UDVFF 9: Transgressing the limits of the uncanny

Editor’s Note: Welcome to the ninth program of our Virtual Film Festival, which offers a weekly watching schedule of moving image works available for free streaming. Previous programs can be found here.

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by Ejla Kovačević

Living in isolation, apart from friends and families has proven a frightening and exhausting experience for many. With all exterior distractions cut from our lives, we often have no other choice but to steer our attention and gaze inward. For some, a gift from the heavens – for others, a living hell. Whether there is only one or several mirrors in our household to bump into (our roommate, significant other or family members), the gaze keeps coming back to us ruthlessly, with no emergency exit in sight. It is in these extreme cases, when no proper mental or emotional ventilation is possible, that many fissures within ourselves or our relations – past hurts, traumas, anger and anxieties among others – begin to burst, sometimes with devastating consequences.

Newspapers loaded with articles on the importance of self-care and preservation of inner-peace during confinement demonstrated just how much everybody is actually conscious of the insanities lurking behind our closed doors. Even though the public discourse on mental health has considerably changed in the last decade, and mass maladies like depression and anxiety are widely acknowledged and discussed, most of these self-care gurus ignore the structural nature of illnesses, propelling the individual to seek the crux of the problem inside rather than outside of herself.

What if it’s not us but the society that is making us sick? It’s a premise that films I’ve chosen for this week’s program callously bring forward. They delve deep into the personal and societal subconscious to explore the taboo and the subtle mechanics of repression, exclusion and censorship governing modern societies, simultaneously offering a gateway for our sometimes violent, messy emotions and desires that we were taught to ignore and shush.

Saute Ma Ville

For a starter, I propose Richard Kern’s punk-fuelled nihilistic fantasy You Killed Me First, a transgressive cinema classic that examines the nuclear family as the premiere space of violence and repression through the lens of a rebellious teenage girl, wonderfully played by No Wave poster girl Lung Leg. Next is Chantal Akerman’s iconic, frenzied debut Saute ma ville, in which the repetitive and oppressive nature of domestic chores lead the heroine to literal burnout. Martin Arnold’s Passage à l’acte engages in intense, rigid and compulsive microediting strategy to reveal the latent patriarchal matrice underlying otherwise idyllic family breakfast scene from Hollywood classic To Kill a Mockingbird, while AUTOJEKTOR submits his childhood memories to brutal scratches and splashes of blood on the backdrop of raw, assaulting audioscapes of Californian hardcore band Retox.

This should hurt a little bit (Retox)

Domestic nightmares continue with Jörg Buttgereit’s Mein Papi, a deeply disturbing portrayal of the filmmaker’s father’s slow-burn decay and eventual death, followed by Martha Jurksaitis’ (a.k.a. Cherry Kino) Bad Blood, a stunning visceral ciné-poem echoing horrors of marital violence. The irksome journey through the uncanny advances in Michael Fleming’s found-footage gem The Garden of Delight, which explores the vast landscape of perverse, deranged, pornographic imagery surrounding our everyday life, and finishes with two hypnotic oeuvres, Ben Russell’s Black and White Trypps Number Three and Yves-Marie Mahé’s La Petite Mort. These offer a gateway for passage à l’acte – the ecstatic release and transgression of our unconscious fears, tensions, anxieties and forbidden desires – through a eulogy of pure, carnal pleasures. In this case: music and sex.

I hope you will enjoy these films as much as I did.

Black and White Trypps Number Three
the Garden of Delight
TitleYearFilmmakerRuntime
You Killed Me First*1985Richard Kern11:35
Saute Ma Ville1968Chantal Akerman12:30
Passage à l’acte 1993Martin Arnold 11:29
This should hurt a little bit (Retox) 2015Autojektor1:25
Mein Papi 1982Jörg Buttgereit 7:08
Bad Blood2013Martha Jurksaitis (a.k.a. Cherry Kino) 4:23
The Garden of Delight 2017Michael Fleming11:36
Black and White Trypps Number Three2007Ben Russell 11:30
La Petite Mort 1998Yves-Marie Mahé3:10
* you can purchase this film on DVD via Kern’s webstore

Ejla Kovačević is a Croatian film critic, currently residing in Paris where she’s interning at filmmakers’ cooperative Light Cone. She’s been a long-time collaborator of International Experimental Film and Video Festival – 25 FPS and an active member of film labs community dedicated to the promotion and preservation of analog film practices. As a member of Zagreb-based filmlab Klubvizija she organized numerous workshops and projections, continuously sharing her passion for photochemical experiments that never cease to surprise her. 

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