Monday, 21 November 2016

133 (d. eugeni bonet & eugènia balcells)

133 is a curio. The story goes that in 1979, in Barcelona, Eugeni Bonet came across a record which contained 133 sound effects. He and his co-director, Eugènia Balcells, would collect old footage from the Barcelona flea markets. They set about selecting a piece of footage for each on of the 133 sound effects. The resulting film is 45 minutes long. Some sound effects last for no more than a few seconds. Each moment is stitched together with a brief frame of black. The 133 moments are encyclopaedic. There is home footage from people’s super-8 cameras. There are scientific treatises. There’s documentary footage. There are also clips from old studio films. There’s black and white footage and colour footage. Some images are banal: a plane sound effect has footage of a plane. Others are spectacular, including a memorable black and white sequence where a group of Africans try and fail to capture an elephant. Some moments appear diagetic, with the sound effect complementing the image on screen; others are subversive, with the sound effect making a commentary on the images, or vice versa. Although it wouldn’t be quite true to say the whole world of cinema is contained within the film’ s 45 minutes, what might be true to say is that the film, a sublime Borgesian text if ever there was one, offers the possibility of imagining what a film containing every possible permutation of cinema might look like. This is simultaneously one of the most down-at-heel, straightforward films ever constructed, requiring nothing more than the capacity to select and edit footage, and also one of the most elaborately ambitious films ever made, with aspirations to a vision of cinematic possibility that the sly premise gradually reveals. If you can ever find a way to catch it, do so, it will be one of the best spent 45 minutes of your brief life. 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

the white castle [orhan pamuk]

Pamuk’s short novel is intricate and frustrating. Much of the time reading it feels like fiddling with a clock mechanism. It succeeds in suggesting that it’s a complex and ingenious text, although quite what this ingenuity is is hard to fathom.  A Venetian merchant is captured on the high seas by the Turkish fleet and his scientific knowledge is appropriated by the Pasha. There’s much Borgesian play with notion of doubles, as the narrator’s jailor/ colleague looks exactly like him and he ends up supplanting his life. However, there were times when I confess to getting lost in the mechanism and struggling to understand the significance of the narrative’s psychological playfulness. Unlike Pamuk’s brilliant, Snow, The White Castle seemed to lack any real sense of urgency, either in its telling or its premise. This is a meandering novel, whose twists and turns sometimes feel somewhat arbitrary, as though the writer is chasing the tail of his own story.