“The reign of the hyenas has begun.”

The famously wealthy (“richer than the World Bank”) Linguère Ramatou is returning to her village of Colobane after 30 years away. The village has fallen on hard times lately, so is doing everything it can to impress her so she’ll leave a generous gift, including promise the upcoming mayoral “election” to shop-owner Dramaan Drameh, a former flame of Linguère’s.

Turns out she has returned to take revenge on Dramaan, who got her pregnant 30 years ago but wouldn’t marry her, leaving her exiled from town to become a prostitute. We don’t know how she became rich and renowned after this, but it doesn’t matter – she offers the town more money than they can spend if they’ll just agree to kill Dramaan for her. Everyone says aloud that this is absurd, that lives aren’t for sale and they’ll never agree to sacrifice the beloved Dramaan, but everyone starts stealing from his store, denying him privileges, following him around and not allowing him to leave town. The women, including Dramaan’s wife, stockpile modern appliances on credit and won’t answer when Dramaan asks them how they plan to pay the bill.

Dramaan leading the welcome party:

In the end, the townspeople tell themselves they’re enacting delayed justice, carrying out a sentence on Dramaan for his unfair treatment of 17-year-old Linguère Ramatou. Though they’re cynically murdering him for the money, at the behest of a bitter woman who tells her servants “The world turned me into a whore. I’ll make the world a whorehouse.”

Ramatou and her entourage:

Played Cannes in competition with The Long Day Closes, Fire Walk With Me and Simple Men. I guess I’ve seen all available Mambéty films… nothing more to look forward to. Based on a popular Swiss play also adapted by Bernhard Wicki (with Ingrid Bergman) and about ten others.

California Newsreel:

Hyènes was conceived as the second installment, following on Touki Bouki, of a trilogy on power and insanity. The grand theme, once again, is human greed. As Mambety himself observed, the story shows how neocolonial relations in Africa are “betraying the hopes of independence for the false promises of Western materialism,” and how Africans have been corrupted by that materialism … After unleashing this pessimistic vision of humanity and society, Mambety began a trilogy of short films about “little people,” whom he called “the only true, consistent, unaffected people in the world, for whom every morning brings the same question: how to preserve what is essential to themselves.”

The director, playing an ex-judge now working for Ramatou:

Mambety:

The hyena comes out only at night … He is a liar, the hyena. The hyena is a permanent presence in humans, and that is why man will never be perfect. The hyena has no sense of shame, but it represents nudity, which is the shame of human beings.

Ruiz made a series of films in the mid-1980’s involving sailors, pirates, children, islands, treasure and magic. There’s an explicit Treasure Island reference in Three Crowns of the Sailor (1983), and in between the similarly-themed City of Pirates and Manuel on the Island of Wonders, he made the movie Treasure Island, and wrote a book called In Search of Treasure Island.

As I learned from The Golden Boat, I’m not a big fan of Ruiz’s English-language films (actually Klimt was good). Treasure Island is full of fascinating work, especially when the plot comes together at the end, but while watching all I can think of are the language problems. Most actors (not Martin Landau or Anna Karina) are badly dubbed. Dialogue is imperfectly translated and conveyed, and performance styles are inconsisent – I tried to overlook it, but it’s too clunky to ignore. Little things make me think Ruiz wasn’t at the dubbing sessions (paella is pronounced “pai-YELL-ah”). And it’s cool that Jean-Pierre Leaud was cast, but distracting to hear him speak with no trace of French accent.

Ruiz’s Treasure Island isn’t an adaptation of the novel… not exactly, anyway. After a while it starts to follow the story when young Jonathan’s father dies while his seaside home is being visited by Landau (who asks to be called The Captain), then after Jonathan runs off he’s picked up by a sailing shoe salesman named Silver.

