July 1, 2006

LOS MUERTOS played last night as part of the "Films That Got Away" series during the LA Film "Fest". Robert Koehler gave an inspired introduction, mentioning Bielinsky's death, Lisandro's new film FANTASMA (which I knew nothing about), and heralding a new generation of filmmakers who haven't forgotten cinema, even "pre-storytelling" cinema, linking LOS MUERTOS and this new generation (in Argentina, but beyond) to silent cinema, pointing out that they have not forgotten 35mm...

"Shot in long, stationary takes, the film is a minute-by-minute account of regeneration, as the returning prisoner renews his acquaintance with nature, negotiating the shallow rivers that lead to his home, feeding on honey stolen from buzzing hives."             -- Dave Kehr

There are very few "stationary takes" in LOS MUERTOS. The ebb and flow of the film, its very form, depends on preemptive, autonomous, or structural camera work (not to limit the moves to those three descriptions alone) -- most of which are worthy of Murnau. In my piece on the film for FIPRESCI I mentioned seeing the curvature of the earth over a green river in one of the shots. I thought I had seen this directly, a curved horizon where the river meets the sky. Seeing it a second time I realize this is a result of the camera's path in accord, and then in opposition to, Vargas's boat, a kind of drift that spatially creates a curve, i.e. he starts the shot looking to the left diagonally, pans and stays with Vargas in profile, then lets Vargas go diagonally panning to the right, with the camera following wind and stream. An incredibly simple "follow" shot made rich by the resistance/guidance of the circumstances/world.

LOS MUERTOS has the advantage of making all other films seem false, another inspiration to start anew. This has been said of films before, genre films to genre films mostly. It is to the whole of cinema that Alonso speaks. Alonso is the only filmmaker of his generation I'm currently aware of, plus granted 15 years older or younger, who cares about the green of the earth. Positif called Alonso's way of filmmaking "haughty". While watching LOS MUERTOS I suddenly thought "hardly any filmmakers give a shit about people."

Lisandro's masterpiece and his way of working, truely unique today, along with Koehler's introduction, have stirred a lot of expolsive yearnings in me, to fight further and harder for the solidarity required if any more free films like LOS MUERTOS are to be made and seen. And by freedom I don't mean the freedom of those other green rivers only producing the freedom to buy and sell. We ought to put an end to independent film, for the only thing independent about it is the dealing. LOS MUERTOS is something else.

- a.r.

1 comment:

Zach Campbell said...

The question becomes, What kind of beauty are we looking for? To call a film like one of Alonso's "haughty"--a film which takes care to tell stories of marginalia in the global scale (the environment, the lumpenproletariat), "haughty," when studios all over the world continue to make the same tired films in the same tired trappings, acknowledging a single percent (if that) of the diversity this world contains! What people mean is that his work makes a certain demand in order to be experienced fully, which is not to say that the films are hard to love (I fell in love with La Libertad pretty quickly), only that loving them might involve letting go of a few preconceptions.