Same as every year, spare me this indulgence (alongside the countless others I am granted.) A rundown of my year in filmgoing (and this year, again spare me please, some of my adventures in film writing too), in unnecessary detail and at gratuitous length. For my records, and for my validation, because sometimes it feels okay to see this pursuit (and increasingly, career) as something more worthwhile, to see all the dark nights and lost hours as valid and fair.
With Beth at a session led by Jemma Desai at the [LSFF] as part of her I Am Dora project, connecting films about London from the 80s and 90s with contemporary immigrant experiences of the city. Interesting films - specifically Mark Leckey’s rave-nostalgia archive ode Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, which proved kind of revelatory - and even more interesting conversation, with a panel of non-film individuals talking loosely on issues relating to the films played and the evening’s decided themes, and in a personal, spirited introduction from Jemma, addressed to the audience, to herself and to her baby.
Searching for odd documentaries and experimental short films at [IFFR]. Seeing Simon Liu’s Highview - a film I quickly became obsessed with - in the form of an overlapping three projector performance at the end of a special programme of films on film, titled Panta Rhei. Celluloid traces dancing through a hyper coloured fractal splatter garden of memory, place and placelessness, and familial love sent and absorbed. Witnessing a bizarre, spontaneous performance involving distorted sound from scratchings of filmreels ran through multiple projectors across a crowded room. The artist, Lee Hangjun, running madly through the crowds, a noise magician extracting scratch screams from endless trails of film stock. Someone shouting: “isn’t celluloid flammable?! He’s a maniac! A maniac!!” Peter heading off to bed.
Interviewing Salome Lamas after spending too much time with her film Eldorado XXI, when it played at [Frames of Representation], and writing an essay for the festival booklet, which sat adjacent to one written by Andrea Picard. Insane. Susana chatting to her in Portuguese, me saying nothing and looking very English. Deep diving into Jorge Thielen Armand’s La Soledad and the building at the film’s centre (with set photos from the director, cool!). Babette Mangolte at the [Essay Film Festival]. A quite magnificent rarity in The Sky On Location. Her falling dramatically backwards off her chair at the ICA and the auditorium gasping, holding in breath, and then exhaling with relief as she got up and laughed at what had happened. A programme of mid-length artists film titled ‘artists on celluloid’ at [Doc/Fest], which included Luke Fowler’s Electro-Pythagorus, one of the year’s great surprises. Other things, feelings and experiences there, head in a rush. Large crew in tow. [Open City Documentary Festival]. Presenting my first programme as a bringer-together-of-things under a newly inked brand (LOST FUTURES) at the end of a manic week. Short watching, speech writing, zine making, event hosting. Collapse.
Relaxing times at [CPH:DOX]. Properly attending a festival with friends (MIchael, Chloe, Jess) for the first time - rather than as a nervy solo ~delegate~, attempting (and occasionally succeeding) to make new pals and chastising myself when depleted or unable - and having a well time without all that pressure and promise. Visiting during the wrong days, and missing mostly everything, but seeing Chou Zhen’s Life Imitation and a few other delicacies. Milkshakes on Monday. Rain soaked McDonalds on the last day. Hot dogs in a hurry, wine and leisurely beef tartar. Back at it again (with Chloe, Duncan, Ollie, Simran, Catherine etc.) for [IDFA]. Crossing the water to see the Apichatpong Weerasethakul show at Eye. Relaxing to Xiao Xiao’s Turtle Rock, a world away from Amsterdam and any of the other documentaries there. An 11pm show of Caniba. An excited audience, quickly revulsed.
The critics academy at [Locarno]. Seeing Valerie Massadian’s Milla, hyped before but met with a weirdly muted response at the festival. Speaking with her, nervously, in a little courtyard. Seeing her run over to me at the festival’s closing party, a kiss on both cheeks, like a French aunt. A treasure. Prototype world premiere. Good Time on the biggest screen I’ve ever seen, outside in the courtyard, beers down, sleep deprived, heat struck and stir crazy. The sense of fervour after Nelson Carlo de Los Santos Arias’s Cocote, an eventual prize-winner, with folks on the bus heading to the strange golf resort party after, chatting excitedly about it. Dipping ankles in the lake later. A hill climb, church atop a mountain, and a proper swim. IRL Beach Rats. Masterclasses with Wang Bing and Miguel Gomes. Sitting on the floor for a late night show of Good Luck, 6 other people spread in a 800 seat auditorium. Mark Peranson‘s State of the Nation address. Jaime and I, rainsoaked and lovesick, interviewing Golshifteh Farahani in place we looked entirely out of sorts in. Ordet for the first time, alongside Christopher at a tribute screening for Hans Hurch. An incredible film and a consuming, transformative experience. “Dreyer very nearly made me a believer.” 13 days in Switzerland and flicker trickling memory swamps, pools to draw from in times of need. Cinema rejuvenation.
