Harun Farocki (1944 – 2014) ——————
Thomas Elsaessar states,
Cinema has many histories, only some of which belong to the movies. It takes an artist-archaeologist, rather than a mere historian, to detect, document and reconstruct them. Today, perhaps the cinema’s most illustrious artist-archaeologist is Harun Farocki.
Lightcube Film Society screened Farocki’s debut film Inexhaustible Fire among its screenings, to general praise and wide attention. Farocki belonged to part of Germany’s resurgent generation of 1960s-1970s, closer to Alexander Kluge and Straub-Huillet (he documented the production of Class Relations, their adaptation of Kafka’s Amerika). Here’s a collection of worthy links:
1. Margalit Fox – New York Times Obituary:
Mr. Farocki’s films were conspicuous assemblages, comprising found and archival footage including surveillance tapes, home movies and corporate training films. By juxtaposing such images, he sought both to highlight their curious commonalities and to put his finger on the political imperatives that lay beneath their flickering surfaces.
2. C S Venkiteswaran – Economic and Political Weekly
If his early films were visual explorations and interrogations that belong to the celluloid period when cinematic image still had “evidence or truth value”, the coming of the digital turned the situation around, and in turn, the challenges before the documentary film-maker. In the digital age, a film-maker is confronted with all kinds of excess – of news, information, images and narratives, all flooding the environment and creating a “hegemony of consensus” that serves the State or Capital.
3. Harun Farocki: ‘Parallel’
The primary attraction, though, is the New York debut of the artist’s final work, “Parallel I-IV,” which was begun in 2012 and completed this year and continued his interest in the growth and influence of digital imaging. In an earlier project, “Serious Games” (2009-10), he focused on the United States military’s use of video-game-style technology in combat training. In the four separate videos that make up “Parallel,” he scans the history of computer games, beginning with blocky linear animation, mainly of landscapes, from the 1980s. As the sophistication increases, so does the violence quotient, until it seems that everything is framed in the all-seeing sights of a high-powered gun: war, universal or at street level, is a big-boy game.
4. Matt Zoller Seitz – Michael Sicinski’s Email
An email explaining Farocki’s importance by Sicinski, who studied with Farocki.
Farocki was a deeply materialist filmmaker who saw the editing process as a site for the physical construction of argument. This meant that, ultimately, a film could and should connect Germany with the world, and also the documentary form with other modes of address. When I indicated above that calling Farocki’s work “documentary” is partly inadequate, it is because the artist so often relied on speculative fiction, re-enactment, or the analytical conjecture constitutive of the essay form, all in the service of achieving truthful arguments.
5. Ignatiy Vishnevetsky – The Onion A. V. Club
Though hardly a household name, Harun Farocki was one of the boldest and most influential film theorists of the last 40 years—a prolific writer and documentary filmmaker whose work focused on creating and deconstructing complex, clear-eyed arguments about society, work, media, and war. From the mid-1980s on, his main focus was on how simulations affect a person’s sense of place in the real world, a topic he explored in projects that ranged from How To Live In The Federal Republic Of Germany—a brilliant documentary composed of scenes from dozens of instructional workshops and training exercises, on topics ranging from driving to striptease—to the recent installation Serious Games, which tackled combat training simulators.
6. Srikanth Srinivasan – The Seventh Art
Farocki examined the ever-changing face of industrial production, continuously investigating what exactly constitutes such production and what labour means in an age in which the boundary between productive and not-productive work has become fuzzy. His last, unfinished installation project, Labour in a Single Shot (2011-2014), which consists of a collection of shots showing people at work in 15 different cities simultaneously projected on 15 screens, probes into this shape-shifting nature of labour and its increasingly invisible place in the scheme of things.
7. Fandor Keyframe – Obit Roundup
Lauren Bacall (1944 – 2014) ——————
The Golden Age recedes further and further away as we move into the 21st Century. Lauren Bacall is fascinating in that in comparison to say, Joan Fontaine (who passed away recently), or Olivia de Havilland, leave alone Greta Garbo(who retired at the height of her fame and withdrew from public life for forty years), she was not content to be a relic. She continued to appear in notable films from the 80s onwards, appearing in films by Robert Altman (H.E.A.L.T.H., Pret-A-Porter) and Lars von Trier (Dogville, Manderlay), and a memorable turn in Paul Schrader’s The Walker (2008). Bacall of course will always be remembered for her films with Humphrey Bogart, a rare love story that the movies chronicled – To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946) and, my favorite, Delmer Daves’ Dark Passage. This film privileges her over Bogart (who for most of the first half is wrapped in bandages and serves as a first-person camera), an angel of calm and rationality, that undermines the destructive Noir tale of vengeance and the destructive past (incarnated by Agnes Moorehead, who serves as the Furies hunting down Bogart). Other great performances include Douglas Sirk’s Written on the Wind(alongside Dorothy Malone, who also appeared in The Big Sleep) and Vincente Minnelli’s remarkable The Cobweb.
