Sunday, April 22, 2012

IMMANENCE DECONSTRUCTION OF US (2011, Rouzbeh Rashidi, Ireland, 70 min, A+++++++++++++++)


IMMANENCE DECONSTRUCTION OF US shows us found footage from home movies of a family, which I guess is an upper middle class family in Ireland. These home movies are punctuated from time to time by footage of landscapes in snow. I'm not sure what these snow scenes mean, but the snow falling in these scenes makes the scenes become more and more blurred. I guess the blurred quality in these scenes is also augmented by some visual effects. So for me, the blurred quality of the snow scenes reminds me of two things. The first thing is our own memory which keeps fading away as time goes by. The second thing is the film material which keeps deteriorating as times goes by. Some of us try to preserve our good memories of happy moments by making home movies or video diaries about them, but these home movies or video diaries can only keep these happy memories for a while. One day the film material will deteriorate completely. One day the digital data in the video will be completely destroyed. Time destroys everything, including our memories and everything that we use to preserve our memories. But it doesn't matter. We don't want our memories to last forever. We just want to preserve them at least for the rest of our lives, maybe for 50-60 years. So making home movies or video diaries is still useful for us, I think.

Sorry for not writing exactly about this beautiful film. I find myself unable to write a good review of any films any more. I just want to write about anything that comes up into my mind after watching this beautiful film. One of the first things that comes up into my mind after watching this film is that this film shows us both how great a home movie can be and how temporary a home movie is. One of the great things about the home movies shown in this film is that they allow the viewers to catch a glimpse of real life of ordinary upper middle class people many decades ago. But the home movies shown in this film will not last forever. The film material will keep on deteriorating. The pictures in these home movies will become more and more blurred. Everything will be buried in the end, including the people in the home movies, the home movies, my memory of this film, and myself.

Because the film doesn't give us any information about the home movies, there are many questions that come up into my mind after watching this film, including:

1. I guess all the found footage used in this film belongs to an upper middle class family. Am I right? There is an old woman who keeps appearing in this film. I guess she is the matriarch of the family.

2.Who shot these home movies? Are there more than one person who shot these home movies? Is the director of these home movies a family member? Does the director of these home movies appear in the home movies too?

3.Is the director of these home movies still alive? Are the children in these home movies still alive? Is anyone in these home movies still alive?

4.When were these home movies shot? I guess they were shot in the 1950s, but I'm not sure.

5.How did Rashidi edit these home movies?

6.Do the home movies look grainy like how they appear in this film? Or did Rashidi make the home movies look more grainy in this film than what they really are?

However, all the questions above are not important. Knowing the answers of these questions is not important for me at all. What is important for me is  that I enjoy watching these home movies very much.

What do these home movies show? They show us scenes of a big family dinner, a child learning to walk (I like this scene very much. I really want to know if this child is still alive.), people going to a swimming pool, people playing tennis, a boat trip, birds flying, a little boy playing with a water hose, an old guy exercising, a car wreck, a foreign maid, golf playing, people walking their dogs, a trip to France, a parade of strange vehicles, a child in an amusement train, a kid driving a vehicle for kids, a child riding a bicycle, kite flying, people going to the beach, children playing with a toy gun, etc.

Things I find interesting in this film include:

1.It may be good that we don't know the name of the people in these home movies, so our opinions on the home movies and this film will not be affected by things that these people do in real life. For example, if the family portrayed in these home movies are a family who used to support Nazi in WWII or something like that, our opinions towards these home movies and this film will be affected a lot by this fact. So I think it is interesting that we don't know who these people really are. Because these people are anonymous, we may enjoy this film without worrying if we inadvertently sympathize with any wrong persons or not.

2.I am a little bit surprised that I can enjoy watching these rich people's activities. The family in these home movies are much richer than mine, and are much warmer than mine, but I can still feel great watching them. I'm not sure why.