Heading to [Flatpack] in Birmingham, specifically to see Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle in its entirety. Seven hours of what the artist described as a “self-enclosed aesthetic system”. Not really enjoying it, but having a good time writing the about the experience regardless. Polish shorts, then Late Lounge at Bristol’s [Encounters] with Nosa. Stomach churners, eyebrow raisers and blood soakers until the sun goes down. A calming dip into the [London Film Festival], to catch some of the year’s bigger films. Brief pleasant exchanges with an increasingly tired Matt, and an always bouncy Hind. Wowed by Western, Awestruck by Zama, Brought repeatedly to tears by 120 BPM. Toshio Matsumoto’s alt-canon classic Funeral Parade of Roses with an old Japanese man who was a friend of the cast and who’d travelled all the way from Tokyo to London for this new restoration.
Song to Song upstairs at the PCC, with a confused, borderline hostile audience in some midweek death slot. On The Beach Alone At Night from a screener with George, leaked before the film’s Berlinale premiere. Piracy that actually felt weird and wrong. With Simran, Chloe, Edwin and Ben at the Tate’s phenomenal Kevin Jerome Everson weekend, titled So I Can Get Them Told. Countless revelatory works, notably Erie, with the girl with the candlestick, and new ones IFO and Round Seven, but also the one minute wonder Polly One, about a grandmother and the solar eclipse. Humility, insight and dad jokes from Everson. Sunny. Rain. Quality time with the bagmen throughout the BFI’s Women in Japanese Melodrama retrospective. Popping colours on prints of Yasuzo Masumura’s The Blue Sky Maiden and Noboru Nakamura’s The Shape of Night. Losing myself entirely in the pulsating blues of Takashi Makino’s 2012 at the one Edge of Frame event I made it to. Small flickers over an image dense year. Shimmering objects.
Lastly, two screenings of short films, amazing work from towering figures in avant-garde filmmaking, two filmmakers whose films can be very difficult to see. First, two sessions dedicated to Peter Hutton, held one year on from his death at Close-Up Cinema in London, for which someone travelled in. Visiting host and curator, Ed Halter, friend of Mr. Hutton, who flew in from New York and spoke eloquently after two programmes of the filmmaker’s stunning landscape films. Unable to speak for Hutton, naturally, he instead speak well around him, offering fascinating insight and a poignant tribute. Second, a screening for which I travelled out. 8 films by Nathaniel Dorsky, played to an audience of 4 (Christoper, me, a Swedish woman and her daughter) in Light Cone’s small screening room, a magical venue befitting a majestic series of wondrous films, projected dutifully by a quiet gentleman with a long wispy beard and a gnarly black metal t-shirt. At these screenings, I saw Hutton’s In Titan’s Goblet and Dorsky’s Song and Solitude, new all time favourites, amongst countless other precious gems. This year, I am thankful for the dedicated benefactors who are able to make these things happen, and allow this sort of rare work to be screened in the way its makers intended for it to be seen: in small rooms, to an enraptured audience of rabid nerds, projector whirring audibly, dust dancing in the beam of light splitting the darkness down the middle. Their money has to go somewhere, and, selfish at it may be, I’m happy for it to go into the cinema.
Below, twenty films for twenty seventeen.
On The Beach At Night Alone (Hong Sang-soo)
Highview (Simon Liu)
Zama (Lucrecia Martel)
El Mar La Mar (Joshua Bonnetta & JP Sniadecki)
Electro-Pythagorus (Luke Fowler)
Good Luck (Ben Russell)
Song To Song (Terrence Malick)
Western (Valeska Grisebach)
Milla (Valerie Massadian)
Life Imitation (Chou Zhen)
Ordet (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1955) (DCP)
Song and Solitude (Nathaniel Dorsky, 2007) (16mm)
In Titan’s Goblet (Peter Hutton, 1991) (16mm)
Erie (Kevin Jerome Everson, 2010) (DCP)
Funeral Parade of Roses (Toshio Matsumoto, 1969) (DCP)
0.5mm (Momoko Ando, 2014) (DCP)
The Sky On Location (Babette Mangolte, 1977) (35mm)
2012 (Takashi Makino, 2013) (DCP)
Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959) (35mm)
Lucia (Humberto Solas, 1968) (DCP)