Blogs Crosscuts

Béla Tarr and The Man From London

Béla Tarr is a bit of an enigma. He’s not interested in making things easy on his viewers.  His films are often called difficult, and even in interviews, he is not likely to give you many hints that will make them any easier. He likes to contradict himself, and often comes off as a bit […]

photo by Cameron Wittig - Walker Art Center

Béla Tarr is a bit of an enigma. He’s not interested in making things easy on his viewers.  His films are often called difficult, and even in interviews, he is not likely to give you many hints that will make them any easier. He likes to contradict himself, and often comes off as a bit of a contrarian. He seems to enjoy a spirited conversation, and even when he seems most passionate, or even a bit angry, you can catch a wry smile if you keep a close eye on him. This was quite evident when he was here for a Regis Dialogue with Howard Feinstein in 2007, which can be seen on the Walker Channel.

I tend to think that all of this speaks to his desire to let his work speak for itself.  Certainly, many filmmakers prefer this, but in Béla Tarr’s case, I believe it’s because there aren’t simple answers, definitions, and insights that he can offer.  Tarr’s recent work – perhaps since Almanac of Fall (1985), or even moreso Damnation (1988) – deals heavily in atmosphere. With his virtuosic use of the long take, the landscape and surroundings become as important a character as any of the people in the film. Scenes tend to unfold quite slowly and the drama and tension evolve quite organically – unconcerned with the  tenets of traditional storytelling and filmmaking.

The Man From London

As a viewer, I’ve found myself completely enveloped by these films. I was watching the screen, but felt completely surrounded by the overarching moods and textures in these films.   In my experience, this is quite rare. During the dialogue, when talking about Damnation, Tarr notes that the film has a “cosmical” meaning to it.  This is the crux of his filmmaking for me. Béla Tarr has this uncommon gift of creating cinema that has a spiritual quality to it – not spiritual in a religious sense, but in a more ethereal way. It’s a quality I was trying to get at in blog post from several years ago about Stan Brakhage and Nathaniel Dorsky, and one that Dorsky himself aimed to describe and define in his book Devotional Cinema. Ultimately, it is what I long to get out of a cinematic experience.  It is a rare find, but a transformative and invigorating experience.

That is what keeps me returning to Béla Tarr and the reason I so look forward to our presentation of The Man from London this coming Thursday. We had initially presented the film during the Regis Retrospective in 2007 (sadly, I missed both of our screenings), but ultimately, Tarr was displeased with the sound.  That 2007 version had all of the dialogue dubbed into Hungarian, and after its first few festival screenings, he decided to go back and completely rework the audio getting back to the original English and French dialogue. This is the first time (and possibly the last) this has screened here. The screening is free and open to the public.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyb-7Mb7irA&feature=related[/youtube]

Tehroun

by Sara Saljoughi Tehroun screens on April 28th at 7:30 pm as part of the Walker’s Views from Iran series. Tehroun is a captivating directorial debut by Nader T. Homayoun that is likely to surprise anyone who walks into the viewing with a preconceived notion of what “Iranian cinema” is as a whole.  Homayoun made […]

by Sara Saljoughi

Tehroun screens on April 28th at 7:30 pm as part of the Walker’s Views from Iran series.

Tehroun is a captivating directorial debut by Nader T. Homayoun that is likely to surprise anyone who walks into the viewing with a preconceived notion of what “Iranian cinema” is as a whole.  Homayoun made the feature-length documentary Iran: A Cinematographic Revolution, this is his first feature-length narrative.  The title of the film refers to the colloquial pronunciation used by Iranians when saying “Tehran.”

Critics have called the film a “crime thriller,” in reference to the film’s narrative which follows the actions of Ibrahim (Ali Ebdali), who uses a rented baby to gain sympathy while begging for money on the street and who is on the run from a gang chief the rest of the time that we are with him.

The film’s pacing is a far cry from Iranian films like Taste of Cherry; it is fast-paced and sheds light on hidden corners and subsections of Iran’s capital.

