Editor’s Note: Welcome to the fourth program of our Virtual Film Festival, which offers a weekly watching schedule of moving image works available for free streaming, and curated by our expert contributors. Previous programs can be found here. Next week’s program is ‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men – Interrogations + Alternatives’, curated by Ruairí McCann.
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As always, links to all of the films and supplementary materials referenced can be found in a table after the program notes.
by Tijana Perović
You and I have (hopefully) spent the past few weeks at home, in isolation, away from noise and crowds. In this isolation, one inevitably bumps into oneself. In other words, we are forced to stay in proximity with only very few people, sometimes only ourselves. Now, part of our training as humans is to become social, kind, lovable, as this would draw success in society as we built it. We are pushed to be outgoing, sensitive to outer cues and road signs. Most conventional education doesn’t involve nourishment of the same traits in reference to ourselves. As simple as it may sound to redirect all this energy into another source of input, in practice many of us, myself included, fail to do so. Moreover, this often causes patterns of behavior and thoughts that can result in very unfortunate psychological outcomes, both acute and chronic. I don’t believe that this is a simple task. But one worthy of working towards. As this topic is so close to my heart, I started looking out for signs of it in a small, yet relevant chunk of experimental cinema. Funnily enough, this was yet another attempt to seek something inner in the outer.
The way we observe and treat the outer often reflects how we treat the inner yard of our mind. Therefore, I invite you to lean into yourselves while experiencing these movies, as they serve as a bridge between the viewer and the director, often culturally, temporally, economically, spatially distanced individuals.
There are plenty of spectral prisms through which we can examine our relationship with the self. In isolation and in proximity to literally only myself and my partner, my sensations and thoughts have oscillated on the spectra of health-sickness, life-death, inner-outer, structure-content, body-soul, me-you, me-other. These films are a compilation that explores those dimensions.
To open the fourth program of the Ultra Dogme Virtual Film Festival, Jonas Mekas shares a conversation on Britney’s 2007 head-shaving and its echoes. This gentle, yet rebellious shift of perspective feels like an allowance and an open call to all the maddening parts of self, to morph and give way to creativity.
Next, Barbara Hammer dances with grief and loss. She shapes her narrative of losing three dear people into what appears as a celebration, rather than grief. As 2020 may historically become the year of mourning, this movie allows for new interpretation of loss. Just as Mekas reinvented the mourning of the past Britney, before her major breakdown, Barbara danced and celebrated for the people she lost, thus offering them a long-lasting place in her heart, her filmography and our viewing experience. In proximity with ourselves, we often forget that parts of us die to give rise to new versions of self.
After the short break, we smoothly shift to Lynne Sachs’ portait of three women that influenced and inspired her. Without ever personally knowing Carolee, Barbara and Gunvor, I know that Sachs did an amazing job painting their personalities. Here we are oscillating on the dimensions of me-you, and how much someone´s influence on us is an integral part of us. Further proof that people don’t really die, rather, they morph into others by passing on their stories.
Another wonderful portrait of past and present selves awaits us in the next 48 minutes. Still in the dimension me-you, Robert Beavers plays with footage collected long before it was finalized, but the you = past me. We are witnessing how he met himself and his movie through notes. The notes are evidence of past selves and often, an indication of who we will become. Impressively shot to fit into a one-man symphony of rhythm, light and words, this film will leave you simmering in a brilliant combination of presence and absence on celluloid.
Next on this visual journey is Margaret Tait’s story of Ga. With the ease and breeze of a teen, Ga is the epitome of being with and true to oneself. Meeting Ga will make you want to once again, stay honest with yourself and just be. Simply be, even while doing.
Su Friedrich, the master of genuine storytelling, invites a girl to tell her drumming story. Children are perhaps the best examples of humans in contact with themselves. Add rhythm and commitment to this and you’ve got a pulsing meditation seen through the lens of Su and the words of a drummer.
Now, deeply immersed in the body-soul dimension, we confront the nudity of eighty-seven people. In Alice Anne Parker’s Riverbody, we flow through the outer appearances of people, albeit very conscious of their inner. Shame, one of our favorite and most useless emotions, is inherently tied to nudity. As we encounter full body nudes, where will we focus? Will we allow ourselves to admire their bravery or their physique, or will we transfer the shame as our own experience? Where is me in relation to they?
As we slowly approach the end of our visual voyage, we follow Stephen Dwoskin’s gaze on female sexuality. Never in my lifetime have I witnessed a male feminist perspective on female sexual pleasure: so precise, so steady, so revolutionary. Dwoskin and his subject play the dimension of me-you so tangibly and carefully, as if the world depended on that female orgasm. My world in that moment certainly did. These 15 minutes summarize the body of work of Anaïs Nin and efforts of feminist filmmakers interested in the topic of female pleasure.
Finally, I leave you to bask in Chris Marker’s masterpiece. I must have seen this film fifty times by now. Never fails to make me smile and with each viewing, I love it even more.
I can only hope that this depiction of the most careless creature leaves you with equal effervescence.
|Wednesday Feb. 21, 2007 (Youtube alt link)||2007||Jonas Mekas||6||small, almost invisible daily moments|
|Vital Signs||1991||Barbara Hammer||10||Matthew Burbidge on Barbara Hammer|
|Carolee, Barbara and Gunvor *||2018||Lynne Sachs||8||My Body, Your Body, Our Bodies: a talk by Lynne Sachs*|
|From the Notebook of…||1971/1998||Robert Beavers||48||Notes by Beavers|
|A Portrait of Ga||1952||Margaret Tait||5||Remembering Tait|
|Practice Makes Perfect**||2012||Su Friedrich||11||Assorted writings by Su Friedrich|
|Riverbody***||1970||Alice Anne Parker||6|
|Moment****||1968||Stephen Dwoskin||13||Rethinking Feminist Phenomenology|
|Chat Écoutant la Musique (Cat Listening to Music)||1988||Chris Marker||3||Pussycat Poetics|
**Special Thanks to Su Friedrich for granting us access to and permission to share this version, a higher resolution than the version available on her vimeo, despite showing the limits of the source material
***Special Thanks to the San Francisco Cinematheque for making this film publicly available until May 2nd, as part of the ‘certainty is becoming our nemesis’ program
****(UK or VPN viewers can watch Moment here in higher quality for free)