subota, 28. prosinca 2013.

Rouzbeh Rashidi - Boredom of the disgust & monotony of the tediousness (2012), Circumcision of Participant Observation (2013)

Irski Iranac stvara čudesne eksperimentalne filmove koje je najbolje gledati u vlastitim snovima.

Rouzbeh Rashidi (Tehran, Iran, 1980) is an independent filmmaker. He has been making films since 2000, when he founded the Experimental Film Society. Since then he has worked completely outside any established concept on how to make movies, and instead uses his cinematic style with a poetic interaction of image and sound. He usually avoids the preparation of scripts, and considers filmmaking as a process closer to exploration than to illustration. His work is deeply ingrained in the history of cinema. He has directed and produced 40 short films, and in 2008 focused its activity on creating feature films, having completed since then a number of them. In August 2011 he begins a personal and ambitious project composed by video pieces of varying lengths, the Homo Sapiens Project. So far he has made 150 pieces within this project. His projects have been awarded by the Arts Council of Ireland and are shown in international festivals and galleries. -

Boredom of the disgust & monotony of the tediousness (2012)
Rashidi continues his collaboration with actor James Devereaux in this unsettling and ultimately touching portrait of an isolated actor possessed by film history.

Persistencies of Sadness & Still Days is an interesting work from a vital scene in recent European film production and research: Ireland. More specifically, it is a remarkable result achieved by its authors, the Iranian Rouzbeh Rashidi and the Irish Maximilian Le Cain: the former, founder of Experimental Film Society (EFS) and filmmaker; the latter, film critic, editor of Cork Film Centre’s journal Experimental Conversations, and, also, filmmaker.
Produced with the support of The Guesthouse, Cork, and announced by a trailer available on Vimeo, it is a four hour feature film, composed of two parts of the same length. It consists of a chain of potential and floating micro-narratives centring on different human figures, their actions, interplays and relations. These are framed and juxtaposed in dreamlike imagery as a continuum that is also defined through a very precise soundtrack which isolates, models, and abstracts the realism of the shooting, and through a rhythmical editing which often outlines and sometimes stresses a sort of binary language, between intensities (underlying visual patterns) and discontinuities (regular cuts as punctuation marks).
Let’s say Persistencies of Sadness & Still Days implies a cultural effort which seems to suggest theoretical ambitions quite close to a phenomenological approach. Like singular entomologists of movement, Rashidi and Le Cain search and record the ‘appearances of stillness’ by re-framing its degree zero in life, underlying possible kinetic representations or signs: landscape. As rectangle, as painting, as scheme, it is the ‘field’ where time and space collapse their boundaries and it seems the ‘key’ they use to open their gates of perception. Just like in poetry. As a matter of fact, what we notice visually through these segments is the framework of a fascinating and absolutely personal landscape which binds and hybridizes figures and environments in configuring or simply unfolding geometric and abstract forces, thus to define a viewpoint by which all the places the authors filmed throughout Cork (buildings, harbor, countryside and so forth) give a progressive anti-naturalistic impression of reality, maybe unwittingly influenced by cues from some famous visual arts movements (Minimalism, Hyperrealism, even Suprematism), and enacted by scattered gestures, temporary postures and anonymous poses. ‘Everything looks like its stationary’: that’s the immediate impression the staging gives; ‘but in different ways’: that’s what I would add to the in-depth expression their observation reveals. Here, Rashidi and Le Cain emphasize nothing more than a certain materialism of the elements involved, instead of the traditional staging: image, sound, acting, editing; all these phases autonomously resonate in their own volumes, tones, variations, rhythms; all these aspects mold an open structure, a work in progress, roundly evoked in the second part, Still Days.

Artistic experiment and possible manifesto, it is through interesting work on the arresting and the fluctuation of particular cinematic dynamics that this movie seems to achieve nothing less than a surprising series of landscapes of stillness. - Gianluca Pulsoni

Circumcision of Participant Observation (2013)
One of Rashidi’s freest and most mysterious films to date, CIRCUMCISION OF PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION weaves a series of humorous, frightening and ultimately hypnotic vignettes into a visionary tapestry of cinematic dreaming.

