August 8, 2017

Dick Tuinder on timeless cinema

Filed under: dick tuinder,film,film as subversive art,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 11:20 am

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August 7, 2017

Gilles Deleuze on cinema after the cinematic

Filed under: film,film as subversive art,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 7:23 pm


This is the stage where art no longer beautifies or spiritualizes Nature but competes with it: the world is lost, the world itself “turns to film,” any film at all, and this is what television amounts to, the world turning to any film at all, and, as you say here, “nothing happening to human beings any more,but everything happening only to images.” One might also say that bodies in Nature or people in a landscape are replaced by brains in a city: the screen’s no longer a window or door (behind which . . . ) nor a frame orsurface (in which . . . ) but a computer screen on which images as “data” slip around. How, though, can we still talk of art, if the world itself is turning cinematic, becoming ‘just an act” directly controlled and immediately-processed by a television that excludes any supplementary function?

Cinema ought to stop “being cinematic,” stop play acting, and set up specificrelationships with video, with electronic and digital images, in order to develop a new form of resistance and combat the televisual function of surveillance and control. It’s not a question of short-circuiting television-how could that be possible?-but of preventing television subverting or short-circuiting the extension of cinema into the new types of image. For, as you show, “since television has scorned, marginalized, repressed the potential of video-its only chance of taking over from the postwar modern cinema . . . taking over its urge to take images apart and put them back together, its break with theater, its new way of seeing the human body, bathed in images and soundsone has to hope the development of video art will itself threaten TV. ” Here we see in outline the new art of City and Brain, of competing with Nature. And one can already see in this mannerism many different directions or paths, some blocked, others leading tentatively forward, offering great hopes. A mannerism of video “previsualization” in Coppola, where images are already assembled without a camera. And then a completely different mannerism, with its strict, indeed austere, method in Syberberg, where puppetry and front-projection produce an image unfolding against a background of images. Is this the same world we see in pop videos, special effects, and footage from space?Maybe pop video, up to the point where it lost its dreamlike quality, might have played some part in the pursuit of “new associations” proposed by Syberberg, might have traced out the new cerebral circuits of a cinema of the future, if it hadn’t immediately been taken over by marketing jingles, sterile patterns of mentaldeficiency, intricately controlled epileptic fits (rather as, in the previous period cinema was taken over by the “then hysterical spectacle” of large-scale propaganda . . . ). And maybe space footage might also have played a part in aesthetic and noetic creation, if it had managed to produce some last reason for traveling, as Burroughs suggested, if it had managed to break free from the control of a “regular guy on the Moon who didn’t forget to bring along his prayer book,” and better understood the endlessly rich example of La Region Centrale, where Michael Snow devises a very austere way of making one image turn on another, and untamed nature on art, pushing cinema to the limit of a pure Spatium. And how can we tell where the experimentation with images, sounds, and music that’s just beginning in the work of Resnais, Godard, the Straubs, and Duras will lead? And what new Comedyll will emerge from the mannerism of bodily postures? Your concept of mannerism is particularly convincing, once one understands how far all the various mannerisms are different, heterogeneous, above all how no common measure can be applied to them, the term indicating only a battlefield where art and thought launch together with cinema into a new domain, while the forces of control try to steal this domain from them, to take it over before they do, and set up a new clinic for social engineering. Mannerism is, in all these conflicting ways, the convulsive confrontation of cinema and television, where hope mingles with the worst of all possibilities.

excerpt from the book: Negotiations by Gilles Deleuze

Numero deux

Filed under: film,film as subversive art — ABRAXAS @ 11:05 am

Numero deux is also concerned with the difficulty of crossing sociocultural barriers, be they physical or psychological. Rarely has a film concentrated on the concept of blockage in so many forms. This starts at the beginning, when the title has trouble appearing on the screen, as if the movie were facing some invisible block or obstacle on its way to the audience. The film does get started eventually, but various devices keep the sense of blockage going. Some operate through the film’s style: the uneven progress of the story; the frequent interruption of one scene by another; the competition between film and video images, which sometimes seem to get in each other’s way. Others operate through the movie’s content: the stop-and-start pictures on the monitors in Godard’s workshop; the image of a primal scene that must be repressed as soon as it is witnessed; the linkage of birth (commencement) and death (cessation) in the girl’s blackboard sentence. When the narrative proceeds a little farther, we will encounter the film’s most blunt metaphors for blockage: the constipation and impotence that plague Sandrine and her husband, respectively. When she compares her mother with a “factory” that “hurts” when it “charges and discharges,” Sandrine is also describing herself and many others – women who feel cut off from life’s flow by the demands of work, and deprived of healthy sexuality by the insensitivity of their husbands. We will also learn that Sandrine’s spouse is abusive, using anal intercourse (blocking a channel) to punish and control her.

