Embodiment part 3: Temporality

As I have mentioned elsewhere the framing and choice of shots for Low Season has been very deliberate and measured process, some have evolved particularly those involving movement and some have stayed precisely as I first envisaged.

I would like to look at questions of time and its representation and manipulation in Film as this is truly the essence of the medium and what differentiates it from all others, including stills photography.

Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986) Comes up again and again in my work and study, I am simply in awe of his work, he also wrote well on the subject of time and his book Sculpting in time gives us a clue to the importance he placed in the temporal. He is arguably the greatest exponent of time in film exploring in his work both in technical and metaphoric and linguistic sense the concepts and power of perceived time. He used long take cinema for what he believed to be its honesty, and truth in the depiction of the world and his films deal with memory and space explored always with a temporal twisting brilliance. In fact, he describes Cinema as “The search for lost time” (Tarkovskiĭ and Hunter-Blair, 2012)

I have made no bones about the fact that I wanted to shoot long take as part of this film, something inspired by Tarkovsky in the first instance, and although the takes used are actually quite short in duration the inspiration for movement remains, however, it is in the edit that we see in particular the full sculpture of time in a film and it is not just through the cuts, duration, placement of shots that the film develops its rhythm. the rhythm as Tarkovsky argues is about time pressure running through the shot (in other words what is occurring in the frame) and this is determined by the style of the shot (Tarkovskiĭ and Hunter-Blair, p117, 2012)

Rhythm also functions as much more than just duration or pace in a film it is nothing short of the heartbeat of the film, It dictates how we choose to convey the message and how we feel the film.”The dominant, all-powerful factor of the film image is rhythm, expressing the course of time within the frame”(Tarkovskiĭ and Hunter-Blair, p113, 2012)

I mostly agree with the master here, however, his opinions on long-take being the ultimate description are also up for debate. there are no absolutes in art or film in my opinion. and Rules simply exist to be broken. This is why I am still in love with the long take as a style, and often choose to shoot in this style, however, I tried to look at what constitutes a break from this, what happens when we cut and slash into these smooth sequences of continuity. This must, of course, be for a reason, and When I tried the technique in my graduation film ‘Fade’ (2015) It was to show a conflicting understanding of both time and reality as experienced by the character and the audience, I was seeking to challenge the dominant narrative  function of linear time and memory. I believe it achieved what I set out to do, however, the style of editing is not to everyone’s taste, and can initially be harder work for an audience, it means often that repeat viewings are necessary to grasp the flow of narrative logic, but it describes not just an accepted and external view of the world that we agree on for the sake of reason and practicality, It screams at the borders of rationality, were our true memories of experience are melting down, and rational thought is slipping.

I have had to, and I stress the had to, do the same in this film I tried the sequences in a more rational flow of cause and effect of linear movement from a to b, and the film simply did not work, it betrayed itself and stubbornly sat like a dead thing immobile, lacking life and rhythm. It was only after I found the rhythm from the guts of the film itself that the film could live and breath, this meant the editing of time had to reflect back on the state and style of the shots but also the internal state of the character. all had to align.

“The consistency of time that runs through the shot, it’s intensity, or ‘sloppiness’, could be called time-pressure; then editing can be seen as the assembly of the pieces on the basis of the time pressure within them. Maintaining the operative pressure, or thrust will unify the impact of the different shots.”(Tarkovskiĭ and Hunter-Blair, p117, 2012)

Im not saying that all of the shots are the perfect length, there are a thousand ways to edit one film, but they reflect the process character theme and soul  of the work. as does the painfully long walk into the sea. It is the only remaining true long take shot, and the time pressure holds for the duration, it is designed to go deliberately beyond the comfortable length of watching, the tide forced this situation of course.

But this was the reality presented to the camera, therefore it had to be held and I think In a way this uncomfortable duration is perhaps the strongest element of the film, I feel it every time I watch it! It makes me wince, I am actively willing Tip to “get under the bloody water” but it is here that even with the music swelling to climax I hope that I have pushed the image closest to breaking point, to make the audience feel the uncomfortable just for a moment, to not betray the reality of what We are witnessing even if it not real!

