As now tradition, my year in filmgoing, more drearily verbose than ever. See also - 2015, and 2014. New levels in the recording of pointless metrics, creation of meaningless lists and transcribing of wandering narratives. This year - 204 features, 105 of which were seen in the cinema. Overall, I saw 306 films of varying lengths, of which 76 were seen on some kind of print. Mixing shorts and features muddles these numbers, but along with all the short film I watched that I haven’t been able or inclined to track, I watched a lot of movies this year. Cool, huh.
My highlights. In Jan, I saw Michael Snow’s legendary La Region Centrale at Closeup. No film before has been such a joy to describe to others. “What are you doing tonight, Matt?” “Watching a four hour film in which a camera attached to a robot rotates and pivots at random alternating angles and speeds.” No film before has ever described better how much I am wasting my life. I can’t work out why seeing this film was so good, or if it even was good or if I just think it was good, but there is something about the journey of watching something so lengthy, and the developments, thoughts and emotions that come with that, that proved very emotionally/sensorially/psychologically compelling. At the end of the screening, I spoke to a few of the old men present. One, who turned out to be esteemed newspaper film critic [redacted] said, “just think, not only have you seen it… but you’ll be able to say you saw it with [redacted].” `it was extremely difficult to stifle laughter.
Also Jan. as part of the London Short Film Festival there was an event titled ‘Little Stabs of Happiness’, which was a film and club night ran between 1997 and 2000 by Pulp guitarist Mark Webber, who would go on to establish Experimenta weekend and the London Film Festival and other good things. Here, short films (Laida Lertxundi’s My Tears Are Dry, Thom Andersen’s Olivia’s Place and Lewis Khlar’s Pony Glass) were played, and in between DJs provided related music, fading out the sounds and beginning the projections without notice. Everyone sat on the floor in that basement room of the ICA, talking for the music but silent for the films, and the event had an atmosphere different to any film related event I’ve been to. Since it I’ve not stopped thinking about two things: a) how the stuffiness/oppressiveness of the cinema environment could be avoided and how it could, as a space/activity, become more open and approachable, without infringing on the viewing experience of the films themselves; and b) how music and film can better interact*. I don’t have any answers to either yet, but am very interested in thinking more about both things.
Also, at LSFF, Gummo on VHS. Not sure why that format, but a massive favourite, and a memory trip back to earlier times and feelings. Photos with the ears and the accordion in a MUBI sponsored photobooth.
Somewhat related, seeing an exhaustingly lengthy programme of experimental films in one of the London Filmmakers Co-Op 50th anniversary screenings, at BFI. Seeing Hollis Frampton’s Lemon properly for the first time, another film I frequently use to describe why I’m wasting my life. Some new favourites like Liz Rhodes’ Dresden Dynamo, Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests. Listening to Peter Gidal babble manically about how that institution had worked, and how screenings operated there, with audiences in cold warehouses, sitting on mattresses. Thinking more about that. Also, the moment when the only film playing from DCP was the one that malfunctioned, much to the joy of the BFI pseuds. “Not the same is it? Not the bloody same!!!”
In Feb, a trip to Raven’s Row to see five hours of Anne Charlotte Robertson’s Five Hour Diary, and to Closeup to see Jonas Mekas’ Walden**. Both of which were moving, expansive, revelatory. An interest sparked in these most personal modes of filmmaking, in family and home movies. In outward introspection and obsessive self-interest. In something.
A bit later, documentary festivals. Deep diving into great non-fiction films at Frames of Representation, Open City Documentary Festival and Sheffield Doc/Fest, and exploring those documentaries that blend modes, cross approaches and find new “pictorial and temporal frames through which these layered sources can be represented on screen.” Great new ~documentaries~ like Tempestad, Kings of Nowhere, All These Sleepless Nights, Lost and Beautiful, The Other Side, Fragment 53, Behemoth, The Prison in Twelve Landscapes, and the incredible Cameraperson with Kirsten Johnson (and Michael Moore, lol) there to talk about and contextualise it. Catching the entirety of Homeland (Iraq Year Zero) with Abbas Fahdel present at DocHouse, a phenomenal, deeply affecting project and key movie life experience. Also, shortform via Field of Vision, Laura Poitras’ Project X and A.J. Schnack’s Speaking is Difficult.
Lengthy forays into the short films of Kurt Kren, Stan Brakhage and Laida Lerxtundi at Close-up and Tate. Seeing Mothlight and The Dante Quartet on 16mm for the first time, crying a little bit (lol). Hearing from Suranjan Ganguly, director of the Stan Brakhage Center in Colorado about Brakhage and his eyesight defiencies and starting to understand exactly why I like these sort of abstract things quite so much. Nearly bursting into tears at this revelation. Seeing Lertxundi’s amazing films, including Footnotes to a House of Love again and new one 025 Sunset Red for the first time. Seeing these films on the day of Trump’s election, Laida eschewing the burden of a Q+A for this reason, but providing a wonderful introduction anyway. Hearing about Doug’s time at her workshop the day before. Thinking about landscape films and her idea of landscape plus.
Also at Tate, Lewis Khlar’s intense, dense, brain boggling collage Sixty Six. Spending a day with Abel Gance’s Napoleon. Napping through the first two hours, but having mind blown by that three panel last act. Should have seen it at the Southban Centre. Ogawa Pro and Ogawa Shinsuke’s near four hour farming epic Magino Village: A Tale. Should have seen the whole season. Catching Syndromes of a Century and Tropical Malady on 35mm. Hardline masterpieces from my favourite working filmmaker. Should have gone to the whole all nighter.
Uncovering treats at the London Korean Film Festival, London Film Festival, SAFAR and the London East Asian Film Festival. Standouts Take Care of My Cat, Starless Dreams, Bangkok Nites and By The Time It Gets Dark. Having eyes opened and mind expanded by the myriad selections of Edge of Frame that fall under the banner of ‘experimental animation.’
Lastly, films from friends with Misc_Films’ presenting Homo Sapiens, and the Bechdel Test Fest’s screening of Drop Dead Gorgeous. Seeing 88:88 with good sound and large image at Goldsmiths. Films for friends, with CAM-RiPS.
*One impediment here, I think, is that a lot of film people have awful taste in music.
**Walden is on display in the Tate Modern’s Tanks until January 15th, I have just learnt, should you wish to pop in and catch 5 or 10 mins, or the full 3 hours.
The Death of Louis XIV (Albert Serra)
Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson)
Bangkok Nites (Tomita Katsuya)
Sieranevada (Cristi Puiu)
Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho)
Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello)
Tempestad (Tatiana Huezo)
Things To Come (Mia Hansen-Love)
The Prison in Twelve Landscapes (Brett Story)
Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt)
Walden (Jonas Mekas, 1969) / Five Year Diary (Anne Charlotte Robinson, 1982) (DCP)
Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006) / Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2004) (35mm)
La Region Centrale (Michael Snow, 1971) (16mm)
Napoleon (Abel Gance, 1927) (DCP)
Take Care of My Cat (Jeong Jae-eun, 2001) (35mm)
The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami, 1999) / A Moment of Innoocence (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 1996) (35mm)
Magino Village: A Tale (Shinsuke Ogawa, 1987) (16mm)
To Sleep With Anger (Charles Burnett, 1990) (35mm)
Hospital (Frederick Wiseman, 1970) (35mm)
The Road to the Racetrack (Jang Sun-Woo, 1991) (DVD)