One more aspect of Numero deux that Kristeva’s ideas illuminate is its Godardian use of sound (immediate, surrounding, ungraspable) to combat the tyranny of the image (distant, hard-edged, authoritarian) that dominates commercial cinema. Kristeva holds that early infancy is bathed in sound as the child develops within the “chora,” which is both the fleshly envelope of the womb and the sonic envelope of the noises (most notably, the mother’s voice) that filter through to the infant’s hearing. Nostalgia for this stage of life persists long after its peace and plenitude are ruptured by the rude awakening called birth. This helps explain the power of music (increasingly important in Godard’s cinema) to touch us in ways for which rational considerations can’t wholly account. It also helps explain the cacophonous sounds in Numero deux, a film that extravagantly favors physical immediacy over coded communication. Numero deux loves noise – noise for the ears, such as the gobbledygook of overlapping sound tracks, and noise for the eyes, such as video static and on-and-off television pictures. Godard told us earlier that language games can cure sickness, so it isn’t surprising that verbal and visual puns are a major component of this movie (which was produced after he himself had recuperated from his serious motorcycle accident). The way to heal blockage is with slippage – and nothing slides more easily, or with a more liberating effect, than a word or image whose meaning has no fixed abode other than in-the-moment dialogue with its audience.


May 25, 2017

Spectres Are Haunting Europe

Filed under: film,politics — ABRAXAS @ 1:19 pm


April 21, 2017

“through the ear, we shall enter the invisibility of things.”

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June 7, 2016

Stefan Ripplinger – Returning Images – an Introduction to Isidore Isou’s Traité de bave et d’éternité (Venom and Eternity)

Filed under: film,film as subversive art,kaganof short films — ABRAXAS @ 6:09 pm

Traité de bave et d’éternité / Tract on Venom and Eternity by Isidore Isou is a landmark in film history, though the film was almost completely ignored until its reissue on DVD several years ago. Venom and Eternity came out in the year 1951 in an unfinished version at the Cannes Film Festival; later, finished, it was shown in a few selected cinemas. The press and the public didn’t like it at all, so it sank into obscurity soon afterwards,1 but then had an interesting second life in the US where, as of 1953, Raymond Rohauer distributed a subtitled version.2


Venom and Eternity is one of the first non-documentary films to use found footage. It is produced, though not entirely, from already existing materials, and that’s why we’re discussing it here. Moreover, with all its elaborate processing of the filmstrip, it’s a handmade film. For this, and for its visceral rhythm, Stan Brakhage admired it a lot.3

It’s also the first “film discrépant”, as Isidore Isou himself named it, the first “discrepant film”, meaning there is a complete disjunction between sound and video tracks. As Frédérique Devaux, the best expert in the field, has put it, sight and sound have “rien à voir”,4 they have nothing to do with each other.

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Venom and Eternity even anticipates Expanded Cinema. Please recall the first scene, when Daniel, the protagonist of the novel narrated in the soundtrack, proposes his iconoclastic views after a screening of Charlie Chaplin’s A Woman of Paris. Most of the other moviegoers in the audience are disturbed and enraged by these provocative ideas. Daniel announces how he will make his movie, this movie. He thinks: “For the first time a film’s subject will be the eternity of cinema, the cinema reflecting itself.”5

In a way, the heated debate between Daniel and the others anticipates the Lettrist concept of cinema as a happening. For Lettrism, the art movement founded by Isou in 1946, cinema is not restricted to the screening of a movie. Everything that happens in the cinema hall during a certain time span belongs to cinema, too, not only the reflection and debate, as Isou suggests, but also all kinds of action. Maurice Lemaître, assistant to Isou for Venom and Eternity, fully realized this Expanded Cinema concept that same year, 1951, with Le film est déjà commencé? [ Has the Film Begun?] It’s not only a very beautiful and funny movie, but also a “séance”, as Lemaître himself called it, a session. The audience that wants to see the picture is systematically prevented from doing so by not letting them in, by complete darkness in the hall, by a staged riot, by extras who shout, by ladies with very big hats, and so on.6

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In sum, Venom and Eternity uses a large amount of found footage, it’s a handmade film, it’s a discrepant film, and it even anticipates Expanded Cinema. We can put the film in many different contexts. But although it is possible to put an art work into different contexts, it’s also possible and even necessary to see its intrinsic features, its structures, the views and visions of its maker. We can look at a piece of art from the outside and from the inside.

I will try to give you an inside look. First I will acquaint you with the ideas and projects of Isidore Isou, insofar as they concern his film and the use of found footage. In a second section I will give you some information about the movie’s production. In the third and last section of my short introduction I will, very tentatively, try to position Venom and Eternity within the tradition of found footage.

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1. Isidore Isou

Let me begin with the man.7 Isidore Isou was born Jean-Isidore Goldstein in 1925 in Romania. His family was Jewish. A fascist and anti-Semitic regime ruled the land. This explains the turmoil of Isou’s youth. He quit school early, was a self-educated person who read widely, with a predilection for French poetry of the nineteenth century. As soon as Romania was liberated, he went to Paris. By then he was twenty years old.

His personal life is highly significant for his artistic and political philosophy. Like Andy Warhol, Isou was an immigrant who wanted so much to succeed, even to be famous in his new country. His ambition was boundless. You have noticed this in the opening sequence of Venom and Eternity, where Isou shows us his books, his aspiration to be like the great masters. A bit embarrassing for us, but quite explainable for an outsider who claws with tooth and nail to get in. The same goes for all the interspersed amateurish clips that show famous personalities of the time side by side with Isou. The message is: “Me and Marcel Achard, me and Blaise Cendrars, me and Jean Cocteau” and so on. Isou with the elders; he himself the up-and-coming man.


