a child or an old person, without having first become his pal or his friend. This seemed to us an essential point, in order to be able to work and so that there weren’t problems with the machines. When we began shooting with them, the camera was already a kind of little pet, like a toy or a cooking utensil, that didn’t scare them.”

This idea of friendship of complicity… tenderness… how to film someone, how to work with someone you film, so what is this natural sexual thing really? Though you politely offered to discuss it in private between two male cinema observers/workers/lovers, I have to insist to have part of this conversation in public… I think it is remarkable how much anger and fear is in the way Mr. Costa’s camera approaches women (and men), especially compared to Monteiro, who I can always feel being very much in love with what he films and sharing this feeling. There is a sense of doubt with Mr. Costa, a darkness, this constant feeling of being not able to really enter with his camera and lights. Well, I get this point about cinema as a way of approaching women. Filmmakers like Ingmar Bergman or Leos Carax talked about it and have practiced it very excessively. But you can see/feel/touch it in their films. With Mr. Costa it feels different for me. It is like I can only touch the desire and never touch the thing itself. “Very abstract, very abstract”, like Monsieur Verdoux would say, but I think this is exactly what touches me in Mr. Costa’s films. With him the desire for movement is as strong as the movement. I can only think of two other filmmakers that are able to do that in contemporary cinema: Sharunas Bartas and Tsai Ming-liang. But much of this approach I could sense with Tras-os-Montes, though I am mixing ethics and sexuality here which might be a mistake.

Ossos6

Michael: No, in general I think it is good to mix them. Maybe they are the same thing, as sometimes the Marquis suggested (e.g., in the incomparable Français, encore un effort pour être républicains)…

I don’t know about the anger, but there surely is fear in Mr. Costa’s approach to filming people, and women especially (Ines, Vanda and Zita above all, in my view). Take In Vanda’s Room, for instance. A heterosexual filmmaker is in the girl’s bedroom with a camera… it’s strange, it’s cool, it’s unsettling, it’s exciting for a guy being there, isn’t it? What will happen? What is the secret beyond the door? What is the mystery of the chambre vert? But it is also scary: it is not a man’s world, and the girl might ridicule him, make him uncomfortable, and so on… He is in her kingdom, after all. He is in her power completely. So there you have it: fear going hand in hand with desire. Somebody even made a debut feature film called Fear and Desire, and then locked it in a cellar because he was too scared to show it to people. You wrote “this constant feeling of being not able to really enter”: it seems to me that the desire to enter and the fear of not being able to enter are what sex is all about. But the discussion is definitely getting weird. Mother, if you are reading this: this is film criticism, I am not a prevert.

Patrick: Your writing “prevert” instead of “pervert” reminds me that recently I have seen Le Quai des brumes by Marcel Carné, a film written by another one of those film-poets: Jacques Prévert. There is a painter in the film who probably ends up killing himself and he is talking a bit like Mr. Costa last year in Locarno when he described and somehow regretted how he always ends up talking about the terrible, fearful things in his films. The painter says: “When I see someone swimming, I always imagine him drowning.” Judging from his films, I think Mr.Costa is a bit like that. And I love that Carné is presenting any other worldview as an illusion.

I want to ask you two questions: 1. Do you think Mr.Costa films more the things he loves or the things he fears? 2. Do you prefer in cinema to be confronted with the things you love or the things you fear?

TO BE CONTINUED

Youth Under The Influence (Of Pedro Costa) – Part 2: The Mysterious One

Michael Guarneri and Patrick Holzapfel continue their discussion about the films they have seen after meeting with Mr. Costa in Munich, in June 2015. (Here you can find Part 1)

Michael: […] Which might be a good starting point for discussing our cinematic guilty pleasures… Do you want to start?

Patrick: Sure! But first I want to state that, for me, something that is recommended and liked by people like Mr. Costa or Straub can never be guilty. Maybe I’m too weak in this regard. I really don’t know about your mysterious childhood experiences. I think you underestimate a little bit the power of some of those films, and the differences within the evil machine, too. The craft also has some poetry that sometimes is bigger than the whole package… but we have discussed that already, I do not want to insist. Let’s talk about my guilty pleasures.

It is very hard for me, as I am living in a city where the expression “vulgar auteurism” was defined, and the mantra “Everything is Cinema – Cinema is Everything” gets repeated over and over. Now, for the first time, I see a connection with the Marquis, and that makes it even more attractive. Furthermore I think that, in a sense, watching cinema must be guilty.

Anchorman

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

But still, I just love many Ben Stiller/Will Ferrell films, I became a man (did I?) watching films like Old School, Zoolander, Anchorman or Semi-Pro. The same is true for Judd Apatow, which somehow feels even guiltier. Then there is Christopher Nolan. I hated Interstellar, but I would defend almost everything he did before Interstellar without arguments. I don’t remember a single outstanding shot, cut or moment in his films, but I remember the movement between shots (maybe there is an argument in the making…). I love agents, almost all of them. I like self-seriousness because I am very self-serious myself. But I cannot say that, during the last couple of years, there was anything I liked for its color like one could (but needn’t) like The River by Renoir, or for its dancing and singing. It has become harder to have guilty pleasures, because now they don’t sell you a box of candies, they just sell you the box.

But what’s even more interesting for me is what one doesn’t like despite one maybe should. We can call it “guilty failings” if you like. Do you have those failings?

the river

The River

casa de lava

Casa de Lava

Michael: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to skate over my guilty pleasures, and maintain a façade of very serious (self-serious?), austere intellectual. Yes, let’s talk about “guilty failings”! The River by Renoir – which you have just mentioned – is a film I cannot stand. It feels somehow too childish for my taste, as if somehow Renoir was trying to push people to watch everything with big watery eyes (the main characters are the kids/teenagers, it makes sense that Renoir does so: I just do not like it). This tear-jerking super-melodrama feeling is probably why I cannot take it seriously, especially in the big “the child is dead” monologue.

Another big guilty failing for me is The Third Man by Carol Reed. The movie has everything to be an excellent one: a genre I love, great casting (not only Welles but the always awesome, awesome Joseph Cotten), intriguing story and great dialogues, all the package. Yet, when I watch it, I just find it unbearable to sit through. To paraphrase David Foster Wallace, every shot is like “Look, mom, I am directing!”: the film is bizarrely baroque throughout, with lots of weird angles and convoluted tracking shots, a total show-off for basically no reason. For most of the film I was saying to myself: “Can’t the director just keep that camera straight?”… The Third Man is probably the one and only 1940s US noir I don’t like.