Theory (2012)
Theory deals with the melancholic and extremely fragmented personal world of the main character, Ehsan Safarpour and his relation with other uncanny characters and situations.

Bard Is a Thing of Dread (2012)
An eerie portrait of a young man locked in emotional limbo, sinking ever deeper into himself. Rashidi employs a combination of monologues and pensive silences where his eye for atmospheric imagery conjures a truly haunting vision of isolation.

Praxinoscope (2012)

Rashidi’s quirkiest film to date, this wordless, bizarrely oblique tale of three relationships is at once a surreal comedy and an unpredictable essay on cinematic form.
Review of Praxinoscope by Dean Kavanagh

Jean Speck (1860-1933) (2011)

Little is known of Jean Speck (1860-1933) beyond the fact that he opened Zurich’s first cinema. Rouzbeh Rashidi and Jann Clavadetscher consider the flittering black and white ghosts and shadows that he left in his wake in their phantasmagorical experimental feature film. This journey through a cinematic night probes the very essence of the cinematic image

Immanence Deconstruction of Us (2011)

Immanence Deconstruction of Us: is the ‘Us’ of the title the ghostly figures, now long disappeared, from the old found footage home movies here reassembled? Or is it ‘Us’ today, watching these figures still moving, still moving in spite of the passage of time? Either way, all dissolve in the thick snow of film grain from which they emerge in Rouzbeh Rashidi’s haunting tenth feature film.

Tenebrous City & Ill-Lighted Mortals
A phantasmal figure paces the city at night, dipping through patches of light and shade, while assailed by visions of daily life and intimacy.

Cremation of an Ideology (2011)

The enclosed, private space a man occupies is penetrated only by images brought from across distances by the internet. Space, distance and memory collapse in this haunting meditation on absence and virtual presence in the 21st century.

Closure of Catharsis (2011)

"A man (James Devereaux) sits on a park bench talking to the camera, trying to weave together a thought that won't cohere while commenting on passers-by, his 'guests'... Mysterious images intervene, overturning the serenity of the park-bench monologue. Rouzbeh Rashidi's feature proves as engagin as it is elusive."
Review of Closure of Catharsis by Véronique Martin

Zoetrope (2011)
Zoetrope deals with the quality of being expressive, explores the locations & reveals a life in a small house and its surrounding. The film slowly evolves and shows the history of nothingness of the characters who are in Zoetrope.

Reminiscences of Yearning (2011)
REMINISCENCES OF YEARNING is so many ghosts, searching the landscape for traces. there's no sense of the past- it's in the present, searching the footage for what remains, a summoning of the disappeared. We're invited to patiently wait and see if they appear or not. A ritual. At least …

Bipedality (2010)

A relationship between a man and a woman discloses during the course of the film.
Review on Bipedality by Maximilian Le CainPublished in 
Cork Film Centre’s 
online journal of experimental film, art cinema and video art Experimental Conversations, read HERE.

Only Human (2009)
A tale of people unfolds under the night sky. These doomed couples and lost individuals begin journeys and attempt to find resolution in their lives. Love is observed from a distance, sadness is in the air. With little sympathy for the loss and destruction caused to the characters, the stories progress and become neatly woven into a minimalistic portrayal of modern life.

Light & Quiet (2008)
One is presented with a man. A man who has no news or mail. A man who lives alone. A man who resides only to himself and his hotel room. He is tortured by his mind, and in that sense he could be claustrophobic in even the largest of cityscapes, like the one that spreads out far beyond his hotel room. A city that will bring characters who will present him with small courier tasks. But in the end it is this human nature that will alienate him from all of those whom he knows (be they crooks, radicals or cultural gangsters).

