Shadows of Resignation: Jacques Tourneur in Locarno

anne of the indies

What does it say about the state of cinema when the cinephile excitement and quality of a festival such as the 70th edition of the Locarno Film Festival derives more from a retrospective than the latest batch of contemporary films? There is more than one possible answer to such a question, so we might as well pose another one: Why is it important to see Jacques Tourneur? Isn’t it just self-affirmation, a sort of homecoming, or even a celebration of sorts? When I told people that I would be in Locarno this year, many replied rather enviously: “Ah, I would love to be there with Mr. Tourneur.” Is such a desire connected to the idea of discovering something new with or in Mr. Tourneur or is it just about the pleasure of returning to a place one likes? Both might be true and valuable, and after Olaf Möller’s discovery tour into the neglected history of German cinema during the 69th edition Mr. Tourneur is a reasonable step for the festival. Yet, I couldn’t help thinking – though I must admit I didn’t see as much of Mr. Möller’s choices as I could have – that the element of surprise and discovery was much bigger in Mr. Tourneur, who always switches between chameleon and auteur. One is never quite sure what to expect, always astonished at where one lands but still feeling that all these different paths were followed by the same filmmaker.

I walked with a Zombie

Before seeing and re-seeing many of his works in Locarno, my impression of Jacques Tourneur was a certain movement connected with a certain half-light. It is a travelling that follows characters through various states of light and shadow, like the famous invisible chase sequence in Cat People, or a sleepless night and dreamy gaze into the dark horizon in Anne of the Indies. These certainties are in fact describing uncertainties of intermediate worlds, desires, absences, or the supernatural which, as the director states in the accompanying catalogue of the festival, he believes in. Through those moments and states, a feeling that I can best describe as a sort of fever arises. It is connected to something I discovered while revisiting films like I Walked with a Zombie (which was shown at midnight at the Piazza Grande while a thunderstorm approached and eventually made me leave in the pouring rain) or Night of the Demon: There is an idea of the past tense in the films of Mr. Tourneur. His cinematographic language speaks in the present but his narratives seem to have already happened. This becomes very clear in the short films he did for MGM such as the mesmerising The Ship That Died or The Face Behind the Mask. Most of those shorts are narrated by Carey Wilson or John Nesbitt in an exaggerated, dramatic, but still sober tone, recounting mysterious incidents in the way an enthusiastic explorer might tell a story to a group of old, cigar-smoking men. The manner in which these stories are told makes it clear that they have already happened. There is a time before the film, sometimes even a time before time. Fittingly, some of the shorts deal with historical topics such as the French Revolution or the history of radium in Romance of Radium. Those films are less about what is happening than they are about our position towards it. Most of all, they ask the question: Do we believe or not? The same is true for many feature films. In fact, the camera deliberately tends to arrive at the scene a bit too early or a bit too late. Actions have already taken place or will take place no matter what we see. Maybe some secrets can’t be shown at all. One could talk about an economy of means that was perhaps also formed during the short film years. Mr. Tourneur doesn’t show too much, he just shows what is necessary. There is an air of something unavoidable, as if many characters in his films were not presented as real beings but ghosts from a story that has already been told.

Mr. Tourneur has always been the Hollywood director I found most difficult to write about. There are many elements that escape us while being with his films and a high level of ambiguity to them. It seems fitting that Chris Fujiwara used introductory quotes by writers such as Maurice Blanchot or Hélène Cixous in his great book on Mr. Tourneur called Nightfall – writers who are capable of expressing things that escape the notion of expression. The retrospective didn’t make the task any easier since it was the first time I saw very strong films like Les filles de la concierge or Easy Living, which add new colours to the palette of the filmmaker. His very precise, comedic talent which shows in Les filles de la concierge is came as a particular surprise. In constant movement between different love stories, the film tells not only about class relations but more about the way gazes and perspectives are organised between desire and duty, expressing and hiding. It was also a pleasant surprise that the screening of the film (even if it was shown without subtitles) was packed. So there might be a hunger for discovery in Locarno. I wasn’t able to see Pour être aimé, another French comedy by Mr. Tourneur before he moved back to the USA. Despite those “new” facets, there was something that struck me in almost all the films and which shed a new light, or maybe a shadow on all of his films: The mode of resignation. Fujiwara mentions resignation in his book. He writes:

“For Tourneur, resignation isn’t a moral ideal in itself but comes as the inevitable result of the displacement of the hero in history (the prolonged aporia of Way of a Gaucho) or as a convulsion or exhaustion, like the confessions of characters in I Walked with a Zombie, The Leopard Man, and Great Day in the Morning and like the surrender of Vanning in front of the church in Nightfall. Tourneur’s sense of passivity and inevitability colors even his most straightforward and positive protagonist, Wyatt Earp in Wichita, who has to be goaded into action by events and who apologizes to his enemy in advance for the bullet with which he kills the latter in a duel.“

anne of the indies

It is an observation I find to be very true. The displacement of the protagonists as well as the feeling of exhaustion are on the one hand connected to what I described as the past tense in Mr. Tourneur, but, on the other hand, they are related to a form of resistance his cinema keeps hidden like a treasure. In this aspect of his cinema we can find an antipode to filmmakers like Steven Spielberg for whom wonder and overpowering mean everything. Mr. Tourneur tells about greater and truer miracles, but he never counts on the reaction of the protagonists to those miracles and supernatural happenings. Of course, in some of his films closer to the horror genre, most notably in Night of the Demon, there are close-up shots of people being afraid and staring at something unknown. However, there is a resistance to seeing supernatural and natural miracles as something extraordinary. This is most notably true for one of his best films, Stars in my Crown. In the film, a typhoid fever breaks out in a small village. It is one of the many sicknesses in the films of Mr. Tourneur. One finds many fragile and tender shots of people lying in bed, unable to move, pale and in a state between life and death or just between being able to perform or not as in Easy Living. It seems very fitting that the well-deserved winner of the Golden Leopard, Mrs. Fang by Wang Bing is also a meditation on sickness and death. Where Wang Bing finds a tender insecurity in the close-up of a dying woman, Mr. Tourneur tends to avoid lingering on a dying face because it might move and reawaken any second. Both filmmakers find each other in open eyes that are not awake.