“The long take can be defined as an uninterrupted – and in Tarkovsky’s case usually slow-paced-cinematic shot which lasts longer than the conventional editing pace of the film. The long take remains open and refuses to be closed (edited), striving towards continuous presence. It invites the viewer to put aside the narrative framework and to contemplate time in its pure form- to locate ‘TIME within TIME'” (Skakov, p2-3, 2012)

In conclusion, if we were to compare and contrast this style to the intellectual montage pushed by Sergei Eisenstein in the 1930s then we see Montage come up against the unbroken reality of the moment. As I say, I don’t believe either constitutes in of itself a more honest or truthful way of showing a subject or the world, and This is because the means have to be justifiable to the ends or the intention, they have to serve the film. Long take describes only one vision of the world, only one way of perceiving memory, it is astoundingly beautiful, it is possible that this flow of time is how Tarkovsky perceives the world I don’t know, but it is not how I do, In fact I would suggest that a series of long takes and montages is probably closer to an approximation of this, depending of course on the circumstances for how I am perceiving time at that instant, fast or slow broken or unbroken.

I will not stray too far into Soviet montage here, I have previous writings blogs and films that explore in much more detail, however, it must be said that its main purpose of one plus one equals three kind of shot follows shot to create third meaning, can in a lot of instances be seen to be very manipulative on the part of the filmmaker. Hitchcock made exceptional use of this technique in a great deal of his films, it is unerring.

However, the reason I love the work of Tarkovsky so much is for the freedom allowed for the audience to find their own way into the work, the much-vaunted democracy of image. This is where I think believing in a totality of either systems or styles can reach limitations. As Tarkovsky says the time pressure and therefore the style must fit the piece, if they do not  describe the events in a certain way, they become dishonest they do not fit anymore,  therefore surely we must choose to fit, and if it suits, use them both as the need arises, Oh how terribly postmodern of me!

In Low season I tried to keep the takes intact, but it was to no avail the reality of the character demanded those breaks in time, we need to see that his mind and memory are becoming broken through fatigue confusion and isolation, He has stumbled onto the fundamental problem, of human existence, self-awareness, I this is taken in an over analytical loop toward its conclusion, if we are unable to control the mind from folding back in on itself continuously, we literally break our own narrative.

It is the narrative or the story/stories that we tell ourselves that seems to mark us out as a species, It is critical that these narratives or stories we tell ourselves and agree on by mutual contract with other humans, make some sense to us, without it we are lost, and Madness engulfs us. This is not to say that madness should be seen as a fallen or broken state, indeed It could be looked upon as glimpsing the true state of reality,  that is chaos. For most minds relying on a fragile constructed ego, this is simply too much to bear.

We need the stories that we tell ourselves, they are the roots that hold us in the garden of our created and shared reality, however peeping over the back fence now and again at the wild patch, the chaos outside, is perhaps a dangerous necessity, if only to remind us of our thin understanding and hold over perceived reality.

Therefore to show a tiny fragment of this was my mission, not to propose a medically sanctioned depiction of a supposedly diagnosable mental state, but to sculpt a recognisable poetic truth, to show in image and sound the make up of broken thoughts and memories reflecting an ego fracturing under multiple crushing realisations, A narrative that is beginning to disintegrate, it may reform, reconstitute as another version of the story, or it may not, but to attempt to achieve this  was to deliberately hack at the perceived passage of time, to  manipulate within the edit this strange formless clay, to at least make honest the attempt, to sculpt in time.

References

Allen, S. and Hubner, L. (2012). Framing film. Bristol, UK: Intellect.

Armes, R. (1976). The ambiguous image. 1st ed. London: Secker & Warburg.

Farmer, R. (2010). Jean Epstein. [online] Senses of Cinema. Available at: http://sensesofcinema.com/2010/great-directors/jean-epstein/ [Accessed 14 Oct. 2017].

Hunger. (2008). [DVD] Directed by S. McQueen. Ireland, UK: Film4.

Kappenberg, C. and Rosenberg, D. (2013). IJSD Volume 3 2013 After Deren: Full Issue. The International Journal of Screendance, 3, pp.101-102.

Keiller, P. (2014). View from the train. London: Verso.

Meshes in the Afternoon. (1943). Directed by M. Derren and A. Hammid. Hollywood: Maya Deren, Alexander Hammid.

Robinson in Space. (1997). [DVD] Directed by P. Kieller. UK: BBC.

Skakov, N. (2012). The Cinema of Tarkovsky: Labyrinths of Space and Time (KINO: the Russian and Soviet Cinema Series). 1st ed. I. B. Tauris & Company, Limited.

Tarkovskiĭ, A. and Hunter-Blair, K. (2012). Sculpting in time. 13th ed. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press.

YouTube. (2017). Maya Deren’s Film Philosophy. [online] Available at: https://youtu.be/fblCLnugDpc [Accessed 16 Oct. 2017].

YouTube. (2017). Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) Dir. Maya Deren & Alexander Hammid [BFI Sight & Sound] silent. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nzWZomOYmQ [Accessed 16 Oct. 2017].