Homayoun’s Tehran is stricken with poverty and his characters do what they can to get by: violence, begging, smuggling, prostitution.

Fortunately, Homayoun doesn’t succumb to the temptations of what an Iranian-style Slumdog Millionaire might bring him in terms of fame and success. His narrative keeps us guessing and gives no easy rewards.

As such, his particular representation of the city, via the travails of Ibrahim, is an open and blank-faced exploration of what is merely suggested in other Iranian films.

____________________

Sara Saljoughi is a graduate student in Comparative Studies in Discourse & Society at the U of M. Her areas of research are cinema, critical theory, Iranian studies and postcolonial theory. She has published film and music reviews in Exclaim!, Broken Pencil and Foxy Digitalis. She blogs at http://sarainamerica.blogspot.com/

Views From Iran continues with Heiran

by Sara Saljoughi Heiran screens on April 25th at 2:00 pm, as part of the Walker’s Views from Iran series. Heiran is the first feature length narrative film written and directed by Iranian filmmaker Shalizeh Arefpour and produced by visiting filmmaker Rakhshan Bani-Etemad.  This is a film that contains what appears to be a simple […]

by Sara Saljoughi

Heiran screens on April 25th at 2:00 pm, as part of the Walker’s Views from Iran series.

Heiran is the first feature length narrative film written and directed by Iranian filmmaker Shalizeh Arefpour and produced by visiting filmmaker Rakhshan Bani-Etemad.  This is a film that contains what appears to be a simple narrative, and one that has been worked out many times in the history of world cinema: a story of love interrupted and troubled by immigration legalities.

Part of Arefpour’s success with Heiran is her attention to social issues in contemporary Iran, particularly in relation to the millions of refugees living within its borders.

Set in rural Iran, Heiran traces the evolution of the relationship between Mahi, a seventeen year old girl, and Heiran, a young Afghan student who works in her village.

In one of  the film’s earliest scenes, the camera captures a small opening in the wall of a refugee holding center in Iran.  As we peer through the opening together, Mahi says “They are all strangers, no familiar faces. Where am I in their story? Beginning, middle, or end?” At this moment, the tone is one of curiosity and perhaps even melancholy, but later in the film, we return to the same position. We, together with Mahi, look at a roomful of male Afghan refugees, but the tone has shifted and there is something menacing about the men, causing Mahi (and us) to only feel desperation about the situation at hand.

This oscillation of feelings about the “stranger” (Gharib in Persian) is arguably what structures the film and can be read as a statement about Iran’s complicated position on being a so-called “host” country to millions of Afghan refugees and migrant workers.

While Heiran contains some elements of Iranian cinema that are very familiar to Western viewers, such as a rural setting and a storyline following young people, it also shifts that perspective by engaging a narrative about something – immigration – that is often only thought of as something Iranians do throughout the world, not something that is dealt with as a domestic issue in Iran itself. As such, one of Heiran’s contributions is the fact that it speaks to a large misconception about who immigrates, who emigrates, and which countries do most of the hosting.

For example, it may come as a surprise to learn that throughout much of Afghanistan’s history of turmoil in the twentieth century, including during the rule of the Taliban, Iran was the logical destination for emigrating Afghans.

Heiran is one narrative that speaks to the complex and troubled relationship between Iranian society and Afghan immigrants and refugees.  With all its moments of young, idealistic love against the background of an idyllic, rural setting (including some amazing sequences of bicycle riding), Heiran also reveals the cynical, suspicious and often times racist attitude towards Afghans in Iranian society. It is a strong film that suggests a promising future in cinema for Arefpour.

