Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter Sunday. 2010 will stand as a very dissociated year for me. It has been hard to concentrate, let alone write. Yet i have seen a number of things since the last time i blogged. At least two art openings: the group exhibit "Woodman, Woodman, Spare That Tree" at Galerie Micky Schubert, and the opening night of the "Squatting" show at the Temporare Kunsthalle. Ok, what was my take on the art scene? Well: it's an art scene, a lot of younger people, the Temporare Kunsthalle was packed, but what about the art? My impression so far: there is a feeling that a lot of the work is warmed over, it's very much like the art found in the Chelsea galleries a decade ago: there was a sense of deja vu, the artists are proficient and they have done their homework in terms of the post-modern, conceptual basis for their work, but it's not really that exciting. Maybe i'm just jaded. But i did like the fact that there were all these people milling around at these openings.

Saw the program of shorts by Carl Theodor Dreyer at the Kino Arsenal. Impeccable craftsmanship! Still, most of the films were jobs: for the Ministry of Health, for the Ministry of Culture, for the Safety Council, etc. The one short in the program that transcended this was "They Chased the Ferry"; i'd seen that film before (many times) but it's still marvellous.

But seeing a few of Dreyer's films really excited me. It was fascinating to witness the development of a true style in film. But it's also instructive. One film which was shown in the series was Gustaf Molander's 1943 version of "Ordet"; it was startling because, though Molander adhered closer to the text, you realized how radically Dreyer transformed his source material. In the Molander, there are whole subplots and characters which Dreyer simply eliminates. Dreyer concentrates his narrative, as his style creates a visual concentration (which became apparent in "La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc"), and his final two films ("Ordet" and "Gertrud") show how he wanted to work in an almost bare visual field.

I'm also reading Tony Pipolo's "Robert Bresson: A Passion for Film", which i think is excellent. It reminds me of a discussion i had with someone once, now i'm forgetting who the otehr person was, but we were discussing filmmakers like Dreyer, Bresson, Mizoguchi, Ozu, i.e., filmmakers whose cultures were "foreign" to us (for example, i remember that neither of us was Catholic) and how the way to deal with those films was on a formal level, that form would reveal the content to us critically.

And that's what i was thinking of with Dreyer, although what's become intriguing in terms of Dreyer scholarship is the continual unfolding of Dreyer's biography. And to think that, in the 196os, when i first started seeing Dreyer's movies, there seemed to be virtually nothing known about the man. The whole story of his mother giving him up for adoption, his mother's suicide a little while after, and the rigidly devout couple that raised him... these were facts that nobody really knew. So our understanding of his work could not be considered in terms of his biography.

The recent fracas between Armond White and J. Hoberman (with "Greenberg" as the bone of contention) was dismaying, for so many reasons. Ok, so i should say that i know both of them, and they're people who have strong opinions, but there was something very distressing because it pointed to a breakdown of communication. On a fundamental level, we're not talking about the same things.

We claim that we're talking about movies, but our definitions are different. Armond retains a belief in the cinema as a mass medium, that at its best movies represent an art which unites the broadest possible audience. And to give weight to his argument, he points to Spielberg as an example. Hoberman has long championed the alternative cinema; it's not for nothing that he was initially seen as the Village Voice's successor to Jonas Mekas. "Greenberg", if you will, is an example of shall we say niche cinema. And Armond has a violent antipathy to what he views as elitist cinema, and Hoberman is a defender of the small-market film, just as he champions small-guage cinema.

But i think i should see "Greenberg".


Post a Comment

<< Home