quinta-feira, 22 de novembro de 2012

"John Ford forever"

Sobre a ética do olhar escreve Serge Daney:
"A common and questionable idea has it that on television the close-up shot is king. If it was true, the man who one day shouted “I don’t want to see nose hair on a fifteen meter screen!” would not stand a chance on the small screen. John Ford wasn’t very fond of close-ups, or of expository scenes, which amounts to the same thing. He shot very quickly and spent only 28 days directing She Wore a Yellow Ribbon(and not La charge héroïque, the ill-translated and stupid French title). It was in 1949; he was his own producer and did whatever he fancied. Forty one years later, the film ‘passes’ perfectly from the big to the small screen (on Channel 1). Elementary, you say? Not quite. Gilles Deleuze one day reminded the youngsters of the FEMIS school of cinema that their work as filmmakers would consist in producing ‘blocks of duration-movement’. And if Ford’s blocks remain so perfect, it’s because they respect the most elementary of golden numbers: they only last the time it takes a practised eye to see everything they contain (1). The time to see all there is to see is the right duration and the right movement for an eye as disciplined in the art of looking as Ford’s horsemen are in the art of riding. A principle so simple that it allowed Ford to complicate, refine and even convolute things while always giving a feeling of timeless classicism. It isn’t the action which determines duration, it’s the perception of an ideal spectator, of a scout who would see from afar all that there is to see (but nothing more). Rapid contemplation is the Ford paradox. It’s impossible to watch his movies with a lazy eye because we then no longer see anything (except stories of romantic soldiers). The eye must be sharp because in any image of a Ford’s film, there is likely to be a few tenths of a second of pure contemplation before the action starts. Someone goes out a wood shack or leaves the frame, and there are red clouds over a cemetery, a horse abandoned in the right hand corner of the image, the blue swarming of the cavalry, the distraught faces of two women: things to be seen at the very beginning of a shot, because they won’t be a ‘second time’ (too bad for the sluggish eyes). Ford is one of the great artists of cinema. Not only because of the composition and the light of his shots but more deeply, because he shoots so quickly that he makes two movies at the same time: a movie to ward of time (stretching his stories out of fear of ending) and another to save the moment (the moment of the landscape, two seconds before the action). He enjoys the show ‘before’ (2). So with Ford there is not point looking for characters who, in front of a beautiful landscape, would say “How beautiful!” The character is not to whisper to the spectator what he should see. That would be immoral."

terça-feira, 20 de novembro de 2012

O ponto de vista e a mise en scène,

segundo Serge Daney: "12 December 1989 - Old principle of "our" cinephilia: the point of view. For me, the "point of view" is precisely what comes in the place of a body which is elided in the
image, what can be seen from the blind spot. The point of view refers to what could be seen by a character who would always be in the camera's place. To stick with this point of view immediatly means confronting problems of mise en scène (since there are forbidden images, which would not be consistent with the unique point of view). The question of the "point of view" comes down to asking who is looking. Who is the additional character? For example, in Depardon's film, another guard, a guard "who would know". The cinema of the unique point of view is disappearing (in both senses of the term) in its (mystical, pictural) relation to the "real". It abolishes itself. It never has much success since it confiscates for itself what's imaginary (and deprives the audience of it: Antonioni, Depardon). Obsessive. The cinema of the double point of view is popular cinema by excellence, since it firmly camps between the shot and the "reaction shot" (read Warren's book), playing the "objet petit a" between two objects caught in a power struggle (see my old idea on Jaws: the shark and the child's legs). It's popular because it creates a vertiginous identifying between two poles: active/passive, chasing/chased, torturer/victim, etc. Hysteria. This leaves the cinema with n points of views, in the end the greatest. It sometimes is "popular" but not necessarily. It has to juggle with paranoia, law, madness. I can't imagine a greater film than The Night of the Hunter in this category, the category of polyphony, of carnival (along maybe with Ivan the Terrible, 2001, some Ford's movies). Tiebreaker: is the cinema of zero point of view possible? No. We would need to analyse television not with visual but with tactile metaphores ("point of touch", tactile padding) and proxemics."

segunda-feira, 19 de novembro de 2012

Melancolia = Nostalgia?

