Directors Lounge 2008 • Berlin, february 7-17

Thursday, February 14

The chicken Tetsuo thing

(JB) I'd like to expand a bit on the chicken Tetsuo thing from my last post, as there was another film by Allan Brown, “The Millard Symphony” (2007), shown during yesterday's screening which ventured even further into industrial territory (also, funnily, Merce Rodrigo Garcia showed some clips from Tokyo Fist during her lecture, a later film by Tesuo director Shinya Tsukamoto). The “Millard Symphony” is a longer film than “Uncle Cluck”, assembled from several pieces of various filmed & found footage showing everything from a sheep herd to scenes which look like they have been shot during rather unfortunate experiments with mental patients. Also, while the shorter film had relied on the off-camera narration, this one has a far more complex soundtrack, including the typical machine samples of industrial music. There has always been a kind of neighbourhood between the industrial music scene and experimental film-making, and especially the one including either found footage or the production of seemingly archival and artificially damaged or aged materials. There's Derek Jarman's work with London experimental band Throbbing Gristle, and of course the music video to Ministry's popular “Jesus built my hot rod” single, with various clips of found footage mixed with shots of the band performing; Mark Romanek then tried to re-create an even more “archival” look in his video for industrial rock's Nine Inch Nail's “Closer” – there's even a fake archival title card at the beginning. While it's a style thing in the end, the proximity of industrial music & experimental film might come from a mutual suspicion of an essential corruption of the technically produced sound and image, with the artists seemingly exposing the most irrational – and irrationally abrasive – qualities of their respective means of production.

Because I had already written on four of Wednesday's films in my postings on the opening last week, I'll pick out two more films from Tuesday's shows. Angelica Chio's short “I'm off to Mexico” from 2007 is a clever take on dialogue in the time of the internet; Chio chopped up one scene from a 1943 Mexican film and re-built it as a series of text lines from a web forum or chat, with the first appearance of each character recorded as their joining time and a counter for each “post”. It's a simple idea, but also a reference to the linearity of the dramatic dialogue employed by mainstream narrative cinema.

“D R I F T (Promontory Point)” by Eric Fleischauer and Jesse McLean, shown during the Urban Resarch screening, is a piece which somehow continues the surveillance topic of some of the previous entries. This is a kind of rogue surveillance, though; Fleischauer and McLean have attached a wireless camera to a drifting weather balloon, and there is no sense of control or voyeurism in the transmitted. While there are D R I F T films covering various cities and landscapes, “Promontory Point” shows a piece of land in Chicago, which was also the site of a radar tower for a nearby missile defence system until 1971; it felt rather uncanny that the video image broke down again and again, as if the ghosts of Cold War technology somehow tried to secure their former homestead and disrupt any unauthorised monitoring.

“Mobility”, a short film by Hungarian artists Tibor Gulyás & Balázs Irimiás from 2003, takes the viewer on a trip through Budapest, ignoring troublesome obstacles such as walls or other solid manifestations of the urban layout. While the film did strive a bit to obviously for mainstream appeal with its recurring images of partying and other forms of recreation – it's a bit like a horizontal version of the Pepsi “Jump” commercial minus the mayhem – the editing and the use of camera zoom is virtually flawless. It seemed like the most close take on the First Person Shooter video game genre you might get with non-interactive film, without the shooting, obviously; the movement within the film displayed the same kind of absolute linearity like the one-way spaces in video games, which are meant to be traversed in the fastest and most direct possible way, with just some short breaks for the cinematics.

See you later, JB