Those sicknesses add to the feeling of exhaustion but they also help establish the recurring conflicts between resignation and hope. In Stars in my Crown a moral conflict between a priest and the new doctor develops as both struggle with helping the desperate people. After the disillusioned priest goes through a period of resignation, he performs a miracle on the doctor’s dying wife. Despite the musical crescendo accompanying this miracle, which almost recalls Carl Theodor Dreyer (the miracle, not the music), Mr. Tourneur does not call attention to this scene as one of an overpowering salvation. Instead, it seems very natural that saving lives is not only about bodies but also about souls. The true miracle follows and it is an act of humanity in the face of racism. The priest addresses the heart of Ku Klux Clan riders who want to slaughter a black man to gain his property. He reads them (from an empty piece of paper) how the man about to be murdered bequeaths them his belongings. After listening to the priest, consumed with a feeling of shame and guilt, the men leave the place. One can find a lot of belief in these shadows of resignation, since they are not about telling us something extraordinary has happened but just that it has happened. This means a great deal if we are talking about miracles.

stars in my crown

Mr. Tourneur constructs his strategies of resignation concisely. Often, establishing shots are a drama of their own. The films jump right into some actions leaving the viewer clueless as to how they got there; it is like the displacement of the protagonists becomes clear in the very first shot. For example, in Circle of Danger (Mr. Tourneur’s first independent production), one of the many films that begin on a ship, there is a scale to the opening which almost feels like a red herring. We are on a ship and the protagonist played by Ray Milland is in the middle of some masculine action. Those seconds on a ship that merely serves as a character background and has nothing to do with the narrative of the film, shows how much Mr. Tourneur is interested in the mood surrounding his character and how he constructs a feeling of being out of place not only for the protagonists but also for the viewer. Fujiwara writes about this scene: “As in I Walked with a Zombie, Out of the Past, and Appointment in Honduras, we have the feeling of having arrived late to witness a process already about to be concluded.” The stuffy atmospheres, the sweat, the shadows, the male shoulders and soft female voices add to a mixture of temptation, sickness and giving in. Many writers on Mr. Tourneur (apparently mostly male as the catalogue and the round table in Locarno unwittingly showed) mention that he loved to make his actors talk very silently and move slowly. The latter is, for example, also true for Manoel De Oliveira with whom Mr. Tourneur shares the sense of predestination as well as the poetic soberness of looking at it. A title of a never-realised film of Mr. Tourneur, Whispering in Distant Chambers, seems to best describe the way people talk in his films. Especially in Nightfall, where the voice of Aldo Ray is surprisingly soft and silent in the face of the brutalities he has to go through. Detachment on the brink of alienation creates a distance in accordance with a knowledge about life which will sooner or later come to an end. For better or worse. Mr. Tourneur also talks about this process in an interview on Appointment in Honduras: “But I noticed that actors in most films tend to shout. The same dialogue said half as loud is more memorable and intense. To be worthwhile, dialogue should be said naturally, the way we talk everyday. You need to make actors not declaim and when they talk loudly, they have a tendency to declaim.” In his casting choices, especially concerning male actors, Mr. Tourneur seems to look for the type of actor that is sure not to declaim: Dana Andrews, Robert Mitchum or Aldo Ray are perfect examples of this. One could rightly ask what all of this has to do with resignation. It is the understatement and somnambulistic way of movement that is true for the protagonists as well as the camera and the way those movements face miracles and dramas. Moreover, the films focus on an absence of hysteria when confronted with tragedy. It is not that any of those elements, be it the past tense, the half-light, the camera movements, the way of talking, or the establishing shots are special per se. However, the combination of those elements forms a broken unity aiming at moods and memories in distant chambers.

easy living

Resignation is also a way of concealing an immense capacity for romanticism. In many films “strange forces” are at work. They bring perdition or redemption. The protagonists protect themselves against those forces by treating them normally. Even Dana Andrew’s role of the scientist in Night of the Demon or Frances Dee’s nurse in I Walked with a Zombie are never truly naive when confronted with things they normally wouldn’t believe in. They just struggle for rationalism which is, for Mr. Tourneur, closely related to resignation. In Easy Living, a film which Mr. Tourneur did not particularly like although it contains some of his finest directing, the whole idea of rationalism versus supernaturalism is turned upside down. A sportsman and star is told he should stop playing football because of a heart murmur. Afraid of his demanding wife and insecure about his post-career life, he keeps his condition a secret and goes on playing. Here, the seemingly supernatural force is the most natural of all: The fading of the body. The supernatural lies in not accepting nature. So, the film narrates the same battle as many other films by Mr. Tourneur, yet the protagonist has to learn to believe in the natural instead of the other way around. In place of fear, a sort of sadness informs the picture. In a brilliant move, the film establishes a character who could be called a figure of resignation, the one who knows about all this days before the protagonists or the viewer, the one who has seen it all before: A cynical journalist-photographer happens to be in the right place at the right time and helps dedramatize every possible flicker of romanticism until the very last shot. He appears to comment on the reunion kiss: “Yeah, yeah.” There is a sad undertone in this. These characters appear in all of Mr. Tourneur’s films and are best condensed in the stage worker in the short The Rainbow Pass, which should have been part of the program but was left out. The film presents a Chinese stage play and focuses on a stage worker dressed in black whom everyone in the audience pretends not to see when he goes about his business in creating imagination in the most bored way imaginable. To speak in John Ford’s terms: These are the men that print the legend. Yet, they don’t believe in it. The question is rather, as another title of a Tourneur short proposes: What Do You Think?