In his political concepts developed at the end of the forties, Isou distinguishes between insiders and outsiders. Insiders are all those involved in the exchange of commodities and communications. Outsiders are all those who are not involved, those who don’t get paid, who are ignored – the young, the migrants, the artists, the prisoners, the lumpen intellectuals. The outsiders are potentially creative; they advocate the new because they suffer the old. Change can only come from outside. Outside is creativity, is freshness, is the new. You’ll recognize a certain similarity to the ideas of Herbert Marcuse and May ’68.

Now, who supports Daniel when he is proposing his disjunctive, discrepant cinema? You’ll find there are only three supporters: his friend Pierre, his girlfriend Ève and the Stranger; a young man and two migrants. Support of the new and the creative comes only from the outsiders. Pierre as a young man is eager for change and new art. Ève, skeptical at first, ultimately embraces Daniel’s intent. She is a Norwegian who will be expelled at the end of the story by the French authorities. The Stranger is an apparently much older person, a wise one, who fervently acclaims Daniel’s revolution as well. Funnily enough, Isidore Isou himself lends his voice to this character, the Stranger. He speaks French with a heavy Romanian accent. And for the audience in the Ciné-Club Daniel, too, is a “métèque”, a foreigner who comes out of nowhere.


So Isou portrays himself in five different ways in this movie. First, as the great forthcoming master of cinema, as announced in the opening credits. Second, in many short clips, as the social climber who is on first-name terms with the elite of Parisian artists. Third, in the soundtrack, as the wise and open-minded stranger from Romania. Fourth, also in the soundtrack novel, as Daniel, the “métèque”, the mysterious poet and cynical seducer. And fifth and most prominently, as the good-looking, strong-willed, cool young man strolling around Boulevard Saint-Germain in the first part or “chapter” of Venom and Eternity.

Eric Rohmer was much impressed by this first chapter, the stroll of a non-actor, the casual way of filming a historical place in a non-historical way – Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the breeding ground for new philosophy, new literature, new music, new cinema.8 He didn’t bother much about Isou’s claim to have invented everything, even the famous quarter. For Rohmer this was kind of neorealistic, even conservative. And that’s not quite wrong. But Rohmer’s favorable review was also a fundamental and even deliberate misunderstanding of Isou’s ideas. The title of his review establishes this: “Isou or The Things Just As They Are”. Things just as they are: the description could be accurate for the images in the first chapter. But Isou didn’t want to leave the things unchanged. He came to Paris to make things over, to transform, to renew – as will be seen in the second and third chapters of Venom and Eternity.


When Isou arrived in Paris at the age of twenty, his philosophy was nearly full-blown. In his first books you’ll find all his ideas, sometimes embryonic, but often very mature. I will outline only two concepts that are of paramount importance not only for our film here but for his whole undertaking: the activity of creation and the so-called ciselant, the chiseling.

I’ve mentioned the political importance of creativity already. Creation or, as he later termed it, “le Créatique” remains the driving force behind Isou’s thinking and working.


As the sociologist Andreas Reckwitz recently stated, creativity is today one of the key values of our culture.9 Everybody has to be creative today. That’s surprising from a historical point of view because creativity initially stood in sharp contrast to the rationalist tendencies of modernism. Creativity as a value historically derives from the Romantic, from the bohemian world. It was a counter-project to an alienating rationalist world.

Isou takes up this counter-project but mixes it with Jewish theology and a belief in progress very typical for him. His creators and creations are a revolutionary force from the margins that moves in to occupy the center of society. One of Isou’s disciples, Alain Satié, defines the creative process as “the overcoming of the acquired, the insufficient and the incomplete”.10 But why then the use of found foootage? Found footage, you might say, is the acquired, insufficient, incomplete stuff par excellence.

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This contradiction can be resolved. According to Isou, nowadays all arts are deconstructing themselves. Poetry is deconstructing its verses and words, painting and sculpting are deconstructing their forms, film is deconstructing its images. The creative act for the poet and the painter no longer consists of creating verses or representations but of decomposing them. The creative act for the filmmaker consists not of finding new pictures but of overcoming the old ones.

In his view, all arts pass through two stages: “la phase amplique” and “la phase ciselante”, the amplifying stage and the chiseling stage. In the first stage, art finds new stories, new aspects of the world; it constantly enhances and enriches itself. In the second stage, art is not about the world but about itself; it is self-reflective, self-destructive. But out of this so-called chiseling, a metaphor for the deranging and rearranging and combining and destroying the given elements of a work, a new language, a new world should emerge. Hopefully.


How beautiful and powerful chiseled Lettrist poetry can be – a poetry that shatters words, combines syllables of many languages and adds gestural expressions – you’ve heard this in the third chapter of the film, when François Dufrêne performs his poems. The Lettrist Choir that returns throughout the film is also an example of this chiseled Lettrist poetry.

