Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Rotterblog (3)

Jan 31, '06

There are two kinds of raccoons in Rotterdam: the kind you see in a Seijun Suzuki movie, and the kind I saw in the backyard of my hotel this morning. Or have I just gone totally f*cking nuts? I'll have to ask the concierge about it… Speaking of furry backyard animals, the piece Imentioned in an earlier blog with the fox in the museum is by Belgian artist Francis Alÿs and is called The Nightwatch. Just thought I'd give attribution where attribution is due.

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Trading moving images for still ones during a film festival can cause one to have a strange sensation. Watching film after film, one's eyes are trained to see images that almost always reveal something new to the viewer in a few seconds or minutes, whereas still photos are frozen, they force the viewer's eye to wander around in that frozenness.

Raymond Depardon is known in the film community for his exceptional documentaries, which include the masterpiece Les années declic (a model for how autobiographical films should be made), and his "judicial trilogy", Faits Divers, Délits flagrants, and 10e chambre – Instants d'audience, which are simply as essential as any of the best films by Frederick Wiseman, the Maysles, or Ross McElwee (to cite just American documentarians).

Any film lover who digs Depardon, the filmmaker, should have a chance to see the work of Depardon, the photographer. It changed my perception of his work entirely. Depardon always struck me as having a hardnosed investigative reporter's eye, but now he seems to me like a sensitive outsider who is slightly embarrassed by what he's looking at. This is best embodied in his series of photos in a mental institution in Turin.

In a personal statement accompanying the series, Depardon writes, "I knew when I left that I would never under any circumstances return." He sounds ashamed – but his work never shows us the "quirky" surrealism that so many portraits of the mentally ill do. That would be too easy. Instead what we have is a painfully lonely look at lives which are completely foreign, frozen… The eye wanders, but one doesn't see progress; one only sees degradation. Powerful stuff.

More information at the Nederlands Fotomuseum site.

--Gabe Klinger

4 comments:

Brian said...

Actually, raccoons are strictly American animals (which is why there's a caged one in the scene where Pocahontas/Rebecca is presented to the queen in the New World), so whatever Gabe saw in his hotel backyard is either a fellow non-native traveler or something else merely raccoon-ish.

I've only seen two Depardon films yet: Profils paysans: l'approche and Quoi de neuf au Garet? and I have so say neither made a huge impression on me. I hope I get more chances to sample his work, film or still photography.

Gabe Klinger said...

Whatever I saw, it was very tanuki-like.

Bob Keser said...

Raccoons. Foxes. What next . . . weasels?

--Robert Keser

Vadim said...

Zach, thanks a lot for hosting these; I wasn't even keeping up enough to know that Rotterdam was on again. I'm especially glad to learn that Cavalier's been thriving - I was lucky enough to catch Therese once, and I'm pretty sure it's a masterpiece, but otherwise I'm in the dark and demand a retro like now - and surprised to find out that 10th District Court is an endgame, not a stand-alone work of awesomeness.

Zach, I'm also wondering if you're familiar with Ivens' How Yukong Moved The Mountains, if you're watching any of that at MoMA, and what you think. I posted on CM about The Oil Fields, and I'm too tired to recap it here.