What we do in the shadows – Following a trace in I Walked with a Zombie

idyll of the sea

The concern with this particular shot must have crept in at some point after having watched Jacques Tourneur’s I Walked with a Zombie’s perplexing last four minutes for the 13th time. It was part of the process of getting prepared for that wonderful weekly gathering at which we discuss the films of Val Lewton in an extremely frigid building. If I was expecting to find the tools to encrypt the film’s last minutes, I am very glad to say that I did not. I Walked with a Zombie remains to me as beautifully ambiguous as before.

26

Nevertheless, something about the composition of this particular shot troubled me. The rocks surrounding, the exit to the sea, the figures seen from behind, all seemed somehow familiar. I suddenly thought of Arnold Böcklin’s Isle of the Dead and, though it may be ridiculous, I did not at that moment ask myself why I recalled this particular painting with such ease.

frisland

Putting the images side by side (they had by then multiply mutated – I had paralyzed the shot from I Walked with a Zombie into a screenshot and I had picked out an image of one of Böcklin’s versions of the painting online) firstly resulted in sheer disappointment. In my attempt to compare them, I was looking merely at the shapes. Yet then I realized that looking out from the shore (a change of perspective, the counter-shot), the exit from the Isle of the Dead would look very similar to what can be seen in the shot that concerned me so.  (If this is an attempt to escape from the Isle of the Dead, does it succeed? Is this absolution or damnation? Is the ending the victory of the rational or the irrational?)

My comprehension of the connection between the setting where the ‘action’ of Zombie is supposed to take place and the isle of the dead was by that time perhaps long due.  Firstly because the painting (a reproduction thereof) can be seen earlier in the film, secondly because, of course, Lewton produced, a few years after the completion of Zombie, Isle of the Dead, which deals more explicitly with Böcklin’s painting.isleo

Though the island of St. Sebastian in the West Indies, the diegetic setting of I Walked with a Zombie, does not seem to exist as an isolated island, there is an island called Santa Clara which appertains to the Spanish municipality San Sebastian and it was to this island that the people of San Sebastian infected by the plague were transferred to in order to keep the infection from spreading. In Lewton’s Isle of the Dead the island is also presented as a place governed by the plague.

After having finally gotten a grip on the connection between I Walked with a Zombie and Arnold Böcklin’s Isle of the Dead, it still seemed a bit far-stretched to accredit this awareness to the composition of this particular shot I had started from. I considered consulting the script and ended up doing it. The scene was not shot as described and, when I found the approximate spot I was looking for, there was no reference to Böcklin’s painting. I faced disappointment once more. Yet looking en passant at the following pages, I stumbled upon this

scriptzombie

I did find some comfort in the confirmation for Zombie turning to (Böcklin) paintings to draw inspiration for the composition of the shots, so I continued following the trace. Once more, the scene had ended up being shot differently than described. My superficial search for a Böcklin painting named And the sea gave up its dead was futile, although the painting might very well exist. However, there is a painting by Lord Leighton Frederic entitled “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it” (and having this Bible-quote to put in relation to the film did give me some satisfaction).  I had chosen an image to fit the approximate spot described in the script, put the two images side by side and was, once again, disappointed.

and

I kept scrolling through images of the paintings of Böcklin until stumbling upon several portraying Triton and (a) Nereid and assumed that it was one of this paintings that was intended to ‘somewhat influence the composition of this scene’.  I also assumed that ‘this scene’ ended up in the film as this dissolve that makes my heart skip a beat.

carre

I found a connection between Triton, messenger of the sea and Carrefour, also a messenger (but of what?). And then I imagined having found a connection between Triton’s trident and the tools the fishermen use when looking for Jessica’s body, tools that the script described as spears and ended up being very trident-looking. It also seemed natural for this scene’s equivalent of a Nereid, a protector of fishermen, to be found by fishermen. If nereids are usually represented as beautiful barefoot girls wearing silk gowns, it seemed only natural for Jessica to be presented in the same manner. (If the Nereids symbolize everything that is beautiful and kind about sea, does Jessica’s death put an end to the putrescence previously associated with the sea? Is the death a death?)

At that point I, realizing that I will not find enlightenment, I stopped following and remained blissfully perplex. Of course, there is also this and perhaps much more:

catp

 

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

PC-3

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

And Life Goes On: Justin de Marseille von Maurice Tourneur

Justin de Marseille

Eine Gruppe von Kindern zieht durch den Vieux Port von Marseille. Angeführt wird sie vom hiesigen Dorftrottel, der wild gestikulierend den Jungen und Mädchen den Weg weist. Ohne große Umschweife wird hier deutlich gemacht an welchem Ort man sich befindet. Die Kinder besingen Frankreichs zweitgrößte Stadt, das muntere Treiben des Fischmarkts steht stellvertretend für südfranzösisches bon vivre. Die vertäuten Boote im Alten Hafen und der Marktlärm werden im Verlauf des Films wiederholt zur Stimmungsbildung beitragen.

Justin de Marseille

Mittendrin wird ein Reporter aus dem Norden auf den Umzug aufmerksam. Er soll über die kriminellen Banden berichten, die Marseille seit einiger Zeit unsicher machen; ein Marketender empfiehlt ihm über „Justin“ zu schreiben. Der namensgebende Protagonist des Films sorgt für Ordnung in der Unterwelt der Hafenstadt. Später wird ihn der Reporter mit den berühmten Paten Chicagos vergleichen und ohne Zweifel hat sich Regisseur Maurice Tourneur die amerikanische Gangstertradition zum Vorbild genommen. Tourneur, wie Jahre später sein Sohn Jacques, war lange Zeit selbst in den Staaten tätig gewesen und hat sich dort als Stummfilmregisseur seine Sporen verdient und sich für Justin de Marseille inspirieren lassen. Justin hat so einiges gemeinsam mit den dubiosen Lichtgestalten der großen Gangsterepen der frühen 30er Jahre. Er ist listig, aber charmant, generös, aber durchsetzungsfähig. Der Handelshafen von Marseille ist für ihn der ideale Umschlagplatz für (illegale) Waren aller Arten und seine klugen Methoden überfordern die örtliche Zollwache. Einzig der italienische Emporkömmling Esposito, der versucht das lukrative Schmuggelgeschäft an sich zu reißen, macht ihm zu schaffen, droht er doch das fragile Gleichgewicht der internationalen „Handelspartner“ zu stören.

