Courtisane Festival 2018

On Film / The Daily — Mar 28, 2018

Even if you won’t be anywhere near Ghent from today through Sunday, you’ll want to know about the Courtisane Festival. The program for this year’s edition alone will likely have you making mental notes on films to add to your list. But the festival’s also generously made much of its supplementary reading freely available, starting with the catalogue, Notes on Cinema. There are also two booklets, collections of interviews and essays put together in conjunction with two of its main programs.

Wang Bing, Filming a Land in Flux accompanies the Artist in Focus screenings and conversation with Wang, who’ll also be conducting a workshop. Sabzian has also posted “The Great Leap Backwards,” a 2009 essay by Luc Sante on West of the Tracks (2003; image above), Wang’s nine-hour documentary presented in three parts: “It is every twentieth-century mural depiction of the struggle for the good life-socialist or capitalist-viewed in reverse.”

The Rambling Figures of Mani Kaul accompanies the program put together in collaboration with the Essay Film Festival (on through tomorrow in London, by the way), Soft Notes on a Sharp Scale. At the top of that page is a quote from the director who left us in 2011: “I feel I have one relation with Bresson, another with Ghatak. But there is a wide difference between the two. It is strange that I have a relation with two persons so contrary in disposition. I am often trying to figure out how to strike a chord between the two. I have absorbed both of them.”

Another artist given a special focus is the Belgian cinematographer and director Annik Leroy. That series wraps on Sunday with a screening of Wanda (1970), and Sabzian has posted Mari Shields’s translation of Dirk Lauwaert’s 2007 essay: “Barbara Loden filmed every bit as economically as Hawks, her fellow filmmaker did: in a single motion of the camera; a few setups had to make do. The efficiency with which she filmed is astonishing. There is no precious European aestheticizing. It is brutal and direct. Why then, does this film give the impression that it takes its time, is even slow? . . . Like Godard’s A bout de souffle, it is an action film without action.”

This year’s selection also includes recent films by Robert Beavers, Hong Sangsoo’s Grass, the new restoration of James Benning’s 11 x 14 (1977), and much more.

Updates, 3/30: Writing for the Notebook, Sen Arindam looks back to the mid-60s, when “the discourse around cinema in India was balanced on a fragile opposition, the dream-fantasies of the commercial-popular against the social realism of the state apparatus, conjoined with subscribers to the idea of cinema’s eventual ambition of reproducing virgin reality. The films of Mani Kaul disturbed this equilibrium and presented themselves as disruptive fissures in this cinematic landscape.”

Sabzian’s posted the New Left Review’s 2013 interview with Wang Bing.

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