Unreal Nature

March 17, 2016

Keeping Things Tucked In

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:39 am

… “it is about his disappearance, the extinction of a human being … “

Continuing through Slow Movies: Countering the Cinema of Action by Ira Jaffe (2014):


… Possibly another reality these practitioners seek more or less consciously to stave off is suggested by Kracauer in a comment about The Last Laugh: “Thus the film advanced, however ironically, the authoritarian credo that the magic spell of authority protects society from decomposition.” The decomposition feared in Murnau’s film is primarily social, political and economic; at stake is the survival of the Weimar Republic’s fragile democratic experiment.

[line break added] The decomposition in Lazarescu, on the other hand, bears immediately on the human body. Its breakdown and rotting are not merely feared, but really occur, and are witnessed in some detail. As noted above, multiple organs and limbs of Lazarescu’s failing body are repeatedly touched, probed, tested and scanned amid the stench of his whisky, vomit and incontinence. Not inconceivable is that prolonged exposure to such deterioration prompts in caregivers anxieties about their own health, and consequently provokes defensive postures such as those in Lazarescu.

… “Firstly, it is about his disappearance, the extinction of a human being, of a soul,” it’s about medical care, of course, “but not just that; it’s more about a man who is dying.” [says the film’s director, Cristi Puiu]

[ … ]


… “I got rid of it. It’s in the bathroom,” Gabita says after Otilia has awakened her. Otilia proceeds to the bathroom to look and kneels beside the fetus that lies outside the frame. She looks stunned. Only after she stand again and walks out of frame does the camera, which has been stationary, descend with brutal, intrusive speed to reveal the fetus lying on a bloodied towel on the bathroom floor.

Thus conducted to the fetus directly by the camera rather than a person’s gaze, the spectator experiences his or her own horror unencumbered for the moment by the feelings of a character. The spectator experiences horror alone.

Such grave, distancing moments possibly contribute to the impression of “cool devastation” and “calmly observed melodrama” that Stuart Klawans and other critics derive from 432. Klawans notes traditional melodramatic elements in the film such as an “overbearing villain,” time pressures and “a heroine [or two] who might as well be tied to the railroad tracks.”

[line break added] He cites as well, however, “the formal restraints that Mungiu exercises … a restraint that extends to Marinca’s inward-looking, furiously controlled performance [as Otilia] and the deep, steady gaze of Oleg Matu’s cinematography.” In the horrific long take we have been discussing, the camera continues calmly and coolly to hold on the fetus as Otilia returns to the frame, though her face remains outside the frame, perhaps in keeping with Mungiu’s determination to maintain “a proper distance.” With only her lower body and her hands and arms in view, Otilia wraps the fetus in the towel and empties personal items from her bag, making room for the fetus.

[ … ]


… The indeterminacy of the causes of Carol’s symptoms underscores that limitations of understanding and awareness concern Haynes as much as do absences or failures of emotion. He has said that Safe is about “restraint” and “keeping things tucked in,” a comment reminiscent of Jarmusch’s remark that Stranger Than Paradise is about “repression.” Not very different is Sokurov’s stress on “reticence” as key to his cinema. “A limitation of what we can actually see and feel. There has to be mystery.”

… when [Carol] returns home following the visit to Linda, she at first appears nowhere on screen. There is simply the sound of her disembodied voice calling out, informing the maid of her return (and hearing in reply the distant whir of a vacuum cleaner). Instead of Carol, a huge living room looms, its plush chairs, lamps, tables, columns and beams symmetrically arranged before a dark fireplace set in a wide wall in the background.

[line break added] Then, as the camera remains stationary, Carol appears in the kitchen, in the rearmost part of the image or the upper right. Through a small vertical opening, barely more than a slit between the edge of the fireplace wall and a wet bar to the right of it, we get a glimpse of her pouring a glass of milk.

My most recent previous post from Jaffe’s book is here.




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