Der internationale Flair Marseilles trägt entscheidend zur Stimmung des Films bei. Das Lokalkolorit erstreckt sich nicht bloß auf den Akzent und das Setting, sondern sorgt auch für eine Spur Exotik und übertüncht die motivischen Anleihen beim Gangstergenre. Marseille, das ist frontier, der Hafen die letzte Bastion vor den unendlichen Weiten der Weltmeere. Hier tummeln sich allerhand absonderliche und zwielichtige Gestalten. Chicago mag das verruchte Vorbild in den Reportagen des Pariser Journalisten sein, doch in vielerlei Hinsicht ist das Marseille Justins ein Grenzposten im Wilden Westen. Erstaunlich, wie der Film vermeidet Stereotypen des Gangstergenres allzu stark zu bedienen, aber dabei in die Sphären eines anderen klassisch amerikanischen Genres abgleitet. Die starke lokale Prägung, die den Film vor allzu verhohlenen Vergleichen mit der Gangsterwelt bewahrt, führt zu einem Aufblitzen des mythischen Glanzes des gesetzlosen, amerikanischen Westens. Die Wirkmächtigkeit des Westerngenres ist anscheinend so groß, dass unweigerlich solche Verbindungen auftreten, sobald sich ein Film so stark seinem Setting hingibt.

Justin de Marseille

In Fragen der Inszenierung hebt sich Justin de Marseille jedoch von beiden Genres ab. Zum einen ist der Film recht anti-klimaktisch – das entscheidende Duell zwischen Justin und Esposito findet Off-Screen statt, der große Coup, der diesem vorausgeht, geht ohne grobe Komplikationen über die Bühne –, zum anderen spart der Film mit Gewalt und Blut. Justin ist kein brutaler Bandenchef, der bei jedem Anlass mit den Fäusten spricht, sondern verlässt sich auf seine guten Kontakte zu den Ordnungshütern, souveränes Auftreten und ausgeklügelte Pläne. Er ist kein mordender Soziopath, sondern ein kluger Stratege, der das Leben genießen möchte, anstatt in ständiger Furcht vor Racheakten zu leben. Alles in allem, und das unterscheidet ihn ebenfalls von seinen amerikanischen Vettern, ist er ein sympathischer Kerl, dem man vergönnt letztendlich die Oberhand zu behalten. So ein Ende wäre im Hollywood des Production Codes undenkbar, doch in Marseille, da geht das Leben einfach weiter.

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

Dust in the Wind2

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

Casa de Lava-Caderno: Warum Drehbücher?

Casa de Lava Scrapbook

Jemand hat mir Bilder des Sterbens in die Hände gedrückt. Ich traue mich kaum das Buch zu öffnen. Es sieht aus wie eine zerfallene Schönheit. Es sieht aus wie ein Film.

Es ist das seit einem Jahr veröffentlichte Notizbuch von Pedro Costa zu, nach, für, bei seinem Film Casa de Lava. Pedro Costa hat Angst vor dem dritten Bild. Sein Buch folgt dieser Logik. Wenn zwei Bilder aufeinanderprallen, wie das im Kino ständig und fortlaufend geschieht, dann entsteht ein drittes Bild, jenes das vielleicht nur die Poeten akzeptieren, das aber von keinem Zuseher ignoriert werden kann. In diesem dritten Bild liegt die Tiefe eines Films. In diesem dritten Bild kann alles lauern, man kann es nicht unbedingt kontrollieren. Dieses dritte Bild ist das, was Filme bewegt. Es findet sich aber niemals in Drehbüchern.

Dieses Notizbuch ist für Costa ein besseres Drehbuch.

“It was more or less from that point that I realized that the rhetoric of cinema wasn’t for me. Neither were the social obligations, the technical and artistic diplomacy, the mythology, the fascination, the haste, the money.”

Casa de Lava Caderno

Das Drehbuch als Rhetorik des Kinos, als seine industriell aufgezwängte Vorform. Drehbücher entstehen aus einem Ordnungsdrang, das ist klar. In den besten Fällen ist dies eine Form künstlerischer Struktur, in den schlechtesten kann man an einem Drehbuch ablesen wie viel Gage ein Schauspieler bekommt. Sie scheinen unabdingbar für das Kino, dessen Förderung und dessen finanzielle Entstehung. Man sagt, dass es hilft, um auf ein gemeinsames Verständnis des Films zwischen allen Mitgliedern eines Filmteams zu kommen. Dabei gibt es selbstverständlich unterschiedliche Formen, wobei die klassische, von Hollywood erfundene Form, jene Pseudo-Lehrform dominiert. So, so sagt man, müsse ein Drehbuch aussehen. Man dürfe dieses oder jenes in einem Drehbuch machen, man müsse sich an diese oder jene Regel halten, um ein klares Verständnis, eine einfache Kalkulation und eine Sicherheit zu gewinnen. So funktionieren Drehbücher mit ziemlich großer Sicherheit effektiv für Produzenten und Geldgeber, natürlich auch für manche Schauspieler (sie glauben es zumindest), Kamera und alle Departments, die schön unterstreichen können, was sie betrifft: Ah, hier steht rote Schuhe, wir brauchen rote Schuhe! Wenn man sich nicht daran hält, dann wird man weder ernst genommen noch kann man auf Förderung hoffen. Aber kann man einem Filmemacher diktieren in welcher Form er sich Gedanken machen muss, wenn seine Gedanken und Gefühle in einer anderen Form vielleicht viel stärker, viel tiefer und selbst viel verständlicher zum Ausdruck kommen? Nun könnte man sagen, dass dann eben Film nicht die Ausdrucksform jenes Künstlers ist, aber Film ist nun mal mehr als ein Drehbuch. Ich glaube nicht, dass das was als klassisches Drehbuch bezeichnet wird keine Berechtigung hat, aber ich glaube, dass fast alle Filme, die man aus dieser Form machen kann, gemacht wurden. Nicht umsonst weiß jeder halbwegs ernsthafte Filmemacher, dass er sich von seinem Drehbuch entfernen muss, um einen Film zu machen.