Persistencies of Sadness & Still Days (2012)

Idea & Directors: Maximilian Le CainRouzbeh Rashidi
“Persistencies of Sadness & Still Days”, is a four hour feature film by Maximilian Le Cain and Rouzbeh Rashidi. Structured in two sections or ‘takes’ of two hours each, this dream-like, experimental project offers two complementary explorations of cinematic form that skirt around possible narratives, ducking through a series of fluctuating audio-visual categories and intensities.

It consists of three medium length instalments of an ongoing film project by Rashidi, Homo Sapiens Project. These instalments, when watched back-to-back, will function as a single film structured in episodes.
A mysterious loner, perhaps a poet, journeys through a series of uncanny surrealistic landscapes with an unclear purpose. His adventure is divided into three sections.

The main theme of this experiment is to compare the eerier qualities of different landscapes and interpose the characters within them, elaborating the project’s ongoing preoccupation with extracting sinister moods from ordinary settings. In a way, these can be seen as experimental horror films in which an atmosphere of dread is evoked and sustained without the expected narrative trappings.
Firmer Terrors By NUTS4r2

Weird Weird Movie Kids Do Not Watch The Movie (86 Minutes DSLR & HDV Stereo Colour/B&W Ireland 2013)
Weird Weird Movie Kids Do Not Watch The Movie is the second collaborative feature film between Rouzbeh Rashidi and Maximilian Le Cain. This hypnotic, visually and sonically immersive exploration of a haunted space unfolds in two parts. In the first, a woman (Eadaoin O’Donoghue) dissolves her identity into the ghostly resonances she finds in the rooms and corridors of a sprawling, atmospheric seaside basement property. In the second, a man (Rashidi), existing in a parallel dimension of the same space, pursues a bizarre and perverse amorous obsession.

Feature FilmsHSP: There Is No Escape From The Terrors Of The Mind (2013) Weird Weird Movie Kids Do Not Watch The Movie (2013) Circumcision of Participant Observation (2013) Theory (2012) Persistencies of Sadness & Still Days (2012) He (2012) Boredom of the disgust & monotony of the tediousness (2012) Structures, Machines, Apparatus and Manufacturing Processes (2012) Bard Is a Thing of Dread (2012) Indwell Extinction of Hawks in Remoteness (2012) Praxinoscope (2012) Hades of Limbo (2012) Jean Speck (1860-1933) (2011) Immanence Deconstruction of Us (2011) Filmore (2011) Tenebrous City & Ill-lighted Mortals (2011) Cremation of an Ideology (2011) Closure of Catharsis (2011) Zoetrope (2011) Reminiscences of Yearning (2011) Bipedality (2010) Only Human (2009) Light & Quiet (2008)

Short Films

Experimental Film Society: Rouzbeh Rashidi in Conversation
Rouzbeh rashidi
Rouzbeh Rashidi
There is a strong argument to be made that Iranian born, Dublin-based experimental filmmaker Rouzbeh Rashidi is the leading figure in Ireland's underground alternative film scene today. Before even watching his work, the sheer volume of his output startles. With twelve features and sixty shorts completed over the past year alone, he creates at the rate of a one-man film industry. More importantly, the quality of these uncompromisingly personal, formally challenging films is often extraordinarily high. His distinctive, minimalist vision, which favours immersion in poetic mood and subjective rendition of place over narrative conventions, is now gradually gaining international recognition as one to be reckoned with.
It might seem surprising that a filmmaker who not only has such an apparently individualistic attitude, but who is also so exceptionally busy with his own work, is equally concerned with fostering and promoting the work of others. But Experimental Film Society (EFS), the organization Rashidi formed in 2000, is largely devoted to doing exactly that. Although it takes care of publicizing Rashidi's films, it also archives and presents programmes of works by over a dozen other underground filmmakers scattered across the globe. Some of its members are well established in their practice, but Rashidi is quick to emphasise that EFS has also rescued and restored films that would have completely vanished without its intervention, and encouraged gifted filmmakers to keep working when otherwise they might have given up after one attempt.
Although EFS is international, a group selected by Rashidi on the basis of aesthetic affinities, it began in Iran and can be seen as defining an Iranian experimental cinema that is otherwise invisible. Of its current members, over half are Iranian: Mohammad Nick Dell, Bahar Samadi, Pouya Ahmadi, Kamyar Kordestani, Hamid Shams Javi and Rashidi himself. Many films by these filmmakers and others can be viewed at the extensive EFS online archive. More information on current and past members is posted at the EFS website. Other current members include Jann Clavadetscher (Switzerland), Michael Higgins (Ireland), Esperanza Collado (Spain), Dean Kavanagh (Ireland) and myself.
Rouzbeh Rashidi outlined the history and objectives of the Experimental Film Society for Experimental Conversations in the following interview...
-Maximilian Le Cain