Some mutinies and mercenaries later, it comes out that this is an annual reenactment LARP, performed with a different Jim Hawkins every time. Captain Silver is the professor who invented the game, an “expert on game theory” (maybe not coincidence: when Silver gave his real name I wrote it as Omar Amiralay, which is also the name of a Syrian filmmaker who was active at the time). Jim/Jonathan sees through the ruse when he realizes during a gun battle that the fighting is fake, so he goes off alone, commandeering the ship with only Israel Hands (who soon dies) aboard. I start to lose track of the characters as the roles shift (The Dead Father returns as the ship’s doctor, for instance) – shades of the re-enactment identity-blending of The Territory. Even the narrator, who we assumed all along to be Jim/Jonathan, is revealed to be another character, who kills J/J offscreen at the end.

Jim and Helen:

Martin Landau, who dies, comes back to life, declares Jim is his son during an earthquake, and jumps out a window:

It’s fun to analyze the movie afterwards, to go through the screen shots and read reviews – maybe a less painfully-dubbed version exists in another country and will come out someday (argh, a restored print played Paris last month – the poor dubbing remains, and the movie has lost 15 minutes). Anna Karina is very good as J/J’s mom, anyway.

Karina and Helen:

Don’t think I got all the characters straight. Multiple possible captains – besides Landau we’ve got Silver (Vic Tayback of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore), the French Captain (Yves Afonso, who appeared with Karina and Leaud in Made In USA), and Mr. Mendoza (Pedro Armendariz Jr. of Walker in a Yankees hat). Mendoza is obsessed with a different ship-mutiny novel, Benito Cereno by Herman Melville. There’s the doctor / Dead Father (Lou Castel, Bruno Ganz’s driver in The American Friend) and J/J’s aunt Helen (singer Sheila). Crabb (Michel Ferber) imprisons J/J, Ben Gunn shoots diamonds from a slingshot. That leaves Israel Hands (Jean-Francois Stévenin, the immortal Max in Le Pont du Nord), Squire Tim Moretti (Jeffrey Kime, the doomed Jim in The Territory), and back on shore before the adventure began, Leaud as a writer (and possibly the narrator), and the creepy Blind Man (Charles Schmitt). Jim/Jonathan himself is regular Ruiz star Melvil Poupaud, returning from City of Pirates.

The island scenes (second half of the movie) were filmed on the coast of Senegal, where Katy is now.

Back on land, The Blind Man with Karina:

Played in Cannes in 1991 alongside Yumeji, Boyz n the Hood, Hearts of Darkness, and three African films. Rumor is that Chris Marker assisted Ruiz in some way. A four-hour cut was planned, but I don’t think it was completed (nobody claims to have seen it).

Ruiz in conversation with J. Rosenbaum:

Treasure Island was a complete misunderstanding, because the money was there at the beginning and then suddenly the money was gone [not there anymore]. So I had to reduce the budget, and do it like a kind of B movie. This movie starts very strangely, with a good atmosphere, and then suddenly we are in a typical TV serial, because it was shot in continuity, so you can see the point at which the money starts to vanish.

From Michael Goddard’s book:

As [the film’s introductory] television transmission is interrupted by a power cut, we are informed that its tale of a coup d’etat, diamonds and treachery continued in Jim’s head. In other words while we may be aware that stories originate elsewhere and come to us from the outside it is we who continue them as they take possession of our imaginations; so before even introducing any of the elements of Treasure Island, the key theme of possession by prior stories that make up not only Ruiz’s film but in a more implicit way the original novel itself is already established.

As in the cartographic game in Zig-Zag this is a game played in real spaces with real lives and deaths but it is no less fictional than the novel on which it is based, while the latter is increasingly read not as fiction but rather as an instruction manual for how to operate successfully in the Treasure Island game.

JW McCormack:

For one thing, the pirates don’t look much like pirates, more like guerillas, revolutionaries. Jim’s friends the Doctor and the Squire appear without much fanfare. Other characters, like participatory academic Aunt Helen, are without an analogue in the book. The Oedipal strains of the Disney version have gone haywire, as everybody claims to be Jim’s father and nobody seems terribly concerned with treasure. But as Jim says — or, rather, as Jean-Pierre Léaud says, since we learn three quarters of the way through that he has literally run away with the script and has been telling the story from Jim’s point of view — “I didn’t see why we couldn’t just carry on without the treasure. It was an adventure anyway.”