For Isou, the first poet of the chiseling age was Baudelaire, Cézanne was the first painter, Debussy the first composer. And Isidore Isou is the first filmmaker ciselant. The new era begins with his first film, Venom and Eternity.


2. Venom and Eternity

Now, as announced, a few words about the production and structure of this singular film. It was the first production not just for Isou but for almost all involved. Suzanne Cabon, the editor, was the only professional. She had worked with Marcel Pagnol, Marcel L’Herbier and others. Ironically, she had to be fired soon, because she was unable to infringe on all the rules of her trade. Lemaître completed the montage, although he had never done it before. They reduced the length of the movie from four hours and thirty minutes to two hours for commercial reasons, because Isou really thought he could make some money with it.11

Producer Marc Gilbert Guillaumin, better known as Marc’O, belonged to the Lettrist Group at that time, but left it a few months afterwards. You can see him several times in the first chapter; he is the young man in jeans on the boulevard, almost Isou’s double. Like Isou he laces his shoes. Maybe you remember the shot. As the producer of Venom and Eternity Marc’O didn’t have to raise much money, although he pretended to have sold some of his furniture and even his wife’s diamond ring in order to collect the budget.12 Frédérique Devaux suggests that found footage was also used for financial reasons.13 I wouldn’t overestimate that. Sure, everything had to be very low-cost. But found footage was also introduced for strong aesthetic reasons; I shall come back to this.


There is not much to make out about the camera operator, Saufer, only that the camera work was done by some pals of the director.14 So maybe the name Saufer is an alias for all of Isou’s pals who operated the 35mm camera while shooting Venom and Eternity. Clearly enough, the cinematographer is the lowest man on this set. It’s explicitly a picture against all cinematographers. Daniel says: “Those who will despise my film are the cinematographers, the experts of cinema.”15

From all I’ve said already, it is evident that the element of Venom and Eternity that Isou valued the most is the soundtrack. The literary and philosophical element here is held in highest esteem. Not only does Isou call the parts of his film “chapters”, like in a book, not only does he want to proclaim a manifesto on cinema in cinema and to present the sound poetry of the Lettrists, most of all he wants to tell a literary story, fictional to be sure, but one that elucidates the origins of this work and of his ideas in general.


The story and the vivid radio drama that tells it were completed first. And so it came to a scandal at the Cannes Film Festival, because Isou earnestly believed that it would be sufficient to present only the first part of the unfinished film and just the already produced soundtrack of the rest. He said that an unfinished book by Joyce would also be more amusing than a finished book by a stupid writer. The festival audience had to sit in the dark and listen to Isou’s radio. The experts of cinema were outraged – to Isou’s delight. But this scandal didn’t help him like the ones he had managed to create a few years earlier when he founded the Lettrist movement. In fact, by 1951 his fame was already fading.

To continue, the story structures the film; its three chapters are: “The Principle”, “The Development” and “The Proof”.


In the first chapter, “The Principle”, Daniel explains his cinematic principles in front of an enraged audience. He is absolutely in line with Isou and his beliefs in the act of creation, in the new, the chiseling, and so on. Noticeable is the emphasis on the iconoclastic aspect. Against the images! That’s something Isou arrives at in these years that marks the beginning of his conceptual thinking, the possibility of an imaginary art without images and even without any signs at all. He later called that the “supertemporel”, the supratemporal. The notion of Eternity in the title Venom and Eternity signifies exactly this – overcoming the venom, the chatter, the words, the pictures, the sensual, in order to come to a mental art beyond time.

The second chapter, “The Development”, relates the wild love story of Daniel and Ève, the runaway from Norway. In many ways Isou here continues the story line, the characters, and even the metaphors of his first printed novel, L’Agrégation d’un nom et d’un messie [Launching a Name and a Messiah] from 1947.


The third and last chapter, “The Proof”, combines the two first chapters. Now Daniel discusses his artistic and cinematic plans with Ève. After some objections she finally agrees with him. But she doesn’t benefit from this. Daniel repudiates her, just like the protagonist of Agrégation repudiates all those who are in love with him.16

At any rate, these discussions are important to our concerns. Because Daniel explains in a very poetic way why he uses found footage: “I’ll be the first to abandon myself to these leftovers just as Dostoevsky abandoned himself to his fall from grace.”17 The French word for “leftovers” or “scraps of film” is chute, meaning also falling, tumbling down.


So we can draw up a first summary. The creative act of Venom and Eternity is to separate sound and image, to prize sound over the pictures, to chisel and mistreat the pictures in order to come to an imaginative, mental art. It’s a falling down into the materials of film with the aim of losing everything that’s old in cinema and art and of gaining something new.

So the quality and content of his found footage weren’t of great importance to Isou. When he began looking for found footage he initially asked directors such as Roger Leenhardt if they could give him some stuff from their wastebaskets. They all refused.18 So he went to the Department of the Army, public relations, and made a rich find in their trash pile.


All the found material – scenes from the First Indochina War, sportsmen, fishermen and so on – is a chance discovery. It is banal material, just anonymous images. Almost any other scraps of film would have been equally appropriate.19 The use of film leader and other markers in the midst of the film serves to disarrange narrative cinema’s usual order.

