Correspondence Between Jonas Mekas and José Luis Guérin
Nicole Brenez, 2012
Between 2010 and 2011, the filmmakers and artists José Luis Guérin and Jonas Mekas exchanged nine video letters as the result of an initiative of Jordi Balló. The result was a feature-length film of infinite tenderness, assembling a personal diary, travelogues and key reflections about images. Existential cinephilia, poetic horizons, artistic kinship, elegiac sensibility, a community of views, radicalness, autonomy, all these things bring together these two “friends in cinema” (as Jonas Mekas puts it), whose respective works are characterised by the renewal of descriptive forms and the challenges of observation.
In reality, [Hong Sang-soo’s] absolute mundanity remains a decoy. Of all renowned filmmakers of the last ten years, he is without a doubt the one that has least searched for signature effects and immediate tokens of seduction, with the relative exception of the beautiful harshness of his black and white films. He remains a filmmaker of pure visual prose, all the while constructing stories whose framework is related to pure, poetic arbitrariness. So is Hong Sang-soo a filmmaker of prose or poetry? It’s a pity that Pasolini isn’t around anymore to give us the answer.
In He Fengming [Fengming: A Chinese Memoir] (2007) Wang Bing recorded in barely one take He Fengming’s startling testimony of the persecutions that she and her family endured throughout the Anti-Rightist Movement and the Cultural Revolution in China. “I wanted to assure her the most ample freedom of speaking. The core of the film has been shot during one afternoon. Fengming was 76 years old, she’s a woman who entirely lives in the past, in her memory. In fact, it seemed correct to make an immobile film, a ‘talking heads’ film and I did not want to stage anything else. It’s about understanding her for who she is: a spectral woman locked up in the past, wandering about in an apartment that has been reduced to a tomb.”
But fire also burns in the face of Yingying, the dutiful, stoic eldest daughter who yearns to read and write and study, to discover something unattainable in this tiny, remote village. There is fire even in her dirty, white-hooded jacket with the words “Lovely Diary” on the back, a jacket she never takes off throughout the film. She never demands anything, and she barely speaks, yet she is one of the most compelling, most affecting figures in all of documentary cinema.
“When making a documentary film about events that happened nearly sixty years ago, an oral history format is an easy choice, but I have deliberately chosen not to take this approach. Instead I hope to show, through the lives of the Jiabiangou survivors, how the present speaks to the past.” Wang Bing wrote this text in 2012 as a treatment for the movie Past in the Present (2018). Later, the name was changed into Dead Souls.
Pecks werk heeft iets fysieks, een gevoel van gewelddadige confrontatie. Deze confrontatie is er een tussen regisseur en z’n subject(en), maar misschien ook in het binnenste van een man die verscheurd wordt door verschillende culturen en verschillende soorten cinema, waarbij hij elk van die soorten hanteert als een geheim wapen.
There is a physical side to his work, the sense of violent confrontation. A confrontation between the director and his subject(s), but also perhaps confrontation in the inner depths of a man torn amid several cultures and several kinds of cinema, using each one of them as a secret weapon.