3.What is exactly the enjoyment that I get from watching these people's activities? I think it is hard to describe this enjoyment. The enjoyment one gets from watching a home movie of a stranger is different from the enjoyment one gets from watching other kinds of movies, I think. Most home movies don't tell an exciting story. They just present us a slice of an ordinary life of a stranger. But there is a strange kind of enjoyment in watching them. This enjoyment is a mix between the nostalgia, the poignant feelings when one thinks about the fact that people in these home movies may have died, and other feelings. This enjoyment also relies on the fact that the people in these home movies are real and their activities are real. The reality of these home movies creates a strange feeling in me.

4.I like the ending of this film very much. I find it extremely touching. Most parts of this film are silent, except the last five minutes of this film. In the last five minutes of this film, we hear some strange sound. I don't know what this sound is, but it makes me imagine the footsteps of the Death which keeps approaching us. In these last five minutes we also see a home movie covered by whiteness and dirt on the screen. The whiteness which covers this home movie makes the home movie become extremely blurred. We cannot see any more what is happening on the screen. I'm not sure what the last section of this film means, but it touches me very much.

5.These home movies show us only happy moments in a family, like what most home movies do. I think this can be considered both a good point and a weak point of home movies in general. Because many home movies show us only happy moments of a family without any conflicts, home movies are different from mainstream films which focus on plots, conflicts, and resolution of conflicts. This is a good point of home movies, because they show us a part of life which is often overlooked by mainstream films. However, it is also a weak point, because the conflicts or the bad side of the family is not presented in the home movies. We only see the smiles of the people in IMMANENCE DECONSTRUCTION OF US.  We don't see the tears. So while home movies are very interesting and help fulfill things which are overlooked by other films, other films also help fulfill things overlooked by home movies. When I write about this, I think of documentaries about a family made by the outsider of that family, for example, BROTHER'S KEEPER (1992, Joe Berlinger + Bruce Sinofsky), CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS (2003, Andrew Jarecki), GREY GARDENS (1975, Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, Muffie Meyer), LOVE AND DIANE (2002, Jennifer Dworkin),  A SHORT JOURNEY (2003, Tanon Sattarujawong), and A WEDDING IN RAMALLAH (2002, Sherine Salama).

However, sometimes we don't need an outsider to portray both the good side and the bad side of a family. In some extraordinary cases, a family member can make a searing portrait of his/her own family, too, for example
THE MARINA EXPERIMENT (2009, Marina Lutz), SINK OR SWIM (1990, Su Friedrich), A STORY IN A CAR (2011, Wachara Kanha, 4 min), and TARNATION (2003, Jonathan Caouette).

6.Home movies in IMMANENCE DECONSTRUCTION OF US unintentionally make me think about the difference between home movies and video diaries. I think these two genres of films are roughly the same thing or are very connected to each other. But when someone mentions the words "home movies", I often think about personal films made in the past and shot in 8mm format. When someone mentions the words "video diaries", I often think about any kinds of moving images made nowadays which focus on the personal life of the filmmaker, excluding the ones made in film format.

Though I used to think of home movies and video diaries as roughly the same thing, watching IMMANENCE DECONSTRUCTION OF US makes me realize how home movies may be a little bit different from video diaries made nowadays. These differences include:

6.1 The money. Most home movies were made by middle class or upper middle class people, but you don't have to be that rich to make video diaries nowadays, because you can use your mobile phone or use some program such as Socialcam to record your daily activities nowadays. I'm sure that in the near future someone will make a great arthouse film from materials found in Socialcam, like what Rashidi made from home movies in IMMANENCE DECONSTRUCTION OF US.

6.2 Many home movies focus on the family. Many video diaries focus on the filmmaker and friends. It may be because many home movies were made by the father of the family. These fathers who were in their 40s wanted to capture the activities of their kids and families. On the contrary, many filmmakers who make video diaries nowadays are in their teens or 20s. These video-diary makers want to capture the moments they spend with their friends before each of them goes on his/her own way.

