Monthly Archives: May 2012

WALTZ WITH BASHIR (2008): Guilt and Denial

In 1982, Ari Folman was a 19 year old Israeli soldier in Lebanon, a country torn by a civil war. Now he is film director and a Golden Globe award winner. Waltz with Bashir (2008) was nominated for Oscar and received 38 another wins and 24 nominations. Banned in Lebanon and praised elsewhere for its novelty, the movie is especially remarkable for erasing the boundary between the real and imaginary. Based on real events of the 1982 Lebanon War and including witness accounts, it is also an animated movie. Waltz with Bashir is often labeled as a war documentary, but it is not a movie about war. At its center is the story of Ari Folman in search for his lost memories about what happened during the night of the massacre in the Sabra-Shatila refugee camp. Seeing it as a documentary would mean overlooking its artistic beauty; seeing it as a piece of fiction would mean taking away most of its strength.  Continue reading

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POSSESSION (1981): Blood, slime and Isabelle Adjani

If there is a movie deserving the tag ‘psychological horror’, it is Possession. Here the protagonist’s inner evil takes on a living form of a wiggling slimy creature. She goes on a killing spree to keep him alive. That is, when they are not having sexual intercourse. And, of course, there is the famous subway passage scene in which Isabelle Adjani’s character miscarries her own faith. She is rolling in milk, blood, piss, mucus and every other bodily liquid you can imagine. The role earned Adjani ‘The Best Actress’ award at the Cannes Film Festival, yet she claims she is never going to play a similar role again. Possession is two hours of hysterical wailing right into your face. It’s a movie of excess and about emotional excess. The watching experience can only be compared to Antichrist (2009) – except the latter doesn’t have the extraordinary performance of Isabelle Adjani. Continue reading

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Historians of visual culture generally agree that, with the nineteenth century, a new way of seeing and a new kind of observer were born. The conventional history of photography says that this technology is a part of a linear development tracing back to the Renaissance and camera obscura. We tend to believe that photography and – later – film belong to the continuous and increasingly dominant visual practice – realism. Together with the “modernist rupture” of painterly revolutions, they constitute the modernization of vision at the end of the 19th century – but is it really so? Jonathan Crary does not agree with this interpretation. His deeply ambiguously received book Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the 19th Century foregrounds the discontinuity between the camera obscura and photography and claims that the rupture between modern and classical vision took place at the beginning of the 19th century.

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The 1990s marked the beginning of a new media revolution. A lot of rapid changes were taking place, such as computerization of culture and the birth of what Manuel Castells called “network society”. The digital computer became the meta-medium. According to Manovich, the last analogous media revolution was the birth of cinema. Sadly, its contemporaries did not recognize the importance of the new medium and there is no comprehensible account of its early emergence. Manovich laments over this lack of an early record of cinema and is determined to create both such an account and the theory of the development of the language of new media.

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