Monday, July 01, 2013

Il Cinema Ritrovato 2013: in passing

Ani imoto, Sotoji Kimura, 1935

The film starts and ends in some kind of penal camp: sweating, tattooed men, only wearing loincloth, working at a river; hard to say what kind of work, it seems to involve some kind of rafts, but also stones, which are put inside the rafts. Next to the camp (and somehow connected do it), a family melodrama develops: two sisters, one well-behaved (and almost completely absent from the film), one running wild (and the unrivaled center of attention: getting pregnant, miscarrying, and subsequently not only enjoying her sex life, but also talking about it), a concerned mother, a working-class dad, who wants to beat up the father of the stillborn child, when he finally comes back; but when he sees, that the former suitor of his daughter is upper class, he changes into better shoes and sits down quietly, civilized, over-civilized. There's also a bullheaded son, constantly railing against his "slutty sister", but the film, and finally even the mother, sides with the slut and her psychosexual drive for freedom.

In a way, the film plays it out both ways: it still functions as a fallen woman melodrama (complete with several perfectly timed tracking shots, many of which play with subjectivity in interesting ways), but at the same time it lays bare, by way of its communicational mode, some social foundations of the genre.

There are also some ducks swimming through the film: they live in the stream behind the family home and they get one "big" scene, when they are observed by someone (if I remember right, by the returning upper-class guy) crossing below a bridge, in a pov-shot. In several other scenes, they form part of the background, swimming across the stream, walking across the grass, forming another family next to the human one, maybe figuring also as an ideal in a world broken up first by patriarchy, then again by - and this time, as the slutty sister shows: broken up for very real reasons - modernity.

Sakasu goningumi, Mikio Naruse, 1935

The ducks rather arbitrarily connect this film to Mikio Naruse's Sakasu goningumi, a film made in the same year and by the same studio. In the Naruse, a group of almost identically looking waterfowl appears in one short scene only. Other than that, there's not much room for animals - especially not for non-domesticated animals, because the film is set in and around a circus. A very loosely constructed narrative, Sakasu goningumi follows a troup of travelling performers, who lead an even less settled life than the circus performers - who after all manage to form a union and go on strike. The travelling performers, who usually offer their services as a brass band, jump in and develop a series of naive, amateur acts, that might be seen as a stand-in for the film as a whole.

It's a smart film about the coming of sound, too; many scenes can be described as reactions of the image to sound. One of the most interesting shots (sometimes this one looks more like a collection of interesting shots than like a completely formed narrative feature) shows the subsequent reaction of several girls to a vinyl record: a cascade of gazes, triggered by the intrusion of music.

Sakasu goningumi has a very relaxed feel to it, is structured in a very anecdotical way - and isn't very concerned, when one or two of these anecdotes actually leed nowhere. In the end, even the parting of the performers isn't treated melodramatically - although all is set up for tears and last minute revelations: one girl joins them, another one stays, the film cuts from the one staying behind to the withdrawing group, the gap gets bigger and bigger... and then the film simply ends, with this almost prosaic statement: some girls go, some girls stay.

Silver Lode, Allan Dwan, 1954

Just a few words on a masterpiece deserving much more...

"It's a long way to Discovery" - the fictional town "Discovery", where an alleged murder took place, which in turn destabilizes "Silver Lode", another fictional town, is far away; as is the end of the film Silver Lode and the resolution of the storyline when these words are being spoken. The whole film is as openly reflexive as this dialogue line - the villain, who slanders an innocent man and infuses mob violence, is named McCarty. And at the same time, Alan Dwann's Silver Lode is a straightforward midscale western with several impressive action scenes, a classical character line-up and very effective uses of studio sets.

Silver Lode is a film about community constituting and deconstituting itself directly on the screen: single persons and groups of people replacing / substituting each other in the frame, vying for dominance in and of the image, splitting and ultimately destabilizing its compositions (especially obvious in the early wedding scene with the villain intruding between bride and groom).

From the very first cut - the villanous intruders replacing a group of children on festive main street, decorated for the Fourth of July ceremony - the film announces itself as about society as a whole, and it never betrays that ambition. The first movement through the city, alongside the bad guys, constructs a synthetic social space of society through simple reframings, later in the film, a magnificent tracking shot individualizes this same space as the space of the lone hero as a space against society

1 comment:

Unknown said...

vielleicht hast Du das noch nicht gesehen: