ponedjeljak, 5. studenoga 2018.

Naomi Uman - Removed (1999)

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Uzrok žudnje, uzrok bilo čega, uvijek je prazan, tek ga naknadno punimo nekim "sadržajem". Ili: sve postoji bez uzroka, uzrok je uvijek retroaktivni proizvod, posljedica.

“I am an experimental filmmaker. My non-fiction films draw from personal experience. I live with my subjects for long periods of time, often waiting to film or record sound until I have become integrated into a community or a family. I had lived with a family of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, for a period of almost a year before making a film that was unflinching in its portrait of their lives. This film, which turned a critical eye on the subject family and the situation which creates this separate and unequal world in which they live within the United States, caused the public to question my right as a filmmaker to criticize people whose status as immigrants was a status that I had never experienced myself. Taking this to heart, I decided to embark on my own immigration.” (NU) - https://www.courtisane.be/en/event/profile-naomi-uman

Ukrainian Time Machine: Living Films by Naomi Uman

IN PERSON: NAOMI UMAN ►  Like a crochet needle swiftly passing through loops of silk and wool, like sun-thickened fingers prying at garlic-clove sheaths, like a chorus of wedding songs around a table of varenyky and boiled dumplings, Naomi Uman’s camera lives amongst the people, homes and villages she films. Setting out to retrace the footsteps of her family’s own immigrant history, Naomi, an American artist who divides her time between Los Angeles and Mexico City, made a reverse journey of her great-grandparents' emigration from Uman, Ukraine. She bought a house in Legedzine, just outside of Uman, toured films around the country, befriended village babushki, and established an artist residency for cultural exchange. The films in “Ukrainian Time Machine” evolved out of the tactile and visceral experience of living in Legedzine. Kalendar chronicles her early days of Ukrainian language lessons. Clay is a portrait of a brick factory that sits atop the ruins of the 5000- year-old, clay-based Trypillian civilization. Unnamed Film contains footage, in chronological order, shot from the time she arrived in Legedzine to the time she left. “Ukrainian Time Machine” is the latest extension of an artistic practice that involves Uman’s prolonged immersion in the world of her subjects; in previous projects, she lived with a diary-farming family in rural Mexico and with a Mexican immigrant family employed in industrial dairy production in California.

In her 1999 short film Removed, Naomi Uman brilliantly intervenes in the scopophilic pleasure of visually consuming women's bodies on screen by literally erasing only the women's naked bodies from the frame. This film bears serious consideration on numerous levels beginning with the painstaking process by which the artist obliterated the women's bodies by hand, frame-by-frame (through the use of female-coded domestic products of nail polish remover and bleach) through a process that may be thought of as an ironic inversion of the media industries' practices of "retouching" to achieve apparent perfection in the bodies of (especially) women models and actresses. Removed also invites analysis in terms of the relative capacities for eroticism in sound and image. What is lost from the intended function of these scenes when pornography's conventional form of visual gratification is withheld? - Critical Commons Manager

REMOVED (1999, 5 min.)
Using a piece of 1970s porn film, nail polish and bleach, Uman creates a new pornography, one in which the woman exists only as a hole -- an empty animated space.

PRIVATE MOVIE (2000, 6 min.)
A love story in three parts. Through studies on light, movement, happiness, glowing darkness and flickering melancholia, this film tells of a woman's journey of love, with nostalgia, pets, places, and men.

(2002, 11 min.)
This film tells the story of its own making as it explores the manual manipulations upon the film body, examining the cinematic result of mechanical interventions.

LECHE (1998, 30 min.)
Filmed in black and white 16mm, hand-processed and hung to dry, Leche examines details of the life of one family, living on an isolated dairy ranch in Central Mexico.

MALA LECHE (2003, 47 min)
Considered a companion piece, this film follows the same family presented in Uman's earlier film Leche. Now living in California's agricultural Central Valley, the family continues to work with dairy cattle but under very different circumstances.

In pornography – a genre that Linda Williams has defined as “obsessed with visible proof” – bodies are spectacles, displayed and dissected by the camera in pursuit of pleasure’s physiological truths. [1] In Naomi Uman’s Removed (1999), the sexualised feminine form is obscured, interrupting pornography’s attempts to quantify and authenticate female pleasure. Uman’s film can also be situated in the artisanal realm of “Handmade Cinema” in that it moves away from “photographic representation” in favour of “abstract form … textual richness and sensory depth”. [2] To create Removed, Uman painstakingly ‘erased’ the female figures from a 1970s German soft-core porn film, frame by frame. The result: an experimental re-working of pornography that is haunted by crackling white forms wherever the celluloid was tampered with. Uman’s handiwork functions as both a dismantling of the cinematic body and a process of collage. She also performs a kind of “recorporealisation” of female film bodies, using haptic labour to complicate the idea of the camera as an objective optical apparatus in the pursuit of a fixed truth. [3]
In an interview with the Millennium Film Journal, Uman talks in detail about the construction of Removed – made during stints of boredom while she was working her job as a 35mm projectionist at The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Re-touching her own acrylic nails, Uman became aware that the nail polish would “resist the action of bleach”. She covered everything on the found footage with nail polish, except for the women’s bodies. She then doused the film strip in bleach, “leaving the women … ‘naked’ and vulnerable” to the bleach’s effects (bleach has a “chemical reaction with the emulsion and causes it to be removed from the plastic film base”). [4] Uman’s process is therefore not about ‘erasure’ so much as intervention. Here, absence and presence become two sides of the same experimental gesture. By painting the film strip with nail polish, protecting the women’s surroundings and allowing the bleach to distort the image of their forms, Uman conjures the pornographic depiction of women anew. She transforms female film bodies into shimmering ghosts.
Certainly Uman’s film is a disruption to porn’s visual fixations – the writhing white forms of Removed absorb the gaze with their alien presence. The spectrality of Uman’s work extends beyond a critique of mainstream pornography’s scopophilia, however. What interests us here is the way in which the gruelling techniques of Uman’s handmade cinema serve to materialise female sexual pleasure and question visual methods of authentication. Like the doubled absence and presence of Removed, our reading in this article will be twofold. In the first reading, Hilary Bergen sees a connection between Uman’s creative process and the technique of rotoscoping, an animation technique used to extract motion from the human body in the pursuit of realism. For Bergen, the porn actors whom Uman obscures become suppliers of a hidden and controversial labour – they are like the “secret dancers” who lent their motion to the characters of early animation. [5] Because Uman’s meticulous approach yields visual results that are similar to rotoscoping, her film evokes the kinetic qualities of female pleasure. That kineticism is teased out through her intimate tracing of the space inhabited by each female body on every frame of celluloid. In the second reading, Sandra Huber observes a link between Uman’s work and the portrayals of sexual fluid in the nineteenth century phenomenon of ectoplasm (a gauzy white substance that emerged from the orifices of female mediums and was said to be a materialisation of the spirit world). While ectoplasm had the consistency of semen, its secretion from a female body meant that it was often brought into historic discussions around fraudulence (especially where photographic ‘evidence’ was concerned).
Our interest in ‘truth’ in this article lies not in the presumed objective view of any camera but in the embodied and experiential practice of the women whose bodies perform labour (or enact the labour of performance). Discussing mainstream, hard-core pornography, Linda Williams writes of how the “woman’s ability to fake the orgasm that the man can never fake (at least according to certain standards of evidence) seems to be at the root of all the genre’s attempts to solicit what it can never be sure of: the out-of-control confession of pleasure, a hardcore ‘frenzy of the visible’”. [6] In contrast with the visibility (and overwhelming presence) of male sexuality (erection, ejaculation), female sexual pleasure cannot often be explicitly seen. It therefore relies upon a kinetic and audiovisual performance of the body – an output that is primarily affective and ephemeral rather than material and enduring. Such output is made explicit through Uman’s experimental re-working. Following Williams, our dual reading of Removed acts as a feminist intervention into modes of authentication surrounding female sexuality. As Uman’s source film would not be classified as hard-core pornography as such (it does not feature explicit penetration or contain close-ups of genitalia), it may seem counterintuitive to rely on Williams’ arguments. Nonetheless, Uman’s interventions speak directly to what Williams describes as a ‘frenzy of the visible’. By obscuring the spectacle of the female body, Uman diverts the fact-seeking gaze that wishes to clearly see all. Our intention is not to misread Uman’s film based on the specificities of genre but to think about how her creative methods contribute to conversations around visual proof (of pleasure, of authenticity), complicating the link between what is visible and what is true for the female body.
Our readings are united through our fascination with the role of the body, especially in terms of the body’s connection to mechanical ‘truths’ (be they ‘money shots’ or scientific motion studies). We see Removed as a feminist alternative to methods of truth-making that are primarily photographic. Certainly the film’s interest in seeing is also reflected in its narrative content. In one scene, a woman asks her lover to describe a sex act to her. Based on their body positions (she is lying on his lap), only he has visual access to that act. Her plea (“Oh Walter! Tell me what you see! … I want to know everything!”) singles out his gaze, substituting descriptive language for visual evidence and robbing her of her own vision. As he describes the scene in detail to his lover, she herself remains an amorphous white blob. Her presence on-screen cannot be fully seen nor can it be captured with words. As we discussed previously, Uman’s process of making the film involved tracing the female figure frame by frame in order to expose it to chemical action. Ironically, this act of singling out produces a body that lacks boundaries; through motion, the women of Removed bleed into the space around them, dizzying the gaze that tries to fix them. Form and content unite in a shared instability.
Given the abundance of mirrors and deferred gazes that occur in Removed, as well as the characters’ emphasis on the role of imagination in the production of arousal, we can invoke the thought of Jacques Lacan. Lacan’s concept of the lamella, in particular, is akin to ectoplasm in its placenta-like nature. The lamella also possesses a kind of vibrant, lively movement that is useful for both of our readings. Lacan compares the lamella to the “membranes of the egg”, situating it in the realm of the always-enigmatic feminine/maternal. As he writes, it is something “extra-flat, which moves like the amoeba” and is “like the amoeba in relation to sexed beings, immortal – because it survives any division, any scissiparous intervention”. [7] The lamella is reproductive yet unnatural. Cyborg-like, it has its own agency. It can survive the removal of its source but its connection to the libido also tethers it to the human body. As Lacan puts it, the lamella results in “pure life instinct, that is to say, immortal life or irrepressible life, life that has need of no organ, simplified, indestructible life”. [8]
There is something ghostly about the lamella in that it is both a figuration in Lacan’s theoretical framework and it can also be read alongside other material instances. Like a monster, the lamella becomes real in that it is made sensually palpable through our imagination of it. In contrast with the pornographic gaze that Williams describes, the erotic space of fantasy is unpredictable and generative. It is never fully seen, always partially hidden and remains full of potential. Like the verb ‘secrete’ which holds the double meaning of ‘to shroud’ and ‘to reveal’, both Uman’s disappeared women and the bodies of ectoplasmic mediums occupy an uneasy space between presence and absence. That space is kinetic and alive and, above all, embodied. That space communicates, as Brian Massumi writes, “when gesture is deprived … of its terminus, its pragmatic truth potential is suspended”, making it “a purely speculative activity”. [9] The lamella, which also evades terminus, is similar to both ectoplasm and corporeal motion. Though both are produced by the body, their production occurs in excess and extension of the body. Similarly, Uman’s ghostly forms express a strong sense of fluidity. In our doubled reading, we identify fluid properties of the body which, in their secretion, keep secrets rather than revealing ‘truths’.
Reading One: Kinetic Traces
Removed uses palpable and embodied labour to alter what was originally captured by way of the camera. By way of handmade re-composition, Uman conjures new bodies and objects to interrogate the visual semiology that we accept as given. In Removed, effacement and summoning are revealed as sister acts; a repetition with a difference wherein “there is always some detritus strewn about in the aftermath, some bruising to the surface” and “the rejected entity has a habit of returning, ghostlike”. [10] Uman’s alterations to the original film strip serve not so much to blot out the porn actor’s nude figure but to obscure her shape and her facial expressions. She transforms her into a new entity, radically re-working the generic context of hard-core pornography. The bleach fades the contours of the figure into a hazy mist, enacting a kind of reverse striptease that verges on censorship. The result is, as Uman herself observes, somehow “far more erotic than the original”. [11] Whereas Roland Barthes proposes that “[w]oman is desexualized at the very moment when she is stripped naked”, Uman’s intervention suggests another possibility. [12] Her labour activates a viewer who “strains to see what is denied” and “is inexorably drawn to what is withheld”- namely, the pornographic female form as we know it. [13]
Removed is more than just a feminist intervention into the pornographic genre (although it is that, too). Rather than exposing what many believe to be the “essence of [mainstream] pornography – woman without substance”, Uman renders woman as substance, a powerful, pulpy, roiling presence. [14] In his work on ‘screendance’, Douglas Rosenberg introduces the term “recorporealisation”, writing that in order for a body to be recorporealised, it must first be decoporealised or stripped of its somatic and fleshly resonances through mediatisation. [15] Under Uman’s recorporealisation of her, the women of Removed become ‘untouchable’ – the male hands that attempt to stroke their bodies “simply sink into light”. [16] Strangely, it is Uman’s abstinence from touching the whole bodies of her filmic women that renders them impervious to the male touch on-screen. Uman allows the bleach to do its work on the female figures, transforming them into skeins of light. Uman has said that she “wanted to see what would happen if [she] remove[d] the women” from her found footage, asking: “Would it still be pornography?” [17] In Uman’s film, however, the ‘erased’ body returns with a new and more powerful force. The body becomes hyper-visible as a relational and material-kinetic presence. What is manifested on-screen is the body’s kinetic twin; a double which both exceeds the body and originates from within.
read further:
Hilary Bergen and Sandra Huber: Pornography, Ectoplasm and the Secret Dancer: A Twin Reading of Naomi Uman’s Removed

srijeda, 31. listopada 2018.

Stephen Broomer - Carousel Study (2016)

Image result for Stephen Broomer - Carousel Study

U svakom trenu sve može izgubiti tlo pod nogama ili upasti u tajanstveni tunel. Uspomene možeš stvoriti uz pomoć ogledala.



A continuous 360-degree pan is host to shadows and changing light. Some hesitation. Insulation, concrete, and a wooden netting of walls. After a time the pan reverses. In layers it crosses itself. The shadows move against these time values. A light turns off in reverse. A tighter composition, still panning, rotates 360-degrees. The mechanism emits a gentle hum, which assumes chordal structures as it is sped and reversed. The only way this can end is suddenly. Made in the basement of my childhood home, summer 2016.

"While remaining true to the cinematic frame, Stephen Broomer’s Carousel uses both analogue and digital techniques to destabilize it. The work places smooth analogue and digital movement next to each other, with the camera panning around the room using a mechanical tripod head and with the image rotating around the centre of the screen using digital keyframing. In order to maintain the cinematic frame, the work distorts to reveal a frame anomaly hidden within the digital animation, further reinforcing the tension between analogue and digital animation. The work is a spatial study, reminiscent of Michael Snow’s La Région centrale (1971), only with a little toilet humour." Clint Enns, "The Frame is the Keyframe" (catalogue essay), 2016.

A waterfall cuts through the land along the Bruce Trail; birdsongs and a distant cloud; I stand in the shadow of an electric cross; a bow set in the cloud, a token of the covenant between god and man. Made at the Devil's Punchbowl conservation area, Hamilton, Ontario, March 2016. Made with the assistance of Daniel McIntyre. Thanks to Emmalyne Laurin and Lesley Loksi Chan. Film processed by Sylvain Chaussée at Niagara Custom Lab; film scanned by Lianna Hillerup at Frame Discreet.
Francesca Rusalen wrote this essay in response to the film on October 18, 2016, for her website L'emergere del possibile.

"A Hummingbird in Reverse: On Richard Kerr's morning ... came a day early," Found Footage Magazine 4 (2018). 116-119.
"La Cultura-Regalo del Underground: 'Envios', de Jeannette Muñoz / The Gift Culture of the Underground: Jeannette Muñoz's Envios," in Francisco Algarín Navarro (ed.), Jeannette Muñoz: El paisaje como un mar. Seville: Asociación Lumière, 2017. 122-128.
"Vuelta al tiempo: la restauración de The Book of All the Dead," A Cuarte Parede, December 10, 2017.
"Northern Densities: a note on the Canadian underground," Hambre: Dossier intervalos aberrantes (2017), 16-20.
"Strange Codes 04: Greg Curnoe's No Movie and Connexions," La Furia Umana 32 (2017).
"A Road Outside: Crossroads 2017," UZAK 27 (2017).
"Strange Codes 03: R. Bruce Elder's Barbara is a Vision of Loveliness and Permutations and Combinations," La Furia Umana 31 (2017).
"Kyle Whitehead: Strange Meetings," BlackFlash 34.2 (2017)
"The Success and Failure of Arthur Lipsett," Found Footage Magazine 3 (2017). 58-69.
"Strange Codes 02: John Hofsess's Palace of Pleasure," La Furia Umana 30 (2017).
"Following South," in Hoolboom & Enns (eds.), Shock, Fear, and Belief: The Films and Videos of Madi Piller. Toronto: Pleasure Dome, 2016. 60-62.
"Throwing Voices: Madi Piller and John Straiton," in Hoolboom & Enns (eds.), Shock, Fear, and Belief: The Films and Videos of Madi Piller. Toronto: Pleasure Dome, 2016. 45-49.
"Keewatin Dewdney: Interlocking Parts," Lumière, November 2016.
"Strange Codes 01: R. Bruce Elder's Breath/Light/Birth," La Furia Umana 29 (2016)
"John Hofsess: Man in Pieces," Hamilton Arts & Letters 9.1 (2016).
"Michael Snow: Gathering and Dispersing" (liner note), Variations DVD compilation (Graphical Recordings 002, 2016).
"Alexandre Larose: The Lost Steps," BlackFlash 33.1 (January 2016).
"Nelson Ball & Barbara Caruso: Notes of Home," Hamilton Arts & Letters 8.2 (2015-16).
"Indivisible River: Films by Pablo Marín," Desistfilm, August 17, 2015.
"Sabrina Ratté: Surfaces in Space," BlackFlash 32.3 (August 2015).
"Eva Kolcze: The Protagonist of Architecture," The Seventh Art, May 25, 2015.
"Scott Fitzpatrick: Look Back in Toner," BlackFlash 32.2 (April 2015).
"Blake Williams; Sightings in Stereo," The Seventh Art, January 19, 2015.
"The Elusive Present: Chris Gallagher's Seeing in the Rain" (liner note), Angular volume 1 DVD compilation (Angular 01, 2015).
"Clint Enns: The Unfamiliar Messenger," The Seventh Art, October 10, 2014.
"Review: Explosion in the Movie Machine," Public Journal 49 (Spring 2014), 133-135.
"Review: Mythogeography: A Guide to Walking Sideways," Journal of Cultural Geography 29.1 (2012), 129-131.
"R. Bruce Elder: An Introduction," Hamilton Arts & Letters 4.2 (2011-12).
"Review: Ghosts and Numbers," Visual Anthropology Review 27 (May 2011), 103-105.
"Practice in a Cemetery: The North Carolina Documentaries of Ross McElwee," in Andrew Leiter (ed.), Southerners on Film: Essays on Hollywood Portrayals Since the 1970s. Jefferson, NC: McFarland Press, 2011.
"Even the Pictures Lie: The Unreliable Narrator in the Film Noirs of Edgar G. Ulmer," in Gary Rhodes (ed.), Edgar G. Ulmer: Detour on Poverty Row. Lanham, MD: Lexington Press, 2008.