Was there a specific film or a director that you couldn’t stand, like, five years ago, and now you appreciate?

Patrick: I have to think about it. This issue basically leads me back to many thoughts I had in the beginning of this conversation. Ernst Lubitsch is a director I didn’t like a few years ago, but now I like him very much. Why is that? First, I hope and know, it is because I have watched more films by Lubitsch. I also re-watched the ones I didn’t like at first (To Be or Not to Be, for example), and found them much better. Maybe my eyes have sharpened, I am pretty sure they have, they should have. I suddenly recognize the movement, the way he builds his shots, the way he works with motives and eyes and the way everything feels always wrong in the right way. But there is also a suspicion. It’s the way people like Mr. Costa talk about Lubitsch, the way Lubitsch is dealt with in certain cinema circles, the way he is a legend with a certain flavor (don’t call it “touch”, it is not what I mean), a certain secret around all those screenshot of Lubitsch films posted on the Internet. I am afraid that those things seduced me, too… or did they teach me? Perhaps they just told me to look closer.

Design for Living

Design for Living

Maybe what I am searching for is an innocent way of looking at films. But one must be careful. Many confuse this innocence with being against the canon, which is always a way of living for some critics. But that’s bullshit. I don’t mean that I want to go into a cinema without expectation or pre-knowledge. It is just the way of perceiving: it should be isolated, pure. It’s impossible, yet it happens. Or doesn’t it? What do you think? Are there still miracles happening in contemporary cinema? I ask you because I want to know if we are talking about something gone here, like Mr. Costa says it is, or something present.

Michael: Thanks for mentioning Lubitsch. In a very good interview-book by Cyril Neyrat, Mr. Costa talks a lot about Lubitsch being a major influence for In Vanda’s Room. He also says that one of the first times he saw Vanda, she was doing some plumbing job in Fontainhas and she reminded him of Cluny Brown, from the homonymous Lubitsch film. Cluny Brown is indeed an amazing film. As all the US production by Lubitsch, it is very witty and some very spicy (at times downright dirty) sexual innuendos are thrown in in a very casual way, which is absolutely fantastic. It is somewhat sexually deranged, but in a very controlled and seemingly proper way, hence (for me) the feeling of vertigo that makes me catch my breath. Plus, of course, in Cluny Brown there are a lot of very intelligent remarks on working within a cultural industry: in this sense, the last 5 minutes of the film are worth 1000 books on the subject. In my view, Lubitsch is one of the very few who managed to use “the Code” (the production code, the Hays Code) against itself, to make every shot a bomb that explodes in the face of the guardians of morality. In this sense, another masterpiece – in my view even superior to some Lubitsch films – is Allan Dwan’s Up in Mabel’s Room. If you haven’t already, please check it out: it is WILD.

Cluny Brown

Cluny Brown

 

Vanda

Vanda

Now, to answer your question… Well, it is a hell of a difficult question, and it requires my making very strict and arrogant statements, for which I apologize in advance. Personally, I do not believe in miracles of any kind. In particular, I do not like to think of cinema as a miracle: I try to think of it as a machine that people use to do/get stuff, and I resist with all my strength to qualify this stuff that cinema produces as a miracle. I prefer to think of films as the result of hard work that might or might not reflect an idea, a feeling, a question, a search, or whatever you want to call it – something on which the audience has to work on, too. I guess I am the typical skeptic character, like Dana Andrews in Tourneur’s Night of the Demon. I guess I still have to meet my doctor Karswell to chastise and convert me to a more “mystical” perspective.

I don’t know if something in cinema is gone, or dead, but I tend not to be too apocalyptic. What do you think?

Patrick: Victor Kossakovsky once said that if he puts a camera at some place, something will happen there. Therefore he does not put it on a crossing.

Concerning miracles (now I am supposed to apologize in advance, but I won’t…), I think it is a question of how willing you are to let them in. Of course, films are fabricated, films are machines. But in my opinion this is a very simplistic way of seeing things, one that certainly is true and was very important at some time, but it has become to dominant. The Bazin-view seems to be out of fashion, I mean the theories about the camera as a recording device, something in touch with reality, with a life of its own. I don’t know if this is mysticism. It is very hard work to be able to let those things in. It goes back to the simple importance of perceiving some stuff around you and then getting the right angle, and so on, for these miracles to happen. It is obviously simplistic too, yes, but it is often ignored nowadays. We might translate miracles as life (those miracles are more often cruel than beautiful)…

About the whole cinema is dead business. I think it is an inspiration. For me cinema is always great when it reflects its own death, the art of dying so slow that you do not even recognize it, it is not only death at work, it becomes already-dead-but-still-seducing-at-work. You know what I mean? Cinema becomes like this girl you meet with too much make-up on it, she is drunk and exhausted, maybe she is coughing like Vanda or shaking like Ventura. But still there is movement, lights and shadows, there is cinema. For me cinema is always more alive when it is like that, not when it tries to shine bright, those times are over. Limelight by Chaplin is a perfect title for a perfect film for what I am trying to say.

Mr. Costa said in Munich that there are no cinematic qualities in a person, it has to do with something else, with getting to know someone, spending time with each other, understanding and trust. But then he somehow came back mentioning qualities in Ventura. What I am trying to say is that cinema for me is a way of perceiving the world. You can see it in a tree or in a person. Of course, it has to be fabricated and consumed and all that after it, and there is a high death rate in that, but as a way of life, as a way of seeing with one’s own eyes it will not die as long as someone is seeing it in things. So for me, Mr. Costa – though he might not agree – was seeing cinema, was seeing miracles (Gary Cooper in Ventura or Cluny Brown in Vanda…) though from a more distant point-of-view there was no cinema in his friends or Fontainhas at all. It was brought to life like a demon in the night, this is why I tend to speak of cinema as the art of the undead.

I completely agree about your remarks on Lubitsch. Do you recognise Cluny Brown in Vanda?

