Welcome to “Cultivate Your Queue,” Facets Features’ year-end list that never ends! With this new guest blogger series, we ask Chicago-based filmmakers, artists, small businesses, and other local, cultural outlets to produce idiosyncratic curations of the overwhelming amount of filmic content that exists out there.
Our inaugural post comes from MAKE Literary Magazine. In order to celebrate the recent release of Visual Culture, MAKE’s 14th issue, MAKE staff members have chosen some of their favorite films that rely on visual rather than spoken language.
Jose-Luis Moctezuma, Book Reviewer
The Color of Pomegranates (1968) Dir. Sergei Parajanov
“I am the man whose life and soul are torture.” Parajanov cuts open the flesh of the book–one whose pages limn the life of the 18c Armenian troubadour Sayat Nova – and lets flow over the screen a funeral parade of symbols, objects, grape clusters, fabrics, ornaments, faces. Poetry is the atomic particle that subtends the eros of transmediation; that which allows transmigration from book to film, from film to painting, from painting to sculpture. The carnality of each medium (in Parajanov’s hands: the cinematographic, encompassing all) is already the voice, the echo, the silence blacklettered on the page.
Leviathan (2012) Dir. Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel
The camera is also a self which desires a body. It lusts for boundaries – but it cannot reach these boundaries, nor transgress them, unless it too is bounded. A fishing ship in the North Atlantic, a possible “documentary” project; but this is no documentary, nor is the setting one concerned with the fabrication of deadly catches. Castaing-Taylor and Paravel transubstantiate the camera into a body – they fling it, beat it, trample it, roll it, smash it, lift it into heights normally inaccessible to the human sensorium. In doing so they return us to a Burkean sublime (of terror and excess) in which we glimpse, among fevered seagulls in flight, or in the wine-dark waves of biblical deeps, the possibility of a form blasted out of all form.
Kathleen Rooney, Contributing Editor
Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974) Dir. Jacques Rivette
This French film is part Henry James ghost story and part Alice in Wonderland, and it passes the Bechdel Test (i.e. it depicts two women who talk to each other about something other than a man) with the flyingest of colors. Celine (Juliet Berto) and Julie (Dominique Labourier) possess the most enviable and realistic female friendship ever to appear on screen, even though the story itself is highly fantastical. As they set out to jointly solve a mystery and save a little girl from doom, their behavior toward each other ranges convincingly from serious to funny, from loving to frustrating, and from antagonistic to utterly inseparable. They are ridiculous, sexy, well-dressed, and resourceful. The movie is so magical (in fact, the women at one point work as stage magicians) that you’ll barely notice it’s over three hours long, a testament to its enchanting depiction of how art and narrative serve to make quotidian life not just bearable but sort of miraculous.
Kamilah Foreman, Fiction Editor
Len Lye Collection: Rhythms (1935 – 1980) Dir. Len Lye
Len Lye’s novel to film – painting, drawing, and etching the stock itself – not only were early experiments in an emerging art form, but they also blurred the boundaries surrounding painting, animation, and what we now call experimental film. If he were working today, one would no doubt encounter his films in a gallery setting. But in this collection, which spans his career from the 1930s to the 1960s, one can see the New Zealand artist’s work for Britain’s General Post Office as well as avant-garde shorts made for a patriotic nation on the verge of war.
Brenda Lozano, Spanish Language Editor
Un chien andalou (1929) Dir. Luis Buñuel
Young Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí created this powerful visual essay – a short film that changed the way I saw things, when I saw it for the first time at nineteen. I really like the playfulness in the film, and how it makes me think of “visual freedom.” Apparently, they wanted to do something contrary to what other filmmakers were doing at that time. They wrote the script in a short period of time and searched for images with no rational or psychological explanation. It’s a great metaphor for freedom.
Mark Molloy, Book Reviews Editor
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) Dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer
La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc’s director and star died thinking their masterpiece was lost. Not one but two master negatives had previously been destroyed in separate fires, and all that circulated for fifty years were secondary versions, heavily censored by church and state, or cobbled together from cutting room floor outtakes. Then, in 1981, in a janitor’s closet of a psychiatric hospital in Oslo, Norway, canisters were found that contained a pristine, pre-censored director’s cut. Dreyer’s Passion contains, in Renée Jeanne Falconetti’s Joan, what is widely considered the greatest performance ever captured on film. But the film as a whole is greater even than this. La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc is the rarest of masterpieces, a work that marks a point in the history of a medium at which its deepest origins and furthest culminations coincide.
A huge, unconditional thanks to MAKE Director, Sarah Dodson – without her orchestration this wouldn’t have been possible. Don’t forget to check out MAKE Magazine!
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