But alas, no reconstruction is perfect: in perhaps the funniest joke in the movie, Silver, disappointed that the action has fallen so far from the book, echoes the sentiments of any reader who has ever been outraged by a movie straying from its source: he fires a machine gun into the air while shouting “It was not written! It was not written!”

Ruiz interviewed by D. Ehrenstein:

When I reread Treasure Island recently I discovered that the structure was stronger than the material. The way Stevenson tells the story is so remarkable that it could be about anything – pirates, kidnappers, whatever. We are surrounded by stories that are like houses we can enter. We play amidst these stories, sometimes being involved in two or three of them at once. In one you’re the hero, in another you’re a secondary character. These scripts are the society in which we live – if you want to be a sociologist. It’s a notion I feel more and more. This has been expressed in many ways – by Stevenson, by Orson Welles, Borges, and many others – this notion that certain stories have the structure of dreams. For those stories it’s as if the cinema had already been invented.

Strong feminist single-mom “Mme Brouette” Mati (Price of Forgiveness star Rokhaya Niang) is trying to get by with her wheelbarrow business, inspiring her friend Ndaxte to leave her own abusive husband. Mati meets friendly and attentive young policeman Naago and falls for him. Unfortunately he’s actually a drunkard whose hobbies include chasing every woman in sight, shaking down local businesses for protection money, and hanging out with his trashy loanshark buddy. Now Mati is trapped and pregnant, turning to crime (smuggling) to open her own cafe, which I think Naago burns down at the end – he surely burns down something, to repay his shitty friend. Mati doesn’t initially have the nerve to just shoot the guy, but her daughter does.

Mati/Brouette is arrested for murder, the end, Kinda a depressing movie, flashing between the climactic murder scene and backstory, enlivened by musical numbers – what Time Out calls an “Afro-Brechtian griot chorus.”

Played the Berlin Fest in competition with 25th Hour, Hero, Soderbergh’s Solaris, Alexandra’s Project, Twilight Samurai and winner In This World.

Two by Djibril Diop Mambety

Contras City (1968)

Playful travelogue doc of Dakar. Strange, and the humor and political content are mostly lost on us, a couple continents and decades removed. Ubu says it’s considered Africa’s first comedy film.

Uncredited description of this film online:

Djibril Diop Mambety’s deeply ironic and biting commentary on the divided city that was Dakar in 1969: on the one hand, colonial, affluent and pompous, on the other, indigenous, poor but genuine.

Would make good marathon viewing with other wry short travel docs: Vigo’s À Propos de Nice, Varda’s Du Coté de la Côte, Lindsay Anderson’s O Dreamland, Ivens’s A Valparaíso, Marker’s Sunday in Peking.

Woman looking at French magazines at the newsstand:


Badou Boy (1970)

Adventures of the Badou Boy, a thief who helps run a bus service while dodging the ineffectual Officer Al. There’s also a blind musician, a hat-and-cane fancyman (played by the director) and Badou’s white-hatted buddy Moussa, who I think helps him escape Al at the end. Or maybe Badou is caught – there are flash-forwards, so I’m not always sure where we are.

Officer Al:

Voices are fully overdubbed. Music and effects and voices sometimes seem to be working against the picture, instead of with it. That’s not a complaint – since Contras City opens with a classy symphonic song which then warps and slows to a halt, it’s clear that Mambety is purposely screwing around with sound possibilities. It’s also clear that he’d been watching some French New Wave pictures.

Also playing with the camera – here focus is on the driver’s hand instead of Badou:

Our festival of Senegalese movies got stalled after this. Contras City made Katy sleepy, and she was having none of Badou Boy.