Aber wann kann man sich trauen, so zu arbeiten wie Pedro Costa? Ich fühle mich selbst zu ängstlich. Derzeit schreibe ich an einem Drehbuch, ich arbeite sehr intensiv daran, aber ich merke immer wieder, dass mir die Form fehlt, dass Worte nicht das ausdrücken können, was ich mir mit dem Film vorstelle. Ich will ständig die komplette Form des Buchs überarbeiten, dann denke ich mir wieder, dass es eigentlich in Ordnung ist, so zu schreiben, schließlich müsse man es tun, um an Geld zu kommen, um sich verständlich zu machen. Ich habe aber das Gefühl, dass ich mich missverständlich mache. Es ist ein trauriger Prozess und ich kämpfe um den Mut es anders zu machen. Ich sehe wie meine Kollegen und Freunde an ihren Drehbüchern schreiben, wie sie diese Drehbücher als ihre Arbeit am Film betrachten, wie sie sich damit beschäftigen und beschäftigen und ich sehe auch, dass sie das nicht aus einem industriellen oder zwanghaften Impetus heraus machen sondern aus einer künstlerischen Intention, einem Drang die richtige Erzählform für ihre Geschichten zu finden. Sie schreiben spannende Dialoge, finden im Schreibprozess tolle Situationen und Szenen und schaffen es ihre Ideen in diese Form zu bringen.

Bei mir bezweifelt aber nur jeder Satz die Bilder in meinem Kopf, jedes Wort das Gefühl aus meinem Bauch, jede Struktur meine Idee für einen Film. Ich habe Film gefunden als ich nach etwas gesucht habe, dass mir erlaubt frei zu blicken, zu atmen und zu leben und was ich mehr und mehr finde ist ein Gefängnis aus festgefahrenen Meinungen, die mit objektiven Wahrheiten verwechselt werden, Profilierungsneurotikern und desinteressierten, desillusionierten Zynikern.

Casa de Lava Pedro Costa

Kann mir dieses Notizbuch von Costa vielleicht Mut geben? Ich schlage es auf. Da ich den Film gesehen habe, überwältigt mich sofort eine Erinnerung und eine Neugier. Ich sehe Bilder, die mir etwas sagen und Bilder, die ich nicht kenne. Das Buch besteht aus Fotografien aus Presse und von Künstlern, Zeitungsschnipseln, Abbildungen von Gemälden und Fußballtrikots, kleinen poetischen Passagen, Notizen, Zeichnungen, Screenshots aus Filmen, es ist in gewisser Weiße ein Moodboard. Costa erzählt in einem beiliegenden Interview, dass sein Tonmann den Film habe hören können durch das Buch. Nach dem Dreh habe dieser zu ihm gesagt: Well, it was all in the book.

Manchmal bin ich mir nicht sicher, ob Costa nur einen Nebelschleier um seine Arbeit hüllt und nicht eigentlich im gleichen Gefängnis haust. Denn mir ist klar, dass dieses Gefängnis überall ist. Costa liebt das Mysteriöse im dritten Bild, er liebt das dritte Bild als seine Arbeit daran. Manchmal habe ich Angst, dass mich das alles überfährt. Ja, ich mag seine Filme und ich mag die Filme vieler Filmemacher und man muss aufpassen, dass man seine eigene Sprache sucht und nicht jene von anderen inmitten seiner Cinephilie. Man lernt das Sehen durch Filme, aber man muss es auch außerhalb von Filmen anwenden. Das ist ein harter Prozess, weil ich von der falschen Seite komme. Ich muss lernen mich zuerst für die Welt zu interessieren, dann für den Film. Aber ich kann die Welt auch mit Film sehen. Nun mache ich mir nicht nur Gedanken über die Sinnhaftigkeit von Drehbüchern, weil Costa es tut. Zum einen ist er nicht der einzige und zum anderen schreibe ich aus eigener Erfahrung.

Man schmeckt den Film, wenn man sein Buch in der Hand hält. Man muss dazu sagen, dass dieses Buch-wie alles von Costa-eine Fiktion ist. Es wurde nachträglich verändert und konstruiert. Dennoch besteht es aus Elementen, die der Filmemacher im Prozess der Drehvorbereitung gesammelt hat. Im Endeffekt hat er die Reihenfolge verändert. Aber die verändert das dritte Bild, also alles. Ich glaube, dass man eine Versuchung braucht, um einen Film zu machen. Damit meine ich eine Liebe, eine Wut, eine Angst. Ich sehe das alles auf der ersten Seite des Buches. Die Passage eines Todes über Wasser, die Einsamkeit eines Gefühls, Frauen und ihr Sterben in unserem Leben. Wie verändert der Tod unser Gesicht? Ingmar Bergman hat mal gesagt, dass das absolut Beste in der Kunst das menschliche Gesicht in Bewegung sei. Wir werden von traurigen Augen angesehen im Buch, Les Yeux Sans Visage…Costa castete Edith Scob, deren Gesicht für immer verschwand bei Georges Franju und im Kino. Man fühlt sofort welchen Film Costa machen wollte.

Casa de Lava Caderno

Die Augen sterben, es geht um Krankheit und Zerfall. Auf einer Seite ruht ein Vulkan unter einem von Krankheit zerfressenen Gesicht. Daneben der Liebesbrief „Nha Cretcheu“, den Costa in seinem Juventude Em Marcha immer wieder sagen lässt. Eu gostava de te oferecer 100,000 cigarros…eine Sehnsucht für den Film entwickelt sich, es ist eine Liebesgeschichte. Gesichter von Frauen, dabei immer wieder die Maske von Edith Scob, die Augen ohne Gesicht. „Les Egyptiens n’aimaient pas morurir“, ein Zeitungsartikel, der sich mit dem Öffnen von Mündern der Toten und der Wahrnehmung des Todes im alten Ägypten beschäftigt.