When I started to make films back in January 2000 in Tehran, I felt that there were three main categories of filmmaking to choose from and be in. One was the mainstream cinema, with a strong emphasis on storytelling, either fiction or documentary. This was government permit issued and meant for cinema release. Although as a film buff I sometimes like story-driven cinema, I've never been attracted to making it.
The second category was the underground/guerilla type cinema, which was bolder in its subject matter and embraced micro-budget techniques, but was essentially not that different from films in the first category except for its lack of money. I liked their DIY techniques, but that was about all.
The third category was video art, which often had an explicit ideological agenda, be it social, political or religious. Some works were more personal and poetic, which I preferred. But this work came out of a visual arts context, whereas I was attracted to cinema itself. I felt that I didn't belong to any of these groups. I wanted to do something very experimental within cinema, influenced as I was by Deren, Mekas, Brakhage, Godard, Tarkovsky, Ozu, Kamran Shirdel, Parviz Kimiavi, Sohrab Shahid Saless and Kiarostami.
Indwell Extinction of Hawks In Remoteness
Indwell Extinction of Hawks in Remoteness (Rouzbeh Rashidi, 2012)
I basically needed to establish a system of making and screening such films. So in 2000 I founded Experimental Film Society with my fellow cinematographer Mohammad Nick Dell. I made films in Iran until 2004 and then I moved to Ireland. I run EFS. I invite the filmmakers to join, collect their films, constantly study them, upload some of them to the online video archive I made and, most importantly, curate programmes of their work in festivals, cinemas and galleries whenever possible.
Showing unseen and neglected experimental films and getting them audience exposure are the main goals of EFS.
There are no strictly defined rules governing ESF films, but most works share some general principles or characteristics. One is the avoidance of a script or any form of written plan. Films that grow from images rather than words have their own particular qualities. By extension, EFS filmmakers share an exploratory, improvisational approach to filmmaking. They don't know exactly what the film they're making is until the last day of editing. They control the film less than it controls them.
EFS films are made in complete creative freedom and the vast majority of them are self-funded. The equipment used tends to be basic and inexpensive: web-cameras, mobile phone cameras, MiniDV, Super8mm and, more recently, DSLR. Most of the films are shot using available light. Film lighting is rare. Most of the cast and crew are non-professionals. Depending on the situation and circumstances, anyone can participate in a film.
The plots are usually very abstract with little or no dialogue. Of course, there are exceptions, especially some of my own features like Bipedality (2010) and Closure of Catharsis (2011), which contain long monologues and dialogues.
EFS films are all massively personal and, in a sense, not complete. They don't present the viewer with a neatly defined narrative universe or dictate exactly what he or she should feel at each moment. Their relationship with the audience is perhaps similar to a song that provides only the bass and drum line, leaving the listener to add his or her melodies. They remain open enough for the public to remain themselves while watching, instead of being ‘taken out of themselves'.
These films are about images and the progression of images. When there's sound or music, they're about the interaction of sound and image. Cinema itself is always the subject, experimenting with its forms. Not necessarily pushing its limits, because I believe the limits of cinema have already been reached by Structuralist filmmakers like Sharits, or by Garrel's early films, for instance. You can't go beyond that. But if a filmmaker's experiments are true to his or her perception and personality, the medium's possibilities are constantly renewed.
ESF also embraces the possibilities of the digital and actively explores the impact of the computer, the internet, and digital video equipment on cinema. Even when films originate on celluloid today, they almost invariably end up telecined and therefore become digital. We make the most of the creative potential in experimenting with these processes.
Having said all this, it must be emphasized that the films made by EFS filmmakers are extremely varied. There are currently EFS members based in Iran, Ireland, Switzerland, USA, Australia, Spain, France and the UK, filmmakers with widely differing backgrounds and cultural make-ups. But their working methods have enough in common to create a sort of subconscious harmony when their films are programmed together. A sometimes hidden consistency.
On the subject of programming, it should be said that a basic frustration that helped galvanise the formation of EFS was the way short films are generally programmed in festivals. Short films are usually packed into long, poorly scheduled programmes with little or no curatorial thought going into the selection. They tend to clash rather than complement or resonate with each other. Also, there are rarely opportunities for short filmmakers to present their work or engage with audiences about it. The purpose of entering a festival often seems more to be able to say that you've been accepted by it than the actual experience of the screening for the audience or filmmaker.
EFS is responsible for curating and organizing its own screenings, which usually happen in galleries and small cinemas, and avoid the drawbacks of typical festival programming. The atmosphere at these sessions tends to be very intimate, and filmmakers, if present, can discuss their work with the audience at length. Audience feedback can be surprising. Many people have never encountered experimental film before. It's not always love at first sight, but sometimes these screenings plant a seed in viewers' minds, which can grow into true appreciation of this type of work.
The future of EFS is unknown but I would love to expand it into a film company, producing films for the members. And distributing them. I'm a big fan of such distribution organizations as Anthology Film Archives, Light Cone, Canyon Cinema and LUX. A system like that would be ideal. But, at this point, EFS is really working to support filmmakers who don't have a proper context for the screening of their films, and to present their work properly.-