Memory Worked By Mirrors (2011) from Stephen Broomer on Vimeo.
Ela Bittencourt, "Performing the Past: Reporting on the Fronteira Festival," Notebook, May 30, 2018.
Giorgiomaria Cornelio, "The cinema as a healing light: interview with Stephen Broomer," La Camera Ardente, February 21, 2018.
Brian Howe, "Unexposed: Potamkin," Indy Week, web, January 2018.
Jeff Fedoruk, "Capital Broadcasts Culture," Canadian Literature: A Quarterly Review of Criticism and Review, web, January 26, 2018.
Tom Kohut, "Review: Hamilton Babylon: A History of the McMaster Film Board," Canadian Journal of Communication 42:5 (2017).
Brian Wilson, "The Carriage Set Upright: Stephen Broomer on Potamkin," Film International, web, December 20, 2017.
Jonathan Rosenbaum, "Potamkin (in more ways than one, a preliminary report)," jonathanrosenbaum.net, November 26, 2017.
Katia Houde, "Review: Hamilton Babylon: A History of the McMaster Film Board," Public Journal 56 (2017): 216-219.
Ivonne Sheen, "Potamkin by Stephen Broomer," Desistfilm, July 22, 2017. Spanish version.
Damián Bender, "Potamkin: El Negativo Con Reflejo," Cine Divergente, June 3, 2017.
Elena Duque, "Potamkin: Death of a Poet," S8 Editorial, June 2, 2017.
Brais Romero and Victor Paz, "(S8) Mostra de Cinema Periférico: Nova Lexislatura," A Cuarta Parede, February 1, 2017.
Matt Turner, "Is experimental animation on the rise?" Little White Lies, December 21, 2016.
Mike Hoolboom, "Collaborating on a Mystery: An Interview with Stephen Broomer," Pleasure Dome, October 3, 2016.
Valentina Dell'Aquila, "Stephen Broomer: Spirit in Landscape," La Furia Umana 29 (2016).
Brais Romero and Victor Paz, "Stephen Broomer: O Fillo Artístico de Jack Chambers e Michael Snow," A Cuarta Parede, August 8, 2016.
Riva Symko, "Re-presentations, Adaptations, and Variations," Luma Quarterly 5.2 (Summer 2016).
Neil Young, "Report from the (S8) film festival, A Coruna," Tribune, July 13, 2016.
Andrea Franco, "Review: (S8) 2016 VII Mostra de Cinema Periférico," Transit: Cine y otros desvíos, June 22. 2016.
Graham Rockingham, "Palace of Pleasure revisits McMaster Film Board's Warhol era," The Hamilton Spectator, June 21, 2016.
Fernando Solla, "Stephen Broomer - Los nuevos impresionistas," Cine Divergente, June 10, 2016.
Chandler Levack, "The McMaster Film Board's Indelible Influence on Hollywood North," TIFF Review, May 17, 2016.
Matthew Levine, "Review: Wild Currents," Found Footage Magazine 2 (May 2016), 101-2.
Jordan Cronk, "Knoxville's Big Ears Festival, the Avant-Garde SXSW, Adds a Film Program," Brooklyn Magazine, April 11, 2016.
Wheeler Winston Dixon, "Ecstatic Cinema: Romantic Experimental Filmmaking in the 1960s," Moving Image Archive News, February 20, 2016.
Wheeler Winston Dixon, "Preview: Hamilton Babylon," Frame by Frame, February 17, 2016.
With Kyle Whitehead, "Double Visions: Stephen Broomer & Kyle Whitehead in Dialogue," Luma Quarterly 2.1 (Fall 2015).
Tyler Tekatch, "Review: The Transformable Moment," Hamilton Arts & Letters 8.1 (2015).
Kyle Whitehead, "Present Act & Past Event," Answer Print, Winter 2015, 7-10.
Brett Kashmere, "Magic: The Gathering, or, Spirits in Season" (liner note), Angular volume 1 DVD compilation (Angular 01, 2015).
Kate Russell, "Stephen Broomer's Championship," Hamilton Arts & Letters 6.2 (2013-14).
Noel Murray, "Two short films highlight avant-garde tourism," The Dissolve, November 9, 2013.
Samuel La France, "TIFF 2013 Postscript," Cinemascope, September 20, 2013.
Jordan Cronk, "TIFF13: Wavelengths Shorts," Fandor Keyframe, September 12, 2013.
Daniel Kasman, "Notebook: TIFF 2013. Correspondences #5," MUBI Notebook, September 12, 2013.
Michael Sicinski, "Notebook: TIFF 2013. Wavelengths Experimental Films -- The Shorts and the Mediums," MUBI Notebook, September 8, 2013.
Jacqueline Valencia, "Stephen Broomer on Pepper's Ghost," Next Projection, September 7, 2013.
Jacqueline Valencia, "Review: Pepper's Ghost," Next Projection, September 6, 2013.
Mark Mann, "Experimental Filmmaker Stephen Broomer Haunts TIFF with Pepper's Ghost," Blouin ArtInfo, September 6, 2013.
Clint Enns, "Rituals in Transfigured Space: Interview with Stephen Broomer," INCITE: The Journal of Experimental Media, September 4, 2013.
Jason Anderson, "Lost and Found: John Hofsess's Palace of Pleasure," ArtForum, January 22, 2009.

Simon Meek - Beckett

Review of Beckett, the game

Priča u obliku video-igre, nadahnuta Beckettom, Burroughsom i Švankmajerom. Omajgad! Kad bih još samo imao strpljenja za igranje.