3. Found Footage

If we now try to compare this application of found footage to those of other filmmakers, we’re confronted with big differences. Consider for instance three prominent positions in making found footage films: first Joseph Cornell with Rose Hobart from 1936, then Bruce Conner and A Movie from 1958, and finally Ken Jacobs’s films from the sixties until today. In every one of these positions, the use of found footage has a different function: devotion in Cornell, parody in Conner, and study in Jacobs, if you’ll forgive my simplification.


But all three filmmakers do care about their images. Isou doesn’t. He needs pictures so that he can overcome them – by putting them together in absurd ways, by combining them with a disjointed soundtrack, by playing them backwards and upside down, by painting on and scratching them, and so on.

The first person who almost prophetically understood where all this leads was Jean Cocteau. After watching Venom and Eternity, which he liked, he wrote in a letter: “Unless I am mistaken, Isou tries to purge by emptying out.”20 Cocteau compares the film with the famous scene from his own Orphée, where Orphée sees the fashionable magazine Nudisme that contains only blank pages. Isou later confirmed this interpretation when he declared he wanted to “couper du vide”.21

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Venom and Eternity marks an intermediary state, the decline of the images, the state just before they’re no longer pictures. It’s the precursor of a conceptual cinema and art. What did this conceptual cinema look like? I’ll give you a few examples: In 1952, one year after Venom and Eternity, Isou and others organized a “film-débat”, a debate, in a Ciné-Club about the death of the old cinema. This “film-débat” was seen by them as a substitute for a traditional screening. To quote Isou: “After the death of cinema, the debate becomes the work. The discussion, supplement to the spectacle, now becomes the real drama.”22 That same year, 1952, François Dufrêne created Tambours du jugement premier [Drums of the First Judgment], a film without filmstrip and screen, almost a stage play.23 Also in 1952, Marc’O, the producer of Venom and Eternity, came out with the idea of his “cinéma nucléaire”, using the seating of the cinema hall, the screen, the projection booth as parts and props of a cinema-performance in order to activate the public; in his view it should have been a kind of gladiator fight.24 Thank God that was never realized. In 1960 Isidore Isou disposed film-scraps, scripts, scores and other things in the rooms of the gallery Atome in Paris. The public was invited to make its own film out of all these bits and tools.25 These are ideas very similar to those of Fluxus and Conceptual Art, clearly ahead of their time.

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But if Venom and Eternity were only this, the precursor of a conceptual cinema, the disappearance of pictures, the proof of a dogma, a purgation, it never would have had such an impact, it wouldn’t still be so fascinating. In my concluding remarks, I will single out some effects that contradict the professed iconoclasm of this work.

Effect 1 results from the fact that it’s not possible to make an out-and-out discrepant film. You can separate picture and sound, okay, but viewers soon establish their own connections and associations. Some connections might even have been intended by the filmmaker. When the commentator says that Daniel was leaving the Ciné-Club, we see Isou coming out of a cinema. When the character Ève is introduced, we see the famous actress Blanchette Brunoy taking a walk with Isou in the Bois de Boulogne. When it is said that Daniel was thrown out of the Communist Party, we see a Communist rally. And so on. Even if these coincidences occur by pure chance, it’s impossible to prevent the viewer from associating the representation with something represented.26 Nelson Goodman got to the heart of it by writing: “Almost any picture may represent almost anything.”27

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Contrary effect 2: If you excise even the most boring picture from its context and connections it will gain something absurd, often surreal. And that’s the case here.

Effect 3: If we’ve really had enough of the great pictures, as Daniel proclaims in the first chapter, if we really want no new cheese but only the decadent smell of the old, there could be no better material than the celluloid used here. The conventional, never really looked-at material acquires a subtle iridescence. It’s an effect similar to that emanating from the photo collections by Christian Boltanski, Hans-Peter Feldmann or Isa Genzken.


Effect 4: The “recovery of what has been eliminated, thrown out” is, as Michel Butor has pointed out, also a kind of recycling. Butor says in an interview that for him recycling in the arts “always ends up as human recycling. … We move easily from the lost object … to the lost man, thrown out in the big cities”.28 So why not comparing the recycling of found footage to Isou’s political project, the recycling of the outsiders?

Effect 5: Most of the material shown here is chiseled, meaning repainted, sometimes with scratches, sometimes with fingerprints, sometimes with pictograms like the Star of David, a heart with an arrow, a corona, a question mark and many others. Isou and the Lettrists frequently used the technique of covering a surface with new signs in their paintings and in their so-called hypergraphic novels, combining signs and small pictures. This elaboration does not weaken the images but reinforces them.