Advertisements

Embodiment part two space, place, and the photogenie

images

If the embodiment of the inanimate and everyday object is a key to poetic description and sought for connection with an audience in ‘Low Season’, which is certainly what I have been experimenting with, then the situation of these elements within the space that they occupy becomes the other dominant factor that has informed this work, I have for some time been interested in spatial relationships, looking at non-place in other blogs here: http://wp.me/p83grS-lj where I briefly went back over the writings of Marc Auge, and Michel De Certeau, some of these ideas I have incorporated or explored in previous work, however the poetic embodiment of the spaces that my character moves through and this nexus between body and space has, I believe reached a new synergy of research and practice within Low Season.

It is not a simple task to describe all of the layers here or the scales within which this is intended so I will look at this in more detail in the evaluation.  However if in brief, we are looking at both a wider sense of belonging or not belonging in a larger physical community space or society, then I hope Low season begins to make more sense. The choice of an off-season seaside town devoid for the most part of people is, of course, the beginning of this building of this character environment relationship, this is followed down through the individual sequences as he moves through the individual spaces, showing confinement in space, leading to isolation and loneliness,  and a physical form of descent within the internal and external world of the character was critical.

The blurring of the Physical/Mental landscape combines to create rich metaphor for deeper readings of this piece. It is of intense interest to me that not only the way of thinking about film but its spatial relationships have been reintroduced to me by Patrick Keiller a filmmaker I discovered some years ago through his work ‘Robinson in Space’ (Robinson in Space, 1997)   ‘Kieller’ uses spaces and places so suggestive of absence in his films that we feel the spaces as if they were alive or embodied. He has the rare talent of taking the seemingly mundane image and writing into it or allowing us to write into it all manner of things. 

‘Keiller’ in his insightful and engaging book ‘View from the train’ “(Keiller, 2014) traces the use of the familiar space in cinema, its potential for connection, and its origins in impressionist and surrealist art and literature.

“Popular cinema is a conservative industry, so films are rarely a vehicle for the initial artistic rediscovery of a place, but the sight of a familiar space in a film can momentarily banish the sense of marginality that haunts even the most central urban locations. (Keiller, p141, 2014)

‘Keiller’ goes on to compare this phenomenon as a transformation enabled by the combining of fiction and the ‘photogenie’ As theorised by Jean Epstein (1897-1953 (more on this elusive term later), Keiller compares the draw of the familiar for audience thus; “And is very like the attraction that led audiences to sue up to see themselves on screen in the factory gate and other local films that were exhibited at fairgrounds all over the North of England in the 1900s”. (Keiller, p141, 2014)

Jean-Epstein
Jean Epstein, filmmaker and theorist

 

If this is the hook that makes us stop and look, it is in the ‘Photogenie’ a theory proposed by the French Impressionist filmmaker and theorist Jean Epstein (1897-1953) that the transformation takes place, It appears to have many variations in definition but  here Robert farmers essay in the journal senses of cinema seems to give us a broad understanding of the term;

Depending on our perspective, photogénie is either an approach to filmmaking, or it is a way of thinking about film. It is perceptible in the filmmaker’s attitude towards the medium, and our understanding of the medium. Photogénie does not literally exist in the film, except in a metaphorical way designed to encourage us to take a more active part in the cinematic experience and to gaze more deeply at the screen”. (Farmer, 2010)

It is this sense that I wish to explore in my films and have strived for both in theoretical research and in technical practice, It still feels a little pretentious to be using the word ‘poetic’ in conjunction with my own work, but this is a personal demon I shall continue to confront.

The potential for this poetic connection within the commonplace still remains a powerful and persuasive draw, and despite the risks, it is an area I will continue to attempt to explore in my work. Keiller summarises this potential for cinema thus:

“The desire for a poetic experience of ordinary, everyday phenomena was central to Surrealism and many other strands of Modernism, from Baudelaire or even De Quincey onwards, but it was perhaps most readily achieved through photography and cinematography” (Robinson in Space, 1997)

The surrealist’s and impressionist’s of early cinema continue to leave a deep impression on me chiefly because they were still looking actively at the possibilities of the medium of film, cinema had not yet become entirely dominated by the entertainment industry, there seemed other possibilities. In these early years the spectatorship of film also appears to have been a more open quest, the simple narrative may well have been well established and becoming increasingly industrialised in North America, but it seems that the potential that silent cinema had laid bare for the moving image was still so full of youth and vigour, whilst still forming as an art It could be argued that perhaps the novelty of moving image itself allowed this space for a genuine counterpart to commercialised narrative cinema. The Cinema then as a medium, now so synonymous with  ‘entertainment’ escape and commercialisation should be seen to have various other potential outcomes… 

It is not perhaps the place to lament the passing of some perceived halcyon time for cinema here, but it is of interest to me as a filmmaker that the ideas of what cinema could be at his time still seem so fresh and pertinent, containing more than simply inspiration, they are mines of ideas, both theoretical and technical, that in many cases  lead off down pathways that are still not fully explored.