____________________

Sara Saljoughi is a graduate student in Comparative Studies in Discourse & Society at the U of M. Her areas of research are cinema, critical theory, Iranian studies and postcolonial theory. She has published film and music reviews in Exclaim!, Broken Pencil and Foxy Digitalis. She blogs at http://sarainamerica.blogspot.com/

Shirin Neshat’s Women Without Men

by Sara Saljoughi Women Without Men (Zanaan-e bedun-e mardan) has two screenings as part of the Walker’s Views from Iran series:  April 16th at 7:30 pm and April 17th at 7:30 pm. The film will be introduced by director Shirin Neshat and collaborator Shoja Azari on April 16. The screening will be followed by a […]

by Sara Saljoughi

Women Without Men (Zanaan-e bedun-e mardan) has two screenings as part of the Walker’s Views from Iran series:  April 16th at 7:30 pm and April 17th at 7:30 pm. The film will be introduced by director Shirin Neshat and collaborator Shoja Azari on April 16. The screening will be followed by a discussion with the artists.

Shirin Neshat’s first feature film is an adaptation of Iranian novelist Shahrnush Parsipur’s novel, Women without Men.  Neshat’s fascination with Parsipur’s novel and her own exploration of the literary work’s intrinsic visual qualities were evident in her Zarin Series (2005), a collection of photographs inspired by one of the novel and film’s main characters, Zarin.  Women without Men hones in on the life of four women – Zarin, Faezeh, Munis and Fakhri – in one of the most politically tumultuous times in modern Iranian history, the 1953 CIA-backed coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh.

Neshat’s adaptation of Parsipur’s novel manages to perform a striking interpretation of the written work’s elements of magical realism, something that Parsipur has continued with her latest novel Men from Various Civilizations.

The film’s muted palette, which is at moments reminiscent of Kodachrome photographs, takes us away from “realism,” something which has almost come to be expected from Iranian filmmakers, into a world that is seemingly discordant with the one we know, both in the realm of the physical and the emotive.

The visual interpretation of Parsipur’s fantastical world is evoked from the film’s earliest moments. We hear a woman’s voice say, “Now I’ll have silence, silence and nothing. And I thought, the only freedom from pain is to be free from the world,” while the camera follows a stream into one of the film’s most important spaces, a metaphorical orchard. The world from which the woman (who we later know as Munis) seeks to be free is not the ruddy, wet earth and blooming trees of the orchard, but the walls and interiors of life in Tehran, the world of men and women.

Like other films in the Views from Iran series, Women without Men employs a marginal space removed from the characters’ usual habitat; the orchard is a space of healing, regeneration and quiet away from the chaos of the political changes gripping the country and the demands on each of the four women.

In the summer of 2009 Women without Men won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival while the first rumblings of what could become great political change occurred yet again in Iran. In photographs from the festival, Neshat and members of the cast (including Parsipur, who has a great cameo as the madam of a brothel) stood on the red carpet, their green bracelets poignantly reaching out in solidarity with the protestors in Iran.

Neshat’s adaptation of Women without Men is significant because it provides a compelling psychological account of a moment in history, via the experiences of women, against the backdrop of great events.

____________________

Sara Saljoughi is a graduate student in Comparative Studies in Discourse & Society at the U of M. Her areas of research are cinema, critical theory, Iranian studies and postcolonial theory. She has published film and music reviews in Exclaim!, Broken Pencil and Foxy Digitalis. She blogs at http://sarainamerica.blogspot.com/

About Elly kicks off Walker’s Views from Iran series

by Sara Saljoughi Asghar Farhadi’s latest film About Elly screens on Friday, April 9th at 7:30 pm as part of the Walker’s Views from Iran series. About Elly has a deceptively simple premise: a group of middle-class Tehranis go on a short vacation to the Caspian Sea.  Sepideh (Golshifteh Farahani) is the most gregarious of […]

by Sara Saljoughi

Asghar Farhadi’s latest film About Elly screens on Friday, April 9th at 7:30 pm as part of the Walker’s Views from Iran series.