Michael: To be honest, no, I do not recognize Cluny Brown in Vanda, just like I do not recognize Cooper in Ventura. I understand why Mr. Costa makes the comparison, it makes sense and I respect that, it’s just that I – from a very personal point of view – do not really believe in Cluny Brown or Cooper. I accept them as characters in a film, and as a remarkable, at times even sublime abstraction of certain aspects of “humanbeingness”. But I do not really believe in them, I simply suspend my disbelief: because the dialogue is so cool, because I want to have fun, because I want to lose myself in the story, in the screen-world, whatever. Then the film is over, and that’s it for me. Cluny Brown, Cooper, they all die, I tend to forget them and move on with my life, and so did they when their job was finished, of course. What I mean to say is that they do not leave me much, I have the feeling that we live in two separate worlds.

With Vanda and Ventura (or the super-fascinating Zita, or Vitalina, or the incomparable, magnificent Lento) I feel a little different. It’s not a fiction versus documentary thing: I find the distinction between the two very boring, and of course one can tell at first glance that Mr. Costa’s post-1997 digital films are as carefully crafted and staged and enacted and performed as any other fiction film ever made. It’s just that, when I watch or listen to the Fontainhas people, I get in contact with something that it is here, that is not just a film, just a thing I am watching. It is something that watches me back as I am watching, and stays with me forever. It’s life, it’s their life, it’s Mr. Costa’s life and in the end it’s part of my life too. How was it? “This thing of darkness I / Acknowledge mine.”

And now a one-million dollar question: if anyone can be in a movie, can anyone be a filmmaker?

Von Stroheim

Erich von Stroheim

Patrick: You have some great points here, so this is going to be a long answer. For me the whole documentary/fiction debate that has been popping up for almost a century now is best solved by Gilberto Perez in his bible The Material Ghost. There is the light and the projector and together they are cinema. So, why bother? It is so stupid of a film magazine like Sight&Sound to make a poll of the Best Documentaries in 2014… In the words of Jia Zhang-ke: WTF! I still can’t believe how many serious filmmakers and critics took part in this awful game. At least people like James Benning or Alexander Horwath used the opportunity to point at the stupidity of such a distinction. It is not boring, it is plainly wrong to do so.

Then, I find it very curious that you talk about “life”. I think your “life” is what I earlier called “miracle”. And here I find a strange clash of opposed views within Mr. Costa’s recommendations. On the one hand, there is someone like Straub. Straub clearly is against the idea of using real life circumstances, of doing something for real in cinema. He said so more than once. On the other hand, there are people like Von Stroheim and Godard: both of them tried things with hidden cameras, both of them were fascinated by the idea of their picture becoming “life”. The most famous incident is surely when Von Stroheim tried everything he could to have a real knife in the finale of Greed as he wanted to see real pain in the eyes of Jean Hersholt, who played Marcus. (We can imagine what happened in the lost Africa sequences of Queen Kelly now). So this is not the “life” you are talking about… This “life” or “miracle” has to do with seeing and not-seeing, light and darkness and so on. I am completely with you there. But what about this other definition of “life” I have just mentioned? For you, when you see the weakness of a man confronted with his inner demons like Ventura in Horse Money, is it something like the pain in the eyes of Hersholt or something different? I am not asking if it is real or not which would be very strange after what I said before, I merely want to know if Von Stroheim was wrong in trying to have a real knife… I want to know what makes the pain real in cinema.

I am also glad you brought up Vitalina, Lento and Zita. They show me exactly what you mean, as all these comparisons with actors are something personal: it is a memory, a desire, maybe also a trick our mind plays on us. Our common friend Klaus, for example, told me that while looking at the picture of Gary Cooper in the first part of our conversation he suddenly recognized a similarity with Mr. Costa. Material Ghosts.

Concerning your last question I will just quote Renoir from his interview with Rivette and Truffaut in 1954: “ (…) I’m convinced that film is a more secret art than the so/called private arts. We think that painting is private, but film is much more so. We think that a film is made for the six thousand moviegoers at the Gaumont-Palace, but that isn’t true. Instead, it’s made for only three people among those six thousand. I found a word for film lovers; it’s aficionados. I remember a bullfight that took place a long time ago. I didn’t know anything about bullfights, but I was there with people who were all very knowledgeable. They became delirious with excitement when the toreador made a slight movement like that toward the right and then he made another slight movement, also toward the right – which seemed the same to me – and everyone yelled at him. I was the one who was wrong. I was wrong to go to a bullfight without knowing the rules of the game. One must always know the rules of the game. The same thing happened to me again. I have some cousins in America who come from North Dakota. In North Dakota, everyone iceskates, because for six months of the year there’s so much snow that it falls horizontally instead of vertically. (…) Every time my cousins meet me, they take me to an ice show. They take me to see some women on ice skates who do lots of tricks. It’s always the same thing: From time to time you see a woman who does a very impressive twirl: I applaud, and then I stop, seeing that my cousins are looking at me severely, because it seems that she wasn’t good at all, but I had no way of knowing. And film is like that as well. And all professions are for the benefit of – well – not only for the aficionados but also for the sympathizers. In reality, there must be sympathizers, there must be a brotherhood. Besides, you’ve heard about Barnes. His theory was very simple: The qualities, the gifts, or the education that painters have are the same gifts, education and qualities that lovers of paintings have. In other words, in order to love a painting, one must be a would-be painter, or else you cannot really love it. And to love a film, one must be a would-be filmmaker. You have to be able to say to yourself, “ I would have done it this way, I would have done it that way”. You have to make films yourself, if only in your mind, but you have to make them. If not, you’re not worthy of going to the movies.”

Renoir

Jean Renoir

Michael: Wow, awesome and inspiring words from Renoir, I have to seriously think about them now! You don’t get the one million dollar, though, since you answered with a quote by someone else.

Back on the life-miracle issue… A certain dose of mysticism is always healthy, it is good that you insist on this point to try and break my stubbornness. As you know, Mr. Costa made Où gît votre sourire enfoui? to destroy a critical stereotype about Straub-Huillet, namely that they are purely materialist filmmakers: as Mr. Costa’s shows, there is something in their daily work with machines that cannot be put into words, something mysterious… a smile that is hidden, or just imagined. And so is in Mr. Costa’s films, from O Sangue until now: there are always cemeteries, there is voodoo stuff going on all the time.

Night of the Demon

Night of the Demon

Where does your hidden smile lie?

Where does your hidden smile lie?