Rouzbeh Rashidi's 'BIPEDALITY'

Maximilian Le Cain

The standard modus operandi of mainstream film is to lead the viewer by the hand through the events and feelings that it causes to unfold, to steadily unveil its trajectories in carefully regulated phases that ensure the audience is never lost. Not just lost in terms of what is going on at a narrative level but, perhaps more crucially, in terms of what it should be feeling at any given moment.

By contrast, it is rare and thrilling to encounter a film that seems to pre-exist the viewer's presence, one which pitches the audience into a disturbingly private universe and trusts it to find its bearings within an alien environment that belongs more to the characters than the spectator. There is no better example of this than Rouzbeh Rashidi's magnificent and profoundly mysterious new underground feature Bipedality (2010). A two-hander focusing exclusively on a young couple played by Dean Kavanagh and Julia Gelezova, it troublingly articulates the way in which two people, even while sharing an intimate relationship, can remain mysterious to each other- and perhaps also to themselves.
Bipedality is structured around three long dialogue scenes between the couple. The first and last concern the unexplained disappearance of a neighbour's small child, and are both set in a park. The central conversation takes place in the couple's kitchen and largely involves the frustrated man questioning the noncommital woman about why their sex life seems to have petered out. All three conversations, well improvised by the actors, become painful studies in how inadequate language is to communicate feeling, or to grapple with the mysteries of existing in any given moment in relation to another person or simply to the world that surrounds one.
In contrast to the frailty of speech, Rashidi surrounds his characters with a vision of the world that is almost overwhelmingly vivid and sensuous. The conversations are frequently interrupted and fragmented almost at random by richly textured landscape shots, both urban and rural, of a brooding painterly intensity worthy of Sokurov. These are not spatially connected with the dialogue scenes, at least not in any immediately discernable way. Nor are they clearly connected to any of the characters, in the way specific mental images would be. Yet they somehow remain emotionally relevant to the characters' states of mind: lost, fragile, isolated...
For a spectator, the relationship with the couple is almost one of eavesdropping as Rashidi keeps us at a distance from them, hindering the sort of vicarious identification found in most films. Equal weight is given to the landscapes which the viewer is given ample time to contemplate. Therefore, whichever way the audience turns, towards the couple or the world, it is called on to exercise its own sensitivities rather than be guided by a narrative that remains too opaque to drive the experience. Yet this is not a cold, intellectual distance- Rashidi's film is viscerally emotional and demands an emotional response. What this results in is the audience finding itself in a position almost akin to that of the couple: emotionally embroiled yet profoundly mystified and engaged in a crisis of communication. And the mystification is not chiefly a case of wondering what is happening narratively, even though the dialogues are full of suspense. Nothing is more suspenseful than the duel between the couple's drama, which itself feels so vulnerable because it can only rely on words to unfold, and the presence of the world around them, which is, in contrast, so imposingly rendered.