Maybe not as New-Wave-influenced as I thought… Mambety:

It’s the way I dream. To do that, one must have a mad belief that everything is possible–you have to be mad to the point of being irresponsible. Because I know that cinema must be reinvented, reinvented each time, and whoever ventures into cinema also has a share in its reinvention.

Mark Cousins:

[Its] sonic complexity, its state of the nation-ness, its Joycean wandering, its allegorical fun, convinced me that Badou Boy is undisputedly a lost classic. It is as important to African cinema as, say, Le Sang d’un poete is to French cinema – perhaps more so. It reveals the origins of the aesthetic confidence, the joy in mocking, filming and thinking that can be seen in Touki Bouki.

Story of six Africans trying to emigrate illegally to Europe. They go from Senegal to Mauritania to Algeria to Morocco via boat then trucks (one of them refrigerated) then camels then by foot through the desert, truck again, then they’re stuck in Tangier for a while.

I don’t remember what happens to Arvey the stingy old guy in the end. Someone gets sick along the way and is left to the authorities, his bag stolen by Kadirou (Dioucounda Koma of A Screaming Man). Kadirou goes off with his cousin, Moussa the teacher, making their own way to Tangier.

Second half of the movie mostly follows the others: Joe the dreamer (Ona Lu Yenke of Code Unknown) who says his girl is waiting across the strait, Sipipi the sailor, and Amma the wronged wife (latter two end up together). I thought it’d be one of those endings where Joe doesn’t really have a girlfriend waiting for him in Spain, but she turns out to be real – instead it’s one of those endings where he drowns trying to escape when the police boat grabs them.

Pretty good movie, watched a very poorly-attended screening at GA Tech. The director also acts, was in Munich and Three Crowns of the Sailor. Katy probably has more to say about it since she is talking about teaching it next year, but I’m running behind on the movie blog so didn’t ask her input.

CA Newsreel has blurbs by Jonathan Demme and Charles Burnett, so this was seen when it came out even if it hasn’t been seen since. “Saaraba presents an unsparing indictment of a corrupt older generation intoxicated with Western consumerism and of alienated urban youth addicted to drugs, sex and millenarian politics.”

Good looking movie, with more traditionally beautiful shots than in countryman Ousmane Sembene’s 1970’s movies (I haven’t seen his only 80’s film yet). At the time we were watching it, I thought I liked it pretty well. Katy was glad to be watching African movies again. We could both follow the story without any problems. But a couple days later we realized neither of us could remember anything about it. Saaraba had vanished! Now, a couple weeks later, my blogging task is hopeless. If not for Jonathan Demme’s pull-quote and this amazing screen-shot I took, the movie may cease to exist.

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Well that’s not completely true. I can tell you it opens with our hero Tamsir returning to Dakar after years spent abroad, determined to live a proper African existence and reject the West. He has a pothead friend and likes a girl named Lissa. She’s promised by her parents to marry a fat man (“the MP”), but things go sour when Tamsir knocks her up. Either her dad or his dad needs to perform a sacrifice to save the herd (really don’t remember this part). T’s dad dies at some point. Demba, the cool dude shown above, spends the whole movie trying to fix his motorcycle so he can ride away to Saaraba (paradise), but I think he rides into a ditch and gets killed… or does he kill Tamsir’s dad? No, I am almost sure Demba dies.

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The writer/director’s only listed film. Some of the crew was German. IMDB lists no acting credits, but I looked some of them up and found a couple Sembene crossovers: Elhadj Abdoulaye Seck of Xala and Omar Seck of Guelwaar. The American University, whatever that is, says this was the director’s thesis film.

Firstly, the “Ceddo” are the outsider townspeople. Took me half the movie to figure that one out. The town is converting to muslim, and the local imam is becoming more powerful than the king. A small group of traditionalist men kidnap the princess to protest the forced religious conversion. Meanwhile, a white christian missionary is looking for followers but is not doing so well.

