Kirsten Johnson – Cameraperson (2016)

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A boxing match in Brooklyn; life in postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina; the daily routine of a Nigerian midwife; an intimate family moment at home: these scenes and others are woven into Cameraperson, a tapestry of footage collected over the twenty-five-year career of documentary cinematographer Kirsten Johnson.
Through a series of episodic juxtapositions, Johnson explores the relationships between image makers and their subjects, the tension between the objectivity and intervention of the camera, and the complex interaction of unfiltered reality and crafted narrative. A hybrid work that combines documentary, autobiography, and ethical inquiry, Cameraperson is both a moving glimpse into one filmmaker’s personal journey and a thoughtful examination of what it means to train a camera on the world.
Exposing her role behind the camera, Kirsten Johnson reaches into the vast trove of footage she has shot over decades around the world. What emerges is a visually bold memoir and a revelatory interrogation of the power of the camera. Continue reading

John Berger and Michael Silverblatt – Conversations 1 and 2 (2002)

John Berger is a storyteller, essayist, novelist, screenwriter, dramatist and critic, whose body of work embodies his concern for, in Geoff Dyer’s words, “the enduring mystery of great art and the lived experience of the oppressed.”

He is one of the most internationally influential writers of the last fifty years, who has explored the relationships between the individual and society, culture and politics and experience and expression in a series of novels, book works, essays, plays, films, photographic collaborations and performances, unmatched in their diversity, ambition and reach. His television series and book Ways of Seeing revolutionized the way that Fine Art is read and understood, while his engagement with European peasantry and migration in the fiction trilogy Into Their Labours and A Seventh Man stand as models of empathy and insight.

John Berger in conversation with Michael Silverblatt at Berger’s home, a working farm, in Quincy, Mieussy, France, October 2002. Silverblatt is the host of the radio interview program, Bookworm. Continue reading

Azadeh Navai – Friday Mosque (2014)

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A silent meditation on the Islamic prayer ritual through motion (water is the core, but light is the cause) in FRIDAY MOSQUE. Shot on high-contrast black and white 16mm film, Navai hand processed the negative and painstakingly contact- printed the strips of celluloid. The resulting image quivers and pulses. Enlarged film grain nearly obliterates the already abstracted image. There exists both a tension and serenity in the flickering frame. Every element is preparing for and anticipating the faithful soul that is summoned to the everyday practice. The silent tune of the calling, Azan, has overtaken. Continue reading

Byron Haskin – I Walk Alone (1948)

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It’s a mighty low class of people that you will meet in the Paramount’s “I Walk Alone” — and a mighty low grade of melodrama, if you want the honest truth — in spite of a very swanky setting and an air of great elegance. For the the people are mostly ex-gangsters, night club peddlers or social black sheep and the drama is of the vintage of gangster fiction of some twenty years ago.

True, the premise of the story, which originated with Theodore Reeves in a play done under the title of “Beggars Are Coming to Town,” is that an old-time bootleg mobster who has finished a long stretch in jail can’t use the old-time tactics in muscling in on a welching ex-pal. The theory is that café business and corporation law in this new day are completely against the operation of any old-fashioned strong-arm stuff. Continue reading

Alan Schneider – Film (1965)

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Samuel Beckett, the celebrated author of Waiting for Godot, made a single work for projected cinema. It’s in essence a chase film; the craziest ever committed to celluloid. It’s a chase between camera and pursued image that finds existential dread embedded in the very apparatus of the movies itself. The link to cinema’s essence is evident in the casting, as the chased object is none other than an aged Buster Keaton, who was understandably befuddled at Beckett and director Alan Schneider’s imperative that he keep his face hidden from the camera’s gaze. The archetypal levels resonate further in the exquisite cinematography of Academy Award-winner Boris Kaufman, whose brothers Dziga Vertov and Mikhail Kaufman created the legendary self-reflexive masterpiece Man With a Movie Camera. Commissioned and produced by Grove Press’s Barney Rosset, FILM is at once the product of a stunningly all-star assembly of talent, and a cinematic conundrum that asks more questions than it answers. Continue reading