This year’s Viennale opened on Thursday night with Jessica Hausner’s Amour fou but really takes off today and runs through November 6. As noted in the preview of the lineup posted in August, the Viennale concentrates less on premieres than it does on curation. Alongside some of the best films of the past year or so, a John Ford retrospective, co-presented by the Austrian Film Museum, runs through November 30. And it’s here that, with great excitement and anticipation, we pass along news that Christoph Huber, having recently taken on a new job as a programmer at the Film Museum, has just started a new blog. Most of the entries will be in English and: “I hereby declare a John Ford month, with a series of Ford-related items to pop up in the next weeks–but it will not be Ford-only. After all, if you start to move beyond the surface of film history, you discover amazing connections. Which ones? Please come back to find out.”
At this point, there’s probably no getting around a little issue that’s popped up in Vienna regarding the relationship between the Viennale and the Film Museum. Die Presse, the very paper for which Christoph Huber reviewed films for fifteen years, would seem to be hoping for a full-blown shitstorm, but it’s really more of a shitflurry, if that. The Viennale series Peter Handke went to the cinema (Part 1’s on through October 23; Part 2 runs from November 8 through 19) is running at the newly re-opened Metro Kinokulturhaus, which some critics have evidently cast as a rival film archive to the Museum. Biennale director Hans Hurch has recently taken these critics to task in an interview in Falter, a weekly paper for which he was once a culture editor and film critic—as was Alexander Horwath, himself a former Viennale director who now, of course, heads up the Film Museum.
Manoel de Oliveira‘s trailer for Viennale 2014, Chafariz das Virtudes
But enough of that. In a first Viennale dispatch to Artinfo, David D’Arcy writes about Amour fou and, at Twitch, Patrick Holzapfel notes that there’ll be “around 150 feature films and documentaries. Among the highlights are Li’l Quinquin by Bruno Dumont, Winter Sleep by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, From What is Before by Lav Diaz, Jauja by Lisandro Alonso, Birdman by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Hard to be a God by Aleksei German or Pasolini by Abel Ferrara…. Further highlights are tributes to the actor Viggo Mortensen, the director Tariq Teguia, the late filmmaker Harun Farocki (who passed away sadly this summer), the work of Fritz Kortner and a special homage to Jean-Luc Godard.” As more news and views appear from Vienna, we’ll be making note of them here.
Updates, 10/26: “Preceding the Viennale this year but later playing at the festival at a conventional theatrical screening was the premiere of a new film by [James] Benning commissioned by, about, and installed in a gallery at the Museum of Natural History Vienna (Naturhistorisches Museum Wien), natural history.” In the Notebook, Daniel Kasman notes that this 77-minute work “is a series of almost entirely still, almost entirely humanless shots inside the museum, essentially alternating, or nearly so, images from the archives—not the exhibits—of the museum’s collection with images of corridors, hallways, offices, and other rooms hidden within the building…. The film faces its public, the projected screen a passway to the archives and arteries that make up the bulk of the institution’s collection, work, and the building’s size. My audience made this abundantly clear; while most adults who passed through or peaked into the gallery space were transients, a group of what must have been school children—unsupervised—around 12 years old had bivouacked in front of natural history and variously ignored and interacted with it.”
“One of the most mysterious films in the last years, it is ideologically unstable, lovable at all times, and secretly defiant,” writes Roger Koza. “What is Nepal Forever?… The starting point is unexpected; this is a film about Communism in the 21st century. The filmic genre is surprising; [Aliona] Polunina introduces her film as a comical documentary. Since when is revolutionary spirit compatible with laughter?” Meantime, Jan Soldat‘s The Incomplete is “the portrait of a 60-year-old man who is presented as a Gollum. Naked and in chains, this bold-headed and relaxed man who says his name is Klaus confesses he is gay and wants to be a slave…. This is a film about Germany, but it doesn’t necessarily suggest violence as the driving force for Klaus’s masochism; there is something delirious about it, and it seems as a staging of power and all its structures under the service of a form of pleasure which is not related with sexuality.”
