What constitutes a good musical moment? In cinema, it’s not enough to have a catchy song or a prestigious orchestral composition. Music may play a crucial role, but it still has to interact both with the other elements of the scene, and with the film as a whole. It is through this intricate, holistic interplay that a musical moment reveals its greatness. Here’s an annotated list with my favourite musical moments of 2015.
Lost Something: Nicolas Roeg’s ‘Walkabout’ & Sibylle Baier’s ‘I Lost Something In The Hills’
I had listened multiple times to “I Lost Something In The Hills”, the second track of 'Colour Green', the only album by German singer-songwriter Sibylle Baier. Then, as if responding to the call made explicit in the fourth verse of the song (“Oh, what images return …”), the images from the ending of Nicolas Roeg’s 'Walkabout' (1971) came back to me …
‘Train Of Thought’
When dealing with certain conditions of the soul, messages that focus on positivity and improvement are often a well-intentioned but escapist route. This is a film about staying within depression: an attempt to look at how it speaks, at how body and mind behave when gripped by it, at the meaning and value of suffering. Made with material gathered across three years, this film pursues a train of thought by overlaying the movements of daily life with the stasis of an overpowering affect.
We Want Roses Too: Walerian Borowczyk’s ‘Immoral Tales’ (1974) and ‘The Beast’ (1975)
There’s something else that knits together the stories of 'Immoral Tales' and 'The Beast': the rejoicing in women’s desire—as an unstoppable force, shining always triumphant on screen, no matter the actual fate of the female protagonists at the end of each tale. These are films about women who listen to their appetites, who venture forth into their libidos, who are in a quest for pleasure. Even when it’s the man who forces on them the narrative scenarios of his fantasy, it’s the explosion of the woman’s desire that has the power to climax the story.
Filmed inside the most exciting attraction of my little town: a cubicle of one square metre. This film will give you a lift: up and down, up and down. An anti-touristic movie of landscapes, vistas, disseminated reflections, glass and metal. An experiment combining one, two and three screens; a geometrical puzzle of horizontal and vertical lines. Lurches, bumps, pans, and tilts: all to the rhythm of a Kraftwerk medley.
Reverse Shot [III]: ‘Exterior Night’ (Marco Bellocchio, 2022)
Third entry of a three-part text on Marco Bellocchio’s mini-series ‘Exterior Night’, where the director returns to a crucial episode in Italian history that he had already tackled in his masterpiece ‘Good Morning, Night’ (2003): the 1978 kidnapping of Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades. This entry explores the religious themes of Christ and the Passion, as well as self-referentiality and the double/alternative endings.
Reverse Shot [II]: ‘Exterior Night’ (Marco Bellocchio, 2022)
Second entry of a three-part text on Marco Bellocchio’s mini-series ‘Exterior Night’, where the director returns to a crucial episode in Italian history that he had already tackled in his masterpiece ‘Good Morning, Night’ (2003): the 1978 kidnapping of Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades. This entry explores the intersection between history, politics, and psyche (paying special attention to fantasies, dreams, symbols, and Cossiga's psychic breakdown); and traces the different ramifications of the presentation of Moro as a father figure.
Reverse Shot [I]: ‘Exterior Night’ (Marco Bellocchio, 2022)
First entry of a three-part text on Marco Bellocchio’s mini-series ‘Exterior Night’, where the director returns to a crucial episode in Italian history that he had already tackled in his masterpiece ‘Good Morning, Night’ (2003): the 1978 kidnapping of Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades. This entry explores the kaleidoscopic construction and narrative strategies of the series, as well as the themes of rhetoric and the Eros Principle.
John Cassavetes: A Primer
In a Cassavetes film, everything is an event. The way someone enters a room, a scene, or a shot. The way that the drama rises or subsides. The framing of an image, the way it moves. The play of light and darkness, colour and hue, the grain of the film stock. The interplay of views from multiple, simultaneous cameras (one of them frequently worked by Cassavetes himself). The violence of the soundtrack, open to waves and intensities of every kind of voice, noise or musical note. And the amazing work on editing, to which Cassavetes and his collaborators could literally devote years...
Double or Nothing: ‘+1’ (Dennis Iliadis, 2013)
According to a logic that especially marks genre cinema – whereby the fantastic, the horrifying and the paranormal appear as symptoms or bodily manifestations of hidden desires, fears and traumas – here the threat of the doubles who advance in time is perfectly linked with the problematic of the relationship between Jill and David: it is, at once, a sharp psychoanalytic deconstruction and a perfect allegorical dramatisation of the female fear of replacement and stagnation.
The Bear Attack and the Talking Fish [II]: ‘Siberia’ (Abel Ferrara, 2020)
In my previous text I discussed the bear attack happening early in the film; here, I'll concentrate on the last scene of 'Siberia' with the talking fish. It is highly significant that, at the end of the film, Clint finds his post destroyed. The storm of fantasies that is 'Siberia' has knocked down the walls of Clint's refuge; his psyche is raw, tender, naked and exposed. The defenses to which he clung in order to keep the unconscious at bay have been severely weakened...
The Bear Attack and the Talking Fish [I]: ‘Siberia’ (Abel Ferrara, 2020)
There are only a few episodes in 'Siberia' that can be unmistakably traced to Jung's 'The Red Book' (its source of inspiration). Neither the scene with the bear, nor the scene with the fish, are among them. But, since everybody seems to agree that 'Siberia' is a trip to the unconscious—and since the unconscious speaks in symbolic language—I'll attempt here a psychological interpretation of these two scenes (influenced by Jung's discussion on symbols and archetypes), while offering a close analysis of their filmic form.