While the king and imam disagree over how to proceed and the imam’s men plot to overthrow the throne, three younger men – the king’s potential successors and the princess’s potential husbands, depending which rules you follow – aim to rescue the princess, bringing guns to a bow-and-arrow party. Biram is kind of a compromise choice between mirror-wearing king-loyalist Saxewar and committed muslim Fall, but Biram is easily killed by an arrow. Saxewar goes next, dies stabbed through the throat by the kidnapper. Fall becomes suspicious of the imam and renounces his position, and finally the imam carries through his threat of deposing the king (who dies offscreen) and has the lead kidnapper killed, freeing the princess. She marches right back into town, grabs a rifle and blows away the imam herself. Damn, Sembene was good with endings.

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Much of the story revolves around slavery. A white trader is in town accepting slaves in exchange for wine and guns, so Ceddo are trading members of their own families for guns to fight the muslims. One reason people are converting to islam in the first place is because law prohibits children who are born muslim to become slaves, so if young adults convert, they might still become slaves but their children will be born free. The christian missionary has no such promise, and at most manages to collect one follower, or at least a curious onlooker to the white man’s sermon. This leads to a wonderful dream sequence, a large modern (as opposed to the no-specific-year historical period of the rest of the film) crowd is gathered as this new guy reads a memorial service for the white priest, seen in a coffin… dreams of a successor, unfulfilled, as the christian is killed unceremoniously later in the movie.

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Watched this from a very good print with strong color rented from recently-folded New Yorker Films – we were warned that this may be the last screening of this particular film for a long time. This was made two years after Xala – seems that this is the turning-point film for me in Sembene’s career, since I’ve enjoyed this one and everything after it (Guelwaar, Faat Kiné, Moolaadé) more than everything before it (Xala, Emitai, Black Girl). Can’t put my finger on why I like the later ones more… better color, stronger characters, easier-to-follow narratives? I don’t know why I like movies, but this one was damn amazing. We’ll see how unseen early film Mandabi and late Camp de Thiaroye hold up.

The princess appeared 20+ years later in Faat Kiné, and Prince Biram played an interpreter in Coup de torchon

We were always looking for the camera’s reflection in Saxewar’s mirror:
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From the valuable article by J. Leahy at Senses of Cinema:

Sembène goes so far as to articulate something completely ignored in the discourse of the male protagonists of the village’s internal war: the desire of this strong, silent, beautiful young woman. This is revealed in what I read as a subjective flashforward to a possible future, similar to that of the priest. It is characteristic of the complexity of Sembène’s analysis of the interaction between the individual, history and traditional practice that this shows her married to her kidnapper and finding happiness in the role of a traditional wife serving her husband. Others have read this as flashback to their first encounter. Even if this is so, the moment remains equally evocative in terms of the possibilities it suggests.

Torture Money (1937, Harold S. Bucquet)
Caught on TCM’s Oscar Month – this beat out Deep South and Should Wives Marry? for best two-reeler. A cop from the Bunco Squad goes undercover to investigate a ring of scammers who beat a guy up in a back room then fake a car accident complete with paid “witnesses” to fraud insurance companies. The scammers purposely run over a little girl, just in case insurance fraud wasn’t enough of a crime to get our attention. Our officer blends in successfully thanks to his knowledge of 30’s street slang and his ability to fake a hatred of cops. He’s chosen to be the “accident victim” (that’d be the titular torture), manages to contact his men, spring the trap and send the baddies to jail. I don’t recall the character names, so our cop was either George Lynn (I Was a Teenage Frankenstein) or Edwin Maxwell (The Great Moment, His Girl Friday). The director went on to better things (a Katharine Hepburn feature, the Dr. Kilgare series), as did the writer (T-Men, Robinson Crusoe On Mars).