Bislang waren alle Münder geschlossen im Buch.

Ganz unten ein weiteres Stück Zeitung: Ou comment éviter la seconde mort. (Oder wie man einen zweiten Tod vermeidet)

Es trifft mich wie einen Schlag, wie ein Schnitt. Das ist ein Schnitt, ein Plot-Point, eine Erkenntnis. Wenn die Kamera, wie André Bazin sagte, wie kein anderes Instrument der Repräsentation Zuneigung ausdrücken kann, wieso sollte man diese filmische Macht dann nicht auch in einem Drehbuch verfolgen? Man mag argumentieren, dass bei dem Vorgehen, das Costa nach Casa de Lava tatsächlich mehr und mehr für seine Drehs und Drehvorbereitungen (das fließt ineinander) anwendete eigentlich niemand weiß, was passieren wird. Aber weiß man das bei einem Drehbuch oder sperrt man sich eigentlich nur ein? Und vor allem: Warum sollte man es wissen?

Wie muss man sterben, damit man erlöst wird? Diese Frage stellen die Collagen. Tote Augen, sie bewegen sich nicht mehr. Aus der Dunkelheit sehen wir die Pupillen. Immer wieder Krankheiten. I walked with a Zombie von Jacques Tourneur. Diese Augen. Auch die Collagen erzeugen ein drittes Bild. Costas Scrapbook sucht nach dem dritten Bild in seinem Film. Es vermag dem Betrachter klarzumachen, was er an Essenz im Film sehen wird. Dann abstrakte Malerei. Farben, Stimmungen, alles ist da. Man muss die Bilder nicht verstehen, man muss sich nicht kennen, sie müssen nicht funktionieren oder irgendwelchen rationalen Gedanken folgen. Die Rationalität eines Films ist eine andere als jene eines klassischen Drehbuchs. Das ist ein Widerspruch, den eigentlich jeder Filmemacher aufheben muss. Es gibt verschiedene Methoden. Man kann natürlich eher Stimmungen beschreiben, vielleicht in lyrischer oder in Prosaform. Auch kann man die visuellen Informationen und/oder Metaebenen in seinen Drehbüchern mitnehmen, sie eingliedern. Man kann stichpunktartig Bilder beschreiben. Man kann nur Dialoge schreiben. Aber man muss einer anderen Logik folgen als jener der Realität, als jener des Theaters und als jener des Kopfes.

Casa de Lava Scrapbook
Vor kurzem habe ich mich mit einem Drehbuchautoren darüber unterhalten, dass sich Filmvermittler wie Henri Langlois und Peter Kubelka bekanntermaßen dafür einsetzen/eingesetzt haben, dass auch fremdsprachige Filme ohne Untertitel gezeigt werden. Der Autor regte sich sehr darüber auf. Er sagte, dass man die Worte nicht einfach aus einem Film eliminieren könnte. Das würde seine ganze Arbeit zerstören. Hier liegt ein Sprung, denn auf der einen Seite verstehe ich ihn vollkommen, weil die Bedeutung mancher Worte tatsächlich essentiell für die Wirkung eines Films sein kann, aber dann weiß ich auch, dass das dritte Bild eines Films immer ohne diese Worte funktioniert, ohne ein sprachliches Verständnis. Es gibt ein filmisches Verständnis. Wir hatten diese Diskussion auch im Rahmen von Jugend ohne Film vor einigen Wochen nach dem Screening von Flowers of Shanghai von Hou Hsaio-Hsien. Rainer meinte nach dem Film, dass er irgendwann aufgehört habe, den Untertiteln zu folgen, weil die Wahrheit des Films (so würde er es nicht formulieren) im Rhythmus, den Bildern, den Figuren, dem Licht gelegen habe. Andrey dagegen meinte, dass man nicht einfach ignorieren darf, dass da was gesagt wird und dass sich in jedem Fall die Frage nach dem: Was reden die da?, stellen würde. Seiner Zeit habe ich zunächst Andrey beigepflichtet, obwohl mir Rainers Aussage in ihrer Romantik sympathischer schien. Heute würde ich sagen, dass es zwei Wahrheiten gibt im Film. Zwei Herzen, ein zweiter Tod. Rainers Aussage folgt dem Film selbst und dessen Fähigkeit das dritte Bild zu bewegen, Andreys Aussage folgt dem Betrachtungsmodus und sagt, dass es da ein erstes und ein zweites Bild gibt und man nicht einfach ignorieren kann wie diese funktionieren. Die Frage ist also weniger eine nach wahr oder falsch sondern vielmehr nach der eigenen Wahrnehmung. Film ist sowieso größer als man selbst.

Wenn ich also mit mir kämpfe, dann ist das kein theoretischer Kampf auf der Suche nach einer überlegenen Form sondern einfach die Suche nach einer Form, die meiner Wahrheit entspricht. Es ist weitaus einfacher, darüber zu reflektieren als es letztlich umzusetzen. Denn, wenn die Wahrheit nicht in den vorgefertigten Mustern funktioniert, dann wird man damit leben müssen, dass man nicht verstanden wird, dass man nicht gefördert wird, dass man nicht gesehen wird.

Und wenn Film in der Lage ist ganz bei sich zu sein (es gibt auch tolle nicht-filmische Filme), dann brauchen sie sicher keine Untertitel. Man wird die Worte trotzdem hören.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Costa markiert Dinge, andere streicht er durch. Da ist wieder seine Verweigerung, die uns fasziniert. Weil es eben nicht darum geht, alles zu verstehen, sondern gerade darum, Dinge auszulassen, Dinge zu verweigern. I scent human blood, and smile, ein rotes Kunstwerk, schwarz-weiße Szenenbilder und ein Hund mit abgeschnittenem Schwanz auf etwas, das aussieht wie ein jüdisches Denkmal. Wir sehen Tania, ein 14jähriges Mädchen mit kurzen Haaren. Sie wurde von einem Mann attackiert, der ihre neuen Schuhe gestohlen hat. Nachdenkliche Gesichter. Costa interessiert sich für die Haut, die Regungen, den Tod, der durch alles sieht.