 I would like to explore further some Key texts I have turned up in this research that I am currently unable to get access to (minus buying the prohibitively expensive books) These include: ‘The shadow and its shadow: surrealist writings on the cinema’, Paul Hammond, and also: ‘Paris peasant’, Louis Aragon. I am intrigued by Aragon’s early writing on cinema, and the extracts I have read,  suggesting someone with an amazingly flexible and creative mind, It seems he was just a little too dreamy and mythical, perhaps holding onto impressionist  and romanticist sensibilities to be taken too seriously by the more hardcore surrealists of the time.

It would be very hard for me to finish this blog when poking around in the surrealism and poetics of cinema without mentioning one very strong influence from several years ago, much like Steve McQueen, her work has embedded itself deeply into my consciousness, her name? Maya Deren (1917 – 1961) ‘Meshes in the Afternoon’ (1943)

Whether her work can be truly considered a work of surrealism is not a debate I wish to be embroiled in here. Regardless of positioning this short film remains for me one of the most influential works I have ever seen, the edit alone is a mesmerising puzzle box of temporal trickery, and the mature and foreboding use of framing is beyond the merely descriptive. ‘Meshes in the Afternoon’ (1943) for me is one of the great masterpieces of visual poetry. Derren’s use of the body in space alone is worthy of continued study and admiration.

Most of all Maya Deren manages to not just theorise the idea of poetics in the visual elements of moving image, she breaks it down and then applies it to her work as a discipline: The movement of body within the frame, the discipline of framing, looking at unusual angles to film from, the manipulation of time and space.

“Deren’s aesthetics builds on a visual poetics and an economy of form and brings this together with a depersonalization of movement and a stylization of gestures. The constructive elements constitute a basis for a film form that, according to Deren, differentiates itself from documentary on the one hand and literary film on the other. This aesthetic also combines with an ethics to provide the artist with the opportunity as well as the obligation to create a reality on screen according to her own vision, a mythical reality that transcends individual experience and the every day.” (Kappenberg and Rosenberg, 2013)

She was a great exponent of the ‘Amateur movement’ in America at the time,  this is as far as you can get from how we use the term now, as 2nd rate sloppy or shoddy. In this period it was seen as an essential freedom for arts and crafts, to move into a self-funded and non-commercial space where the work could reflect the true intentions of the artist away from the financial pressures of commerce.

It deeply influenced my work 3 years ago and continues to fascinate with its mysteries and tonal and visual brilliance.

The recent big discovery for me comes in the form of Jean Epstein, his fascinating definitions and ideas of ‘photogenie’, Is this the result that I am seeking in my work? Are the constituent parts that I mention in these blogs a part of reaching toward this? I can only surmise, and allow the space for the audience to come to there own conclusions or feelings. Cinema must continue to be located in that liminal space between minds.

 I will hopefully find a copy of ‘senses’ to download as a pdf soon.

In part three I will look closer at the framing and temporal aspects of cinema and how this influences my direction and work.

References

Allen, S. and Hubner, L. (2012). Framing film. Bristol, UK: Intellect.

Armes, R. (1976). The ambiguous image. 1st ed. London: Secker & Warburg.

Farmer, R. (2010). Jean Epstein. [online] Senses of Cinema. Available at: http://sensesofcinema.com/2010/great-directors/jean-epstein/ [Accessed 14 Oct. 2017].

Hunger. (2008). [DVD] Directed by S. McQueen. Ireland, UK: Film4.

Kappenberg, C. and Rosenberg, D. (2013). IJSD Volume 3 2013 After Deren: Full Issue. The International Journal of Screendance, 3, pp.101-102.

Keiller, P. (2014). View from the train. London: Verso.

Meshes in the Afternoon. (1943). Directed by M. Derren and A. Hammid. Hollywood: Maya Deren, Alexander Hammid.

Robinson in Space. (1997). [DVD] Directed by P. Kieller. UK: BBC.

Skakov, N. (2012). The Cinema of Tarkovsky: Labyrinths of Space and Time (KINO: the Russian and Soviet Cinema Series). 1st ed. I. B. Tauris & Company, Limited.

