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From A Little Death, which besides the running sequence, is this kind of closed, boxed-in dollhouse, also with the static shots and long takes.
Not sure I have too much to say about that movie, feels like another person made it, and I guess one did, but, at the very least, I suppose you can say the actors went from characters to landscape, so maybe I was a better director of the landscape, since it can’t really be directed anyway.
I don’t know, I feel like A Little Death also treats its characters as these pre-found objects, these bodies in motion.
Well, at this point I’m really not interested in all of those boxed-in, long take Haneke, Seidl movies, so on, all these inexpressive characters doomed by an inexpressive camera. It’s this idea, one that probably hits way too close to my Catholic upbringing, that we deserve to be punished, but then can gloat that since we accepted our punishment, at least we’re not hypocrites like everyone else. We’re supposed to be grateful bourgeois to the Herr director for these punishing experiences, like the bourgeois on-screen are supposed to be grateful to their savage avengers. It’s that self-righteous view of the directors that seems really hypocritical. The long takes pretend to be non-judgmental while snooting their nose at involving themselves in the action. So you get this extremely condescending, extremely judgmental perspective that takes refuge in its “ambiguous” refusal to actually put the action in any kind of perspective. This faÇade of patience when everything is preordained.
Even actual patience can become a pretense of objectivity, a one-sided conversation as bad as those TV reports in which the voice-over is running ramshackle over the subject. If you use a single, fixed take to avoid imposing terms on your material, you only end up with more constricted terms. I mean, A Little Death really came from that impulse to avoid all that shit of camerawork and editing that tells you what to think, or what the character is thinking. That’s obvious, maybe even most in guys like Hitchcock or Argento, who made the kind of films I’d love to make if I lived in some alternate universe. You know, if Argento just gave you a fixed angle from the back of a scene, it would be unbearable, watching two actors existing only as bodies beating the shit out of each other. But that subjective camerawork could only work in an artificial, candy-colored fantasy world, in which we accept that all the rules are invented on-screen and inescapably repeated. Like a Minnelli movie. That sense of complicity and involvement only works in a visceral world we don’t believe in: as soon as they put us in the perspective of the torturer’s eyes, we’ll adopt the perspective of the victim whom we can see, just as much, if not more. Comedy always goes with horror like it goes with musicals. It’s a speculative universe, and that camerawork is part of that speculation.
But how to respect your objects by opening up a dialogue between camera and actor, subject and object isn’t easy. What you really need is a pirated copy of Final Cut Pro, a laptop, and a good book to read while things render.
It’s a way of letting things speak for themselves?
GT: A way of letting them speak through my voice? [Laughs] Well, I almost called Physical Instincts, my Cronenberg video, “Mute Speech,” but then I realized I’m not very good at keeping quiet. Adorno’s “the true language of art is mute,” the language of form, seems almost the radical opposite that RanciÈre attempt at no idea but in things. Here it’s no idea but in pixels. Puns over ideas.
As it stands, the name of the game is that cinema is a language, probably the first one most kids learn now, but at least it’s one every movie can invent as it goes along. Take it up as a preexistent language to impose in long, static takes on your friends and whoever else you can sucker into watching, and you’re not revealing anything about them, you’re just making them speak in a foreign tongue. I can understand the need for that estrangement from the most familiar things around us. But you objectify the world, and it’s no better than a movie.
Whereas Traveling Light feels like this totally abstract movie that keeps trying to obtain a kind of objectivity on what it’s filming.
Hmm... I don’t know? Maybe it’s the opposite, actually. Think about Oph&uunl;ls and those train scenes in Letter from an Unknown Woman and even Madame de… The characters are sitting still on a train watching a passing landscape, but it turns out the movement was a simulation and they actually were sitting still, just as they appeared to be. The deception is only our projection to begin with. The characters on trains are moving, but see themselves as stuck in place, as if they were watching a movie out the window; the viewers of a movie are stuck in place, but see themselves as moving, as if they were watching something real on-screen. So you can watch these fluctuating colors in Traveling Light and try to recreate the natural conditions behind them as one reality, but the movie’s just a movie. Some Michael Snow stuff seems really obsessed with it. You were talking the other day about how Rameau’s Nephew is like Jerry Lewis, this movie universe in which the characters are stuck and trying to pinch themselves to become real. “Hearing is deceiving,” as Snow puts it, and of course it works the other way, that you leave that movie without believing any of your senses at the same time that the whole movie is super cinematic, this gaze of the viewer that mistakes itself for a body in the scene. The weather, the night, build all throughout Traveling Light, but I’m not sure if you’re watching evidence of some boring day we had, or total nonsense.
Is one better?
Probably not. Same thing, really.