Rashidi is emerging as one of cinema's poets of isolation, and communication, or its lack, is a constant concern. This can take the form of films dealing with characters that are isolated, often exploring the relationship between a character and his environment. But it can also take the form of more abstract films in which any type of traditional character is dispensed with and the troubled gaze of the filmer assumes central importance. It is perhaps in these that one can discern most clearly what Rashidi might be getting at: he is not interested in cinema as a record or replication of communication, but in what cinema can itself best communicate through sound and image. Time and again, Rashidi demonstrates the power of film to give the viewer direct access to radically subjectified impressions of the world, always moody, often fragmented and with only the most minimal narrative scaffolding. Or sometimes with none at all. He is concerned with the intensely private experiences of perception that perhaps cinema alone has the tools to communicate adequately.
With one notable exception (Now and Forever, 2008), speech in Rashidi is, by and large, treated with suspicion, viewed as inadequate to communicate essential feelings. Indeed, Rashidi makes masterful use of the absence of speech in films such as Flooded Meadow (2007) in which shots of people talking have their soundtracks replaced with subtle, wordless soundscapes. This effect creates a general sense of yearning and alienation that tends to linger in the mind long after viewing.
The sound design in Bipedality reflects this tendency with the dialogue track often sounding deliberately fragile against the rich ambient mix. Rashidi's apparent distrust of speech becomes a key part of the film's ambiguous conclusion. The last dialogue scene shows the woman, obviously in a disturbed state, making what appear to be incoherent stabs at confessing to knowing where the missing child is while also recounting fragments of an autobiographical incident. There seems to be some obscure connection between the two events in her mind. The man's response is to question her urgently: Is she okay? Where is the child? The conversation goes in circles, but the tension heightens. The film moves again and again away from the couple to images of forests and beaches, this time inhabited. The concluding shot is of the couple embracing intensely under a tree, the only shot in the film in which they appear to inhabit the set of landscape-images. Whether this cathartically moving image belongs to the same realm of reality as the conversations is beside the point. It radically abolishes the necessity of understanding as prerequisite to love. The irrepressible force of deep feeling triumphs over the futility of verbalization as the intensity of sound, image and gesture triumph over the hellish prolixity of narrative. Which is not, of course, to propose that Rashidi is claiming that a gesture, however intense, can solve the couple's issues or banish their demons. But their love does not depend on the outcome of a process of mutual deciphering; they accept the mystery. A highly unusual conclusion to a love story and a wonderful manifesto for Rashidi's cinema, which consistently offers deeply felt, present-moment experience over the questionable mechanics of plot.
Rouzbeh Rashidi's short films can be seen at:

Acting in Experimental Film

James Devereaux

This is the third article that Experimental Conversations has published concerning the work of Dublin-based experimental filmmaker Rouzbeh Rashidi. Yet this piece comes from a fresh and striking perspective: the experiences of James Devereaux, collaborator and leading man on several of Rashidi's projects. In addition to being an actor, Devereaux has written passionately and insightfully about acting theory and practice at The Great Acting Blog for several years. 