A propósito da reiterada equivalência destes tópicos, eis o comentário de Serge Daney sobre Les Demoiselles..., não, não são as de Avignon, mas sim de Rochefort, de Jacques Demy: "23 July 1988 - DEMY (tv). The end of Les demoiselles de Rochefort. Stupid, devastated, definitive emotion. An emotion all the stronger that everything that I've always thought - and written - about Demy is still true. A hard film-maker, not at all sentimental, morbid and joyful. Only one 'idea'. Melancholy is not nostalgia. Demy's world (mine too I suppose) is instant melancholy. There is no lost world, no ideal gone by, no previous state that we regret. For the simple reason (perversion oblige) that we want to know nothing of this world 'from which we come' (alliance rather than kinship, etc.). Melancholy is as instantaneous as a shadow. Things become melancholy immediately, thanks to music and the music of the dialogue. It's the good mood with which the characters fail at everything (apart perhaps from the essential) which is terrible and moving at the same time. One does not fail at things because he didn't see them but because he found too quickly a way to empty them from their content, to circle around them, to dance. Darrieux learns who the sadist is and says: "And he was the one putting on airs while cutting the cake!" The essential was love but it has kept losing its colours. In this film, already, the beauty of the 'last minute' because every happy ending is pure voluntarism. But later (Peau d'âne, etc.), it creaks more and more. And voluntarism is precisely the topic of Une chambre en ville. Deny's absolute strength is to relate everything back to a prefect point of view: that of the mother. The mother who has never grown up, who is frivolous, who has forgotten to stop being a little girl. The world gets ordered from this blind task." Boa semana!

sexta-feira, 16 de novembro de 2012

"A moral da percepção"

é o título de um ensaio de Serge Daney sobre Straub-Huillet. Aqui fica um excerto dedicado à(s) forma(s) de olhar: "There are tricks the Straubs never use – and even seem to be the negation of their cinema – such as superimposition or cross-fading. Every time an image overlays another (unless one image contains the other), every time an image prefigures another (unless one image is already the other’s memory). The time of superimposition is that of the active work of forgetting: a voice tells us: “you will forget, you have already forgotten”. This infringement of an image on another is one of the two limits of the Straubian shot. The other is the black (or empty) screen. In Moses und Aron there was the bedazzlement of an empty shot, of a non-image. In Dalla nube, there’s something else, there is a disclaimer: whatever you are looking at, a cultivated field, a hill, an animal, don’t forget that what you see is always human. If seeing a film, in the Godard-Miéville version, is about equating dad with the factory and mom with a landscape, in the Straub-Huillet version it’s about equating the factory and – more and more – the landscape with mom and dad. Humanism then, in the sense of a prevalency, of a pregnancy of the human image in all things. It is in this sense that these films “are watching us”: someone is watching us in the depth of each image, in an impossible superimposition. Cinema is what permits to suspend the enchantment which makes us think that we see all around us other than human things, while they are only cultivated fields, cut down trees, unknown cemeteries, animals-who-might-be-human (thus forbidding to kill them). Old Marxist humanism as well, in the sense that Brecht said that a picture of the Krupp factories taught us nothing about the Krupp factories. What is missing? The work of men and men at work. And what is there to learn? Always the same thing: men create gods (or the workers create chiefs, actors create spectators) and in return those gods bereave them of their world, turn them into strangers, alienate them. Because it’s clearly about alienation and re-appropriation, experience and bad experience, an entire existentialist problematic to which Straub’s cinema clings to. All of the sudden we understand their horror for the already-made esthetic categories: finding a shot of a landscape “beautiful” is bordering on blasphemy, because a shot, a landscape, is, in the end, someone. There is no beauty if not moral. It’s not about anthropomorphism. There is pregnancy of the human figure in all things, but not the other way around. If we consider a filmmaker important in so far as one studies, from film to film, a certain state of the human body, then the Straub’s films are but documentaries about two or three body positions: sitting, bending over to read, walking. It’s already a lot."