YouTube. (2017). Maya Deren’s Film Philosophy. [online] Available at: https://youtu.be/fblCLnugDpc [Accessed 16 Oct. 2017].

YouTube. (2017). Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) Dir. Maya Deren & Alexander Hammid [BFI Sight & Sound] silent. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nzWZomOYmQ [Accessed 16 Oct. 2017].

Embodiment 1: Tactility and engagement through the commonplace and mundane

images (1)

Trying to explain the plot or narrative of this film before I could simply show them, has been a very telling and interesting exercise, It goes a little like this: “well essentially the film follows a guy having a cup of tea in a cafe and then he walks around a bit in an off-season seaside town, then he sees a boy and his dog on a beach and then he strips off and either goes for a swim or potentially drowns himself”….”Errrm, not much happens really”

I have never been very good at describing or vocalising my work and it must be said this film has not made the task any easier! However, when faced with reactions that range between glazed incomprehension and mildly indulgent sympathy, It does focus one back onto this question of what is this film about? what constitutes it, and how and why does this fairly mundane sequence of events describe anything?

My influences are in this post, postmodern world of constant and violent media assault, quite eclectic, I am able to trace and keep track of the major ones, but it must be said that just occasionally some of them slip past the net of comprehension unnoticed and worm there way into my consciousness to emerge later in my practice, this I think it is fair to say is normal (whatever normal is) and It makes for interesting connections and discoveries in more formalised research later on down the line.

As I have said elsewhere in this blog this film has been in my head for a long time now, its earliest mind fragment possibly emerged in 2014 whilst I was still finishing my undergraduate studies. So I had feelings and influences that have fed back into the mix for a long time. This means when I make a connection like the one I want to explore here, it is impossible to entirely separate the timings and reactions, and say with absolute certainty which came first the chicken film or the egg inspiration. They are of course bound up in life and intertwined into the context and making of this film.

I really want to look at one of the most simple elements of the film, which is the mundane and everyday activities shown, in particular, the tea serving and drinking sequence. I hope It is true that I have chosen to shoot it in an engaging way, however the main point is not the shot or movement itself, this is designed to lead the viewer into this world, yes, but it is not even the baton passing of the tea to our character or the imbibing of the liquid symbolising the shift from external to internal that I want to discuss here.

No, It is the commonplace activity of sitting in a cafe and drinking a cup of tea, this mundane activity is broken down into its constituent parts has more to say than just ritual, (and ritualistic I wanted it to be). In essence, it is trying to locate within the commonplace a connection visually to the audience, the mundane itself acting as an agent to alignment, to comprehension, and hopefully to an instinctive tactile sense of engagement.

The idea of looking at everyday objects within film to produce this effect is not new Toni Ross looks at this very thing in an engaging chapter of Framing Film: Cinema and the visual arts. (Allen and Hubner, 2012)

In the chapter entitled ‘Resonances of Nineteenth-Century Realism’ In Steve McQueen’s Hunger, (2008). He discusses a particular scene in the film in which a prison officer in protective clothing mops the floor outside the prison cells of the infamous Maze prison, the camera is fixed and this long take shot where we see the prison officer moving from the end of the corridor slowly and methodically toward the camera. Ross Observes; 

“During these moments, all of our attentions channelled towards the flows of liquid, the mechanical movements the anonymous sweeper, and syncopated sound of this activity. Such close observation and     temporal distension of uneventful rituals of life in the Maze intermittently interrupt those passages of Hunger where the actions of characters take centre stage.” (Allen and Hubner, 2012, p172)

He goes on to look further at how the use of abstract close-ups in the next shot of the liquids on the floor which McQueen called later the ‘battle of the liquids’ focusing on the proximity to the object of scrutiny this being the liquids themselves has the effect of not just distilling the human struggle into abject excretions fighting the bleaching power of state internment, but a deeper connection reached for;  “McQueen Sacrifices optical clarity and depth vision in order to immerse the viewer in visual and sonic sensations” (Allen and Hubner, 2012, p172)

Ross goes on to discuss the effect of the infamous Speech of Margaret Thatcher over this image, powerful in its ability to hold back its judgement and allow us to make our own connections. It is for me in the close-ups and the banality of detail that I wish to make my points, I remember watching this film some years ago again as an undergraduate, and what struck me most about this scene then, was its temporality, The power still lies for me in holding that shot of the sweeping guard for a painful amount of time, we are not just subjected here to a painful and mundane act, we literally feel we have our noses rubbed in it, the smell emanates from the screen.