Simon Meek, Beckett , Developed by The Secret Experiment, Kiss Publishing

What is Beckett? Beckett is, designer Simon Meek says, “a literary work of fiction”. Its experimental alembic is that of a videogame. It is influenced textually and in spirit by, of course, Samuel Beckett, by William Burroughs and, visually, by Jan Švankmajer. I am not a gamer—what drew my interest were the connections to writers who are part of my personal canon. That the game was being featured by the V&A Dundee’s design exhibition (https://www.vandadundee.org/news-and-blog/blog/simon-meek–designing-playable-stories) suggested that its graphic content might have more to it than the quasi-realistic or filmic iterations of the medium. I’m not a gamer—but I am interested in multi-platform stories: using prose, film, photography and graphics to tell a single story that allows for tangents.
On his blog, Meek states that, “Beckett is a story told as a game.” Its underlying theme, he says “is the nature of reality and what it is to exist… We’re all reality fragments in other people’s mental reconstruction of an event. We’re all part of an existential jigsaw: real in the moment, abstract in absence.” The visual aesthetic of the game is cut-up, collage, Dada. The development company, The Secret Experiment, calls the game Surrealist Noir.
Beckett tells its story through text, image, film and the in-game choices made by the player. Beckett is a “trace-agent”, a kind of private detective in search of a missing person in the city of Burough. The dystopian world in which Beckett lives is not too distant in time and circumstance from our own, a parallel world. The player discovers the details of the shadowy city as they negotiate its streets, bars, markets, restaurants, hospitals and building sites. It’s a world of societal inequality with a precariat surviving day to day under government systems of thought control, surveillance, media manipulation and medication for those who suffer from Soft Paranoia. If you stop taking the meds for your Soft Paranoia, the controllers might want to bring you in. The game plays with the mental state of the player who is piecing together the story in response to the images, soundscapes and the fragmentary texts; and the gamer will soon discover that Beckett is none too mentally stable himself. In moments of pause, Beckett encounters manipulative newspaper stories that appear through Burroughs-style cut-ups. The designer has taken a disturbing and superficially bleak (read contemporary) scenario and, through it, reveals very human responses of people trying to connect with each other or just to get by. Game choices made by the player may seem to lead nowhere but they all expose the fabric of the world.
The background graphics for the city streetmaps are elegant and simple, for the most part in sepia. Against these backdrops, the discoverable detritus is made up of posters, scribbled notes, pamphlets for real estate, medical texts, creatures in decay, boxes like the constructions of Joseph Cornell, and archival medical films. Some of this is relevant to Beckett’s search, but all of it is relevant to his state of mind. Meek has produced the graphics and constructed the physical objects in the game, as well as composing the dark soundscape within which the city unfolds. The world is multi-layered. Stories overlap. In graphic novel sections, the story breaks into colour. Visually, the simplicity facilitates a gateway for the imagination to invent a world as with a book, rather than through elaborate cinematic reconstructions of a world in the vein of Grand Theft Auto or World of Warcraft.
Like an old-fashioned boardgame – Monopoly pieces that have escaped from the lunatic asylum – each character Beckett encounters is represented by a symbol – insect, coffee pot, jeweled brooch, lipsticked mouth, seashell – which leaves the player free to invent appearance and the sound of verbal exchanges in much the same way as reading a literary text. The verbal exchanges are often via typewritten text or graphic exposition. Some of the character symbols suggest creatures from David Cronenberg’s adaptation of William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, or Kafka’s Metamorphosis, or scenarios from the creepy close-up bug scenes captured in early David Lynch.
Beckett the trace agent is searching for Peri, a young man who is mentally ill. Peri has stopped taking his medication for the Soft Paranoia that afflicts those who have broken down under the dystopian pressure. Looking for Peri, Beckett gets lost in memory, speculation, contemplation of his own existential horror and grief at the loss of his lover, Amy, and both of his parents. When Beckett’s investigations take him into The Hospital, the domain of a character known as The Reality Principal, the environment becomes seriously disturbing. The Reality Principal is a psychotropic nightmare, a bureaucratic mind controller charged by the government of Borough to control the minds of its citizenry through drugs, lobotomy and electroshock treatments. On the way through The Hospital to the Reality Principal’s office, it’s possible to look in on the activities in a number of operating theatres and laboratories. The designer has peppered the journey with literary references and leaves room for the player’s own correspondences; pointing and clicking on each room opens up film clips, some of them reminiscent of the movie version of J.G. Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition. Memories of the horrific subterranean hospital in Kobo Abe’s Secret Rendezvous also came to mind. There are some seriously disturbing discoveries to be made in the hospital, perhaps the most intense part of the game. Another Burroughs link I made is that with Blade Runner – A Movie, not the Blade Runner of Ridley Scott, but Burroughs’ caustic look at the medical industry.
Review of Beckett, the game
One of the more interesting aspects of the game is that the player is sometimes required to make ethical choices, all of which have consequences for the direction of the story and the player’s experience of the world. Beckett is a trace agent. He’s been charged to track down a young man who has stopped taking his medication. The boy’s mother is marked for elimination. How much is Beckett prepared to be party to that? Is this a game? Is this a manipulation? After playing once, I began a conversation via email with Simon Meek, Beckett’s designer. I told him that I’d gotten stuck a couple of times and when I felt that I’d missed something it wasn’t easy to go back. He replied, “I wanted a sense of determinism in the game and the way it was played – a frustration that is often felt in life. The narrative is designed to ensure that anything you miss will be addressed in a different way – so by missing something you may find something else as a result… This idea of a dynamic narrative is something I’m really into. The idea that while the story may be fixed, the path through it and the way the world responds to you isn’t.”
I went on and found my way to the end, or at least to one of the possible ends. The decisions that the game-player makes cause the story to squirm under the influence of the choices they make. As each decision can take the characters in a different direction so the player can return to the game to discover more… or to get stuck again… but having traversed a different path in which new discoveries are made.
There is a lightness to the names of the characters juxtaposed with the realism of their dark psychologies: Beckett’s anomie tempered by anguish for his lost love, Amy; Amy’s mental condition and how that has affected her behaviour toward Beckett; the traumatised psychological states of the missing Peregrine and the woman with whom he’s in love, Joan (a reference to Joan Vollmer, perhaps?). The literary fictive aspect of Beckett is sustained by genuine psychological insight into mental illness and how each character’s mental state (and that of the player) is in turn is affected by the dystopian milieu of the city of Borough. Again the question: What is Beckett exactly in literary terms? Perhaps a novella in game form. The prose is fragmentary and enigmatic and it works in tandem with image to create its effect. The interiority triggered by experience of the game undermines straight narrative and in places can evoke as much deep unease as a literary novella of psychological horror in the vein of Edgar Allan Poe but with more than a nod to William Burroughs.
As a multi-platform literary narrative, Beckett is a successful prototype for a hybrid literary/graphic form that has substantial artistic potential in its combination of text, image, film, found objects, movement and music. Its pared-down style leaves the user’s imagination as free as when reading a work of literature. It is fragmented in that it’s constructed from cut-ups and found objects. It’s a collage. It works as a piece of Dadaist art. Beckett, the game, doesn’t compromise by aiming for some kind of “digital realism” or filmic virtuality. It is literary and visual. It has more in common with George Braque and Cubism than with a narrative driven comic book.
After having played the game a number of times, there’s still more to uncover in the world of Beckett. Possibly, a player who is familiar with the conventions of gaming could discover more of that world in a shorter time than someone like me who is completely unfamiliar with the form. But perhaps unfamiliarity with the gaming genre is no disadvantage. That inexperience didn’t undercut—maybe even enhanced—the pleasure and the discomfort of a reading of the game as text, the intimation of infinite possibilities of a literary artefact as game and the game as literary artefact. - Des Barry

utorak, 30. listopada 2018.

Yoshihiko Matsui - Noisy Requiem (1988)

“ Yoshihiko Matsui’s Noisy Requiem (1988)

Čovjek je beketovski mehanizam za razmnožavanje, to smo znali. I da je ljubav okrutnija od smrti. Ali kad to spojiš zajedeno... 

The Noisy Requiem revolves around Makoto Iwashita, a homeless serial killer who murders young women so that he can harvest their reproductive organs. He collects these visceral mementos so he can stuff them in the belly of his lover, the model woman of his desire, a mannequin. Makoto lives on the roof of an abandoned tenement building with his wooden mistress, making love to her through a makeshift vagina. The organs he acquires are to ensure that she can bear his child, which she eventually does until tragedy falls upon their happy home. The film follows Makoto through his daily routine: feeding some pigeons, decapitating them, finding some other chicks to murder and maim, and landing a job as a sewer scooper for a pair of incestuous midget siblings. We are also introduced to an older vagabond who carries with him a severed tree trunk that looks remarkably like a woman’s torso. The rest of the film’s inhabitants are the actual people who live in Shinsekai, floating in and out of the periphery like ghosts in a forgotten district of hell.
All of this happens within the first ten minutes of the film. Not a single word of dialogue has been spoken, aside from the few monosyllabic grunts here and there. Makoto practically melts into the background, a killer in plain sight, completely ignored by everyone around him. We then cut to a scene at the park, where two young schoolgirls watch some busking war veterans beg for change. One of the girls tells her friend of the dream she had the night before. In it she watches a pure white dove compete for breadcrumbs. As the bird struggles for each scrap of food, it begins to transform into a black crow, as the breadcrumbs become human remains. As the girls give the buskers some money, she explains that it was only natural for the dove to become a crow, for out of desperation to find happiness we all lose our innocence. These are some pretty profound words coming from the mouths of a couple of kids just shooting the shit in the park. But the film’s director, Yoshihiko Matsui, has clearly defined where Makoto is coming from and where he will inevitably go. All the film’s crows are that way out of necessity — still desperately searching for attention and love in a society that has abandoned them.
The Noisy Requiem is very much a product of Japanese cinema in the 1980s. The era marked the beginning of the end of an era that encouraged and supported innovative filmmaking, and the beginning of the next generation of underground filmmaking — one born out of necessity and circumstance.

The great radical masters of the previous decades — Nagisa Ôshima, Shôhei Imamura, Shûji Terayama, Hiroshi Teshigahara, and Kazuo Kuroki — had been assimilated and spat out by the mainstream studios, some of them producing their swan songs before fading away, unnoticed and unappreciated. The Art Theater Guild of Japan, which had fostered independent filmmakers, producing many groundbreaking films throughout the sixties and seventies, was getting out of production altogether. Only a handful of films came out of the ATG before it closed up shop in the mid-80s. But by this point the country’s major studios were already flailing in a bone-dry creative pool. The majors had co-opted the themes and visual styles from underground cinema, sanitized it for mainstream audience consumption and left the masters behind; at the same time, the studios were moving towards a vertically integrated system that would force independent producers like ATG out of business.

