11/28/2018

Bertolucci, the anti-fascist.

"The Conformist"
by Bernardo Bertolucci, Alberto Moravia, Vittorio Storaro

Bertolucci moved to another dimension.  Sadness.  His sensitivity, passion, and insights were way above the scale.  From my school days I remember excitement among fellow filmmaker students when his subsequent movies kept shaping our understanding of what's possible on screen.

Months ago I re-watched "The Conformist" and was impressed by its use of flashbacks.  (I wrote about it in a September post).  Most flicks fell apart moving back and forth in time.  This manouer ussually significe inability to sustain deep exploration of the main character.  "The Confromist" seems to me an example of how to move the story forward inserting parts of the hero's past into the narrative.  All for enlarging and exploring his character.  Very few movies achieve that without a cheap trick of flashbacks.  "Taxi Driver" comes to mind as an example of a profound psychological study that entirely happens in the now.

"The Conformist" is also a disturbing analysis of the lure of fascism, of the mechanism in which people are drown into the arms of a gigantic monster made out of collective weaknesses, unprocessed hurt and emotional and intellectual limitations.  The weak parts of ourselves (individually and collectively) extrapolate and return its collective power to the lost and confused individuals.   "The Conformist" shows the psychological attractivness of such a monster.   Today's relevance of this analysis cannot be ignored.

11/09/2018

Bergman or only the givers can be takers.

“Bergman, a year in life”, a film by Jane Magnusson,  
 “Bergman, sex and betrayal”, a book by Thomas Sjoberg. 

Both are fascinating because they deal with a fascination subject.  Both give intriguing details and facts.  Yet, both flirt with an accusatory tone charging that Bergman was cruel and unjust to many.  That flirt, which is not unusual when talking about giants, cheapens both accounts.   In both there are snippets of lip-service to balance the view, but the overall emotional direction is unmistakable. “How could he be so harsh, self-centred and unfair?” - the question looms in the background.   “This somehow lessens his achievements because others paid price for their creation” - seems to be the conclusion.   The presumption is based on a wrong assumption, the question is unfairly stated and never really explored.

Pity, since Bergman’s personal gifts to those around him must have been enormous.    Better understanding of those gifts would be a way to explain the level from which he dealt with reality, and to illuminate his, I suspect, enormous contributions to the lives of others.   As an artist and as a person.

Thorsten Flinck, an actor and a director who played in a stage production of “The Misanthrope” is portrayed as a super talented man brutally squashed by Bergman for altering the production, which Bergman hasn’t seen for almost year after the opening night.  The emphasis in the documentary is placed on a vicious attack by Bergman on the guy and the wound that this outburst inflicted.   Not on the production and the artistic interactions, which I guess enriched all participants tremendously.

Those who mistreat others should always be named, criticised and stopped.  Being “an artist” doesn’t give anybody a licence not to follow the rules of civil interactions with others.  At the same time there are numerous cases of theatre directors who are ruthless, short tempered, who don’t suffer fools gladly and yet who elevate those who know how to listen to their new highs.

I suspect Bergman was just faster than most and often didn’t have patience for those who didn’t grasp his ways.  On a personal level it’s intriguing that Liv Ulman in the documentary says he hasn’t ever done anything to hurt her.

10/02/2018

Was Lear a director?

King Lear, directed by Jonathan Munby

Every time I watch "King Lear" I am perplexed that the initial events are staged in a gallop that somehow makes the intentions of the main character fuzzy.

The latest with the giant Ian McKellen is no exception.  This approach opens the question what motivated Lear to act this way.  Dementia?  Madness?   

I would love to see a production where Lear would at first be calculating, a somehow amused director who sets things in motion just to see the limits of human nature.   He maintains this curiosity as the events snowball and later expends it not only to those dearest to him but also to himself.    

Surely there had to be such a take on the Bard.   I would appreciate some pointers.

9/30/2018

Ethics from above

The space - before the screening 

 Jean Pierre Lasota-Hirszowicz 
about his friend Marek Siemek

"The View from a Cathedral" is mostly about friendship, loyalty and ethics.  Three main characters are philosophers Marek Siemek and Bronisław Baczko and astrophysicist Jean-Pierre Lasota-Hirszowicz

In a magical/ serendipitous turn of events the first public screening of the film took place in the astronomical observatory in Olsztyn.   The images were projected high above the viewers on a surface for the sky and the stars.

Later there was a panel on philosophy and film.  Philosophy represented - Dariusz Barbaszyński, Ph.D.,  film studies - Aleksandra Drzał-Sierocka, Ph.D., history - Artur Sobiela, Ph.D.,  film practice - yours truly.  The discussion was moderated by Magdalena Drozdowicz.

 the panel
the audience

The location seemed so natural and the subject discussed so fundamental  ("how can we...?", "is it possible...?", "why Siemek?") that only afterwards I realized the connection between the screen presence of the renown astronomer and the venue.  Furthermore it is prof. Lasota who in the film directly voices ethical concerns.

Siemek was a Kantian philosopher and so the statement "starry heavens above me and and the moral law within me" got a pretty appropriate framing due to the choice of the venue.  

Big thank you to Dorota Sepczyńska, Ph.D. who conceived and organized the event.  
  • “Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me. I do not seek or conjecture either of them as if they were veiled obscurities or extravagances beyond the horizon of my vision; I see them before me and connect them immediately with the consciousness of my existence.”  -  Immanuel Kant
the panel photo by Wioletta Mądzelewska 

9/23/2018

More of Siemek

Marek Żmiejewski talks about his friend, prof. Marek Siemek

Initially I posted on youtube a few interviews about Marek Siemek - I thought they would make a supplementary material for "The View from a Cathedral".   In the process of working with them however, I changed my mind.

I have made the interviews already online private and stopped uploading the new ones.  Out of the interviews I gathered in the process of making the film I have decided to cut another project, a companion of sort to "The View from a Cathedral."  It will most likely be named "Beyond a Cathedral".   Stay tuned. 

9/21/2018

Mastery of flashbacks



"The Conformist" is the only movie that organically moves back and forth between flashbacks and the present.  Others, even the great ones, have jolts and require momentary re-organization of perception.  In "The Conformist" every step backward in time moves forward the narrative.   Another aspect of the flashbacks is that usually they act as a padding device or a cheap way out from the inability to sustain a tension of the present (for example "The man named Ove", or otherwise incredible "Femina" by Szulkin).  No so in "The Conformist".

On another subject:  There is an interesting dialogue between Storraro and Bertolucci about shooing "The Conformist".   Particularly the part when Storraro explains how he handled with light the Plato's metaphor of the cave.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5RRhqrPuE4