About the Hersholt-Ventura comparison: in my view, yes, the pain in the eyes of the former is different from the pain in the eyes of the latter. Very different. But allow me to make another example, and be more controversial. Are the sufferings of Chaplin’s tramp and the sufferings of Ventura the same? Are they both real? Well, they both are choreographed and made more intriguing by heavy doses of “melodramatization” (a cinematic treatment, or fictionalization, of reality that aspires to make human feelings visible and audible). But we must never forget that one of these two “screen personae” is a millionaire playing a tramp. In the end of his tramp films, Chaplin walks towards the horizon, and I always have this image of him in mind: the camera stops rolling, the tramp wipes off his makeup, hops into a sport car and drives away to bang some hot girls or something like that. Unfortunately, there is no such “release” for Ventura and the others. This is not to diminish Chaplin. He is one of the greatest – not only a total filmmaker but also a total artist: actor, director, musician, producer… It is just that I do not believe in him, in his films, in the world that he shows. I like the films, I enjoy them, I think that their humanism is heart-warming and powerful, and that many people should see them. I just do not believe in the world they show. I do not see life in it, I do not recognize this world as mine. It is a world that I cannot connect to. Maybe it’s an Italian thing, an Italian take on poverty, but when I asked my grandparents about Chaplin’s films, they said something I find very interesting: “Yeah, I remember the tramp guy, very funny movies, I laughed so hard… but being poor is another world entirely”.

Please mind that I have consciously chosen Chaplin as he is one of Costa’s favorite filmmakers. Is Chaplin a traitor, in your view?

 Chaplin

 

Chaplin2

TO BE CONTINUED

Youth Under The Influence (of Pedro Costa) – Part 1

How is it that we find cinema? This might be a rather big question, maybe too big for any satisfying evening among cinephile friends, maybe one of those existentialist questions that seduce us from time to time, to make it short: We can’t answer such a question and we won’t try to. Nevertheless there are moments when we clearly feel inspired. Such a moment sometimes occurs because of a memory, something we see in an image, a color or an actor, something we want know more about. It may also occur when we read about something we haven’t seen, we feel an urge to see, to know, to feel. Sometimes it is just the idea of something provoked by the name of a director, a title or a prize. And sometimes it is someone we talked to, someone whose opinion is valuable, someone we trust or someone in whose eyes we see the fascination, the struggle and joy we also want to have.

In June, during the Fontainhas-Retrospective at the Filmmuseum in Munich, Michael Guarneri and I had the chance to talk with Pedro Costa about cinema. Naturally we talked a lot about his cinema, but there were also occasions when Mr. Costa before or after a screening or while talking about his own work dropped names, mentioned films and filmmakers with a sudden blink of fever (almost invisible) in his eye and made us thirsty for more. It could happen that during a Q&A, while he talked about gangsters being the most sensitive characters in cinema, he just wandered in his thoughts, whispered “Nicholas Ray?”, looked calmly into the audience and went on after a few seconds. Later while we had a drink he would just face anyone and ask: “Have you seen Foolish Wives?”, in this case the answer was positive which made Mr. Costa smile in agreement. Additionally his whole confidence concerning his view on cinema must necessarily be seducing for young film-lovers, it sometimes feels like there is a secret in cinema, a secret people like Mr.Costa tell you with their blinks and nods, their smiles and adjournments.

 

Costa2

Mr. Costa at the Filmmuseum in Munich

Knowing what you like or dislike seems to be a religion in cinema circles. The ability to bring on a strong opinion sometimes seems more important than actually being able to talk about a film. Of course, such empty words are not what Mr. Costa is all about. He is very well able to tell you about the details and ideas behind certain filmmakers and their work which makes his attitude even more seducing.

A few weeks after meeting Mr. Costa, Michael and myself found that we were still under the spell having watched many films that Mr. Costa recommended or just mentioned, following his taste and discovering new plants in the garden of cinema. We then decided that – in order to deal with our experience and make it more profound – we should have a conversation about the films and filmmakers we discovered due to Mr. Costa. This way we could also check if the secrets of cinema are really secrets, if smiles were entitled and if the desire to see and find is matched by the actual experience of watching the films. Of course, our conversation which will be published in parts went into many directions and is therefore also a testimony of the certainties and uncertainties of different kinds of cinephilia.It might entirely fail as what it was supposed to be, but still, it is something we tried with honesty and passion.

Patrick: I just give it a start. First of all, I want to say that I don’t recall Mr. Costa mentioning any filmmaker I haven’t heard about at all, which kind of reassures me. But he created a sort of appetite in me for people like Jacques Tourneur, Erich von Stroheim, Ernst Lubitsch, João César Monteiro, the Straubs (naturally), Godard (naturally) and anything with Gary Cooper in it. I think the first film I saw at home after the retrospective was Canyon Passage by Tourneur. I expected a Western and somehow got a film that didn’t really want to be a Western, it wanted to escape to some other place, somewhere where it can just rest. I pretty much liked it, though it did not blow me away as other Tourneur films like I walked with a Zombie or Cat People did. Can you remember what your first Costa-inspired screening was, after we met?

 

Canyon Passage

Canyon Passage

Days of Glory

Days of Glory

 

Michael: I think it was Days of Glory by Tourneur, or, as Mr. Costa dubbed it, “Gregory Peck in the cellar”. At that time, I was finishing up this piece about Tourneur’s The Flame and the Arrow , and reflecting a lot about Tourneur’s role in the US propaganda machine before and after the end of WWII, so it was either anti-nazi Days of Glory or anti-communist The Fearmakers.

From Days of Glory I kept on exploring the anti-nazi genre with Lewis Milestone’s The North Star; whereas The Fearmakers led me to William Wellman’s The Iron Curtain and Robert Parrish’s Assignment: Paris. Suddenly, with the last four films I mentioned, a common denominator began to emerge: actor Dana Andrews playing an average guy – exhausted, trapped in planes, taxis, hotel rooms, prison cells, bureaus, offices, embassies, at the mercy of higher, hidden powers. Through the course of these four films we can really see him turning from idealistic war hero to a brainwashed, breathless, paranoid, insomniac war vet; a chain-smoking compulsive drinker tormented by splitting headaches. Canyon Passage might just be one of the few all-round hero roles in his career…

Patrick: I am not so sure about Dana Andrews being a hero in Canyon Passage. Well, there is a whole bunch of arguments speaking for it, of course, but something in his face aims to be the average guy you described. The way he sits on his horse, there is exhaustion in it, too. He always leans to the left or right, there are always wrinkles in his shirt. Furthermore, he is not really active in pursuing the two ladies of the film, oh, I think he very much would like to be an average guy there, just like Tourneur didn’t really want to make a Western like a Western.