Casa de Lava Scrapbook

Plötzlich Bilder vom Krieg. Ein landendes Flugzeug, ein farbiges Bild von einem Hilfskonvoi. Dazu Drehbuchschnipsel, kleine Dialogfetzen. Natürlich entsteht eine Faszination auch daraus, dass ich oft nicht weiß, was dieses oder jenes Bild darstellt, woraus dieser oder jener Auszug aus literarischen Texten oder dieser oder jener Screenshot stammt. Das macht aber nichts, denn es geht nicht um die einzelnen Bilder, sondern nur wie sie zusammen klingen. Zu oft wird in Besprechungen des Drehbuchs und auch am Set mit Kameramännern das einzelne Bild ohne den Gedanken an das andere Bild, das vorhergehende oder das nachfolgende betrachtet. Als würde ein einzelnes Bild, ein einzelner Satz, eine einzelne Geste schon ein Film sein. Es ist, wie Adrian Martin einmal formuliert hat, der Übergang von Tag und Nacht, der Übergang von Lächeln und Ernsthaftigkeit, das Transzendieren und Dynamisieren von Räumen, die zwischen den Bildern entstehen, was einen Film ausmacht. Wenn jemand im ersten Bild blickt, dann wird das zweite Bild dadurch verändert.

Abstrakte Form. Ein Junge, vermutlich von den Kap Verden steht in einem expressionistisch anmutenden Bild im Schatten. Jemand hat seine Hand zärtlich auf seinen Kopf gelegt. Daneben ein Gemälde. Es scheint ähnlichen Formgesetzen zu folgen. Aber an der Stelle des Jungen erscheint ein Skelett. Wieder so ein Plot-Point. Verlorene Jugend, Sterben. Es gibt eine politische Konnotation. Menschen rennen, wieder ein Flugzeug. Die Geschichte der ehemaligen portugiesischen Kolonie wird greifbar. Nicht die Fakten dahinter sondern die damit verbundenen Gefühle. Kein Text könnte das derart präzise widergeben. Soldaten und Rock’n Roll…Post Punk Bliss: Twist and Shout.

Dann kommt plötzlich wieder jene unschuldige Liebe ohne die man kaum schreiben kann. Das spannende ist ja, dass erst durch unsere Wahrnehmung des dritten Bildes die anderen Bilder an Schönheit und Bedeutung gewinnen. Sie treffen dann auf uns wie ein Blitz. Jacques Tourneur, Charlie Chaplin oder Bruno Dumont sind Meister dieser Bilder, die vor einem geboren werden, weil sie wie eine Offenbarung aus dem vorherigen Bild erleuchtet werden. Wenn sie da sind, ist das eine Erkenntnis. Es sind Geister, die schon immer da waren. Man kann sie nur fühlen und wenn man sie dann sieht, ist es wie mit einem Spiegel. Man sieht alles und nichts. In der Mitte findet sich die Postkarte, die laut Costa ursprünglich ganz am Anfang seines Buches war. Showing GHOSTS! Everywhere and of any colour…

Ein Bild von Issach de Bankolé irgendwo zwischen einsamen Rollstuhlfahrern. Das Casting wird mit integriert in diese Filmwelt des Buches. Tortura! Die Bewegungslosigkeit, Machtlosigkeit, der Film bekommt eine Bewegung vor unseren Augen. Kranke Menschen liegen auf Betten. Bilder aus Zeitungen von spielenden Mädchen an der iranischen Grenze werden mit Beauty-Shots aus Modemagazinen kombiniert. Vergänglichkeit, Hoffnung, zwei Welten, zwei Leben, Distanz, alles steht da. Costa klebt eine Mauer über ein Gesicht.

Casa de Lava Pedro Costa

Natürlich folgt eine Collage wieder einer eigenen Logik, die eigentlich nicht jene des Films ist. Eine offensichtliche Verwandtschaft mit der Montage, die Tatsache, dass man Bilder, Texte und Leerstellen lassen kann, rechtfertigen aber zumindest die Vorgehensweise. Dennoch ist wie beim klassischen Drehbuch die Melodie, die Präzision, die Stimme des Autors entscheidend. Diese zu finden, ist ein Prozess der Einsamkeit. Sobald man glaubt, dass man fertig ist, hat man verloren. Deshalb habe ich auch Schwierigkeiten mit der klassischen Drehbuchform. Sie wirkt so abgeschlossen, sie untergliedert sich. Warum untergliedert sie sich? Aus praktikablen, industriellen Gründen, nicht im Ansatz aus Gründen, die mit dem Film zu tun haben. Eigentlich laufen Filme vor unseren Augen. Wie kann man das in einem Drehbuch vermitteln? Dadurch, dass man fesselnd schreibt. Aber was hat ein fesselnder Schreibstil mit dem Film zu tun? Niemand kann mir erzählen, dass die filmische Sprache auch nur im Ansatz etwas mit der schriftlichen Sprache zu tun hat. Das erfährt jeder Drehbuchautor spätestens, wenn seine in Papierform gut klingenden Dialoge plötzlich falsch erklingen. Das bedeutet nicht, dass es nicht filmische Pendants für Sprache gäbe. So haben die Coen-Brüder in ihrem No Country for Old Men zum Beispiel Bilder, Schnitte, Töne und Stimmungen gefunden, die jener der Worte von Cormac McCarthy entspricht. Selbiges ist John Hillcoat in seinem soliden The Road nicht gelungen. Die Collage ermöglicht also auch, die Bewegung eines Films zu empfinden. Wenn man dieses Buch von Costa einmal in den Händen gehalten hat, erscheint es absurd Filme ohne Bilder zu schreiben.