About Elly has a deceptively simple premise: a group of middle-class Tehranis go on a short vacation to the Caspian Sea.  Sepideh (Golshifteh Farahani) is the most gregarious of the group, as well as its leader, and her main objective for the trip is to play matchmaker to her daughter’s kindergarten teacher Elly (Taraneh Alidousti) and her friend Ahmad (Shahab Hosseini) who is newly divorced and visiting from Germany.

By setting the film in Shomal (which literally means “north” and is how that region of Iran is known to the rest of the country) Farhadi is able to work with a narrative that is already structured both psychologically inside and physically outside the imaginary of Tehran’s urban milieu.

The seaside towns of Shomal have long been a popular vacation spot for Tehran’s middle and upper classes thus as a destination for the group of friends, the region is a site that allows them to escape the conventions of Tehran society while also recreating them in very distinct ways.

Elly is the key figure through whom this simultaneous action of familiarization and estrangement operates.  For much of the film, she is a  stranger; as an outsider, she does not understand the group’s jokes and she resists their attempts at collegial intimacy.  Elly’s position outside the group is also responsible for a general lack of interest in her, other than the friends teasing and prodding Ahmad to ascertain his opinion of her.

This all changes in a single moment, catapulting Elly to the center of the film’s action, though she maybe no longer visible in that action. The moment she is physically removed from the screen, all of the other characters’ actions revolve around the idea of Elly.

It is here that traces of classism and moral judgements about Elly’s sexuality emerge; the fact that she was not known suddenly becomes of utmost importance.

Strongly reminiscent of Antonioni’s L’Avventura, Asghar Farhadi’s film poses difficult questions about truth, responsibility, social survival and what happens to relationships in the aftermath of crisis. Golshifteh Farahani, a rising star in Iranian cinema, makes a stunning turn as a conniving Queen Bee character who positions herself as innocent and benevolent, which allows her to make a variety of decisions that catapult the rest of the group into tragedy.

About Elly garnered Farhadi the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival and follows on the heels of his acclaimed  Fireworks Wednesday (Chaharshanbeh Suri ), which also focuses on strained relationships among the Tehran elite. About Elly is a powerful opener for the Walker’s Views from Iran series and should not be missed.

Sara Saljoughi is a graduate student in Comparative Studies in Discourse & Society at the U of M. Her areas of research are cinema, critical theory, Iranian studies and postcolonial theory. She has published film and music reviews in Exclaim!, Broken Pencil and Foxy Digitalis. She blogs at http://sarainamerica.blogspot.com/


Laurel Nakadate’s “Dirty Old Men”

by Eric Jones A most appropriate teaser to the upcoming exhibition The Talent Show, Laurel Nakadate’s Stay the Same Never Change premieres at the Walker Cinema on Thursday, March 25 at 7:30 pm. Curator Peter Eleey’s review of Greater New York 2005 at P.S.1 labeled her early work as “disturbed videos of herself horsing around […]

by Eric Jones

Stay The Same Never Change

A most appropriate teaser to the upcoming exhibition The Talent Show, Laurel Nakadate’s Stay the Same Never Change premieres at the Walker Cinema on Thursday, March 25 at 7:30 pm.

Curator Peter Eleey’s review of Greater New York 2005 at P.S.1 labeled her early work as “disturbed videos of herself horsing around with dirty old men (Frieze 2005), and though the embodiment of dirty might be substituted for amazement, severe luck or edging, Nakadate’s staging of non-actors brings her work to this similar arena of reality television or gritty HBO documentaries.

Beg For Your Life

In 2008, I saw her speak during the opening of Yerba Buena’s The Way That We Rhyme: Women, Art & Politics and this Yale graduate startled me with Beg for Your Life, a video series of herself holding a gun to older men’s heads asking them to beg for their lives. The multiple vignettes of these non-actors begging revealed how little they honestly felt threatened (one particular victim barely held back his giggling smile), or objectified for that matter.

In truth, these fantastical dates looked like a good time, then again, I was fresh from Colonize Me in which I was left alone in a room to strip completely naked and await my 2 minutes alone with Vaginal Crème Davis, so I realize mine was an acclimated palate.