Out of the collapse of the ATG came a new movement that favored a more DIY approach to filmmaking. Driven by Japan’s growing underground punk music scene, young filmmakers took the cheapest route available: 8mm (Japan continued using single gauge 8mm film long after Super 8 was introduced in the West). Yoshihiko Matsui emerged from this tradition along with Sogo Ishii, both film students at Nihon University. Sogo Ishii would quickly gain a name for himself with the growing v-cinema boom and cyberpunk movement that took off at the start of the decade. Ishii’s Panic High School and Crazy Thunder Road were all completed while the director was still in film school and are all considered required viewing by hardcore fans of the movement. Matsui Yoshihiko worked closely with Ishii during this time and acted as Assistant Director for most of Ishii’s early films. In turn Ishii shot Matsui’s debut feature Rusty Empty Can and his sophomore effort, the elegantly titled, Pig Chicken Suicide.
Matsui’s next film was The Noisy Requiem. It wasn’t completed until several years after Pig Chicken Suicide, and it took a while for a distributor to pick it up. It was not merely Matsui’s finest film, but his most distinctive, an evolutionary step beyond his previous films, which owed much to the style of his partner-in-crime Ishii Sogo. Since the cyberpunk movement was gaining popularity, The Noisy Requiem became an immediate underground success, but it evaded critical attention at home and abroad. The reviews that it did get were polarized, and focused mainly on its disturbing plot points and characterizations. Its stark black-and-white, hand-held 16mm photography add to its already unnervingly naturalistic feel; there is a strong sense of immediacy to the film. Yet there is still a feeling of timelessness. At points it feels like a documentary that slips into moments of madness and sublime expressionism. Perhaps the film was ignored because of its setting in a homeless community of Kamagasaki, Shinsekai in Osaka. To this day, the Japanese government has still maintained the absurd claim that there are no homeless people in Japan, an idea that immediately falls apart if you’ve even been to any city in the country; a collective national urge to ignore the guy who scored a refrigerator box for the night could explain why a film like The Noisy Requiem went largely unnoticed.

As Johannes Schönherr (at Midnight Eye) already pointed out, the first ten minutes of The Noisy Requiem firmly establish Matsui’s worldview and, with Shakespearean bravado, foreshadow its unavoidable outcome. From the moment our schoolgirls leave the frame the film takes a derisive turn in many stylistic directions. Makoto soon enters the scene to accost the two buskers. Matsui suddenly walks away from the action before the argument culminates into violence. Matsui’s camera spastically revolves around the park, coming full circle to the action as Makoto starts beating the crap out of the handicapped veterans. Makoto represents the blackest of crows in our already pitch-black aviary. But as Matsui will soon reveal, the depths of his obscene depravity are matched only by his obsessive devotion.
As the film continues we are introduced to our two white doves: a beautiful young couple dressed in white. We never learn their names or how they ended up in Shinsekai, but we immediately recognize that they are innocent, and very much in love. Matsui overexposes the scene so that the characters are surrounded by pure white light, erasing everything else around them. They are never referenced within the film and never speak throughout their transformation, their transformation to hungry black crows, pecking at the rest of the dead. At first it seems as though this couple is meant to contrast Makoto’s black crow, but as the film progresses we witness our white dove’s fall from grace, driven by the boy’s lust for the girl. As hard as they try to maintain their innocence, their environment ultimately corrupts them. By showing the couple unable to resist temptation, Matsui only strengthens Makoto’s purity in his devotion to his mannequin. His love for her is real enough, and there is no distraction from his loyalty to her.

There is no question that Makoto’s love for his mannequin is pure. We see how they first met, the moments they share together, cleaning her, tending to her, protecting her, and killing for her. This is all shown in such a way that we cannot help but empathize with Makoto. In a style usually reserved for romantic melodramas, Makoto dances with her as the camera revolves around them, with pools of filth glimmering around them in the moonlight. Later in this scene Makoto confesses his hatred for the world around him. Like Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, Makoto is waiting for the cleansing rain to wash away the dirty streets and disgusting people he sees outside of Shinsekai. Matsui’s seems to share Makoto’s view of morality in Shinsekai and of the outside world.
Matsui defends Makoto as an honorable character, but like everyone in the film, his obsession will only lead to ruin. There is no other outcome for these poor souls, and each will meet their own grisly death. Everyone is desperately clinging to whatever they can in a place that has forsaken them, and Makoto’s rooftop home offers a place for them to indulge in their passion. But saying that the characters lack any moral compass is problematic once Matsui shows how people act in “the outside world.” Matsui portrays normal society as something equally disgusting, and in some scenes he simply hides his camera and records the reactions of “normal society” to his characters. In another scene a busload of senior citizens bust out laughing when a midget woman falls over (twice). Although this scene was clearly staged, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture of a supposed moral society. Matsui doesn’t condone Makoto’s actions, but it is clear that Matsui considers him noble in his dedication to his mannequin.