Three half-hour shorts from the 1997 Africa Dreaming series:

Sophia’s Homecoming (Richard Pakleppa, Namibia)
Sophia arrives in town after years in South Africa and finds that her husband, kids and sister aren’t so happy to see her. Turns out the sister and husband are in love… Soph tries to break it up, but when the sister says she’s expecting the husband’s baby, Sophia packs up her kids and returns to S. Africa. Other than a solo dish-destroying kitchen tantrum, there’s surprisingly little screaming and fighting, considering the situation.

Sabriya (Abderrahmane Sissako, Tunisia)
Hot, uninhibited, waterfall-loving foreign woman comes to town and shakes up the home life of a local chess-playing tavern dweller. He falls in love, but I think she leaves town without him at the end… I was too busy staring at the nice visuals and trying to remember scenes from Waiting For Happiness.

So Be It (Joseph Gai Ramaka, Senegal)
Doctor arrives in town (people are always arriving in town in these movies), sees a mute retarded kid who hangs around. Everyone seems to dump on the retarded kid… finally outta nowhere (actually I predicted it, but I was kidding) the townsfolk come with torches to kill the kid. Why? I dunno, but the doctor is right upset. The written description on the box calls it an African Heart of Darkness (although I would prefer an African Heart of Darkness to concern an adventurer from the Congo on a dangerous mission to England to retrieve a countryman who’d encamped in a rural British village up the Thames and established himself as a god among the locals). The box seems to know a lot that I couldn’t figure out from the movies. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention?


Egged On (1926, Charley Bowers)

Charley invents an overly-complicated machine in his girlfriend’s parents’ barn which makes eggs unbreakable (rubbery, you open them with scissors) and aims to sell it to the egg-shipping industry. The investors are coming, but Charley has no eggs for the demonstration, so he fails to gather some in various ways. Finally gets an egg from a hen who’s been eating dynamite… test goes well until he hits the egg with a hammer to prove its indestructibility and destroys the whole barn. Worth watching for the scene shown below in which a batch of eggs, incubated by Charley’s car engine, hatch into hundreds of little cars in a massive and delightful stop-motion display.

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He Done His Best (1926, Charley Bowers)
Another one involving eggs, and complicated machinery, overall more entertaining then Egged On. Charley needs his girl’s dad’s consent for marriage, ends up working at his restaurant. Gets dad in union trouble, so invents an automatic server/cook machine (powered by stop-motion, natch). Dad is cheered immensely, girl holds wedding at the restaurant, but she’s marrying some other guy which is supposed to be a funny surprise but is instead kind of an anticlimactic ending after a great movie, a la Chaplin’s One A.M.
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Azur and Asmar (2006, Michel Ocelot)
Not supposed to be a short, but we ditched after 45 minutes because this was so bad. I can’t even think when’s the last time I walked out on a movie (though I remember itching to leave Sam Raimi’s The Gift). The critically-raved-on animation looked to me like weakly-puppeted low-detail Flash, and the story was going nowhere we couldn’t easily predict, so there seemed no point in staying. As a rule, I don’t put half-seen movies on the website, but I’m making an exception here and I don’t need a reason, nyeah.

Euro/African kids grow up with same mum/caretaker, Euro kid is sent away to become classy, African kid/mum is kicked out of house, sent back to whatever country to become super-rich merchants. Eurokid goes to africa, hides his blue eyes, runs into his mum and a hunchback liar fellow, and sets out to locate the three keys and marry some mythic fairy. Africa stuff is all Eurocentric wide-eyed wonder, and the other kid disappears for huge chunks of the movie, so the idea that we were seeing some kind of African tale faithfully told by a Frenchman went out the window.

Then we snuck into the animated shorts program and caught Varmints (Marc Craste) – wordless depresso-short with very good CGI about a bunny in a polluted Wall-E world trying to use his potted plant in order to get captured by giant floating jellyfish to live in meadowy heaven with the girl he met in the elevator – Gopher Broke (Blur Studios) – slick, commercial-looking animal comedy, unlucky gopher upsetting trucks on their way to the farmer’s market in order to get himself some food – Skhizein (Jeremy Clapin) – guy is hit by an asteroid and finds that his consciousness is some number of centimeters to the side of his body, neat premise but in the end it turns out he is just deranged – and Hot Dog and John and Karen which I’d already seen in The Animation Show 4 but played better with a crowd.