In terms of anti-nazi films (I am hesitating calling it a genre because I am very much against taking ideology to arrange movies), I had only one experience in the wake of Mr. Costa’s recommendations: Man Hunt by Fritz Lang. Thinking about this film and the ones you mentioned, as well as some others I watched like Distant Drums or The Strawberry Blonde by Raoul Walsh, I recognize a certain tiredness and exhaustion everywhere… just like with Dana Andrews. In Man Hunt there is this middle part where the film doesn’t want to be paranoid anymore,there is always a flirt with those tormented headaches.

Michael: If you liked Man Hunt, you should try Ministry of Fear and Cloak and Dagger. In the latter, Gary Cooper is the lead. Anyway, what’s the reason behind your fascination with him?

 

Dana Andrews

Dana Andrews

Gary Cooper2

Gary Cooper

Patrick: I have seen Ministry of Fear and I like it. Will check out Cloak and Dagger as soon as possible, thanks for pointing it out. It would be too easy for me to talk about Gary Cooper’s exhaustion now, wouldn’t it? But just look at his tired face…

Distant Drums5

Colossal Youth8

It is something Mr. Costa mentioned when he compared Ventura to Cooper, the way he acts as himself and as something completely different while being there for the camera, for the other actors in the scene and for himself at the same time. There is sensuality in his acting that clearly comes from presenting itself as acting; it is like a Kiarostami and maybe also a film by Mr.Costa just with acting. The illusion comes when you know it is an illusion. But I think my fascination derives from his movement, his gestures. They way he beckons in Morocco by Von Sternberg, the way he marches in Distant Drums, the way he navigates his carriage in Friendly Persuasion and so on. It is different with Ventura for me though. I can understand why one can compare them but Ventura is something emerging from the shadows whereas Cooper is in broad limelight. They meet each other in the power Ventura shows despite the shadows and the shadows Cooper shows despite the fame. Something like that… Haven’t you had your Gary Cooper phase sometime? It somehow feels obsolete describing my fascination with him because after all, it is Gary Cooper…

Michael: No, I must confess that I have always felt very little attachment or sympathy to the big Hollywood stars, and to Hollywood cinema in general (except maybe for Bogart in High Sierra, for reasons I don’t want to disclose). In watching the films, I enjoy some of them, I like some of them… Of course, I am not immune to their power, or spell… They are made to be liked, aren’t they? Still there is always something very sneaky about them that troubles me, keeps me on my toes and even frightens me. A voice inside my head saying: “Woah, this is dangerous, they are trying to sell you something; watch out, don’t buy all the things they show and say”. So I never fall 100% in love with them. It must be because I come from a certain tradition of studies that sees Hollywood cinema as a sort of brainwashing machine at the service of an evil empire. Throughout the years, and thanks to wise people like Mr. Costa, Chris Fujiwara, Tag Gallagher, and so on, I have softened this approach, but I do not want to let it go completely. It is good to always be suspicious of the products of the cultural industry, I think.

Let’s take Night of the Hunter, for instance – a big influence on Costa’s O Sangue, and a personal favorite of many, many people. I watched it a couple of times in the past, and I rewatched it recently… Well, the movie is gorgeous, Mitchum is great as a deranged psycho and all that, but, man, all that Lillian Gish talking about children as little lambs who must abide and endure… it just pissed me off. I was like: fuck you, old lady! I guess I am more a “If the kids are united” kind of guy…

Patrick: I know exactly what you mean and I’m glad you have brought it up. First things first: Night of the Hunter. It’s a fragile one for me because my girlfriend loves it so fucking much (her way of whispering “Lillian Gish” when talking about this films resonates like an eternal echo in my ears)… but I’m more with you. I have seen it only one time and despite its obvious merits it left me cold. But it is certainly not a film I would like to bash, there are much, much worse. But I really don’t get the point of all those people mentioning how beautiful it is and so on. Yes, it looks great, but why don’t they talk more about Jean Vigo for instance? Is it childhood memories? Or is it because there is a certain romanticism about beautiful things appearing in the middle of this evil empire you are talking about? I don’t know. I know that it is not very simple.

With Mr. Costa I always had the feeling that it has to do with the craft. Hollywood after all means daily business, means going to work on a regular basis, it means living a life with certain restrictions, but still trying to build something personal or maybe poetic. And then you can start looking at some shots, some cuts, some gestures, and you will find them there with guys like Walsh or Lang. But you can also find them in a film by Jean Epstein or early Renoir (who Mr. Costa also loves, I think) and I always will prefer them because of the whole package, because of the testimony of their work as artists.Of course, a Hollywood film can also be art and an independent or European production can very much be part of the evil machine. As I said, it’s not so easy.

Last year we had this John Ford retrospective in Vienna. Mr. Costa was also there, he was talking a lot about it, I tried to watch as many films as possible and there were moments I really believed in Ford, in Ford as the peak of cinema… When I think of films like The Long Voyage Home or The Lost Patrol, I’m still shaking. But sometimes I found myself thinking of filmmakers like Bresson or Tarkovsky (to name the cliché) and I was thinking that I respect them more, the way they worked, the way they did not compromise with the machine, the way they don’t want to sell… Because after all you can always look at entertainment from two different angles. You can watch how they try to sell you something all the time, or you can look how sometimes a soul appears while selling you something. It’s the same with Ford and there is something in those films I always forget, it just slips through my mind. I think I want to forget it.

And while forgetting I am able to love certain things like an actor or a shot. It’s very naïve but I think this is what cinema is all about in the end. And there was a time in Hollywood when they were selling beautiful things. Gary Cooper is one of them because there is a soul visible sometimes… Maybe just in one shot, but then it is true. It is as true as it is in Dreyer or Dovzhenko. What do you refer to when you say “a certain tradition of studies”? I am always afraid of categorizing, I somehow have the feeling that cinema is wiser and richer than I will ever know. I feel that there are things in cinema beyond selling and not-selling, and therefore I would not speak of evil empires though I have a similar tendency as you. If cinephilia means loving cinema then sometimes you have to be blinded by love and if we hesitate here than it is maybe a problem of cinema, maybe we come from a generation where cinema has already betrayed us too often?

The Long voyage home

The Long Voyage Home

Stagecoach

Stagecoach

Cavalo Dinheiro

Cavalo Dinheiro

Michael: I don’t know about this betrayal business, I really have to think about it. Let’s come back to it later.