Most recent reviews of the film are quick to call Matsui’s style nihilist and disturbing, and certainly after reading the above synopsis you would probably agree.  Matsui’s guerilla filmmaking approach reinforces that kind of reading, especially since much of the film was clearly shot without permits or permission.  Matsui actually set the roof of a building on fire near the film’s climax, and then snuck away to a neighboring building to film the fireman and cops sniff around the remains of Makoto’s makeshift home.  Matsui’s complete disregard for linear storytelling offers a glimpse into the reality of Kamagasaki, often leaving characters behind while the camera walks up and down the street showing the real inhabitants going about their lives.  Flawlessly edited, the cinematography flows effortlessly from vérité to dream-like fantasy, kinetic and visually abstract.  But also slow paced, lingering on beautifully composed moments of horror and misery, as well as love and desire.  Some viewers might avoid the film because of the described violence, or others may have high expectations to see some crazy J-style weirdness.  The Noisy Requiem stands apart from most genre classifications, and certainly should not be lumped together with other v-cinema cyberpunk films of that period.  The violence is disturbing, but it is never graphic or fetishized. It is a deeply personal film, made with compassion for it’s subject matter and an understanding of what innovative cinema can be.  Like many of his mentors from the ATG, Matsui was able to evoke the spirit of his generation while maintaining his own unique vision.  Having a film like The Noisy Requiem in the Criterion Collection would give Matsui the recognition he deserves, and would allow the Western world to see one of the most important independent films to come out of Japan since the fall of the Art Theatre Guild.
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Osaka still has some exquisitely dirty corners that have successfully resisted all urban clean-up campaigns. Of course, to Tokyo-ites the whole city may seem untidy and virtually all its inhabitants may come off as particularly rude folk. Well, Osaka is an old hustle-and-bustle merchant city and the customs are a bit different there from the capital, with all its masses of government bureaucrats. But there are some areas where even tough-mouthed Osakans rarely venture. Take Shin Sekai, for example. It translates as "New World", and that's exactly what it once was supposed to represent. Various grand-scale EXPO-like events were staged there in the late years of emperor Meiji (that means in the 1910s) and the Tsutenkaku Tower, a sort of smaller version of the Eiffel Tower, is still the major landmark of the area, dating back to those times when a young and hungry Japan was challenging the world.
To build all those grand monuments of a rapidly modernizing Japan, large numbers of day laborers were drafted in, and most of them ended up staying on... slowly turning the "New World" into their world. Today, the Kamagasaki neighborhood of Shin Sekai is Japan's biggest homeless area and the closest thing Japan has to an actual slum area. The rest of Shin Sekai either turned to the red-light business or remained trapped and frozen in time. Walking through the shopping arcades there today with their cheap and trashy thrift stores and plethora of drinking outlets is like stepping back in time... like entering the movies and going straight back to 1962 at one corner or to 1973 at another. Never back to a happy past, though, but back to a desperate post-war Japan mired in poverty.
This area is the setting and location of Yoshihiko Matsui's radically nihilist Noisy Requiem. This black and white movie opens with a freeze frame of the main character Makoto (Kazuhiro Sano) walking straight through the homeless ghetto of Kamagasaki. The freeze-frame springs to life, and he walks absent-mindedly towards the camera. Cut to him feeding pigeons in the park, then taking out a claw-hammer and killing a bunch of them. Whistling, he lays down on a park bench and rips the heads off the dead birds. Shots of ghastly homeless shuffling through Kamagasaki, shots of Makoto killing women in dirty backlots next to busy railway lines, cutting organs out of their bellies and stuffing them in a garbage bag. Makoto and a mannequin doll on the rooftop of the abandoned warehouse where he lives. He cuts the mannequin a vagina and stuffs the bloody entrails of the murdered women in there.
We are still right at the beginning of the movie at this point, and not a line of dialog has been spoken. The first spoken lines come from two uniformed schoolgirls who wander through the park where Makoto has killed the pigeons.
While they sit down near two blind war veteran buskers, one of them tells her previous night's dream to the other. There was a boy feeding pigeons, she says, and there was one white pigeon that couldn't get any of the grain because the many other grey pigeons constantly got in its way. So, the white pigeon turned black ... it became a crow. Suddenly the scenery changed, she explains, crows fed on thousands of dead people. The white pigeon that had turned into a crow joins in. The girl walks over to the buskers and gives them some money, then continuing: "Everybody turns into a crow when they're hungry."
Now, this is the key line of the movie. All characters in the film are desperately hungry for something humane: mainly for love but for some characters a little bit of tender attention or at least some basic form of acceptance will do. Being constantly denied any of this, they all turn into vicious crows. Or rather, extremely troubled humans. Shortly after the girls leave, Makoto enters the scene. He insults the busking war veterans and questions the war credits they claim, accusing them of being "lazy Koreans" who "did nothing during the war". He gets his claw hammer out and ... well, I'm not going to describe the scene. You've got to watch it. Interesting thing is, though, that Makoto comes off at that moment as an extreme Korean-hating fanatic. In fact, later moments in the movie suggest that he is more likely to be a closet Korean himself.
The plot continues with Makoto getting a job as an underground sewage line cleaner, working for an incestuous brother-sister midget couple. He is wildly in love with the mannequin he has stuffed with the organs of the women he had killed - in order to give it the means to bear his child. A crazy, sex-starved bum who takes advantage of the same mannequin when Makoto is not around will meet a gruesome fate in a particularly memorable scene.
In short, virtually everybody who shows up in the movie has already reached the end of the line in some respect at the point at which they are introduced... they had already been transformed from the virgin white pigeons to the black crow. But from the moment they appear, things get invariably worse for all of them. Death is the only way out and death doesn't come easily in this film.
Add to that the rough guerilla street-level b&w photography done right in the midst of the Kamagasaki homeless area and a cast that includes a host of truly bizarre characters played by unknown but terribly convincing actors and you got a movie that looks like its emerged straight out of hell. And with guerilla filmmaking I mean guerilla filmmaking: I don't know about any other Japanese filmmaker who would have a character of his film setting the entire rooftop of an abandoned building right in the middle of the city on fire, obviously without any permission, film it from a neighbouring rooftop, then sneak back and shoot the unsuspecting firefighters as they are dealing with the inferno.
When writer-director Yoshihiko Matsui finished his script, nobody thought there would be any way of transferring those typed pages into actual images on celluloid. By that time, in 1983, Matsui had already been a member of Shuji Terayama's radical avant-garde theater group for a few years. Terayama, himself no stranger to controversy over his works (especially his ground-breaking film Emperor Tomato Ketchup from 1971) and generally being considered one of most provocative Japanese artists of the time, commented: "It would be a scandal if this script were actually to be made into a motion picture."
Matsui, however, had an extensive background in no-holds-barred filmmaking and he had heard the word "impossible" too many times before to be bothered by such comments. He had been a founding member of Kyo-eisha, the filmmakers' group led by Sogo Ishii when he started out as a film student making punk rock biker movies in the 1970s. Matsui worked as assistant director on quite a number of those early Ishii adrenaline overflow adventures, like on his 1976 Panic High School and his roller-coaster biker battle pic Crazy Thunder Road (1980). Ishii himself was the director of photography on Matsui's first own production Rusty Empty Can (1979). Matsui's second film, Pig-Chicken-Suicide (1981) was a painful examination of a failed love story between a Zainichi boy and girl. Though graphic in the details (lots of animal butchery) and featuring a final scene of the girl masturbating in her room to Emperor Hirohito's speech announcing Japan's surrender in the Pacific War while the boy is spying on her before being blown off her veranda by a rainstorm, Pig-Chicken-Suicide was a rather experimental film, requiring a very sober and focused mind to make sense out of what actually happened on screen. Very different from Ishii's high-speed works but somewhat closer to Terayama's often mysterious experiments.
With Noisy Requiem, Matsui finally found his own unique voice: slow-paced, intense, cruel, and telling a tale of epic proportions. It took him 5 years to realize the movie but when it finally premiered in 1988, it became an instant success on the Japanese underground scene. Punk rockers and other outsiders especially could easily identify with the characters prompted into vicious acts after repeated rejection, and their numbers were big enough to turn the film into a (modest) financial success. The movie still shows up occasionally on the Japanese underground cinema circuit and it still has plenty of hard-core fans.
It didn't make it on the international level, however. Matsui had a couple of bad run-ins with international film festival programmers and subsequently refused to have the film shown outside of Japan. The only exception he granted was to a very limited run as part of a "Japanese Cult Film" series originating in Copenhagen in early 1998 and subsequently shown in various cities in Germany and at the Oslo Film Huset.
Despite the success of Requiem, Matsui has not been able to pull off any major work since the completion of that film. But he is back at work right now, preparing his own cinematic interpretation of Natsume Soseki's classic novel I Am a Cat. Lacking major backers, this film will presumably also be shot on a shoestring budget. To finance the new project, Matsui has to get innovative about financial resources... and that may turn out to be a good thing. -
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Somewhere around the late 90's the image of Japanese film began to change. For years before that the term "Japanese film" would bring to mind the top-knotted samurai of Kurosawa and the serene, sad interiors of Ozu. The farthest into darker and more existential territory most mainstream European and North American audiences would venture might be the critically-lauded films of Hiroshi Teshigahara, typified by his 1964 film "Woman in the Dunes". Then come the 90's a whole new batch of films and film-makers began to emerge from Japan's independent and V-cinema scene that would drastically change the perception of Japanese film and the people who seek it out. People like Shinya Tsukamoto and Takashi Miike, and to a lesser extent Shozin Fukui, Kazuyoshi Kumakiri and Hisayasu Sato, began gifting us with shocking, abrasive and irreverent visions where bodies morphed, blood flowed and nary a ray of brightness would reach. In a few years North American and UK distributors were releasing films like Tsukamoto's "Tetsuo the Iron Man", Miike's "Audition", Fukui's "Rubber's Lover", Kumakiri's "Kichiku: Banquet of the Beasts" and Sato's "Splatter: Naked Blood" in stores. These films formed the dark side of the J-Horror boom, something dubbed "extreme cinema", and for young cult movie fans these pitch black visions eclipsed much of what came before from film-makers in Japan. What many didn't know is that there was a director who was working a decade before who had not only released a film that would anticipate this dramatic shift, but also drew direct inspiration from earlier classic cinema. That director was Yoshihiko Matsui and his film was "The Noisy Requiem".
At its narrative core the gritty black-and-white "The Noisy Requiem" is a serial killer film, although one that follows none of the previous or subsequent genre trappings. In the heart of Osaka's run down Shinsekai, or New World" district a killer is hiding in plain sight amongst the bums and the beggars. We first meet Makoto Iwashita (Kazuhiro Sano) as he is strangling and wrenching the head of a pigeon. It's only seconds later that we see that his cruelty is in no way limited to animals. What follows is a montage sequence in which we see Iwashita at work, killing women in back alleys by bashing them over the head with a small crowbar and then carving out their reproductive organs. What he does with these is shove them into a cavity he has hollowed out between the legs of a wooden mannequin which he has lovingly laid out on a bed on his rooftop hideaway. Stomach-churning indeed, but somehow Matsui, who also wrote the screenplay for "The Noisy Requiem", begins to make us somehow empathize with this most anti of anti-heroes. One way he does this is to introduce us to a series of other Shinsekai natives equally as repulsive as Iwashita.

