Following a bad breakup with his boyfriend at the beginning of 2016, festival programmer Frank Beauvais found himself alone in his midforties, stuck in a small town in Alsace, the region tucked away in the northeastern corner of France, without a car, a job, or prospects for attaining either. He began watching four or five films a day and working on Just Don’t Think I’ll Scream, a compilation of thousands of clips from over four hundred movies with a diary-like voice-over. When it premiered in February as part of the Berlinale’s Forum program, the film generated considerable buzz, and tomorrow, it’ll open the sixth edition of Art of the Real, the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s showcase of new work by artists and filmmakers at the forefront of nonfiction and hybrid cinema.
As he explains in a statement he sent to the Forum, Beauvais is “touched by the poetry of shots that, once isolated, no longer betray their origin: shots of clocks, windows, keys, screens, furniture, traffic signs, cogs, keyboards, vegetation, landscapes, but also close-ups of faces, of extras who have been edited into the film, isolated from the context, and who are never seen again.” With Just Don’t Think, he aims to “recreate a scream, to express rage over the collusion between the chronicle of my despair and these images, which derive from another time and place but nevertheless comment more eloquently on my daily life than my own images could have done.” The Hollywood Reporter’s Jordan Mintzer finds that the resulting experience is “sort of like watching Christopher Marclay’s The Clock while listening to a highly literary, self-confessional voiceover that’s equal parts Knausgaard, Houellebecq, and Fernando Pessoa.” Dennis Lim, who programs Art of the Real each year with Rachael Rakes, calls the film “a very personal and moving account of the relationship between cinephilia and neurosis.”
Beauvais’s seventy-five-minute film will be preceded by Deborah Stratman’s new short, Vever (for Barbara), a tribute to the late lesbian filmmaker Barbara Hammer that incorporates footage she shot on a motorcycle trip to Guatemala in 1975 and texts by Maya Deren. On April 28, the final day of the festival, Stratman will be joined by Lynne Sachs to discuss Hammer’s legacy following screenings of Vever, Sachs’s Carolee, Barbara and Gunvor, a portrait of the late artist Carolee Schneemann, Hammer, and Swedish artist Gunvor Nelson, and Hammer’s 1978 film Double Strength. The program is one of three tributes staged by Art of the Real this year. Later that same afternoon, the FSLC will present the Beirut trilogy by Lebanese journalist and director Jocelyne Saab, who passed away in January. “Her work is grounded in historic violence, and in an awareness of the actions and images required to document, reflect on and counteract it,” writes Nicole Brenez for Sight & Sound.
When Toshio Matsumoto died in 2017, Taro Nettleton, writing for ArtReview, noted that Japan had “lost one of its most rigorous filmmakers and trenchant film critics.” Many will know Matsumoto primarily as the director of Funeral Parade of Roses (1969), which Ben Sachs, writing for Cine-File in 2009, called “an unflinching look at drug abuse, counterculture, and transvestism in ’60s Tokyo.” Art of the Real’s tribute includes Funeral; Matsumoto’s second feature, Demons (1971), a period drama incorporating elements of horror and noir; and two programs of experimental and documentary shorts. Nettleton calls Matsumoto’s first short, Ginrin (1955), “an astonishingly experimental PR film” before turning to another highlight of an oeuvre “which encompasses some of the most important moments of postwar Japanese art . . . As much influenced by Luis Buñuel as by seminal ethnographer and folklorist Kunio Yanagita, the black-and-white The Song of Stone (1963) fuses documentary with surrealist strategies. Made contemporaneously with Chris Marker’s better-known La Jetée (1962), it also comprises nearly exclusively still photographs, which in Matsumoto’s film were shot by Ernest Satow. For Matsumoto, it was an interrogation of the film medium itself.”
Tributes aside, Art of the Real aims first and foremost to introduce New Yorkers to new and innovative work. ScreenAnarchy’s Dustin Chang has been sampling much of it and writing capsule previews of Nicole Vögele’s “quiet and somnambulistic” Closing Time, a portrait of a couple who runs a late night street food stand in Taipei; Elena López Riera’s Those Who Desire, which documents Spain’s Colombicultura, “an exclusively male subculture where brightly colored male pigeons train and compete”; Andrés Duque’s Karelia: International with Monument, which focuses on a territory once ruled by Sweden and Finland, and now part of Russia, where the dark history of Stalin’s massacres “contrasts with idyllic family life”; Sebastian Brameshuber’s Movements of a Nearby Mountain, winner of the Grand Prix at this year’s Cinéma du Réel and an “intimate portrait” of the director’s friend, a Christian Nigerian who works in a garage at the foot of the Austrian Alps; Sarah Christman’s Swarm Season, an exploration of life in the shadow of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano as seen “through the eyes of Manu, a preteen girl and her family . . . It's a great film”; Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė’s Acid Forest, a study of a peninsula in Lithuania where migrating cormorants are killing the trees with their acidic excrement and tourists come to gawk; and Walden, a “vigorously formalist” film wherein Daniel Zimmerman “takes an ironic, paradoxical look” at the journey of timber from an Austrian forest to the Amazonian jungle. Filmmakers will be on hand for Q&As at nearly all Art of the Real screenings.
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