Updates, 10/30: On Monday, “Nathaniel Dorsky presented four new short films in the lovely red velvet case of the Metro theater of Austrian Film Archive, in meditative silence and gorgeous projection conditions,” writes Marie-Pierre Duhamel for the Notebook. “Dorsky’s films are experiences in the discovery of a world beyond (parallel to) ours that only his camera can capture; a world fleeting and luminous, where mystery prevails through unexpected associations in framing, light and color changes between the ‘ordinary’ objects and spaces that surround us.”
“Talk about Moscow-supported breakaway states now,” writes Clarence Tsui in the Hollywood Reporter, “and the mind is inevitably drawn toward eastern Ukraine—but long before the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic came into being last year, the Caucasian territory of Abkhazia was doing the same. Seceding from Georgia after a bloody civil war ending in 1993, the largely internationally unrecognized republic—with a population just above 240,000—has paid a heavy price: its infrastructure remains shattered, its resort-capital Sukhumi effectively shuttered, its Soviet-era charm long gone.” Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosolowski’s documentary Domino Effect “offers an engaging if sometimes sprawling probe into lives in these post-secession pariah states.”
Updates, 11/3: Notebook editor Daniel Kasman on Revolutions in 16mm: “Programmed by Katja Wiederspahn and Haden Guest with an admirably variegated range, the programs were gathered around collective films, war films, sex films, expanded cinema, and more. Key to the section’s expanse, which begins in the 1920s and touches every decade between here and there, is also in highlighting new work done in this increasingly outmoded, ‘out of date,’ and unprojectionable format. Included amongst these are films every bit as exciting as the history and canon Revolution in 16mm touches on: Jodie Mack‘s Razzle Dazzle (written about here), Richard Touhy’s masterpiece of color Ginza Strip, and, most excitingly, a quartet of new films by Nathaniel Dorsky, the film poet who makes 16mm appear as if from some another, more resplendently serene and tenebrous world.”
“Anyone familiar with the work of legendary avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas will instantly feel at home with his 2012 work Outtakes from the Life of a Happy Man that screened together with Andy Warhol‘s Tiger Morse (Reel 14 of ***),” writes Patrick Holzapfel at Twitch. “It is a collection of personal and beautiful moments shot like the memories of a lifetime or the real images of a lost memory.”
Update, 11/4: Danny Kasman goes long on the tributes and special programs: “These aren’t just retrospectives, they are revitalizing redoubts, inexhaustible fountains of flame, of sensitivity, of consciousness, and of intervention. With such a profound retrospective program, I hope you’ll forgive me telling you very little of anything new at the festival; unless, that is, you like me count cinema revived as something always new.”
Updates, 11/5: For the Hollywood Reporter, Clarence Tsui reviews The Color Out of Space: “Sergio Wolf’s latest documentary shares the same title and subject as H.P. Lovecraft’s 1927 short story about the fallout of a crashed meteor. But whereas the late U.S. writer’s piece is more about broaching something beyond human history, the Argentinean director’s film deploys myths and outer-space matter to expose the very familiar yet never-ending cycle of Western adventurers plundering resources belonging to populations in the margins.”
Nikolaus Perneczky has posted a second dispatch (in German) to Cargo.
Update, 11/9: Nikolaus Perneczky for Cargo, in German, part III.
Update, 11/12: “29-year-old Julian Radlmaier’s A Proletarian Winter’s Tale… proves that Radlmaier is one of the few exciting young German filmmakers working today,” argues Patrick Holzapfel, introducing his interview at Twitch. “His political-comedy about three Georgian workers testing their revolutionary cabability during an art exhibition at a castle, is full of wit and intelligent use of stylistic devices. Radlmaier is not shy of using quotes, from D.W. Griffith to Jean Renoir to Pedro Costa, and he makes a shot not because it is the best way to narrate something but because the shot itself narrates something.”
Update, 11/16: Michael Pattison for Sight & Sound on two films by James Benning: “While natural history is all about ‘looking at things that have been waiting to be seen,’ FAROCKI’s theatrical screening gave new reverence to a work originally intended for private consumption. It’s a tripod-fixed, 77-minute take of a single cloud, shot by Benning early one evening at the end of this past July, when driving from his home in the Sierra Nevada mountains to where he teaches at CalArts. One of 31 artworks the filmmaker is currently creating to present as gifts to friends and acquaintances, this particular piece was meant for Harun Farocki—of whose death at the age of 70 Benning learned only hours after shooting.”