There are a pair of street musician/ beggars, both injured and shell-shocked WW2 veterans who howl and contort on a street corner. Iwashita isn't even convinced these two are Japanese and he brutally beats them, but still they return to their street corner. There is a homeless man portrayed by butoh dancer Isamu Ohsuga who is caked with dirt and feces and drags around a log with an instant resemblance to a woman's buttocks and groin. There are the midget siblings, bother and sister, whom Iwashita gets a job from. The sister was burnt as a child and bares horrible scars on her torso. When she isn't spending time masturbating with an electric dildo she is having relations with her own brother, something that was apparently dictated in their mother's will so that her daughter would know what being with a man was like. Iwashita lays beside his terrifying bride each night pondering the people, horrible like "jellyfish" who are "shoved into his eyes" each day. Navigating amongst this knot of grotesque creatures are a silent couple -- a young man and a little girl. Their presence is a calming one often accompanied by melancholic piano music. If looking for an easy interpretation then these other homicidal, homeless and incestuous denizens of Osaka's underworld might be demons while the young man and the girl are possible angels in the scenario. Even they dramatically fall from grace in the final third of the film though, giving us some of the most shocking images and ideas in "The Noisy Requiem".
As we first watch "The Noisy Requiem" we wonder two thing. First, we wonder if the debased characters that inhabit the film aren't just everyday folk as seen through Iwashita's lens of hatred and violence. This would give us as an audience an easy way to interpret Matsui's film, or maybe escape or distance ourselves from some of its more nauseating imagery. We soon learn, though, that Iwashita is just one of many damaged and deranged individuals that crawl through the muck of Shinsekai. It's a realization that both gives "The Noisy Requiem" its power, as well as making it a film that many have had problems sitting through. If Iwashita is just another human whose darkest fantasies have erupted into his conscious life then what does that say about us as audience members and fellow human beings?
That brings us to the second thing we wonder, why? Why the violence, why the depravity heaped up by Matsui and "shoved into our eyes" in the same way Iwashita is assaulted by his own world? That brings us to Matsui's important place in Japanese film history. One of Matsui's self-confessed creative heroes was avant-garde poet, playwright and film-maker Shuji Terayama. This is the same Terayama whose remarkable films have yet to catch on in North America due to his debut feature, also a gritty black-and-white film called "Emperor Tomato Ketchup". It, like "The Noisy Requiem", is set in a decaying and surreal world, but it also features simulated sexual encounters involving minors. This has made Terayama, a major intellectual figure in Japan, verboten in the U.S. and Canada. Matsui doesn't take his power to shock though just from Terayama. One only needs to look at the 1960's films of New Wave pioneer Shohei Imamura to see the tradition from which Matsui has come. From 1961's "Pigs and Battleships" straight through to 1968's "Profound Desire of the Gods" the world of Imamura was one steeped in murder, obsession, lust, pornography, incest and black humour. As Imamura was often quoted as saying, "I am interested in the relationship of the lower part of the human body and the lower part of the social structure." Yes, the characters in "The Noisy Requiem" are extreme, but they would not look out of place in the Imamura universe. Instead of being connected to the waist down "lower part of the human body" though Matsui's characters inhabit the creases in our flesh, between our legs, under our armpits, in places we never see, can't reach, the places that breed disease, but are still necessary to our being. Maybe it's this that today's "extreme" film-makers draw from when looking at a film like "The Noisy Requiem".
The work of Yoshihiko Matsui is a wonderful, if often uncomfortable, bridge between the likes of Imamura and Terayama and contemporary violent and confrontational films that pack theatres at genre film festivals worldwide. Impossible to find legally in North America and very expensive to purchase in Japan, "The Noisy Requiem" is a revolting masterpiece, revolting in the true dual meaning of being both at times disgusting, but always revolutionary. A difficult dose of film, but one that is well worth the effort. - Chris MaGee

Yoshihiko Matsui's Noisy Requiem is a guttural howl of a film, a quietly despairing, skuzzed-out travelogue through the post-industrial hell of Osaka's slums. It is a film so raw, transgressive, and aesthetically assaultive that its maker has since served out a life sentence in director's jail with little-to-no chance for parole. But behind the art-shock provocations lurks a great tenderness and compassion for its cast of marginalized outcasts and the surrealist wasteland they inhabit. Even as Matsui's art-damaged guerilla aesthetics—the blown-out black and white imagery, droning soundscapes, and frenzied handheld camerawork—threaten to discomfort and go for the big dyspeptic gut-punch, the film itself flirts with something between empathy and full-bore repulsion. It jolts us with violence and heaped-on grotesqueries, buries us in a sea of puke, blood, trash, and shit, and yet it still seethes with quiet longing and a very real sense of sadness. All those misguided expressions of love kinda sting. Review by Chuck Williamson

Absolutely massive in a way few films are, capturing so much of the misery, hatred, and cruelty lurking under the surface of polite society without any of the pretensions that mission usually comes with. Just raw, beautiful ero-guro grime. I think Matsui has become a favorite director in just two films.Review by Perry, the Thing Forsaken by God

Amazing visuals and full of a lot of great absurdist and deadpan comedy, but apart from that it's just an overly long and poorly paced film.
The direction is okay, the effects are hot garbage, and the score made me want to cut off my ears and swallow them whole.
Disappointing overall, really wish it did more with the comedy and punk as fuck style of filmmaking it was going for. I'm not completely turned off by Matsui, but I'm definitely not sold on him either.

Impossible to describe. A horror-meditation on humiliation, pain, and suffering among the dregs of the slums of Osaka. Director Yoshihiko Matsui captures some of the most grotesque and haunting images I've ever seen on 16mm film that must have come from the same depths of hell that captured Tobe Hooper's masterpiece THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974). And much like Hooper, Matsui captures the nihilism that has befallen an unwilling group of individuals that are not exactly punished...but more so guided to the end of their rope. Review by Michael

Michael Robinson - Light Is Waiting (2007)

Image result for Michael Robinson - Light Is Waiting (2007)

Popularno je misliti da je popkultura dimenzija ispunjena demonima. Što onda može učiniti egzorcizam jednoga od njih?



A very special episode of television's Full House devours itself from the inside out, excavating a hypnotic nightmare of a culture lost at sea. Tropes of video art and family entertainment face off in a luminous orgy neither can survive.- Michael Robinson

“If you see one 11-minute video this year, make it Michael Robinson's magnificent, hilarious, and terrifying Light Is Waiting (2007). The primordial, extreme slo-mo soundtrack is like a glitch mix from beyond the grave by DJ Screw. Robinson's seizure-inducing blasts of stroboscopic light rival those of the Austrian film experimentalist Peter Tscherkassky. And I haven't even mentioned the Olsen twins … Light Is Waiting exorcises American pop cultural demons via video the way Kenneth Anger did with film in 1964's Scorpio Rising.”-- Johnny Ray Huston, San Francisco Bay Guardian, April 2008

 4:3 INTERVIEW: read here
 ARTINFO REVIEW: read here
 FRIEZE REVIEW: read here
 DAZED ARTICLE: read here
 IDIOM ARTICLE: read here

Michael Robinson (b.1981) is a film, video and collage artist whose work explores the joys and dangers of mediated experience, riding the fine lines between humor and terror, nostalgia and contempt, ecstasy and hysteria. His work has screened in both solo and group shows at a variety of festivals, museums, and galleries including The 2012 Whitney Biennial, The International Film Festival Rotterdam, The New York Film Festival, The Walker Art Center, Berlinale, MoMA P.S.1, The London Film Festival, REDCAT Los Angeles, The Wexner Center for the Arts, The Sundance Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, Tate Modern, Media City, The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, The Images Festival, The Ann Arbor Film Festival, and the Toronto, San Francisco, Melbourne, Leeds, Vienna, Singapore and Hong Kong International Film Festivals. He was the recipient of a 2014 MacDowell Colony Fellowship, a 2012 Creative Capital grant, a 2011-2012 Film/Video Residency Award from The Wexner Center for the Arts, a 2012 Kazuko Trust Award, a 2009 residency from The Headlands Center for the Arts, and his films have received awards from numerous festivals. Michael was featured as one of the "Best 50 Filmmakers Under 50" by Cinema Scope magazine in 2012, and listed as one of the top ten avant-garde filmmakers of the 2000's by Film Comment magazine, and his work has been discussed in publications such as Art In America, Frieze, Artforum, Art Papers, The Village Voice, Time Out New York, Dazed and Confused, The Nation, BOMBlog, and The Brooklyn Rail. He has curated programs for San Francisco Cinematheque, Whitechapel Gallery, The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Cornell Cinema, and The State Contemporary Art Center in Moscow, and served on the awards juries of The Ann Arbor Film Festival, The Aurora Festival, The Big Muddy Film Festival, and Migrating Forms. Michael holds a BFA from Ithaca College, an MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), and has taught at Binghamton University, UIC, and Otis College of Art and Design.