To draw the moral from all this: You can be an iconoclastic artist and try to throw out the images, but they often return.29


Not only this film, Isou’s complete œuvre is not really acknowledged until this very day. Cf. Bernard Girard: Lettrisme – l’ultime avantgarde. Les Presses du Réel: Dijon 2010, p. 196seq. et passim.
Cf. Kathy Geritz: “Two Premieres at Art in Cinema: The End and Venom and Eternity”, in: Steve Anker, Kathy Geritz, Steve Seid, eds.: Radical Light. Alternative Film & Video in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945–2000. University of California Press: Berkeley, Los Angeles, London 2010, p. 64.
Stan Brakhage: Letter to Frédérique Devaux, June 21, 1993. University of Colorado, Boulder, Archives.
Frédérique Devaux: Traité de bave et d’éternité d’Isidore Isou. Yellow Now: Crisnée 1994, p. 17.
Isidore Isou: “Traité de bave et d’éternité. Film (1951)”, in: Œuvres de spectacle. Gallimard: Paris 1964, pp. 7–88: 27.
See Andrew V. Uroskie: “Beyond the Black Box: The Lettrist Cinema of Disjunction”, October 135, Winter 2011, pp. 21–48: 41seq.
For more details see my essay “Mundomanie. Eine Einführung in das Denken von Isidore Isou”, Schreibheft, 78 / 2012, pp. 23–31.
Maurice Schérer (Eric Rohmer): “Isou ou Les choses telles qu’elles sont”. Cahiers du cinéma, 10 / March 1952, pp. 27–32.
Andreas Reckwitz: Die Erfindung der Kreativität. Zum Prozess gesellschaftlicher Ästhetisierung. Suhrkamp: Berlin 2012.
Alain Satié: Le lettrisme, la création ininterrompue. Rocher: Paris 2003, p. 27.
Frédérique Devaux: “Entretien avec Isidore Isou”, in: Devaux, Traité, op.cit., pp. 140–146: 140.
Frédérique Devaux: Le cinéma lettriste (1951–1991). Paris Expérimental: Paris 1992, p. 69.
Devaux, Traité, op.cit., p. 52.
Devaux, Cinéma, op.cit., p. 40.
Isou, Traité, op.cit., p. 24.
Despite the fact that the film premiered in Berlin, Marc Siegel (Frankfurt) protested fiercely against its screening. For him Venom and Eternity not only has no interest whatsoever, but is a sexist work. He referred to the scene where Daniel expresses his hatred for a group leader of the Communist Party, which had expelled him: “Elle était trop moche pour qu’on la viole en bande.” (Isou: Traité, op.cit., p. 41) Prof. Siegel’s polemic remarks reveal an astonishing lack of understanding of the text’s fictionality. The protagonist is clearly characterised as being uncontrollable, sadist, brutal (ibid., p. 60), nevertheless it is a story about his lover Ève, not about him (“il ne sera au fond que l’histoire d’Ève”; ibid., p. 82). I don’t deny the controversial quality of many of Isou’s writings and works. Only a few months before the making of Venom and Eternity the author was sentenced to imprisonment and financial penalty for publishing Isou ou la Mécanique des femmes. The book was banned for pornography. Cf. Bernard Joubert: Histoires de censure. La Musardine: Paris 2006, pp. 91–95. Obviously the lust for censorship never ends.
Isou, Traité, op. cit., p. 73.
Devaux: “Entretien avec Isidore Isou”, op.cit., p. 142.
In the discussion Christa Blümlinger (Paris) raised a fundamental critique of my (and Isou’s) positions by saying the images of this film were neither banal nor accidental but well chosen, carefully framed and even “beautiful”. I consider her critique to be aestheticist and hold on to my view, that it’s possible to make a fascinating film despite the banality or arbitrariness or pettiness or even ugliness of the “images indifférentes” (Isou). How it’s possible, I try to explain in my concluding remarks, see below.
Jean Cocteau: Entretiens sur le cinématographe, cited in Devaux, Traité, op.cit., p. 18seq.
Isidore Isou: Esthétique du cinéma, 1952, cited in Devaux, Traité, op. cit., p. 38.
Ibid., cited in Devaux, Cinéma, op. cit., p. 106.
Devaux, Cinéma, op.cit., pp. 121–124.
Ibid., pp. 108–115.
Ibid., p. 153seq.
I discuss this in “Isous Abfall”, Bildzweifel. Textem: Hamburg 2011, pp. 43–46.
Nelson Goodman: Languages of Art: An Approach to a Theory of Symbols. Bobbs-Merrill: Indianapolis, New York 1968, p. 38.
Martine Reid: “Bricolage: An Interview with Michel Butor”, Yale French Studies, 84 / 1994, pp. 17–26: 26
I would like to thank Andrea Lerner for revising the first version of this text.

first published here: http://www.thinkfilm.de/panel/new-footage-found-stefan-ripplinger

March 6, 2016

DOUGLAS SIRK on commitment vs. style

Filed under: art,film — ABRAXAS @ 1:32 pm

“I am suspicious of people who don’t really produce art except if they are ‘committed’ one way or another, because at that point their commitment takes the place of style.” (Douglas Sirk)

September 29, 2015

theodoor steen reviews venom and eternity for dummies


first published here: http://www.salonindien.nl/2015/van-kerkhof-naar-kaganof-isous-venom-and-eternity-en-kaganofs-kyodai/3/

VENOM AND ETERNITY FOR DUMMIES from African Noise Foundation on Vimeo.

baudrillard on cinema and reality

Filed under: film,film as subversive art,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 8:49 am

The virtuality of war is not, then, a metaphor. It is the literal passage from reality into fiction, or rather the immediate metamorphosis of the real into fiction. The real is now merely the asymptotic horizon of the virtual.