Es geht um die medizinische Versorgung in Afrika. Hier trifft Spiritualismus auf Industrialisierung. The Horse and the Money. Es ist ein Glaubensverlust. Der Blick geht zum Himmel, das klinische Weiß eines Krankenhausflurs, ein Friedhof im Lava-Staub vor malerischer Kulisse, eine einsame Frau mit einem weißen Kleid. Die Medizin schreitet voran. Wir sehen Labormenschen, Anzugmenschen, sie machen Versuche mit Afrikanern oder sind Afrikaner, die Versuche machen. Es geht um Epidemien, die fehlende Versorgung. Ängste. Immer wieder gibt es Bilder von Baustellen. Figuren, die sich in luftiger Höhe bewegen. Vertigo, ist da ein Unfall, ist da nur eine Angst, ein Traum, das Gefühl, das Gleichgewicht zu verlieren? Costa klebt kleine Bilder der Trikots englischer Fußballmannschaften neben die Baustellen und dazwischen steht ein kleiner Text über die ägyptische Kunst und ihre Verbindung mit dem Tod.

Über was spricht man, wenn man stirbt? Jemand berührt diese harte Arbeit, diese Unerbittlichkeit mit seinen Fingerspitzen. Alle haben Gänsehaut. Man spürt die Gänsehaut im Kino. Vielleicht ist es sowieso zu viel verlangt. Vielleicht nehme ich das Drehbuch zu ernst. Denn ziemlich sicher ist, dass diese Gefühle auch und sehr oft aus Filmen erwachsen, die in klassischer Form geschrieben wurden. Ich kenne viele Filmemacher, die sagen würden, dass dieser oder jener ein Film ist, bei dem alles schon im Drehbuch war, die sagen würden, dass man von den guten Drehbüchern alles lernen kann. Aber für mich haben all diese guten Drehbücher immer nur dann funktioniert, wenn ich vorher den Film gesehen hatte. Bei Drehbüchern, die ich vor dem Film gelesen habe, haben sie mich im besten Fall für den Film interessiert. Aber darum geht es wohl. Nur warum muss es dann in eine solche Form gegossen sein? Ich wiederhole mich, aber ich verstehe die Gründe dafür, sie sind nur belanglos für die Filme. Vielleicht kann ich auch einfach keine Drehbücher lesen und schreiben oder ich habe es noch nicht lange genug versucht.

Casa de Lava Caderno

Jetzt zieht es Costa in die Wüste. Nomaden und hoher schwarz/weiß Kontrast, der Staub wandernder Gestalten. Weltreisende der Filmgeschichte zwischen Hiroshima, den Kap Verden und dem Unbekannten; die Melancholie der Reise. Die Wanderung endet in der Massenvernichtung. Wo sind meine Verwandten? Auf einem anderen Kontinent, du kannst ihnen schreiben. Das Buch wird auch zu einem ethnographischen Dokument. Das Setting des Films ist hier. Man muss verstehen, dass dieses Buch nicht-wie das mit Drehbüchern oft ist-ein Zulieferer ist sondern ein autonomes Stück Ausdruck und Kunst. Bestenfalls sind das Drehbücher auch, aber wie viel Seele kann etwas haben bei dem man schreibt: Innen.Tag—Wohnzimmer? Das kommt mir falsch vor. So ist es nicht, wenn man an einem Tag in seinem Wohnzimmer sitzt und so ist es auch nicht für die Figuren. Die Schönheit der Insel, die Landschaft, Casa de Lava ist ein ethnographischer Landschaftsfilm, eine Geisterstudie, ein Film über Sterben und Einsamkeit, ein Gedicht über die Schönheit der Frauen. Menschen halten sich. Es geht um Fürsorge, um Zärtlichkeit, Liebe in Zeiten des Sterbens. Wir finden Iñes Medeiros, eine jener Costa Frauen, sie sind Mütter, sie sind immer Mütter und tragen das Geheimnis all ihrer Kinder in sich. Tintenkleckse zwischen den Fotos, die Zeichnung einer nackten Frau, immer anmutig, nie gierig.

Die Beschreibung eines Lebens auf der Straße mit Krankheit aus einem Buch: It’s never dark. The street light shines through the thin blue plastic. Es geht um die Außenseiter, um die Bettler und Ausgestoßenen. Kranke, arme Menschen. Aber Costa blickt nicht primär auf soziale Umstände sondern auf die Seele, die Erinnerung, die Trauer dahinter. Eine Frau sitzt mit einem Kleinkind im Arm in einem Lichtstrahl. Würde behalten, Weiblichkeit behalten.

Man hat das Gefühl, dass ein Wind durch dieses Buch weht. Er verbindet Landschaften, Menschen und die Herstellung eines Films. Ein Interview mit Edith Scob, Schauspielen sei ein komischer Beruf. Wieder ein Sterben, harte Arbeit, Sehnsucht. Davon können Filme sprechen. Am Ende gibt es einige leere Seiten. Es endet nicht. Es kommt mir jetzt vor wie ein Aufruf an mich. Man kann es anders machen. Man kann suchen und arbeiten. Man muss es tun. Ich bin normal nicht dafür einen solchen Prozess öffentlich zu teilen, aber in diesem Fall ist es für mich als würde ich mir selbst sagen, dass es geht. Und das ist es wert. Indem ich es aufgeschrieben habe und nochmal erfühlt habe, indem ich es Stück für Stück durchgeblättert habe, hat mit Pedro Costa mit diesem Buch wieder gezeigt, dass ich noch viel stärker sein muss, dass ich noch viel konsequenter sein muss und dass es für meine theoretischen Gedanken und Gefühle bezüglich Film, die ich hier seit längerer Zeit äußere, ein praktisches Äquivalent gibt. Und an diesem Lavahaus aus Film werde ich weiter bauen.