Onward Lossless Follows
Michael Robinson’s newest video work, Onward Lossless Follows (2017), takes a trip over desert landscapes to the great digital future unknown. Along the way, stock videos show women celebrating in front of their laptops, horses fly, and an unsettling meet-up burgeons into a relationship full of love and loss. It’s par for the course for Robinson’s remixing of footage that’s plenty “off” all on its own, but, under Robinson’s control, points to just how weird our collective culture can be. His Light Is Waiting (2007) damned Full House through a kaleidoscopic Tartarus, and his These Hammers Don’t Hurt Us (2010) took Michael Jackson to heaven (or somewhere nicer) by way of Liz Taylor. However, his career as visual cultural critic is at its most disturbing in this latest work as he implements internet culture: stock videos, text chat, and other digital artifacts that feel sharp and hyper-real compared to his usual fuzzy, nostalgic outlook. I talked with Michael Robinson after Onward Lossless Follows’s U.S. premiere at the 55th New York Film Festival.
 W. Lewis (Rail): A few of your films have been gaining awareness outside the usual experimental film crowd. What has the experience of "going viral" been for you?
Michael Robinson: Oh, have I gone viral? I don't know. I feel like the work that I've had online that's gotten significant play hasn't broken through into actual internet fame or anything. I did share a clip from The Dark, Krystle on Instagram that then got turned into a meme briefly. That was maybe getting millions of views, but there was nothing attaching that to me or to the film or anything. It was just like an “Alexis is drinking, TGIF!” kind of thing. That felt pretty weird because I was like, “What the hell, can't I get something out of this?” But the nature of making this kind of work is that it’s not really going to make any profits. I don't want to spend time thinking about how to make the most out of something like that. I feel like it would be great to go viral with videos, but I still feel like the headaches that might come with that are significant.
Rail: Why do you think people gravitate toward Light is Waiting in particular? That’s the one with the most views on your Vimeo page.
Robinson: Yeah. I think maybe the way that the beginning moments of that film are unaltered is pretty easy to get into. I mean, you are essentially just watching TV for two minutes before [an aggressive flicker effect] kicks in, and I think the sort of joke of it is so easy and obvious. You know, just the kind of pulling apart of the dumb sitcom is accessible enough. But I also think people's relationship to that show, whether they know it well or not, is kind of specific. It’s a pretty satisfying thing for people to experience—seeing something that squeaky clean and aggressively banal turned on its head. I mean a lot of people seem to think of that as a pretty psychedelic druggy film or something? The joke of Full House becoming an acid trip is appealing in some way. I don’t think the psychedelia in my films is all that related to drugs at all, but I think just in terms of the pairing of that material with that treatment is a joke that people get. Also, that was on Artforum’s website, and I know it gets a lot of use there still, so it’s just a matter of when I put things online and what stuck and what didn’t.
Rail: You come from the MFA program at the University of Illinois. Was that a big formative experience for you?
Robinson: Yeah, totally. That was great. It’s a really intense two-year program. I wanted to go somewhere where I could mostly work on video, but within the context of a broader arts community. I loved it. I worked with Deborah Stratman as my advisor. She was super influential and taught me a lot about sound. I always gravitated towards the same kind of subtle motifs, and she really opened up my work in that way.
Rail: There’s a very specific way those early videos look—especially All Through the Night (2008) and We All Shine On (2006). There’s a texture like having the camera too close to a CRT television, and so you get those scan lines. Is that a particular texture that you want to come back to?
Robinson: I guess the experience of being close to a TV like that usually would mean you’re obsessing over something or have recorded something off the TV, or are trying to find something in an image that I think can lend a level of urgency or maybe perversion to film. I spent a lot of those years staring at a TV, playing video games, or watching the same movies over and over again on degrading VHS tapes. In some ways the aesthetics of older TVs maybe does feel kind of emotional in some way.
Rail: Your films are also very musical. The films themselves kind of follow the rhythm of a song, and they usually have some sort of crescendo. Do you have this sort of rhythm in mind when you’re starting a project, or does it naturally fall into place with your material?
Robinson: I think that falls into place as I edit. I often start with more of a feeling that I want to encircle than a rhythm. Something like These Hammers Don’t Hurt Us which has lots of little pieces coming out of darkness and a sort of more open moaning on the soundtrack. That came about where I had many chunks and versions and slowly moved things together to see what created a kind of forward momentum. And something like in the new film Onward Lossless Follows, which also has a lot of distinct sections, but they’re longer and allowed to be themselves. 
Rail: Can you speak about narration and the wild stories in your most recent work? I’m thinking about Mad Ladders (2015), Line Describing Your Mom (2011), If There Be Thorns (2009), and Onward Lossless Follows.
Robinson: I tend to think of the work as narrative from the get-go. I feel like the emotional build of the film only happens through having enough sense of narrative that there’s something at stake. I get a lot of inspiration and satisfaction from narrative, and that seeps into my work pretty directly. I like the idea of having the semblance of a narrative without actual characters or plot that carves out the feeling and the emotional thrust of storytelling. It comes out of editing and gravitating towards specific moments or specific lines of voice or text. The ghost of a narrative happens in the films through the process of figuring out the image and the sounds, too. I knew I wanted These Hammers Don’t Hurt Us to feel like Liz Taylor taking Michael Jackson into the afterlife, but I didn’t know how that would come about.
Rail: I just revisited your longer non-appropriated film Circle in the Sand (2012). Is that kind of work something you’re interested in returning to? I know you’re currently working on I’ll Be Thunder, which is going to be a feature project, right?
Robinson: It’s coming. I’ll Be Thunder was originally conceived as a second half to Circle in the Sand. Not exactly a sequel but more of a twin film that could maybe be shown alongside it. But, by the time I had finished Circle in the Sand my ideas for I’ll Be Thunder had somewhat shifted. Making [Circle in the Sand] also taught me that if I were to make another longer narrative like that, I want to do it with a real script and less of a spacey improvisational approach. I’ll Be Thunder will be a much more accessible character-based narrative.
Rail: I particularly like the moments in Circle in the Sand when the characters are almost miniature Michael Robinsons piecing together little bits of culture they find and trying to make sense of it.
Robinson: If there was a script for Circle in the Sand, it would be mostly lists and drawings of those moments of the characters dealing with junk and details of culture. I think making a film of that length and with that level of narrative, the editing was actually really challenging to figure out. I love that film. I think I'm going to put that on Vimeo this week. I broke it down into five chapters, so it can look a little better. Somehow it seems like watching a 45-minute film is a drag. People will watch a little and then get up to go do something else. The pieces work well. I feel like showing segments of it, or chapters, along with my other films has actually been pretty satisfying.
Rail: Onward Lossless Follows is a strange title. Would explaining it take away part of the mystery here?
Robinson: I mean, I started with the title, which is often the case. A title will arrive from wherever, and I'll sit on it for a while until a given film kind of feels like it belongs. I guess there's two ways in which you can read it. There's “onward lossless will follow” meaning that I can keep going because the future will be better. There's also “onward lossless follows” where “follows” is more in the social media sense—sort of submitting to the present as a way to get out of it. That's probably the more accurate interpretation.
Rail: What's the source of all the astrology talk in the beginning? Where'd you find that?
Robinson: The preacher? That I found online—I can't remember his name. He was like a radio, a preacher out of a church in LA in the 70s and 80s and his sermons are all archived online, but I had heard that one in particular while I was driving across country. I think I was in Tennessee and was just totally struck by how strange the mix of religious anger and all this talk of Venus and what felt pretty anti-science and anti-astrology. I listened to a couple of hours of various sermons, but none of them had anything that really spoke to me in that way, so I just used this one and edited out most of the religious details.
Rail: I remember that “Stranger Danger” clip that you used very well. The text conversation that comes after makes it both so disturbing and hilarious.
Robinson: Yeah, I mean, it's obviously not funny subject matter but the combination of cheap production value and non-professional actors is so charming and strange and kind of overrides whatever is happening. I can remember watching those types of films as a kid, too, and I mostly gravitated toward how weird the whole thing felt.
Rail: You used the flicker effect to a particularly violent degree here, but not as one of your crescendos, like whenever it's used in Light is Waiting. What's your relationship to the flicker here? Why institute it in this film?
Robinson: Generally, I feel like it's a way to add a level of overwhelmingness and chaos to a part of the film. Often that does occur as more of a crescendo, but it sort of arranges various parts of the storylines in Onward Lossless Follows. I like the way it starts with the flicker and then returns halfway through for a while and shows up a little bit at the end. It felt more like one of the many pieces that pops in and out and slowly forms a relationship with what's around it. I don't have an exact "the flicker means this” kind of definition.
Rail: I like to imagine Onward Lossless Follows as almost a Western. You have a lot of desert traveling shots, the horse at the very end, a couple of guys doing manual labor, and America's “Horse with No Name.”
Robinson: I like that. I've been living in LA for a few years now, so I feel like I have spent a fair amount of time going out to the desert. The spirit of the love story that takes place, that kind of spacey Western feeling, and the preacher talking about drought and outer space also feels like a Western.
Rail: I'm kind of surprised this is your first time using stock video footage in a film. That seems like something you would gravitate towards, and here it's used to a cheesy end, like to show a cartoonish version of celebration. People ecstatically staring at their laptops and clapping.
Robinson: I wasn't aware you could browse so much stock video online. I was instantly amazed at how much there was of this specific thing, particularly women at computers ecstatically celebrating. I mean it is a pretty gendered thing, there are definitely lots of businessmen doing similar, but it's not the same throw-hands-up-in-the-air celebration. With them, it's way more fist pump: “Yo bro, I did it!” It felt like a weirdly dark and commercial ceremonial thing. Usually these are geared towards the idea of business success, or money coming in, or getting the deal in some way. That combination of person-computer financial success felt really dark to me. I imagined them as the choir or the audience of the preacher's sermon.
Rail: Have you seen any good movies recently?
Robinson: I saw a lot at the New York Film Festival. I love Flores, Jorge Jácome's film. I loved Jesse McLean's new film. And I should probably not mention too many because then I won't mention others. I did really enjoy mother! which I know is getting trashed as the worst thing ever. And it really is a horrible movie, but I got a lot out of how horrible it is. I don't think he knows what he's doing, but somehow I really enjoyed the whole thing. I feel like I saw a lot of movies this summer that I expected to enjoy and sort of just snoozed through. This definitely wasn't a snooze; it was something I'll remember