When I said “a certain tradition of studies”, I meant Adorno, Horkheimer, and all those who – to paraphrase Laura Mulvey – analyze pleasure or beauty in order to destroy it, so that beauty won’t blind us anymore. But we are not in a class, so let’s skip that. Here are two provocations.

First, you mentioned a girlfriend: aren’t cinephiles supposed not to have girlfriends?

And, secondly, you have the feeling that cinema is wiser and richer than you will ever know. In your view, who makes cinema wise and rich? Filmmakers or spectators? Most of the times, I have the feeling that, in order to make a very interesting movie, filmmakers just have to be vague or mysterious or “lazy” or ambiguous or contradictory enough so that spectators have the opportunity to make their own, custom-cut, “good film” in their heads. Take the ending of Stagecoach: ok, typical saccarine happy end from Hollywood, the couple of outcasts falls in love and they flee towards their new life; but wait a minute, they flee from the US, this rotten society ironically named “Lordsburg”… this doesn’t sound like a happy end at all! Choose one option, choose both, make up a third one, stay in the shadow of doubt, do as you please, please yourself as you please. Ford was not only a great storyteller but also a clever businessman… It is not by chance that they call it “narrative economy”!

Patrick: Then there was beloved president Nixon who said: I prefer Hollywood films.

I don’t know about your first provocation. The point is: I wouldn’t love cinema if I didn’t love that woman who knows so much more about it than me. And she knows a lot about the mysteries and vague things in cinema, a lot of things I wouldn’t understand otherwise. Mr.Costa spoke a lot about the Straubs… just to name an example (I don’t smoke as much…). And having four eyes helps a lot. Maybe she is writing to you now… it’s very mysterious.

Which leads me to your second provocation… I have some problems with it. First: Sharunas Bartas is also a clever businessman, so is Mr. Costa. The problem, I think, is not the selling, it is what they sell. They can sell me cinema as dirty as they like. As long as they don’t sell in order to sell. In my opinion cinema as an art form is beyond its makers and its spectators. I am very much opposed against intelligent people giving meaning or finding deep things everywhere. I know that one can do that, I have seen and read it but I often find it to be intellectual masturbation, worthless for anybody except the one who is masturbating and those who just like to watch (thinking of Giraudie now). There is a difference in filmmakers trying to be ambiguous and filmmakers finding an ambiguous truth. There are certain things cinema embraces and rejects and it is the task of viewers (critics, scientists and also filmmakers) to detect those aspects, to serve cinema, to use cinema, to play with cinema, to respect cinema. That might sound rather emotional but my point is that cinema just IS rich. Nobody needs to make it wise and rich. And this is also why in the first place it needs to be filmmakers that use this richness.

Is a good film for you something that is in accordance with your political believes only? Is it, to use Amos Vogel’s famous title, a subversive art?

Mes petites amoureuses

Mes petites amoureuses

Michael: Let’s say that, as an act of “intellectual honesty”, I try to like movies that are not right up my alley, and to dislike movies that are right up my alley. And, of course, I always fail. I guess I don’t really try that hard: too much pride and prejudice, not enough sense and sensibility.

I like a lot the expression “film as a subversive art” – this idea that cinema can take the world upside down. It is a wonderful mantra, it really gives me courage and strength when I think about it and repeat it in my head. But I cannot really think of a film that actually managed to subvert the status quo, right now. Can you?

Patrick: I think a single film didn’t, but maybe the idea of cinema as the only modern mystery like Breton said, had a few moments. What is your explanation for filmmakers like Mr. Costa, Godard or the Straubs liking a certain kind of Hollywood so much? I ask you because they seem to be right up your alley without having your dislike for the evil machine.

Michael: I think that, for Mr. Costa and the Straubs, it is like you said – the love for the craft, the production side, making ends meet, how can I do this with this much money. At least, this is how they rationalize it these days. But I suspect it also has to do with more mysterious things, like having seen these film at a young age, the dark theater, the giants on the screen, details in their personal biographies, and all the stuff you see in Mes petites amoureuses by Jean Eustache.

For Godard, I really don’t know. I read some of the things he wrote as a critic in the Cahiers, and I understood very little. But I don’t want to give you the impression that I reproach people who like films I don’t like. On the matter of taste, I agree with the Marquis: “Je respecte les goûts, les fantaisies: quelque baroques qu’elles soient, je les trouve toutes respectables, et parce qu’on n’en est pas le maître, et parce que la plus singulière, la plus bizarre de toutes, bien analysée, remonte toujours à un principe de délicatesse“.

Which might be a good starting point for discussing our cinematic guilty pleasures… Do you want to start?

TO BE CONTINUED

Cycling the Frame: Über die Verbindungen von Radsport und Film

Breaking Away von Peter Yates

Atemberaubende Helikopteraufnahmen, leidende Gesichter, erbarmungsloser Kampf zwischen Mensch und Natur. Die Überwindung der eigenen Grenzen ist emblematisch für Film, wie für Radsport. Mögliche Gemeinsamkeiten sind ebenso Thema des folgenden Gesprächs, wie die Unterschiede, die ein Vergleich einer Kunstform und eines Wettkampfs mit sich bringt. Dennoch lohnt es sich einen Blick auf den Radsport als ästhetische Kategorie zu werfen und dort, wie im Kino, nach einer Krise der Repräsentation zu suchen. Während also zuhause der Giro d’Italia auf den Bildschirmen flimmert, suchen Patrick und Rainer den Vergleich mit dem silver screen.

Rainer: Wir haben uns in letzter Zeit wiederholt über Radsport unterhalten. Du hast da einmal geäußert, dass das eine sehr kinematische Sportart ist. Dieser Gedanke hat mich nicht losgelassen und ich will nun in diesem Gespräch versuchen ein paar Dinge zu vertiefen, die mir interessant erscheinen.