quinta-feira, 15 de novembro de 2012

Zelig, de Woody Allen, sob o olhar de Serge Daney

Aqui vos deixo uma versão inglesa do texto de Daney, sem conseguir deixar de me lembrar de umas colegas que, na altura, adormeceram a ver o filme. Que Deus, na sua infinita misericórdia, lhes perdoe. Ei-lo: Saint Zelig, pray for us
Where it’s clear that only a filmmaker can give some meaning to what television does without thinking and that we owe Woody Allen the hypothesis of the embodied zapping. First came euphoria, a dream of ubiquity finally within reach of the hand (then of the thumb, a part of the hand). Thanks to television, being everywhere would cease to be the privilege of the sorcerer’s apprentices akin to Orwell or Mabuse. Once surveillance was democratised, the spectator’s eye started to scan, faster and faster, several strata of images. From the raw documentary of the news to the quiet family shows, from the black and white stock shots to the bright colours of the weather maps, from the MGM lion to the successive test patterns of national public television (1). In the meantime, the ear was adjusting to several types of voices: discoursing or teasing, commenting or stuttering, dubbed or original. “The world at home” was what it was all about. All this existed especially when there was only one television channel. The multiplication of channels has slowly created the reverse feeling of a fundamental “unity” of all images and sounds on television. As if too much diversity was detrimental to the very idea of diversity, and if too much choice rendered trivial the act of choosing. The practice of zapping probably came from this desperate desire to anticipate a nausea certain to arrive. An ambiguous act, zapping carries two contradictory desires. Sometimes we are trying to prove that “elsewhere” (i.e. on another channel) is just the same. Other times we want to enjoy – even for an instant – the appearance of diversity and to dream that it’s more than an appearance. In the first case, we angrily conclude to the prominence of the medium over the message, and in the second case we still seek the moments (a few seconds is all it takes) where our habits are tricked by a show temporarily new. But, like those who want to run faster than their shadows, or who count their chickens before they are hatched, we end up forgetting that an image is made to be seen. Does the Same, multiplied by the Same, equals the Other (like the multiplication of two negatives makes a positive)? It’s too serious a question to be left to the television people (too busy pretending to be unique and confuse variant and difference). Inversely, it’s a question for the reverie and jurisdiction of filmmakers. Only filmmakers can calmly “analyse” what television is only proposing as a hysterical synthesis. Cinema – and this is not new (Vertov, Rossellini, Welles, Godard, etc.) – is the conscience of television. It’s often its last dignity left. Filmmakers, because they anticipate a process which will eventually escape them, have the time to think about it and make it their own personal concern. But those who inherit from these processes often have the upstarts’ stubborn presumptuousness. Let’s be precise. With Fritz Lang the idea of surveillance is fascinating (The Testament of Dr. Mabuse) and with Rossellini, the idea of fictionalised news is overwhelming (Paisa). With Welles, the idea of de-programming is staggering (Mr. Arkadin) and with Godard (or Bresson) the idea of forced and indifferent choice is close to anguish. Artists will always be truer than media-people. And it’s with Woody Allen that the idea of zapping eventually becomes emotive. To watch one morning (on Canal +), drowned amongst other images, a movie like Zelig (1983), is to find to this film a depth that it didn’t have in movie theatres, in front of an audience too enlightened, too “second degree”. Television is the true environment of this film. If the bases of Woody Allen’s films are almost always robust or ingenious ideas (a real history of mediation in the 20th century, going through the de-sublimated star system and the moving evocation of radio), they rarely have a strong enough inspiration to make real films. But only a filmmaker could invent Leonard Zelig, this mutant whose body is zapping through history and through the different ways to film history. Who’s Leonard Zelig? A nice boy who wants to be loved by the others so much that he finds nothing better than to physically look like them. Zelig is like the cursor of the word processing machine this article is written with: where he is, it’s the Same, and everywhere else is elsewhere. He moves from a body to another just as we hop from channel to channel. He becomes tinged with otherness. He has recourse to mimicry, like these animals which fascinated Lacan. His body (a strange body, good for science, a body made of acetate or nitrate) adapts to the environment, eventually dissolving into it. That’s the true novelty. Unlike the great disguised characters of the past (who dressed up, like Tony Curtis in The Great Impostor by Mulligan), Zelig slips naturally in the skin of others. That’s how we discover him, a scandalous object in the immediate entourage of the Pope or Hitler. This is how he realises our dream of ubiquity (the famous “little mouse” since then become heroin of some personal computers). We know that cinema would not exist without the persistence of vision. With Zelig, there is another persistence: of a role into another, of a channel into another. Zelig symbolises our desire to be everywhere at the same time (incognito) and our refusal to lose the endangered “thread” of our nomadic life. But we or Zelig no longer travel around the wide world but through those countries which are the different genres of known images of the world: through the interview, the current affairs documentary or the Hollywood film. A chemical world is leading to chemical bodies, and chemical bodies lead to new types of metamorphoses. The culture of narcissism (a theme long addressed by the Americans) leads to paradoxes in which Woody Allen visibly revels. In the past, a mirror was enough (“Je ris de me voir si belle en ce miroir”, etc.). Today, it’s through the superficial diversity of the TV-things on display that we want to catch the trace of our imaginary presence, even in the (rather minimal) form of the gaze. What we see returns our image, the image of those who, as John Berger said, wanted to “see the seeing”. So for once, Zelig devotes himself out to “represent” our gaze in the country of things watched. We then found ourselves on both sides of the screen and concluded to the “crisis” of cinema. (1) “ORTF” in the French text: Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Française – the old state-owned public broadcaster which dominated French television up until 1974. Originally published in Libération on October 6th, 1987. Reprinted in Le salaire du zappeur, Éditions Ramsay, 1988. Translation by Laurent Kretzschmar