1. Adrian Curry at MUBI has a collection of old movie posters highlighting Lauren Bacall’s incredibly striking features.
2. A tribute from her fellow stars.
3. Richard Brody has an eloquent observation at her career after Bogart’s death:
To this day, Hollywood has trouble with strong and independent female characters, to the extent that the notion has become a stereotype and a constraint. Bacall beside Bogart was in a tussle; for all the mighty figures who populated the Hollywood studios, almost nobody else could stand up to her. She was meant to play Presidents and C.E.O.s, editors-in-chief and visionary directors. How many such roles existed for actresses—for women in real life—in her heyday?
4. Fandor, Obit Roundup
“Marlene Dietrich came up to Hawks after one screening of To Have and Have Not and said, ‘You know, that’s me about 20 years ago.’”
Peter von Bagh (1943 – 2014)
Peter von Bagh was one of Finland’s greatest critics and a film-maker, the director of the essay film Helsinki Forever. He was also the co-founder and director of Finland’s Midnight Sun Film Festival and since 2001, the director of Bologna’s Il Cinema Ritrovato.
1. From Senses of Cinema – Bagh’s article on Chaplin.
2. Fandor, again.
Jim Hillier (1941 – 2014)
Jim Hillier was a veteran film teacher at BFI. A prolific author who is most famous for his editions of translations of Cahiers du Cinema articles from 1950-1970. BFI’s obituary for Hillier.
Antoine Duhamel (1925 – 2014)
The composer for films by Truffaut (Stolen Kisses, Mississippi Mermaid), Godard (Pierrot le Fou, Week End) and Bertrand Tavernier (Daddy Nostalgie, Laissez-Passer). MUBI on Duhamel.
Nicole Lubitschansky edited every single film by Jacques Rivette from L’amour fou (1969) to Around the Small Mountain (2009). This includes the elusive Out 1, the dazzling Celine and Julie Go Boating, the Jeanne d’Arc diptych, Haut/Bas/Fragile and Ne touchez pas à la hache, Rivette’s greatest commercial success. In addition she edited films by Marguerite Duras (Nathalie Granger), Jacques Doillon (Young Werther) and Daniel Schmid (Hecate) and Straub-Huillet (Antigone). She was the widow of the famous DP, William Lubtschansky who died in 2010. She passed away on 5 September, 2014.
1. Paul Schrader’s Dying of the Light
Paul Schrader is the director of The Canyons, which we wrote about here, a film that was as brilliant and intelligent as it was misunderstood. Schrader then went on to produce another film called Dying of the Light starring Nicholas Cage. The film’s release is subject to a controversy, with Schrader being denied his final cut.
Scott Foundas writes in Variety about the controversy:
Paul’s cut of the movie deviated substantially from his own script,” adds Williams, a former Yari Film Group exec whose producing credits include the recent Robin Williams drama “Boulevard” and the forthcoming “Reach Me,” with Sylvester Stallone. “It was a completely different movie from the movie that was greenlit, the movie that was discussed and the movie that was shot.
A Facebook petition has been launched, calling for Schrader’s cut to be restored:
New York Film Festival director Kent Jones, who has seen Schrader’s version, says he was “keenly interested” in the film for this year’s festival, but that when he reached out to Lionsgate, they professed to know nothing about the film. “It’s a movie by a real filmmaker,” says Jones. “Paul’s always been commercially minded, but he’s also a guy with a vision. His films are the definition of movies that operate on two levels at the same time. So this movie’s a thriller, but it’s also an existential inquiry. He’s stretching a low budget in ingenious ways. What I saw a pretty compelling character study and a movie that I was looking forward to seeing in its finished state.
1. Ferrara’s biopic of Pasolini stars Willem Dafoe and also features the beloved star of the late great artist’s films, Ninetto Davoli. The trailer, set to Erbarme dich, Mein Gott by J. S. Bach, is heartbreaking.
2. Inherent Vice by Paul Thomas Anderson, a film adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon movie is a real thing. As witness this trailer.
3. And, we have the trailer of Michael Mann’s Blackhat.
4. After struggling for a year in securing funding for his next film, the ageless Manoel de Oliveira has started work on a new short:
His new film is a short entitled “O Velho do Restelo (The Old Man from the Restelo),” and it “recounts the life and work of Portuguese romantic writer Camilo de Castelo Branco. It is through these literary references, which also incorporate others such as those of Miguel de Cervantes, that the film will create a reflection on Portugal and its history.
In addition he directed the trailer for Viennale 2014, it’s quite nice.
1. Adrian Martin on Notorious, perhaps the greatest article ever written about this simple yet elusive film.
The permutational openness of Notorious has much to do with the fact that it is a classic three-hander drama. The potentially very rich and flexible structures of triangular stories in cinema have yet to be fully explored. With three key points in an interpersonal, intersubjective relation, there is always the possibility of suddenly shifting the narrational point of view in a new and surprising way, by taking a hitherto concealed angle on events.
2. Steven Soderbergh on Staging in Raiders.
3. A new biography by Susan Mizruchi explodes a lot of the misconceptions of America’s most influential and mercurial movie star, especially relating to the production of Apocalypse Now, which rather than serving as a hindrant, featured Brando as a major artistic collaborator.