Raoul Ruiz – De grands événements et des gens ordinaires AKA Of Great Events and Ordinary People (1979)

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In 1978, Ruiz was commissioned to make a television documentary about the French elections from the viewpoint of a Chilean exile in the 11th arrondissement. But, contrary to the producers’ expectation, the Left lost. Ruiz seized on this anti-climax to make a documentary about nothing except itself – a film whose central subject is forever lost in digression and ‘dispersal’, harking back to his Chilean experiments of the ’60s. It is the best, and certainly the funniest, of self-reflexive deconstructions of the documentary form. Ruiz drolly exaggerates every hare-brained convention of TV reportage, from shot/reverse shot ‘suture’ and talking-head experts to establishing shots and vox pops (narrator’s note to himself: “Include street interviews ad absurdum”.) Every fragment of reality (e.g. polling booths on voting day) comes through the lens as a pre-fabricated televisual cliché. And, as always, Ruiz detonates his own auteur status.As an essay-film, Great Events contains many echoes – and a cheeky critique – of the sophisticated political filmmaking of Chris Marker. But Ruiz increasingly spices up the lesson with surreal elaborations – such as progressively shorter re-edits of the entire film, avant-garde decentrings of image and sound, and crazy runs of ‘secondary elements’ such as particular colours, angles and gestures. Continue reading

Mark Cousins – Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise (2015)

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This hypnotic documentary by cinephile par excellence Mark Cousins takes a brave – but increasingly rewarding – abstract angle by seeking through aesthetic rather than conventional exposition to capture the strange, sensory ethos of the Atomic age (a period spanning approximately 1940-60 but having a far-reaching legacy up to the present day). Using Mogwai’s ethereal electronic soundtrack as his conduit, Cousins takes us through the history of the Atomic period through sound and image alone (there is no overt narration) – even trying ambitiously to suggest that splitting the atom and creating atomic weapons were not in themselves immediately malign developments but almost the end-game of a form of evolution, and symbol of mankind’s mastery over the properties of his planet. Hence Cousins finds in the famous, awe-inspiring images of atomic mushroom clouds a correlation with more common sights of proliferation in nature (a bud that grows, a flower that blooms, sperm that fertilises an egg). Continue reading

Adam Curtis – The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom (2007)

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The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom is a BBC documentary series by British filmmaker Adam Curtis, well known for other documentaries including The Century of the Self and The Power of Nightmares. It began airing on BBC Two on 11 March, 2007.

The series consists of three one-hour programmes which explore the concept and definition of freedom, specifically “how a simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures led to today’s idea of freedom.” Continue reading

Vlatko Gilic – Dan vise AKA A Day More (1972)

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“Dan više” is about a mudbath near the small Serbian town of Bujanovac that is famous for healing illnesses. People cover themselves from head to toe in mud and then float on the water: Vlatko Gilić created a ghostly, surrealistic scenario, whose everyday quality is concentrated into an allegory of human suffering and quest.
“Mr. Gilic’s films are called documentaries. But he’s superb at finding the astonishing images that lurk in the ordinary world. It’s as if he’d nabbed some magic from the air and wedded it to facts. And it’s a privilege to see through his eyes: Whatever interests him assumes a contagious excitement for us.” Continue reading

Vlatko Gilic – In continuo (1971)

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SIlver Bear Berlin Festival Winner – Best Short FIlm

In continuo (1971), koji je nagrađen kao Najbolji kratki film na Berlinskom filmskom festivalu te godine, za koga se – bez sumnje – može reći da je u međunarodnim razmjerama uzdrmao ili preispitao pojmove i žanrove kratkog filma, dokumentarnog filma, te upotrebe simbola i metaforičkog značenja u paralelnilm

In Continuo uses slaughterhouse imagery to present the warlike nature of man, first depicting the cleaning and mechanical preparations for the slaughterhouse and then the killing, however, the animal slaughter itself isn’t shown. Continue reading