Desire as Pedagogy: ‘The Academy of Muses’ (José Luis Guerin, 2015)
In 'The Academy of Muses', pedagogy is portrayed as the circulation of desire between teacher, students, and texts—while becoming also the trigger of the central dramatic conflict: Rosa, Raffaele’s wife, starts to feel that her husband’s teaching philosophy is a threat to their marriage… Desire is not just the literal (and literary) object of study in Pinto’s seminar; it is the force that propels the whole film.
‘A House That A Guest Has Entered’
I guess one makes films with what one has. Some people have ideas, money, ambitions, heroes, well-meaning intentions, a positive message, virtuosity, a voice, friends to call forth, stories to tell or to steal, attachment to a genre, striking images, charms and spells, subterfuges. I have none of these things. This film is made with my suffering, with words that came to land in my heart, with music and images that rose from the pool of my tears.
Prefiguration and Apparition: ‘A Burning Hot Summer’ (Philippe Garrel, 2011)
The most haunting image of 'A Burning Hot Summer': Angèle naked, on her back, lying over the blue linen of the marital bed. She turns her face toward the camera, extends her right arm, and mutters a word that we can't hear because the sound of this fragment has been suppressed. Where does this image come from? Is it a memory, a vision, an hallucination? The stillness is only broken by Angèle's rhythmic breathing, by the movement of her head and lips, and by a gesture (her arm extended forward, in a pleading attitude) enacted, almost exactly, twice in a row.
Blood Ties: My Most Wicked Childhood Act
Once, I told my brother that he was adopted. I might have been around 12 or 13—my brother being three years younger than me. During that time, I was facing an important quandary in my life: I wanted to become an actress, but this is something I never dared to express aloud. There were two things that stood in my way and that I couldn't overcome—two things that made of my wish a secret that I was even ashamed to entertain...
Out of the Blue: Remembrance of Dresses Past
The only memory I keep from kindergarten is from Carnival day. We were all gathered at the playground, waiting for our pictures to be taken. A girl came toward me and, out of the blue, slapped me in the face. I remember her name: Natalia. I remember her princess costume: a silky dress in royal blue and dark turquoise. And, of course, I remember her brutal slap—and not just for its violence (that still stings) but, above all, for its arbitrariness (which hurts even deeper)...
Notes on Film Criticism (V): A Free Replay
There was a time when Marker's essay was the latent theory behind everything I wrote. I don't think 'Vertigo' would mean for me what it means today if it weren't for Marker. To my knowledge, I've properly quoted 'A Free Replay' only once before; but its sentences return to me again and again, claiming their place in my heart and mind—sometimes in the form of ideas, images, or literal expressions that inscribe themselves quite naturally in my writings. These disguised quotes become signposts conjuring a world full of meaning, but mysterious and elusive...
‘As Tears Go By…’: Marianne Faithfull & Anna Karina
In this audiovisual essay, Anna Karina and Marianne Faithfull talk to themselves and to each other across six different films. Bitterly, blatantly, brutally: they muse—using words written by men and songs composed by men—on what it means (for all of us: there ain't escape from the culture) to perform, inside and outside the fiction, as women invented by men...
This film is a reverie entirely composed (except for two twinkles of a shot) of images reflected in water. Images are not just the result of the film, they are its very raw material. My images were already images, even before I shot them. And they were already images overlaid in water, even before I overlaid them in my editing screen...
‘Smile’: Jean Epstein & Stephen Dwoskin
Why Jean Epstein and Stephen Dwoskin? Because of their mutual obsession with the close-up; with the drama of proximity, intensity, hesitation, imbalance; because "even more beautiful than a laugh is the face preparing for it"… How to do justice to Epstein's incessant leaping back and forth, to his moves from the general to the particular, to his effects of anticipation, suspension, staccato, acceleration, contraction, release? That's what editing (both on the audio and image level) was made for...
Souvenir: ‘Proximidades y resonancias’
During the latest edition of SACO 2022, Adrian Martin and I had our first museum exhibition ever: from 10th to 20th of March, 'Proximidades y resonancias', a videoinstallation of eight of our audiovisual essays, was playing in loop at the Museo de Bellas Artes in Oviedo. We spent four days there and saw it all happening with our own eyes! Since this is something rare and worthy of celebration, I'll scatter here a bit of memorabilia for the grandchildren I won't have…
That Cube Caught My Fantasy…
Some months ago, I found in YouTube this wonderful video of Carl Gustav Jung at his Bollingen Tower. The footage prominently features a stone that he carved and put in his garden, next to the lake, as an offering for his 75th birthday. Following the trail of two sets of image-associations, this essay goes from Telesphoros (the bewitching figure carved in one of the sides of the stone) to Nicolas Roeg's 'Don't Look Now' and Krzysztof Kieślowski's 'Dekalog I'.
Dreams I Don’t Have
A few years ago, I read C. G. Jung's autobiography, 'Memories, Dreams, Reflections'. At that time, I was purposefully trying to remember my dreams. Instead of just fantasising myself into oblivion (which is my most natural attitude when I go to bed), I attempted to get into a state of receptiveness and relaxed attention (quite an endeavour for a person like me!). I don't know how I came up with this idea: I guess it seemed more respectful with the unconscious than just trying to control every thought by driving it exactingly where I wanted it to be...
Three Tiny Films: ‘Enjoy the Rain’, ‘Astral Body’, ‘Echo’
Lately, I've been doing some tiny films that are experiments with overlays. I've become quite fascinated by this kind of layer-work. But, sometimes, it just feels redundant to put into words what I'm trying to make in sounds & images. So I'll just introduce my latest three miniatures with stolen quotes. These quotes are not about me, or about my films, obviously; but such is life… Some people inspire others to write; some people inspire others to quote them; some people just put themselves in the quotation's place…