Patrick: Ja, also bei mir kam diese Faszination für diesen Sport fast zeitgleich mit der Faszination für das Kino. Das hat erstmal immer ganz banal an der Kameraarbeit bei den TV-Übertragungen gelegen, aber dann auch mit einem Gefühl für Geschichtlichkeit, Fiktionalität und natürlich Bewegung

Rainer: Bei mir kam der Radsport zuerst. Vor unseren kurzen Gesprächen, habe ich mir da auch nie wirklich Gedanken über mögliche Verbindungen gemacht, da meine Radsportbegeisterung über die Jahre etwas zurückgegangen ist. Nun ist mir aber letztens in den Sinn gekommen, dass meines Erachtens vor allem eine Sache Radsport und Film verbindet: beide erschließen sich nur über die Dauer. Die Zusammenfassung eines Radrennens macht im Gegensatz zu anderen populären Sportarten wie z.B. Fußball kaum Sinn, denn die wahre Kraft der Übertragung eines Radrennens liegt in der Multiplikation von Anstrengung und Dauer. Das ist im Kern nicht so verschieden wie die Filme einer Reihe von Filmemachern, die wir hier am Blog hervorzuheben versuchen.

Img318a

Patrick: Ja, ich verstehe. Aber die Dauer im Radsport ist doch auch ein Bewusstsein für die Geschichte des Sports. Also was bedeutet es, wenn man an diesem Pass eine Etappe enden lässt, wenn dieser Fahrer dem anderen den Vortritt lässt und so weiter. Sowas gibt es im Film nicht. Die Dauer einer Übertragung reicht im Radsport sehr schnell in den Mythos. Damit sind wir auch beim Film, oder? Nur, was ich bei deinem Argument nicht ganz nachvollziehen kann: Bei Filmen geht es um eine Aufmerksamkeit, ein ständiges Beobachten und Wachen und ja, in vielerlei Hinsicht um ein konstruiertes und geschlossenes System, das diese Konzentration fördern will. Dagegen ist Radsport etwas sehr Offenes. Ich würde dir Recht geben, dass man den Sport erst über die Dauer richtig erfahren kann. Aber diese Dauer kann erschließt sich nicht wie im Kino durch das Ansehen einer Etappe bzw. eines Films, sondern man muss viele Rennen sehen, um diese Dauer wertvoll zu machen. Und zudem stört es dabei nicht, wenn man nicht alles sieht. Ganz im Gegenteil…der Sport funktioniert ja sogar immer noch auch über Nacherzählungen, über Anekdoten und kleine Randgeschichten. Es geht nicht nur darum, was wir in dieser Dauer sehen, sondern tatsächlich darum, was alles passiert. Ohne mich darauf festlegen zu wollen, würde ich sagen, dass Radsport ein Sport der Gleichzeitigkeit ist während Film eine Kunst der Zeitlichkeit ist. Und wir reden da natürlich von den TV-Übertragungen, nicht vom Sport selbst.

Rainer: Mir geht es auch im Wesentlichen um die mediale Aufbereitung des Sports, wobei man sich auch kurz unterhalten kann, inwiefern der Eindruck des Radfahrenden einer kinematischen Erfahrung gleicht – aber das vielleicht später.

Klar kann man das alles nicht eins zu eins übertragen – das will ich gar nicht behaupten – und deine Einwände sind sicher richtig. In der Natur des Sports liegt aber auch, dass nicht alles gleichzeitig im Bild sein kann, weil sich das Fahrerfeld zumeist nicht innerhalb einer einzigen Kameraeinstellung einfangen lässt. Darin könnte man eine Betonung des Offs sehen, die mir dann doch wieder sehr kinematisch erscheint. Darüber hinaus, erschließt sich, wie du oben anführst, der Sport tatsächlich sehr stark über den Mythos, über die Geschichtlichkeit und über Narrativierungen, die durch die Erzählungen der Kommentatoren (die, wie ich finde, im Radsport besonders gut sind) entstehen. Im Grunde machen das andere Sportübertragungen nicht anders, sie sind immer Erzählmedien – aber im Radsport liegt da doch ein anderes Gewicht drauf. Was ich eigentlich vorhin sagen wollte, spielt da mit hinein: Gerade weil über so weite Strecken kaum etwas passiert, nimmt man die ereignisreichen Szenen umso intensiver wahr – ich denke sehr viele Filme im zeitgenössischen Kunstkino funktionieren ähnlich, ich denke da zum Beispiel an Tsai Ming-liang oder Lav Diaz.

Patrick: Das ist alles sehr logisch. Spannend finde ich dann, dass diese Filme von einer Entschleunigung ausgehen, während es im Radsport ja eigentlich darum geht, schneller zu sein. Also Dauer hat im Radsport ja nichts mit Entschleunigung zu tun.

Rainer: Ist das so? Aus Sicht des Sports natürlich nicht, aber in Hinblick aufs Fernsehen sehe ich da schon entschleunigende Tendenzen. Die Geschwindigkeit von TV-Sendungen nimmt doch insgesamt zu, wenn man da beim Zappen auf eine Übertragung eines Radrennens stößt, wirkt das denk ich schon entschleunigend. Das gleiche trifft natürlich auch auf Segelregatten und Snookerpartien zu.

Lance Armstrong

Patrick: Ich glaube, dass auch in Radsportübertragungen da ein Bemühen erkennbar ist, das Tempo zu erhöhen. da gibt es zum einen jenen durchgehenden Kommentar, der jedes „Loch“ in der Geschichte des Rennens mit Anekdoten, usw. füllt, dann gibt es die Tendenz zum Spektakel, man filmt besondere Bauwerke oder überlegt sich wilde Dinge, wie bei der letztjährigen Tour de France als Kameras an Helmen befestigt wurden oder gar an Schafen am Streckenrand. Wenn man sich ansieht wie Filmemacher an den Radsport getreten sind, dann war das so weit ich das überblicke auch immer eine Sache von Tempo und Körperlichkeit. Das Leiden der Gesichter ist da filmisch, nicht die Zeit. Ich glaube auch, dass in den sogenannten langsamen Filmen immer unglaublich viel passiert, also Dinge, die gerade in dieser Langsamkeit sichtbar werden, während im Radsport, wenn ein Peleton lange Zeit zusammen fährt, oft auch nichts passiert. Ich habe bei Lav Diaz oder Tsai Ming-liang, um deine Beispiele weiter zu bemühen, mich noch nie gefragt: Wann passiert wieder was? Wann ist der nächste Berg, das nächste Highlight? Während Radsport eben durchaus auf einem solchen Warten aufbaut. Mit den Kameras kann ich dem Fahrer ins Gesicht schauen und ich frage mich, ob er in guter Form ist, wenn ich ins Gesicht von Lee Kang-sheng blicke, dann geht das darüber hinaus. Vielleicht, weil ich Film mehr als Erfahrung sehe und Radsportübertragungen, dann trotz deiner richtigen Bemerkungen am Ende ein Ergebnis haben.

