Sunday, April 17, 2011
REMINISCENCES OF YEARNING (2011, Rouzbeh Rashidi, Iran, 90 min, A+++++++++++++++)
Things I like very much in this film include:
1.Its uncompromising quality. The film doesn't try to make the audience understand it at all. The story goes anywhere it wants to go, with no boundaries. Yet it all makes sense and doesn't feel too random, because it tells the audience at the beginning that the film is dedicated to the filmmaker's friends and Maya Deren. So the audience is not surprised why the film looks very surreal and consists of many small stories or segments. I think each segment of the film deals with each particular friend or group of friends.
This kind of uncompromising quality and super-surreal quality makes me want to screen this film together with KALYI – AGE OF DARKNESS (1993, Fred Kelemen).
2.My favorite segment of the film is the segment which deal with a dilapidated building with flooded water and the wave crashing on the rocks in the minute 42-46. I think this segment doesn't try to emulate Maya Deren too much, and doesn't try too hard to be "haunting". I think this segment presents one of Rashidi's strong points—atmospheric scene which tells no stories. I'm glad Rashidi uses this strong point to the utmost degree in ZOETROPE (2011).
3.My second most favorite segment in the film is the one in which a guy walks up and down a street at night, smoking some cigarettes, going in and out of a house, lying on the floor, having a nightmare, and the segment ends by presenting a view from a rooftop. I love the cinematography in this segment. It is very dark, very blurred, very grainy. Extremely exquisite in my point of view. This scene also doesn't try too hard to be haunting.
4.The cinematography in this film is excellent. I think it is as beautiful as the one in BIPEDALITY (2010, Rouzbeh Rashidi), but in a totally opposite way. The cinematography in BIPEDALITY is very polished and colorful. The cinematography in this film is very rough-looking in some parts and in black-and-white. I also think you are successful in emulating the cinematographic style of Maya Deren and some old experimental films.
5.My most favorite image from the film may be the one in minute 33 when we suddenly see a bright light in rectangular shape covering up a man's face. What does this image mean? I don't know. But it gives me a thrill as much as the images in the film TAKE THE 5:10 TO DREAM LAND (1976, Bruce Conner), which also defy explanation.
6.I think it is interesting that Rashidi makes film about his friends in a surreal or experimental genre. Many filmmakers make films about their friends in a documentary genre. So this film stands apart from most films which deal with the filmmaker's own friends.
This film also stands apart from other experimental films with haunting quality. The atmosphere in this film may remind me of BEGOTTEN (1991, E. Elias Merhige) and some films by David Lynch and Nina Menkes, because their films are also experimental and haunting, but their films seem to have some sinister power in them, because their films may explore the dark side of human beings. Since REMINISCENCES OF YEARNING is about the filmmaker's dear friends, the film is not overwhelmed by the sinister power or the evil buried deep down in our psychology. Thus the film is different from other experimental films with haunting quality that I have seen.
7.I like the structure of this film. This film begins in a very surreal, old-styled mode. Then it gradually shifts into a documentary and home movie mode: the dilapidated building segment, the campfire segment, the house segment. Then it becomes surreal again with the segment presenting a guy who opens about ten doors successively. Then it ends like a home movie.
I like the mixing between the surreal genre and the home movie genre in this film. I wish I could screen this film together with RESIST (2009, Teeranit Siangsanoh, 54 min, Thailand, A+++++++++++++++), because RESIST also mixes these two genres. RESIST begins as a documentary about Teeranit's friends, but the film shifts into a surreal mode in the second half of the film.
8.The sudden shift of the look of the film in the woodcutting scene, from more polished look to more grainy look. I feel as if that moment in minute 41 is the division line, because the scenes before it are in surreal mode, and the scenes after it are in home movie mode.
9.The shaking of the images in minute 36. It looks as if the images come from an old videotape.
10.The sound effects near the end of the film is very interesting. We can hear at least four overlapping sounds: the birds, the water, the chants, and a looping sound of something unidentifiable. I think the sounds of the birds and the water are recurring motifs in Rashidi's films.
11.There is also a very personal reason why I like REMINISCENCES OF YEARNING. After watching this film, I find that this film is what I wish I could do, but can't. It reminds me of my old friends from high school. We share many "imaginative worlds" together. This film makes me realize that if I could make a film about my own friends, maybe it should not be a pure documentary, maybe it should be a film which explore both our real lives and our imaginative lives.
You can watch many short films by Rouzbeh Rashidi in his Vimeo channel: http://vimeo.com/rouzbehrashidi/videos