28 juillet 2007

Blind spots in film history

"It's been four years since this prophetic and poetic masterwork was made, and it's just arriving in Chicago. But I wonder if we're ready for it even now. For starters, what do we know about Joris Ivens? Although he's generally considered to be one of only a handful of great documentary filmmakers, history and politics have conspired to make most of his work unavailable and unknown in this country. I suppose some would argue that this was partly his fault -- because he had the bad taste to become a communist filmmaker and to work for much of his life in communist countries as opposed to the "free world". Unfortunately, the freedoms granted in our "free world" haven't yet included the opportunity to see most of Iven's work. He's made more than sixty films, including antifascist work, work supporting Indonesian independence (which led to the withdrawal of his Dutch passport), and work in collaboration with Ernest Hemingway, Jacques Prévert, Gérard Philipe, Lewis Milestone, Frank Capra, Jean-Luc Godard, William Klein, Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, and Agnès Varda (the last five worked with him on the 1967 sketch film Far From Vietnam). He died during the early summer of 1989, just before most of the communist world in the West collapsed.

A Word of advice to film artists who want to get ahead : don't move around too much. Film history often gets subsumed under national film history, so filmmakers who keep moving risk getting lost. And stay out of politics, since getting into them invariably puts you on either the winning side or the losing side. If you're on the losing side, many national film histories will write you out entirely; if you're on the winning side, chances are your film will date faster than last week's newspaper."

(About Joris Iven's A Tale of the Wind) Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader, May 29, 1992. Also in Essential Cinema : On the Necessity of Film Canons (2004)

3 commentaires:

Zach Campbell a dit…

Harry, Une Histoire de vent is my very favorite movie! And Ivens' relative absence in larger film history is so discouraging. He was a really great filmmaker, and like his world-roaming footsteps, his cinema relentlessly asked new questions of itself and its objects, refined its sense of aesthetics & what it means to make political films ...

HarryTuttle a dit…

Hi Zach,
I haven't even seen this one. I have only been able to see 2 of his films so far... Études de mouvements and ...A Valparaíso.
Speaking of blind spots, I caught 3 Pelechian movies this week, and was disappointed not to find much info online. There is no mention in the film canons (TSPDT, Rosenbaum), while he should be up there with Eisenstein, Vertov and Vigo. Some of his short films are on YouTube though. They are masterpieces of montage!

HarryTuttle a dit…

Regen (1929/Joris Ivens/Mannus Franken) at Expanded Cinema
Short documentary film (11') about many ways to see rain fall on Amsterdam.

It reminds me of a similar exercice Johan Van Der Keuken did as a student in Paris : Paris à l'aube (1960) 10'.