Finding the criminal #3

The time is too short / but never too long / to reach ahead / to project the image / which will in time / become a concrete dream.

--Wire, 'Lowdown', Pink Flag (1977).

In Vanda's Room - Pedro Costa, 2000, digital video


[On undramatic long-take art cinema today.]

I think there's this petty fascination with what people call an image. Artists like what they’re doing as artists, or supposed artists, but you never see a bricklayer contemplating his stone for half an hour then saying: ‘oh yeah, maybe I’ll add another stone.’ That does not happen.

A lot of people today, even filmmakers, have not seen what we called cinema, and are relatively unaware of its craft, its past. They don’t know it, and sometimes they despise it, saying: yeah, I don’t care, or I don’t have time to see that, times have changed, this is not the same world. But the work we’re doing, I feel, belongs to a certain reality and a world of work that has a past, and I can't escape it. And I think the only way to move forward is by not escaping it and instead confronting certain things. Not refusing Chaplin’s films is a way of moving forward, not dismissing them as bullshit, because they're about details, the way people move, where you place the camera (the height, the sound), etc. They're not about ideas, those everything-goes ideas that produce all those long shots, the contemplation of some void: a mountain, a street corner that could be in Hong Kong, Paris, anywhere...

You should see Ozu, or John Ford: their shots are much longer. Three seconds in John Ford is three thousand years. Any young video artist has to work very hard if they want to tell their story in three seconds. When I was making In Vanda's Room, I had a feeling — a normal feeling — that what I was seeing and what Vanda was doing was an attempt to tell fragments, particles, centimetres, inches, seconds of a very long moment. This moment could be ten minutes, an hour, and it took ten days, ten weeks. Because it’s like Proust, or Kafka: it takes a century to tell just one second. And that’s very hard work in film.

--Pedro Costa, in conversation with Craig Keller and Andy Rector in 2008 for Finding the Criminal (2010). Available via.


Just Another Film Buff said...

Simply splendid set of posts, Matthew. Got to find Craig's film.


P.S: An outstanding blog that might interest you: http://retentionalfinitude.blogspot.com/

Matthew Flanagan said...

Thanks, Srikanth. I hadn't seen that blog before, great post on The New Babylon...