sexta-feira, 9 de novembro de 2012

Eleições americanas e o futuro

Aqui fica a versão não editada (um pouco mais longa, portanto) do meu texto que saiu ontem no Diário de Notícias: "Estas eleições presidenciais podem ser consideradas um ponto de viragem a dois níveis: do discurso político conservador e da emergência de um novo mapa sociológico. O discurso político conservador foi sempre condicionado pelas raízes ideológicas americanas, as quais assentam nos princípios liberais setecentistas. Daí que seja, frequentemente, noutros espaços, como o da ética religiosa, próxima de um fundamentalismo cristão e das suas agendas ideológicas, que esse discurso se tem sedimentado. Outro dos traços constantes do conservadorismo americano é o da desconfiança face ao poder central (aspecto curioso, tendo em conta que essa grande figura que é, afinal, um antecedente histórico da esquerda americana, Thomas Jefferson, opunha-se radicalmente ao poder central, o que o distinguia, então, entre outras coisas de John Adams), contra o qual o radicalismo populista do Tea Party se tem erguido. As opções do Presidente Obama no plano da política económica, de saúde ou da educação são, assim, por eles basicamente entendidas como interferências do poder central na liberdade de escolha de cada comunidade (ou Estado). Moderados como Romney e McCain foram profundamente condicionados por essas agendas. Será, por isso, interessante observar a forma como a nova geração conservadora – a dos políticos que estão na casa dos quarenta anos – irá lidar com elas de modo a afirmar um discurso para o século XXI. No plano do mapa sociológico emergente constata-se que as tradicionais divisões por zonas geográficas foi, de alguma forma, perturbada. Entre outros factores a reter neste âmbito importa assinalar o peso crescente da minoria hispânica que, em meados deste século, poderá significar 30% do eleitorado. Com efeito, é nesta cada vez mais relevante minoria que o Presidente Obama encontra uma parte significativa do seu eleitorado. A ela, assim como às minorias negras e asiáticas deve, aliás, a vitória nesse Estado tradicionalmente liberal que é a Califórnia. Se pensarmos que 95% dos negros votaram no Presidente, que os jovens também o escolheram preferencialmente, e que as mulheres se dividiram pelas duas candidaturas (as casadas tendencialmente preferindo Romney e as solteiras/divorciadas, Obama), deduzimos que algo está a mudar na sociedade americana e que as clivagens podem passar agora por tópicos envolvendo, por exemplo, a raça ou o género. Como irá lidar com esta nova realidade a velha América, branca, anglo-saxónica e protestante, e de que forma as minorias podem participar de uma reconfiguração do mito americano, eis duas dimensões a observar com atenção nos próximos tempos. Será por aí que o futuro da jovem nação irá passar. "


«Creio que vou ser capaz. De manhã, antes de começar a trabalhar, passar meia hora a ouvir-me a mim própria, a voltar-me "para dentro". "Submergir-me". Também podia dizer: meditar. Mas esse verbo ainda me assusta um bocado (...) Uma "hora silenciosa" não é fácil de conseguir. Tem que se aprender a consegui-la (...) O objetivo da meditação é, cá dentro, uma pessoa transformar-se numa planície grande e vasta, sem o matagal manhoso que não nos deixa ver. Deixar entrar um pouco de "Deus" em nós, como existe um pouco de "Deus" na Nona de Beethoven» (...) «Ontem à noite, pouco antes de me ir deitar, dei por mim, de repente, ajoelhada na alcatifa, no meio desta grande sala, entre as cadeiras de metal. Assim. Sem mais nem menos. Puxada para o chão por algo mais forte do que eu. Faz tempo, tinha dito de mim para mim: "Vou ver se consigo ajoelhar-me". Tinha ainda muita vergonha desse gesto tão íntimo como os gestos do amor, todos gestos de que ninguém consegue falar. A não ser um poeta (...) A força criadora é, afinal de contas, uma parte de Deus. As pessoas precisam é de ter a coragem de o dizer (...). Estas palavras acompanharam-me semanas a fio. É preciso é ter a coragem de o dizer. A coragem de pronunciar o nome de Deus». Etty Hillesum