The time McQueen allows for this shot to play out also had one other very powerful effect, and here I disagree slightly with Ross, it doesn’t or shouldn’t mesmerise us merely with the liquids as they swish up the corridor, our focus is deliberately but slowly brought back to the doors that line the corridor, the guard swishes the liquid under certain doors and not others. It is my suggestion that this break in rhythm is our clue to the humanity that lies hidden behind every cell door, and this combined with the realisation that these men are dying, adds up to an incredibly powerful sequence we have been invited to feel to relate, then to ponder and to think deeply about. It hit me like a punch in the stomach, notably all of this stems from the commonplace, the details of the banal.

In my own film the sequences are simple we follow a man as I said inhabiting the spaces of a seaside town, his actions in themselves are mundane, particularly in the details, the rituals if you will, of smoking and drinking. I was reaching for a tactility in the shots, through the use of sound and familiarity, to bring feelings of the solidity of these objects. once this was established the intention was to then start breaking away with the edit and the course of events, from this assumption of safe and solid reality, into an alignment of feeling with our characters changing state and disconnection from reality.

Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 19.28.25

We must root our reality somewhere, why not in a cup of tea? Ross describes this as; ‘The real is produced as a constellation of sensory effects manufactured by the film-maker that intensify visceral dimensions of the film-viewing experience.’ (Allen and Hubner, 2012)  This visceral connection is what I have been reaching for in low season, and an area where the logic of narrative is rendered secondary to the sensory connection with our characters world and therefore his emotional plight. Again In his reading of ‘Hunger’ Ross observes; ‘Spectators of hunger are addressed subjects immersed in Oscillating waves of sensory feeling as much as translators of narrative meaning’ (Allen and Hubner, 2012)

I am not trying to draw strict comparisons here between McQueen’s masterpiece and my own short piece, they are wildly different, however in dealing with subject matters that are both reality-based and can be considered politically or socially hard-edged or difficult to portray. In my case human states of desperation, loneliness and isolation which could also be read as mental health instabilities and suicide.

It felt to me that the most honest and powerful approach was to not get buried under character narrative, McQueen, of course, finds a balance between this and is dealing with historical events, he also has the course of an entire feature to describe and situate the events in a myriad of ways and with mixed methodologies of intense dialogue, temporal challenges, and visceral bursts of violence combined with more abstract visual and auditory description. In Low Season I am trying to describe complex and deep human emotion, trace a journey both internally and externally and make allusions to social issues using metaphor and poetics in just over 5 minutes!

Over a decade ago art critic Okwui Enwezor put forward the idea that in McQueen’s work we as an audience have two ways of seeing: ‘One through the conventional optical mode of simply watching, and the other by “physically (haptically) seeing the film through the whole body, as illusionistic sensations’ (Enwezor, 1999, cited in Allen and Hubner, 2012)

This dualistic way of being invited into a piece of visual work, of course, has its origins outside of the world of cinema In other arts particularly painting. In this chapter Ross is drawing comparisons with Nineteenth century realist painters such as Adolf Von Menzel, looking in particular at his painting ‘Fur coat on a sofa’ (1859) It easy to see the corporeal qualities to this image that are talked about, But what further interested me was not just visual embodiment, but the idea put forward that because the spatial relationship between coat and sofa are unrealistic in terms of scale, and the positioning of this huge swathe of fur is such that it appears to be looming in frame, about to topple toward the spectator, this, of course, makes for a further level of embodiment in the inanimate object. (Allen and Hubner, 2012) Does this freeze the painting between stillness and motion?

Adolph-Von-Menzel-_Fur-Coat-on-a-Sofa-also-known-as-The-Artist_s-Pelisse-_

The power of this haptic bodily connection is so relevant in film because we are able to seek this in a series of images strung together, complete with movement in the frame, and of course with the power of sound. The ‘Tea ritual’ shot early on in the cafe has one other element I would like to align and suggest connections with here, and that is of the characters hand reaching forward to pick up the spoon, I was very happy with the proximity of this shot to the camera, I felt when I saw the results that it is a singular moment where perhaps the potential for the connection physically with the audience actually comes very close to being a literal thing, like the fur coat of Menzel poised to fall out toward the viewer, in moving image we can actualise this movement and push this proximity boundary and  literally reach out toward our viewer.

The point of this short blog has really been to trace some of the ideas processes and practices that inform my work, some of these may have come in at least partially under the radar, as although I sought the effects mentioned here, old connections had to be reformed, the power of Watching Steve McQueen’s film for the first time, and the tracing these old links offers more than a mere a nod of gratitude or a neat reference point of process It also becomes a note to self to track closely the deeper impressions of masterworks on my own practice.

