Thursday, January 19, 2012

Broomberg / Egoyan / Chanarin

When I think about why my films deal with voyeurism, it's because that's part of what we all seek out of any film image. Making people aware of the deeply rooted desire they have to escape into a screen image is something that I find really stirring. And I think part of that is addressing exactly what it is that they're expecting to see, and then playing with that or finally delivering that, but only after some sort of process of resistance.

Words: Atom Egoyan
Images: Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin (from the must have book - Fig)

Friday, January 13, 2012


Earlier today, while I flicked through script pages to rewrite, trying to think of bomb proof solutions, I indulged in a little procastinatory desktop clean up and found some images that I shot during a film that I made a few years back - 'Skin'. It was a brilliant and strange shoot. Over a few weeks we filmed with taxidermists willing to work with human skin, international experts on rare moths, vellum conservators, 18th century botanical academics, funeral directors, yakuza skin preservationists and, of course, the incredible subjects of the film, eX de Medici* and Geoff Ostling. Sometimes this working life is a very strange one. Now, back to it.

* eX de Medici: "You need to be a blunt edged instrument. I’ll describe an incident so you understand what I mean. I went to the cinema recently with a friend of mine – I used to go to the cinema a lot but I hadn’t been in a quite a few years. I sat down and they were playing the ads before the main feature. The sound and the vision were incredible like this way and that[waving her arms about] ... and everybody was just sitting there and so I thought ‘geez, this is a blunt edge instrument’. My friend couldn’t hear me but I was yelling in her ear, ‘if this is what people are used to, fuck, we’ll have to change our tactics’. If people are so desensitised to everything then a mild clobbering by me is going to look subtle."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Loneliness of the Long Distance Filmmaker

"The possibility of making a new cinema completely outside the system depends on whether or not filmmakers can transform themselves from 'directors' into total filmmakers. And no one can become a total filmmaker without being a film technician, without being capable of handling the production."

words: Fernando Solanas
image: Morgan Massen

Monday, January 9, 2012

A list, of Sorts

The end of the year is always spilling over with dozens of film, music and literary critics listing their top tens/twenties/fifties/hundreds. These kids have time on their hands and a year full of notes and knowledge with which to create their lists. I only wish that I felt that, in any given year, I had seen enough or read enough or listened to enough to feel like I was anywhere near an authoritative position to foist a list on an unsuspecting overfed public who spend a week over the new year getting drowned with righteous compilations of 'can't believe you never copped this slept on work of genius' type lists.

But, lists, in themselves, like blogs, are basically self-serving affirmations of taste and authority. Having said that, I do always scour the lists of the critics I dig and make little reminders to myself of albums to buy, books to read, films to watch - so there is a little bit of froth with the fat. So, in the interests of self-service, and given my already declared preference for Borgesian lists, here is my overdue list of 'tops' for 2011. It's late, I know, but sheesh, I had waves to catch and sand to conceal in my folds. Many of these things are not necessarily 'of' 2011 (I am still catching up on lists from the mid 2000s). Many were made before. But for me the things below began to exist in 2011 when I got them in my fat little hands and they burnt my eyeballs, or broke my heart, or made me weak, or despair, or inflate, or run.

Hail. One of the few things on this list that was actually made in 2011. I wrote about this film already. Directed by local bru' Amiel Courtin-Wilson, in collaboration with a bunch of folks who are equally responsible for the film's creation, this is one of my favourite film things of the year. It is a beautiful, pristine, messy, reckless film that was also made with a spirit of genuine adventure. It is wildly ambitious, mythic, violent, lovelorn and more interesting than the sum of most other local films that came out. 

La Teta Asustada. XXY. Alamar. Madeinusa. Los Viajes Del Viento. El Vuelco del Cangrejo. La Niña Santa. Watched in 2011. This was my year of trying desperately to catch up on the crazy riches of recent Latin American film. I loved each of the listed films - coming from places as varied as Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Peru - for different reasons, but what they have in common is a love for cinema that doesn't resound with the dull thud of cause/effect storytelling, and which allows for the reveling in detail, in atmosphere, in character and in place, for the sheer love, spectacle, wonder, beauty or terror of it. La Teta Asustada by Claudia Llosa and La Niña Santa by Lucrecia Martel, in particular, still haunt me and make me realise that you can keep loving cinema, even as so many national film cultures seem to be intent on beating the life out of it. It makes me proud to be a film nerd because the riches are still there to be mined for unashamed cinephiles.

The Savage Detectives, a novel by Roberto Bolaño. Read in 2011. In mid 2010 I read 2666. This book by Roberto Bolaño blew my mind a thousand times over. I have since read just about everything else he has written (well, at least, most of his novels and some of the poetry... the guy wrote a hell of a lot of stuff!). It is, for me, thrilling to read something that conceals the secrets of the world in all its brutality, and, in an age of lazy writers and dumb artists who proudly profess to ignore the work of those that has come before, it is a wild ride to be immersed in something written by someone who has an intellect and a lyricism that is beyond anything most writers can ever hope to be, touch or know. The Savage Detectives contains, to my mind, more heart and beauty than his other work. Listless and romantic but still full of madness and violence and countries imploding with political chaos. And lots and lots and lots of talk of poets and poetry. 