And it isn’t just the reality of the real that’s at issue in all this, but the reality of cinema. It’s a little like Disneyland: the theme parks are now merely an alibi – masking the fact that the whole context of life has been disneyfied.

It’s the same with the cinema: the films produced today are merely the visible allegory of the cinematic form that has taken over everything – social and political life, the landscape, ware, etc. – the form of life totally scripted for the screen. This is no doubt why cinema is disappearing: because it has passed into reality. Reality is disappearing at the hands of the cinema and cinema is disappearing at the hands of reality. A lethal transfusion in which each loses its specificity.

If we view history as a film – which it has become in spite of us – then the truth of information consists in the post-synchronization, dubbing and sub-titling of the film of history.

Jean Baudrillard
The Intelligence of Evil

May 30, 2015

the enemy of art is

Filed under: art,film,film as subversive art — ABRAXAS @ 11:18 pm

“to do something interesting in so called Art, you have to have an enemy. The more powerful the enemy the better, so you must hide what you really think; then you find the formula probably which squeezes between Scylla and Charybdis. The collapse of the Polish cinema today is because they have no enemy. There is no enemy politically now, they all want money therefore capitalism is not an enemy.”
andrzej zulawski
read the full interview here: http://offscreen.com/view/an-interview-with-andrzej-zulawski-and-daniel-bird

May 14, 2015

Christofer Pallú’s List of best films of 2015 thus far

Filed under: film,film as subversive art — ABRAXAS @ 2:10 pm


first published here: http://letterboxd.com/christoferp/list/2015/

April 4, 2015

soiled sinema reviews kan door huid heen (can go through skin)

Filed under: film,film as subversive art,reviews — ABRAXAS @ 9:07 am


keep reading this review here: http://www.soiledsinema.com/2015/04/can-go-through-skin.html

March 11, 2015

soiled sinema reviews mike van diem’s karakter

Filed under: film — ABRAXAS @ 9:37 pm


read the full review here: http://www.soiledsinema.com/?zx=4025a586e369514a

February 27, 2015

soiled sinema reviews de avonden

Filed under: film — ABRAXAS @ 7:41 am


keep reading this review here: http://www.soiledsinema.com/?zx=6c2d0c2661fd2760

February 11, 2015

catherine breillat on directing

Filed under: film — ABRAXAS @ 10:32 am

I don’t know where I get the courage from. I am usually very shy. My sort of film is very intimate, and I’ve always said that my story is the story of everybody if I tell what’s real, the truth, what one person would never say to another but which I say to the spectators. And this way, a person will think it’s their story I’m telling, because everybody has the same emotions, the same shyness, the same shame. I know only me, so if I project these things onto a fictional character, of course it’s fictional but of course it’s also me. When I’m shooting a film suddenly nothing can forbid me, even shame or shyness, to do what I think is beautiful and ambiguous and has a feeling of humanity. But sometimes when I see my films once they’re finished, I think: “Oh, how can I have done that?”

I’m also very much a puritan. I love sin, but I’m still a puritan. And I think that’s why I make these brutal films. Also, when I was young I read many, many books, and I noticed that the great authors, whenever they write about sex and love, are vulgar and brutal and against women, with a fierce alpha violence—and that is something I love. As a director, I take delight in and have a propensity for doing things like that. So sometimes when I read about how I’m a feminist I think, “Yes, in my life, politically,” but in my films you find lots of masochism and with my female characters I’m not politically correct enough for feminists. In France, they don’t accept me, but one critic loved my film because I explained that a woman has to be a masochist in order to love men. I think I have the anatomy of a woman and the authority of what normally belongs to a man.

I love to experiment with this authority on strong men—for example, the technicians and workers on set. I was friends with the director of Gaumont and when I told him I wanted to make films he explained to me: “Oh, no, Catherine, you are a dandy, you speak in a slow voice, you cannot direct workers, they’re very masculine.” But it’s not in my manner to be commanding. I never give orders. My manner is more a fascination, a sort of mysterious magnetism: step by step, everybody on the set becomes the film—they become like me. I do nothing directly to make this happen, I don’t know how it works because I never give orders. Yes, I make the choreography very, very precisely, and I make the costumes and almost all the set decorations, but after that I don’t give orders. Even with the actors, they have to respect my chorography of the scenes, but I never work with them beforehand. On the set I don’t tell them what they have to do, I shoot the first take without giving any direction, because if it was marvelous and magic, after that I won’t be able to get it again. But it’s very rare that the first take is marvelous so I say to them, with real violence, I think, “What did you do?”

I direct by the contrary, by the opposite. When I was younger I found who I was in my opposition to the adults, to everybody, because I am very proud and I hated being a child and obeying, even obeying my sister, who was older than me. I direct in the same manner, by saying what is bad and boring in their performance. The first time they’ll often play the scene with psychology, using their own logic to understand the lines and that is completely boring for me. I always say to them, if they act the scene like that, then why make the film—I can publish a book instead! I tell them that there’s something between the words and the silence that they aren’t giving me, that they have to surprise me. Then I tell them, for example, maybe when you’re speaking you are lying to this other person or perhaps you are very sincere and you’re lying to yourself.