The banal, the commonplace has power, we connect because we recognise and then we can feel.

In part two I would like to look further at the spatial connections again the commonplace and the banal, but paying particular attention to the embodiment of space, in micro and macro sense.

Edward Said: ‘Orientalism’

It may seem a strange departure down yet another rabbit warren of philosophical and cultural side research, to now be looking at the work and theories of Edward Said, the author of the important and controversial book ‘Orientalism’ (1978) but there is method to my madness. It does specifically look at a western centric view, romanticised at best, and racist at worst. Interrogating the severely limited view of what in colonial days was termed the ‘orient’ and now encompasses a great part of Asia, through the middle east to the the subcontinent. His theories have had a profound effect on post colonial studies, and reverberate through many disciplines including history, social theory, cultural studies, Anthropology, and I could go on….

So why start looking now when so much else is on the line? The truth lies more within the type of thinking that leads to these theories, which essentially is a deconstruction of existing and dominant ideologies.

So to watch the Below interesting documentary, that looks in particular at the modern legacy of of ‘Orientalism’ in particular the affects of America’s modern warped relationship with Islam and its strange view of the Middle East. May not be such a departure after all.

What particularly interested me was the fact that one of his theories is rooted within the system of education that underpinned this thinking among western Academics, this of course appears to tie up with my research into what constitutes ideological control, and where we have to look to start to break down the authoritarian systems that control us and our societies. To this end It is important to delve back into Michel Foucault and his theories on power and control.

The above is a mere sound bite from Foucault, but it reminded me That I need to read his earlier works properly to properly find foundations with which to build my further research. I have read Madness and civilisation which applies his theories of control into a context  psychiatry and its pseudo medicalised power structure that tries to be both prison warder and moral enforcer. But its back to his earlier work on the change in these power structure and how they are perceived or not by us that I want to read in more detail.

foucault-reading

 

So this is all rather relevant to my research into the treatment and rendering of Madness in cinema and film theory, my continued interest in the structures and patterns of thinking that lead to discourse and ultimately fixed and controlling versions of history culture and reality itself is better facilitated by trying to strip back all of the modes of thinking and looking under multiple stones for fresh voices and thinking that can help this search.

The fact that much of my research seems to lead me back to two central figures time and again, those being Michel Foucault in this case, and Giles Delueze in several others, is perhaps both interesting and slightly alarming? Does this constitute my own bias in theories I agree with? Or is it that the path to continued knowledge on my chosen fields of interest inevitably leads me back to these Thinkers?

 

 

 

 

 

Directions : pathways in film and research

Having just finished my second Tutorial with Kim I felt it important to not only log some of the conclusions and ideas from this but begin to look at how they interrelate with each other at this stage.

A way marker of sorts or perhaps the beginning of a trail of breadcrumbs to help lead me through the dark forest of not just the Ma, but my own processes research and interests as a film maker and budding academic.

The two key areas of research I am currently interested in pursuing further are:

The depiction of ‘madness’ in film, looking in particular at the relationship that film practice and theory have had and continue to have with Freudian practice and theory.

How does this long held connection between the emerging art form of film and the still emerging world of psychoanalysis interrelate? how much does it still impact how we view film, and madness shown in film? The early cinematic surrealists like Luis Bunuel were certainly influenced heavily by the writings of Sigmund Freud, and Carl Jung.

Moreover I want to look more closely at the power relationships set up specifically by Freud in his search for objectivity. Do these early notions and ideals, if not his practices still Inform Psychoanalysis today? If so and the patient doctor paradigm still persists, ie practitioner/patient, care giver/client, listener/subject. How can we make sense of the impact that these definitions may still have on our understanding of the human experience. Does this underpinning of these patterns of thinking exist so far beyond psychoanalysis and indeed psychology, that it exists in the  popular public consciousness, that it becomes a form of established ideolgy?

If the ideology of Freudian psychoanalysis persists is it through the mediums of art and cultural objects that it finds it continued mesmeric hold on us? And if we need to look further for a particular medium which has had a profound relationship from its very birth with freudian theory and the birth of psychology then we need look no further than that of the ‘seventh art’ the cinematograph, film.

So where does this relationship begin, and what is the effect of this on both the popular conception of mental illness (in particular madness) and the way that we make and analyse films themselves?

A popular mythologiser of freudian theory (if a hackneyed version) was certainly one of our most cherished and talented popular film makers of any generation,  Alfred Hitchcock, his propensity for films that delve into the mind is well documented, he is the great manipulator of us all, with a seemingly innate ability to locate and interpret our basal fears. Indeed his very name has become a descriptive term for films that probe the human psyche ‘Hitchcockian’ But how much of Hitchcock’s meddling with our minds actually follows freudian theories?