James 1
Boredom of The Disgust and Monotony of The Tediousness (2012)
Advances in technology are enabling us to see that the making of a feature film need no longer be an industrial process. Indeed, some say cinema is going back to it's roots, back to a time when large crews were unimaginable, a time when there was just the actor and the cinematographer. Rouzbeh Rashidi was the first filmmaker I came across who not only understood this shift but had acted on the possibilities it offered. When I met him in 2010, he had made three feature films in the preceding three years, each without state or commercial support, and had several more in the pipeline. It had always been my ambition to work in auteur cinema, to be a part of something new. However, I had endured years of frustration living in the UK, a country which rarely views cinema as an art form, taking meetings with filmmakers whose sole ambition was to replicate whatever was popular at the time, but to do so without money, skill or glamour. After watching Rashidi's films and being bowled over by his aesthetic, signing-up was not a difficult decision to make when he approached me about forming a collaboration. So far, we have made five feature films and seven short films, and have played in festivals all over the world.
Rashidi works without a script or any kind of written pre-planning, instead using improvisation to create moments of cinema. He doesn't offer specific direction to the actor beyond a very basic description of the scene and simple blocking. I believe that actors function best when they are given only the most essential notes from the director. In fact, I think that when they are acting well they cannot be directed at all. Therefore, Rashidi's approach is geared towards enabling good actors to do their best work in the interests of the film as a whole. I have an enormous appetite for acting and am most creative when I have autonomy. I also like to dig deep and push my boundaries as an actor, giving everything I've got. In that sense, I am well suited to the process Rashidi has designed. Crucially however, my acting methods of Actions, Tools and Super-objectives are ideal for confronting the unique challenges improvising in experimental film poses.
Our very first feature film was Closure Of Catharsis (2011). I was given no instructions regarding the film until the very morning of the shoot, which was to be a two hour, non-stop, improvised monologue. Despite being kept in the dark, I did not feel unnerved because I had already seen most of Rashidi's work and was confident that he would handle whatever I gave him with integrity. As we walked to the location, he gave me the following instructions; "You are trying to remember something, something you have repressed because of its traumatic impact upon you, but now you are really struggling to bring forth the memory". I quickly needed to convert this note into a playable action and reasoned the following - "a memory I cannot remember is a mystery, and I have been asked to remember something I have forgotten, therefore, my task is to solve a mystery". There is no perfect action to play, the point is not to try and find something perfect, this will only prevent you from acting. What I am looking for in an action is something which is interesting to me (it doesn't need to be interesting to anyone else) and in line with the author's intentions (in this case, Rashidi's note). A well chosen action will get your blood up, get you moving, it'll organise your performance, anchor you in truth and enable you to create by vanquishing that stultifying self-consciousness. It gives you something more interesting to focus on than yourself. That's the whole point of it.
I didn't want to get into a situation where I was pretending to remember something, then pretending I couldn't remember it. This would be like playing chess with myself. I wanted something to emerge in my imagination which I could explore and decipher throughout the improvisation. However, and this is key to understanding acting in experimental cinema: what the audience sees the character do is not the same as what the actor playing the character does. Essentially, in Closure Of Catharsis, what the audience sees is a man trying to remember something from his past. What I am doing, as the actor, is trying to work out what the improvisation actually is. For me, the mystery is the improvisation itself. That's my action. What the character is doing is trying to remember, this is the fiction of the film. This fiction is what the audience perceives when they watch the film. The character, however, is an illusion created in the mind of the viewer by the juxtaposition of the fiction of the scene and the actions of the actor.
James 2
Closure of Catharsis (2011)
HE (2012) was the film Rashidi originally approached me about about doing, although production was put back due to a delay in funding. We eventually started work on it in September of 2011. HE is about a man who has decided to commit suicide. He has no definitive reason for doing so, he is not especially depressed, he just knows it is the right thing for him to do. As usual, Rashidi set the general boundary for the scenes but everything within that boundary belonged to me. For the opening monologue, my character was recording a message for his estranged wife, informing her about his impending suicide. We carved-up the filming of the monologue into blocks of 10 minutes and in each block Rashidi asked me to focus on a different aspect of the character's relationship with his wife. Again, I had very little time to decide on an action for the