I passed up seeing The Scarlet Empress in 35mm for this, but it was probably worth it [later note after having finally watched The Scarlet Empress: nope].

Meshes of the Afternoon (1943, Maya Deren)
One of the great poetic movies of the 40’s. Love when she’s climbing the stairs, bouncing off the walls as the camera twists from side to side. Love the multiple Mayas sitting at a table in the same shot (technically impressive, too). Love the movement, the plot (avant-filmmakers take note: an actual plot), the look, that iconic shot of Maya at the window.

Fuses (1967, Carolee Schneemann)
Fairly rapidly-edited shots of director having sex with James Tenney, with other scratched and weathered colored filmstrips superimposed over it. The editing and content are exciting for about ten minutes, but the movie is twenty minutes long, and silent. Girl in front of me tried reading from the reflected light of Tenney’s alarmingly red-tinted penis on the classroom wall, then texted people for a while. I sat wondering why there were so many shots of her cat staring out the window. Maybe it was supposed to be boring, and that was the point. Worth watching on pristine 16mm, glad I saw it, just saying it felt long. Schneemann has few film credits, but they’re in collaboration with Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono and Stan Brakhage. The Brakhage influence can plainly be seen here, and the film process work makes for some wonderful images. This was apparently a reaction to the objectification of women in movies, with Window Water Baby Moving named as an example. The director: “I wanted to see if the experience of what I saw would have any correspondence to what I felt – the intimacy of the lovemaking… And I wanted to put into that materiality of film the energies of the body, so that the film itself dissolves and recombines and is transparent and dense – as one feels during lovemaking.” Won a special jury prize at Cannes.

Reassemblage (1982, Trinh T. Minh-ha)
Black with ambient sound. Then shots of a rural scene in Senegal with silence. More shots with narration. More shots with ambient sound. More narration. Eventually, more black. The sound is rarely commenting directly on the visuals, and even the ambient sound rarely seems to line up. Shots of bare-breasted African women, daily chores, kids (two albinos!), youth playing in the river, and so on, with comments about ethnography. The commentary might make sense written down, but as we heard it, all scattered and edited (the sound editing was pretty poor), it seemed to circle around some points without managing to make any. Got nothing against the film, was fine to hang out in Senegal for a while. L. Thielan: “By disjunctive editing and a probing narration this ‘documentary’ strikingly counterpoints the authoritative stance typical of the National Geographic approach.”

Reassemblage:
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First Comes Love (1991, Su Friedrich)
Pop music by the Beatles, James Brown, Willie Nelson and more, but someone please get this woman a cross-fader – it’s all so abruptly edited. The songs sometimes work really well with the images, though. Image is of four wedding ceremonies, astoundingly woven together into an ethnographic study of heterosexual marriage ceremony, interrupted by a text crawl of all the countries in which homosexual marriage is prohibited (every country but Denmark). Bell & Zryd: “This simple strategy, which contrasts the lush life of heterosexual ritual with the stark legal and constitutional realities of gay and lesbian relationships, reframes the anthropological text with political rigor.” Rigor isn’t something I look for in a movie, but avant-critics love to proclaim it. What rigor! Anyway, would like very much to see more of her work.

Girlpower (1992, Sadie Benning)
I hear the intro feedback of a Sonic Youth song and all is right in the world. Even though this movie (the shortest of the bunch, I expect) is a half-res crap-quality videotape, the music and narration are clear. About the narration – sounds like either a petulant girl or a woman in performance-art mode… an impressionistic video diary of disaffected youth, comfortable with herself but not with society. Aha, Benning was 30 at the time. Lotta shots of the television. Punk film, but with nicer sound editing than the Friedrich, weird. Short, enjoyed it. Ooh, she’s James Benning’s daughter.