I always say that cinema is like an ideogram, these abstractions: you have 26 letters to work, like in the Occidental alphabet, and with this you can explain the entire world. But it’s very linear. What’s so exciting for me about making movies is when, with these 26 letters, you have two opposite, ambiguous feelings in the same moment. It’s violent and unexplainable. If I can get this to happen in a single shot, it’s magical and everybody on set becomes silent with emotion. I’m very tyrannical with the actors but sometimes I try not to be, because it’s all about creating these emotions, and they’ve taught me something about what are the real movements and the underground movements of our emotional life. I don’t know how to talk about my scripts before we start shooting, it’s like something that’s inside myself that I don’t want to admit or talk about. I think this might be complicated for Americans to understand because producers always want to know before production starts what the author intends to do. In fact, all you have to do is just shoot the script as written and you can’t know anything about it before you start shooting.

Sometimes I’m afraid of a scene and I’ll cut out certain lines because they’re too ridiculous. For instance, at the end of the film when Isabelle says, “Like in the supermarket” [comparing overstocking a shopping cart with writing checks to Vilko], it explains the reality of what happened but it’s also a ridiculous thing to say. Suddenly, I became afraid of my own phrase, thinking that it’s an impossible thing for her to say, but Isabelle told me: “No, no, I want to say it.” In that last scene, which was our last day of shooting, she did everything perfectly in the first take, without my having to say a thing. She had become my actress, who belongs only to me and no one else.

read the full interview here: http://www.filmcomment.com/entry/interview-catherine-breillat

January 8, 2015

michael haneke on what to write about

Filed under: film,film as subversive art,literature — ABRAXAS @ 9:02 pm


Would you say that drawing from one’s own experience and background is always good—or even necessary?


I’ve never seen good results from people trying to speak about things they don’t know firsthand. They will talk about Afghanistan, about children in Africa, but in the end they only know what they’ve seen on TV or read in the newspaper. And yet they pretend—even to themselves—that they know what they’re saying. But that’s bullshit. I’m quite convinced that I don’t know anything except for what is going on around me, what I can see and perceive every day, and what I have experienced in my life so far. These are the only things I can rely on. Anything else is merely the pretense of knowledge with no depth. Of course, I don’t just write about things precisely as they have happened to me—some have and some haven’t. But at least I try to invent stories with which I can personally identify.

My students, meanwhile, pitch only the gravest of topics. For them it’s always got to be the Holocaust. I usually tell them, Back off. You have no idea what you’re talking about. You can only reproduce what you read or heard elsewhere. Others who actually lived through it have said it much better than you ever could. Try to create something that springs organically from your own experience. For only then does it stand the slightest chance of being genuinely interesting. Incidentally, this is also why in our day and age the movies coming out of the developing countries are much more interesting than our own. These films portray an authentic experience, and they do so with real passion, while we, the viewers, only know of these things second- or thirdhand. And yet, we can feel when something is real—as a viewer, you can feel the pleasure or despair of a certain scene. We, in our protected little worlds, are much more numb because we are in luck not to experience danger on a daily basis. But that’s precisely why the film industry in the so-called first world is in such a rut. There is just so much recycling. We don’t have the capability to represent authentic experiences because there is so little we do experience. At the most basic level, all we’re concerned about here are our material possessions and sexual urges. There really isn’t much more to our lives.

first published here: http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6354/the-art-of-screenwriting-no-5-michael-haneke

January 6, 2015

daniel kasman’s best films of 2014

Filed under: film,film as subversive art — ABRAXAS @ 3:05 pm


first published here: http://sensesofcinema.com/2015/world-poll-2/2014-world-poll-part-3/

November 10, 2014

30 films – frieda grafe

Filed under: film,Frieda Grafe — ABRAXAS @ 8:59 am

Screen shot 2014-11-10 at 8.58.01 AM

first published here: http://www.biblioman.at/info/Fundus243/artikel_1035018.htm

November 6, 2014

good art is beautiful detritus

November 3, 2014

gilberto perez on academics and their jargon

Filed under: film,film as subversive art,literature — ABRAXAS @ 3:23 pm

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from – the material ghost

October 27, 2014

menilmontant (1926) – dimitri kirsanov

Filed under: film,film as subversive art — ABRAXAS @ 8:18 pm

June 29, 2014

bunuel on memory

Filed under: film,film as subversive art,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 2:17 pm

“You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces, to realize that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all… Our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. Without it we are nothing.”

― Luis Buñuel

June 4, 2014

luc who’s at the national arts festival…

Filed under: film — ABRAXAS @ 10:42 am


May 12, 2014

returning to aeolus street – maria kourkouta

Filed under: art,film,film as subversive art — ABRAXAS @ 8:28 am


April 27, 2014

interesting @oberhausen

Filed under: film,film as subversive art — ABRAXAS @ 2:16 pm

Screen shot 2014-04-27 at 2.14.45 PM

more info is here: http://www.coolibri.de/veranstaltungen/wochenende/podium-das-interessante-an-den/1097292/12.html

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