Recently, I watched the films of Hiroshi Teshigahara, the Japanese film artist whose major work is placed so fittingly in that notorious schism in cinema’s historical narrative —the sixties — a decade of chronological fracture between the myths of the old and the truths of the new, between the adamancy of the bygone and the defiance of the upcoming. It was a time of extreme crisis (crisis, as Christian Petzold may describe it: a phase of spiritual holocaust) for cinema, the young man. At sixty or seventy, the youngest of all artforms was forced by circumstances to conduct a severe introspection — cinema looking at cinema— that would result eventually in an overhaul so thorough that several of its ancient practitioners were rendered dinosaur. In view of this, Teshigahara’s filmography, or more specifically, the band of five films (and a couple of shorts) he made from 1962 to 1968 are the suture in the middle of the cinematic organism — the precise physical point in the cosmos where a body transmogrifies to another, or simply put, the point at which cinema’s ‘past’ and its ‘future’ join.
In that respect, Teshigahara is essentially the only filmmaker whose work belongs entirely (and only) to a certain decade: Hitchcock made silent films while Murnau made films for the next century, but Teshigahara’s career could only exist in the sixties and nowhere else (and it didn’t, save a documentary). Because who better to make films in the historical rupture between cinema and its altered state(s) than the master-chronicler of the process of transition himself ? A lot has justifiably been said about Teshigahara’s obsession with identity and its complete annihilation in order to result in another new, entirely alien being. It is, however, even more crucial to recognize Teshigahara’s work as being a variation of the ol’ school rabbit-to-pigeon-to-nothing magic trick - because what is essential with his films is not what comes out of the hat, but what goes on inside it. If Teshigahara obsesses over details — it is those contained within the process of transformation, as opposed to the result of that process. As a result, Teshigahara’s work is an icon not only of various art and thought–movements (existentialism, surrealism, objectivism, Kobo Abe, dream-theory, Franz Kafka), but much more potently, of the time it was made in.
Teshigahara’s career is particularly pertinent also to the situation at Projectorhead. The present issue was originally slated for publication in early February this year, but has taken an extra three months to appear. The reasons for it are not entirely unambiguous, and one may in turn blame specifics such as casual lethargy, a very small team (in effect, two people plus the forgiving contributors) or ‘technical issues’ —but at the core of the delay, I believe, lies a crisis — about what the central intention of the journal is, and why it exists. Those questions may seem trivial, and their importance may appear secondary to the act of publication itself, but often enough, it is answers to these crucial inquiries that help sustain a publication (or any other institution) during downtime. Projectorhead is still rather new, but it is old enough to now have a committed ideal; hopefully, from this issue onwards, it will embark on a process that will help locate it. The other essential announcement is that of the departure from the Projectorhead staff of its first editor, Gautam Valluri. Editorial duties will be taken over by Sudarshan Ramani from the seventh issue onwards.
In this issue, you will find another part of Devdutt Trivedi’s continuing work in the examination of the ‘cine-accident’, this time, through a study of the use of the location–space in Antonioni‘s Zabriskie Point (1970). Also, Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri documents the extensive history of Bengali cinema in a two–part anthology, of which the first is in this issue. Anamaria Dobinciuc continues her work for Projectorhead as its film book-critic, with a review of Catching the Big Fish by film–bizarre–auteur David Lynch; and finally, the compilation for which this issue was originally instituted — discoveries of the bygone year. This section features contributions from Anamaria, Jit Phokaew, Srikanth Srinivasan, Ankan Kazi, Sudarshan Ramani and the author — while one may make a case for these discoveries being late in their publication since 2011 is long-gone, it is the belief of Projectorhead that any serious discussion of cinema can never be topical (or if it is, the only topic will be cinema) or anachronistic (for any discussion of cinema will always be the future approximating its past) — therefore, before 2012 comes to an end, the discoveries of 2011.