Hitchcock was certainly aware of Freudian theory and chose to depict madness and the mind in a particular fashion, choosing to frighten and tittilate with the extremes of the broken mind  as he does in ‘Psycho’ (1960) with his rendition of what could happen when the Oedipal crisis as Freud theorised is not successfully navigated. What does this popularisation of Freudian theory tell us about the continued relationship between the psychoanalysis and film?

Psycho is well documented from many disciplines, in film it is revered and often from a psychology or mental health point of view it is seen as a defining for negative public perceptions on mental illness. Is there another way of reading this? Free from the condemnation and adoration but using the text itself to delve deeper into this relationship we all have with film and its rendition of the mind?

I would like to look in more detail here at the relationship between the growth of psycho analytic film theory with bench mark theorists like Christian Metz, Laura Mulvay, and investigate how and why this rise of ‘Lacanian’ theory still holds us firmly to victorian ideologies of control and repressed sexuality.

Ben Rivers: bridging the divide between feature film and exhibition.

Situating my work has always been a difficult thing for me to work out, because my films clearly sit across a divide of experimental and cinematic storytelling, It is something I have ruminated on before on this blog and probably will continue to do so.

In terms of screening and presenting my work I have so far refused to make my work a comfortable fit for either of these categories, the films that come out are not designed to neatly comply to one of the rationales, they are simply the films that come out, the stories and issues I want to tell in the way I feel is appropriate to the film.

So it was with interest that I read these articles and watched the attached videos chiefly concerning Ben Rivers A film maker I have admired for sometime. He clearly is not only comfortable with the position and form of his work, he is successfully pushing and challenging this boundary by adapting his work to fit into both exhibition space and traditional seated cinema set up. To do this with little or no compromise and to find new ground and outcomes from this process I find very inspiring.

Far from this becoming a stumbling block for him he has found a new and enlivened way to view the work, pushing it into new territory.

The question of course has to be how did he do this? It appears as he says here, that simply by applying (in the traditional model) for funding from the arts council for a small project he was able to slowly build his portfolio and crucially his reputation. this building of trust and of course a measurable form of success for the given project has allowed him to build up to the installation work mentioned in the video below.

What also interests me about Ben Rivers is that his work is mostly shot solo, and I have been reminded of the positive qualities of this in film making, yes it can make life very stressful and at times lonely, and in the context of this module it may appear a strange thing to be reflecting on. However when faced with the sheer weight of problems that a crewed shoot generate, the mycelium of connections and timings that have to meet up and agree, it is no wonder I write this now misty eyed over a return to just me and a camera.

In no other art form is the artist potentially so beset with the complexities of working in large scale collaboration. The crux of the matter is that it is the work itself, its ambitions, goals and aesthetic that are the true decider of these choices, if I had to go back and do things differently for Low season, could I? In some cases yes, but on the whole to actualise and capture this film I needed to work with a crew and actor.

So yes I found myself stating flatly to my partner just yesterday that I don’t want to make anymore films this way, And at that moment I certainly meant it. Just after the end of the crewed shooting for Low season  I sloped off  and made a very short simple piece alone, just to feel again the simplicity and freedom of this mode of film making. It certainly does not make it easy! Just different, and more immediate perhaps.

I am sure however that when the dust settles from this film, and memory of the stress and difficulties fades, that my ambition will return to make work that requires the complex but rewarding capabilities of wider collaboration.

http://www.independantcinemaoffice.org.uk

in artist moving image page:

“Our aim is to take artists’ moving image work back into cinema

In the past cinemas in the UK were instrumental in screening artists’ work but in more recent years, this kind of work is more usually found in gallery spaces.  Our aim is to take artists’ moving image work back into a cinema context and to screen it to the widest range of audiences rather than in discrete screening slots.  We also want to introduce new audiences to the classics of artists’ cinema and encourage programmers and independent cinema professionals to engage with artists’ work and reflect on the synergies between it and more traditional narrative cinema.  In recent years, many artists have made the transition to long-form film, most notably such artists as Steve McQueen, Gillian Wearing, Ben Rivers and Clio Barnard.  As well as providing access to historical classics, we want to encourage artists new to this form to make work specifically for the cinema space and to exhibit work there.

We have achieved this through a series of commissions for the ongoing project The Artists Cinema and by distributing new work by artists along traditional narrative cinema distribution models (Civic Life and Chain).”