Still, I am addicted to her audacity and humor: nude, bored-looking in roller skates while he sketches, dressed in cliché French maid uniform with a dog humping her leg and dance sessions with awkward and strangely loveable older men.

Within her work, among exploding 2 liter bottles of Pepsi and the illusion of naivety, I find the power every online, preteen girl asserts in anonymous flirtation without consequence. Unlike most, I do not see her as bravely going alone with these men because the camera so obviously makes her invincible. She’s indulging them second to her own ego.

Nakadate’s videos immediately draw me into reckless fantasy. With each scene, I earnestly await butterflies, a unicorn and rainbow bursts. Nakadate, a Lisa Frank for adult swingers (or anyone who can create a myspace page), is drunk with the power to cast and see herself in a multitude of roles with many, many men, and all the while knowingly leaving a viewer thinking: That can’t be real? Something of their difference in age and beauty leaves our characters un-marriageable even for a five minute clip.

With that said take your intergenerational internet friend offline and bring them to the Walker for the cheapest date in town on Target FREE Thursday Night. Laurel Nakadate will be present for interrogation or praise and she just might want to take you home for some art-making…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrOGDjzWnUM[/youtube]

Eric Jones graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead with a BA in English and a minor in Women’s Studies. During the Republican National Convention, he worked at volunteer coordinator for Sharon Hayes’ Revolutionary Love 2: I Am Your Best Fantasy. In October, he received the Minneapolis FEAST grant for the still unfinished Party Bus. Just back from his SW drag tour American Gash: Wide Open Spaces, he will join other queer storytellers at the Bedlam Theatre for a Women’s Prison Book Project Fundraiser on April 10.  He is currently working to co-present Come As You Are MPLS (a celebration of queer sex 40 years after Stonewall) with the Theater Offensive and Mixed Blood Theater on May 22.  This and so much more may be found on his blog.

Eric Jones graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead with a BA in English and a minor in Women’s Studies. During the Republican National Convention, he worked at volunteer coordinator for Sharon Hayes’ Revolutionary Love 2: I Am Your Best Fantasy. In October, he received the Minneapolis FEAST grant for the still unfinished Party Bus. Just back from his SW drag tour American Gash: Wide Open Spaces, he will join other queer storytellers at the Bedlam Theatre for a Women’s Prison Book Project Fundraiser on April 10.  He is currently working to co-present Come As You Are MPLS (a celebration of queer sex 40 years after Stonewall) with the Theater Offensive and Mixed Blood Theater on May 22.  This and so much more may be found on his blog www.fuckmewhileimgorgeous.blogspot.com.

Women With Vision: clips and trailers

35 Shots of Rum [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPDvNGruo2Y[/youtube] Lourdes [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7Ec64c3T2I[/youtube] Pride of Lions [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7chWSQlRPCw[/youtube] Vision [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYrIVvK1s6U&feature=related[/youtube] Stay the Same Never Change [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrOGDjzWnUM[/youtube] El General [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWxU075aVtE[/youtube] Fritz: The Walter Mondale Story [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MchFcwuPO0[/youtube]

35 Shots of Rum

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPDvNGruo2Y[/youtube]

Lourdes

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7Ec64c3T2I[/youtube]

Pride of Lions

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7chWSQlRPCw[/youtube]


Vision

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYrIVvK1s6U&feature=related[/youtube]

Stay the Same Never Change

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrOGDjzWnUM[/youtube]

El General

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWxU075aVtE[/youtube]

Fritz: The Walter Mondale Story

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MchFcwuPO0[/youtube]

Expanding the Frame: Clips and Trailers

A collection of clips and trailers for the Expanding the Frame: Journeys program… An Evening with Ben Russell – 7:30pm, Thursday, January 21, 2010 Though this is not a part of the Walker show, I think this excerpt from a Joe Grimm + Ben Russell collaboration can give a sense of what you can expect […]

