Saturday, June 29, 2013

Il Cinema Ritrovato 2013: Garments

The first film I saw at this year's festival - after sneaking in an ongoing screening - was something called "Coiffures et types de Hollande", a short documentary short from France about hat types and garments (?) from the Netherlands. The print was hand-colored and extremely beautiful - most scenes had at least three bright, forceful colors, mostly applied on the hats and the garments, seldom (if at all) on the background, never on the faces or on other visible body parts. The colors were so powerful that they literally added another dimension to the screen: the pale faces of these dutch women receeded into the background and made way for their ornate framings. One of the women had a shining hairpiece, that was even more extraordinary, as its fluorescent reflection seemed to open up a world strikingly different from the one the woman was placed in (a world almost obliterated by color - but nevertheless a world of the year 1910). In this moment, the best 3d-film I saw this year almost turned into the best science-fiction-film I saw this year.


At Il Cinema Ritrovato, one could spend the whole festival just watching programmes of short films from the first two decades of cinema... Well, to be more precise, one could, but I don't think I could. For me, in short film programmes there is always the danger of the films cancelling each other out; and for short film programmes of early cinema, this danger seems especially valid, because of the fleeting nature of these images, because of their resistence to the very idea of form. Sometimes I think, that the itself amorphous Youtube-stream is indeed the best possible medium for these early images - although of course, the "stereoscopic colors"-effect described above would be completely lost, there.

Yesterday, however, I did see one of these programmes, the one starting almost directly after Coiffures et types de Hollande, called "Dieci anni di cento anni fa". At first glance, it's standout film was La peine du Talion, a magnificently crafted fantasy about girls with butterfly wings, insects - and a male butterfly hunter who actually gets pinned down with a needle himself at one point. The film was hand-colored, but its colors weren't applied as neatly an the ones in Coiffures et types de Hollande. Instead (and in perfect accordance with the dreamlike structure of the film), they floated across the screen almost like another layer of the image, only loosely connected to the butterfly wings and insect tentacles.

My favorite film, however, was a documentary of only three minutes: I pizzi di Venezia is also a film about garments - but without colors, maybe even without the possibility of color. The first shot shows women in a factory-like room, working. The next shots (which form the main part of the film) show just their hands, working with needles on complex garments ("venezianische Spitzen" - the intertitles are in german language). In a way, the film skips the individual, in jumping directly from the workplace to the (embodied) work. And in the last minute of the film, to the result of the work: one shot shows the finished garment handed over to a male chargehand (?), who accurately checks the product. The last part of the film consitst of some shots of this products: intricate white structures in front of a completely black background. So this film, which feels to me like an almost uncanny condensation of the foundations of modern society, ends with almost pure light projected onto darkness - with some kind of minimal definition of cinema.

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