scene. How could I talk about the character's relationship with his wife when I knew nothing about it? After all, no such relationship existed, it was a fiction. Usually, the script would already have created the fictional relationship for me and my job would simply be to discern an action for myself to play. However, in an experimental film where there is no script, I need to create the fiction of the scene myself as well as perform an action. For this opening monologue in HE, I had decided that my action would be to explore this relationship using my imagination and the results of this exploration would create the fiction. In response to the original note Rashidi had given me for the monologue, the image of a kitchen formed in my mind. It was a kitchen belonging to a friend from my childhood. Why that came into my mind at that particular moment I do not know. However, I decided that this would be the starting point for the improvisation. On the floor-tiles in the corner of this kitchen were swipe marks made by the mother of my friend. She would move from the work surface of this kitchen to the sink by taking a step forward with her right foot, then swiping her left foot across. She had done this so many times that it had marked the floor. So I opened the monologue by telling my wife that it was the complacency with which she moved from the work surface to the sink that had made me start to hate her.
A duologue we did later in the production was a lot more straightforward. Essentially, my character meets his best friend (Cillian Roche) in order to inform him about his decision. In the duologue scene there was less pressure on me to self-generate the fiction because I can work off the other actor. His responses spark my creativity and create momentum for the improvisation. This scene was also a very good example of how the character's Super-objective comes into play. A Super-objective is the action which overarches everything the character does. It is broken down scene by scene, beat by beat, into all the little objectives, all the little things he does to accomplish his Super-objective. Aristotle posited Oedipus Rex as the perfectly designed play. Oedipus' Super-objective is to find the cause of the plague on Thebes, everything he does is toward that end. In HE, my character's Super-objective is to commit suicide. In the duologue scene however, my character's action, what he is literally doing is 'informing his friend that he is going to kill himself'. Note that his action in this scene is not to kill himself. During the scene though, the friend tried to talk my character out of his decision. In response, my character defends it and insists on forging ahead. Obviously he does this in order to serve his Super-objective. So we can see how the Super-objective gives meaning and direction to everything the character does, and, therefore, to everything the actor does too.
James 3
HE (2012)
Boredom Of The Disgust And Monotony Of The Tediousness (2012) is our third feature film. The film has no through-action. Instead it is made up of a series of scenes, some documentary and some fictional. These include a scene where I spoke about my top five actors and actresses, another where I expounded my theories on acting and another where I played a film critic who had constructed an entire cinema purely for his own use. There was a key scene, however, which illustrates perfectly the use of Tools as an acting technique. I was to have an argument with an imaginary, off-screen other person while white noise blasted from a radio and the lights flashed. I decided quickly that the literal action would be that I was trying to get this other person to come to an important party with me. Of course, this imaginary other person would resist. Tools are different ways of executing the action. The Tools I used in this scene included; to reason with, to persuade, to cajole, to plead, to beg, even to mock - all are in the service of getting what I want. A Tool is not an action in the sense that it needs to carry you through an entire scene; it is only employed for the moment. In a more typical scene where I would be playing off another actor, what I would be doing is selecting which tool to use moment-by-moment, my choices determined by the responses of the other actor.
I have only covered a small portion of the work Rouzbeh Rashidi and I have produced but have covered the basic acting techniques required for this kind of improvisation. Furthermore, I believe Rashidi-Devereaux Cinema is charting a new course for the actor-filmmaker relationship. As micro-budget feature films proliferate, filmmakers must see the benefit of eschewing the industrial casting process which largely treats actors as expendable, interchangeable pieces. It's a process which often corrodes the filmmaker's respect for acting and in turn robs actors of their most valuable gift, their creative generosity. Instead, filmmakers should seek out high calibre actors and form ongoing collaborations with them, growing with them artistically, building trust along the way. This will be extremely important in this coming era of feature film production which is taking on a more personal character. Actors, for their part, need to take greater responsibility for their work, offer more, show greater dedication and behave not as an employee but as a creative partner. A collaborative approach to feature film making offers enormous creative possibilities for both actor and filmmaker. It is simply about being alive to those possibilities, envisioning them and taking action.

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