A collection of clips and trailers for the Expanding the Frame: Journeys program…

An Evening with Ben Russell – 7:30pm, Thursday, January 21, 2010

Though this is not a part of the Walker show, I think this excerpt from a Joe Grimm + Ben Russell collaboration can give a sense of what you can expect from Ben’s performance of The Black and White Gods.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqgUQJkNbSU[/youtube]

Where is Where? – 7:30pm, Saturday, January 23 and 7:30pm, Wednesday, January 27

Director Eija-Liisa Ahtila discusses her work, including Where is Where?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5rcN9w5D3s[/youtube]

Zhao Liang: Visiting Artist

Opening of Petition

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJBh3rN_o0k[/youtube]

It Came From Kuchar – 7:30pm, Thursday, February 11

Trailer:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyOvLS8JnBI[/youtube]

Liverpool - 7:30pm, Friday, February 12

Trailer

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0QdEDtwQXk&feature=related[/youtube]

Filmmakers in Conversation: Ellen Kuras – February 17-20

Swoon Trailer

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ebzul9IoH-c[/youtube]

The Betrayal Trailer

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFGqNay1lT0[/youtube]

I Shot Andy Warhol clip

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nm8Lg7dGQAM[/youtube]

Berlin clip (A spectacular encore featuring Antony Hegarty!)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Em7gC0bq_aM[/youtube]

Sundance ’08 Meet the Filmmakers segment on Ellen Kuras and Thava Phrasavath

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gZ-ZUGpbDQ&feature=related[/youtube]

An Evening with Daniel Barrow – 7:30pm, Wednesday, February 24

Though this isn’t a part of the Every Time I See Your Picture I Cry Performance, this Hidden Cameras video gives a good insight into Barrow’s visual style.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bg_mZ18V2sU[/youtube]

Hollis Frampton’s Hapax Legomena – February 27-28

clip from Critical Mass

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8g-Pf36Hxw&feature=related[/youtube]

a rare television interview with Hollis Frampton from 1977

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfU0rdV6KD8&feature=related[/youtube]


No Impact Man and A Serious Man hit the screen in Minneapolis

It’s a big film weekend in the Twin Cities. Our Joel and Ethan Coen series continues with screenings of Fargo; Intolerable Cruelty; O Brother, Where Art Thou; No Country for Old Men; and The Ladykillers. With all of our screenings, we’ve certainly had the newest from the Coens, the locally filmed A Serious Man, on […]

It’s a big film weekend in the Twin Cities. Our Joel and Ethan Coen series continues with screenings of Fargo; Intolerable Cruelty; O Brother, Where Art Thou; No Country for Old Men; and The Ladykillers.

With all of our screenings, we’ve certainly had the newest from the Coens, the locally filmed A Serious Man, on our minds.  That one, a sort of unofficial, off-site appendage to our series, opens exclusively at the Uptown Theater this Friday, October 2.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_FjvR6H8xo[/youtube]

As if that weren’t enough, if you didn’t catch the screening of No Impact Man at the Walker, it too opens up this Friday, exclusively at the Landmark Lagoon Cinema.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9Ctt7FGFBo[/youtube]

Also, the 10th anniversary Sound Unseen Film Festival continues.

See you at the movies!

Raising Cain: Joel and Ethan Coen Retrospective Trailer

Despite the fact that his internship long since lapsed, he has been immersed in post production on his own feature film, and puts in 40-60 hours every week at his day job, our friend Evan Drolet Cook was kind enough to put together this trailer for the Joel and Ethan Regis Retrospective that opens here […]

Despite the fact that his internship long since lapsed, he has been immersed in post production on his own feature film, and puts in 40-60 hours every week at his day job, our friend Evan Drolet Cook was kind enough to put together this trailer for the Joel and Ethan Regis Retrospective that opens here at the Walker on September 18th with a screening of Blood Simple.  Take a look:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzSLmJc_trY[/youtube]

Next