Pedro Costa's Fontainhas triology - Ossos, In Vanda's Room, Colossal Youth. Watched in 2011. Because it kicks ass, has balls of steel and is bolshy as hell. It doesn't give a fuck about what film should be and is true only to the spirit of the director and his relationship to the place and people he is filming. Amazing, searing. Also, it is pretty hard damned work. And, sometimes, that is a good, honest thing.

Mono. Live at The Forum Theatre. I got to film it... it was amazing. I watched as one young guy dropped his head and wept for minutes and minutes as final chords surged and swelled into a massive roar of feedback. Epic.

Loves of a Blonde by Miloš Forman. Watched in 2011. Made in 1965. Somehow I missed this in my voyages of film nerddom until January of this year. Sexy, funny, bold and brilliant. Wish someone would make a film like this around about now.

Cat Power. Live at the Theatre Royal in Castlemaine. One of the better concerts and weekends of my life. A few months later, we got to show our film 'murundak' and stage a live show at this incredible theatre and I swear it still hummed with the joy and beauty of that night. Cat Power is what a musician should be. Breakable, soulful, brilliant, batshit crazy and beautiful as hell. Like a star. An actual star. Not some paperweight face/talent with nice skin and no ballast.

Encounter - Essays by Milan Kundera. Incredible. In particular, Kundera's essay The Painter's Brutal Gesture - On Francis Bacon was my piece of writing for the year, although it had been published in other forms before. More on this essay in a post to come about humiliation and performance (don't be scared). I can think of very few pieces of writing that have taken me apart from the very first passages. This is an amazing exploration of a painter I love by a writer I love. Neither emerge unscathed by this messy confessional essay that is equal parts brutal and beautiful.

Jersey Shore seasons 1-3. Watched in 2011. Yes. Screw you all. I loved it. I am not much of a reality TV guy, but if I am going to watch people humiliate themselves, I want them to be kids who embody more contradictions than seems possible. Family values co-existing with complete emotional apocalypse. If I have to watch housemates get into fistfights over loyalty and lies, I want to see them then sit down to a Sunday roast and tell each other how much they love and care for the other. I saw more genuine human drama and learned more about the human condition (I. Am. Serious.) in this car-wreck of a show than in ninety percent of the films I saw this year. Plus, they all get paid a mint, so I don't feel so horrible about the wildly exploitative nature of the show. My appreciation for this is not ironic or token, by the way. I really do love it in a life-deprived art guy kinda way.

Wuthering Heights. Andrea Arnold destroys all with her new film. I had only just seen Fish Tank, which is even higher on my list, a few months earlier, so I was floored by this brutal, witheringly harsh and impossibly beautiful period re-telling of the canonical tale in a taut, 4:3 frame. I watched this in a stunning cinema in Valladolid and walked out a different person. Love and class war are both infinitely brutal.

Crazy, Stupid Love. Romantic comedies are the vicar's nuts. Or whatever the expression is. I love them. When they're good. When they suck, they actually steal a little piece of your soul and deposit it inside Katherine Heigl's soiled smalls for her underpaid housekeeper to launder. I loved this film. Sure, I was hungover as hell when I watched it, but it's a) funny, b) charming, c) big-hearted and d) cynical as hell. People seem to have forgotten that for a romantic comedy to work, it has to be cynical and it has to be charming. The leads have to have charisma (note to Australian rom-com directors) and the romance has to flail with futility in the face of the overwhelming impossibility of love. We know the relationships are never gonna last until after the final credits so it was kinda lovely to see the filmmakers pre-empt that.

So, now, confessions. I basically didn't see any of the other films that made people's top tens. I seem to have managed to go 12 months without seeing just about anything new. La Quattro Volte, Tree of Life, Melancholia, Martha Marcy May Marlene? Haven't seem 'em yet. Le Havre, Turin Horse, Certified Copy, Drive, Beginners. Nup. So, take this all with a massive mound of salt. And as for new books, forget it. But I did finally read Anna Karenina this year and it blew my mind. And Levin, man, did he lead me down a merry path of Marxist disillusionment, heartbreak and failed ambition. Thanks for reading. This self service is now complete.

Summer, by night.

The day owns us.

And then, the nights are ours.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


“When I was young, I believed in three things: Marxism, the redemptive power of cinema, and dynamite. Now I just believe in dynamite.”
Sergio Leone
If by dynamite you mean soft skin then I'm getting there, Sergio... Not yet, not quite, but I'm getting there...