Rainer: Radsportergebnisse sind sehr offene Angelegenheiten. Das tatsächliche Ergebnis wird doch erst ein paar Jahre später, nach Öffnung der B-Proben ersichtlich. Achtung, das war ein Witz.

Patrick: Ja, da liegt auch etwas Interessantes drin. Nämlich die Frage nach Fiktionalisierung und dem Spannungsfeld zwischen Helden und Anti-Helden. Wenn wir Radsport hier wirklich als ästhetische Kategorie begreifen wollen, das über den bloßen Sport hinausgeht, dann ist diese Frage nach der Fiktionalisierung der gesehenen Leistungen durch eine Verfälschung ganz ähnlich zu der im Film, oder? Ist das, was wir da sehen echt? In diesem Sinn ist Radsport in einer Krise der Repräsentation.

Rainer: Uh, jetzt packen wir die großen Theorien aus. Der Unterschied ist wahrscheinlich, dass die Radfahrer am Ende des Tages in realiter auf den Berg rauf müssen, dabei echt schwitzen und echt leiden. Die Leistung wird also tatsächlich erbracht, das ist unumstößlich, zumal es heute, anders als in den Anfangszeiten des Sports nicht mehr möglich ist illegale Abkürzungen zu nehmen. Möglicherweise wird bloß in der Erbringung dieser Leistung mit unfairen Mitteln gespielt, die sie verfälschen. Das ist aber ein anderes Verfälschen, als das Spiel des Akteurs, der die Leiden mimt, oder die Verfälschung der Montage, die bloß bruchstückhaft den Aufstieg in die Berge filmt, später zusammensetzt und damit den Eindruck einer durchgehenden Fahrt entstehen lässt. Aber natürlich gibt es auch hier Überschneidungen. Es soll ja so manchen Sportler geben, der absichtlich sein Gesicht verzerrt um angeschlagen zu wirken um später zu attackieren, und mancher Schauspieler leidet tatsächlich beim Dreh, um einem Authentizitätsideal nachzukommen (das auf der Leinwand womöglich gar nicht von gespieltem Leid zu unterscheiden ist).

Patrick: Jetzt verwechselst du aber endgültig die TV-Übertragung und den Sport selbst. Ich habe ja vorausgestellt, dass wir dann Radsport als ästhetische Kategorie begreifen müssen. Und dann schaue ich mir das an und ich sehe das Bemühen von den Übertragungen die Berge möglichst steil wirken zu lassen, die Zuschauermengen möglichst groß, die Gesichter möglichst leidend. Wenn ein Profi damit spielen kann, um so spannender für die Ästhetik, oder? Und die Illegalität kommt vielleicht nicht durch Abkürzungen, aber sie kommt umso heftiger durch unerlaubte Hilfe, vielleicht unsichtbar. In diesem Zusammenhang war es natürlich unglaublich, dass US-Postal damals ihre Spritzen praktisch sichtbar vor allen im Teambus bekommen haben sollen. Das wäre dann vergleichbar mit der letzten Szene aus Taste of Cherry von Abbas Kiarostami. Das Fiktionale liegt praktisch vor uns, aber was machen wir jetzt mit dem, was wir vorher gesehen haben, dem was wir sehen wollten, bei dem wir vielleicht sogar gefühlt haben?

Rainer: Ich muss jetzt zurückrudern. Du hast Recht, dass diese Ungewissheit immer mitschwingt. Kiarostami ist da ein perfektes Beispiel – da fragt man sich auch, was daran nun echt ist und was gespielt und wer da vor und hinter der Kamera eigentlich wieviel weiß. Dieses Gefühl ist vergleichbar mit dem ständigen Hinterfragen der Legalität der Leistungen der Fahrer. Da attackiert Contador am Ende einer langen Etappe mit einer unfassbaren Explosivität und keiner kann ihm folgen, und man fragt sich wie das möglich ist, zumal Contador auch immer wieder mit Dopingvorwürfen in Verbindung gebracht wurde und ihm sogar schon Titel aberkannt wurden. Dann wissen wir, dass manche Teams ganz schamlos, nur wenige Meter vom Medienzirkus entfernt, ihre Spritzen verteilt haben. Nicht einmal die Allgegenwärtigkeit des Kameraauges reicht also mittlerweile aus, um diese Zweifel zu beseitigen.

Patrick: Genau. Und irritierenderweise führt das dann auch gleich wieder in einen Unterschied, der für mich so unglaublich erheblich ist in der Relation von Film und Radsport. Ich meine die Möglichkeiten von Naivität, Traum und Heldentum… Im Film und zwar gerade in dem, was man so unter Slow Cinema versteht (auch wenn ich den Begriff furchtbar finde, er umschließt aber halt Filmemacher wie Tsai Ming-liang, Lav Diaz, Ben Rivers oder Lisandro Alonso) verliere ich mich, es ist eine sinnliche Erfahrung, ein völliges hingeben, während mir diese Naivität im Radsport nicht mehr erlaubt ist. Ich kann mich den Bildern nicht einfach hingeben, keine Chance. Nun würden manche sagen, dass dies im Film auch nicht (mehr) geht. Sie haben vielleicht recht, vielleicht nicht. Es hängt wohl an persönlichen Haltungen oder Themen. Aber es gibt eine Hypnose im Film, von der man nicht fliehen muss. Im Radsport sollte man das vielleicht tun und vielleicht liegt darin der Tod des Sports, den Godard ja nicht umsonst spätestens mit Kiarostami für das Kino gesehen hat. Wenn man nicht mehr träumen kann, wenn es keine Helden mehr geben darf, wenn alles in seiner Repräsentation, in seiner Verlogenheit offen vor uns liegt, was können wir dann noch tun? Im Radsport gibt es da ganz ähnliche Authentizitätsbemühungen wie im Film. Herstellung von Glaubwürdigkeit. Aber ja, diese Glaubwürdigkeit wird im Film von großen Filmemachern heute auch durch einen Zweifel erreicht. So ist das eben bei Kiarostami. Bei ihm existieren, ganz wie Jean-Luc Nancy das geschrieben hat, Illusion und Zweifel gleichzeitig. Ich kann mich gerade deshalb hingeben, weil ich weiß, dass es konstruiert ist. Sein Close-Up ist ein Musterbeispiel diesbezüglich. Und ob sowas im Radsport möglich ist, weiß ich nicht, glaube ich nicht.