The kind of video diaries that I like are the ones in which the filmmaker expresses his feelings to the video, for example, DIRTY PICTURES (2007, John Smith), A NEANGLY FAIRYTALE (BREAKDOWN: SIDE STORY) (2009, Nattaphan Boonlert, 21 min), and STRESSFUL 12 HOURS BEFORE THE DEADLINE (2010, Pitchayakorn Sangsuk, 10 min). Actually I'm not sure if these three films can be called video diaries or not, but I think of them as powerful video diaries.

However, there is also a group of "personal films" or video diaries made nowadays which focus on the family of the filmmakers. I think this group of personal films differ a little bit from home movies made in the past because these personal films look more formal instead of amateurish, and often involve some interviews with the filmmaker's family members. Some of these personal films are listed in the link below:

7.Like many films shown in the 6th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival in early 2012, IMMANENCE DECONSTRUCTION OF US makes me think about the convergence between home movies/video diaries and experimental films. It is interesting to think about the differences between them and the similarities between them which link them together.

I think the differences between home movies and experimental films are the fact that many home movies were made by persons who didn't know how to make films or didn't know the rules of what to do when you are making films, whie many experimental films are made by persons who know very well about the rules of filmmaking. The similarity between them is the fact that both home movies and experimental films generally ignore the rules of filmmaking. Many home movies don't have plots and focus on little things in life. That's what many experimental films do, too.

Apart from IMMANENCE DECONSTRUCTION OF US, films that I like very much and seem to be the hybrids between home movies/video diaries and experimental films include:

7.1 THE ATMOSPHERE AT HOME AT 6AM (2011, Wachara Kanha, 16 min)

7.2 DESTINATION FINALE (2008, Philip Widmann, Germany/South Vietnam)

7.3 (DIS)CONTINUITY (2012, Wantanee Siripattananuntakul, video installation)

7.4 MV: EV'RY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE (1990, Ed Lachlan)

7.5 FILM FROM LAMPANG (around 1971, anonymous, Thailand)

7.6 GALLIVANT (1996, Andrew Kötting, UK)

7.7 THE GARDEN (2010, Ann Steuernagel, USA)

7.8 HERE COMES THE SUN (2008, Supakit Seksuwan, 7 min)

7.9 HOLD STILL (2009, Rachel Shearer, New Zealand)

7.10 I REMEMBER (2011, Arthawut Boonyuang, 90 min)

7.11 LIFE CONTINUED (1966, Zhuang Ling, Taiwan)

7.12 LOVE ACTUALLY (2008, Gun Sangkaew, 9 min)

7.13 ME AND MY VIDEO DIARY (2010, Tani Thitiprawat)

7.14 MORNING (2010, Kok Siew Wai, Malaysia)

7.15 MY MOTHER AND HER DARKNESS (2008, Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa, 7 min)

7.16 MY ROOM AND I (2010, Ka-nes Boonyapanachoti, 20 min)

7.17 A PLACE OF DIFFERENT AIR (2008, Chaloemkiat Saeyong, 24 min)

7.18 POISON 4: THE MOST BASIC ANSWER IS THAT I LOVE FILMS A LOT (2011, Eakarach Monwat, 21 min)

7.19 RAINING IN THE NIGHT (2008, Supachai Saiwirat, 6 min)

7.20 RESIST (2009, Teeranit Siangsanoh, 54 min)

7.21 SLEEPING BEAUTY (2006, Chulayarnnon Siriphol, 40 min)

7.22 SUNDAY (2010, Siwapond Cheejedreiw, 24 min)

7.23 SWING (2011, Weerapong Wimuktalop, 30 min)

7.24 TOTAA (2008, Akashdeep Sing, Malaysia, 4 min)

7.25 TRAIN OF SHADOWS (1996, José Luis Guerín, Spain)

7.26 TWO CORONATIONS (2011, Stephen Connolly, UK)

7.27 VACANCY (1999, Matthias Müller)

7.28 WINDOW WATER BABY MOVING (1962, Stan Brakhage)

However, I still haven't seen the personal films of Jonas Mekas, Jennifer Montgomery (ART FOR TEACHERS OF CHILDREN), and Anne Charlotte Robertson (FIVE YEARS DIARY).  I hope to have a chance to see them in the future.