Sunday, April 22, 2012
TENEBROUS CITY & ILL-LIGHTED MORTALS (2011, Rouzbeh Rashidi, 66 min, A++++++++++)
Things I find interesting in this film include:
1. I think it is like an unintentional sequel of A NOCTURNE (2007, Bill Mousoulis, Australia), which deals with vampires. The vampires in A NOCTURNE are like a group of artists who cannot fit in with the society of ordinary people. The protagonist of TENEBROUS CITY & ILL-LIGHTED MORTALS is a little bit similar to the vampires in A NOCTURNE, because he only roams the streets at night. He seems to miss the daily activities or daily life of ordinary people, but he cannot participate in this daily life. The other thing which makes him look like a vampire is the fact that he seems not to be able to enter a building without the invitation. There's a scene in which he tries to enter a building, but he can only enter it while his hand is still opening the door. His hand cannot let go of the door. I'm not sure why he behaves like that in that scene. There's also a scene in which he enters a building because there's a "welcome" sign in front of the building. There are also many scenes of houses in the daytime, but we can only look at these houses from the outside. There are many cages in the windows of these houses, and these cages seem to emphasize the alienation of the protagonist from the society.
2. I like the alienation of the protagonist very much. It makes me think about myself. The protagonist in this film is very lonely, but the film is not too romantic. There are some romantic feelings in this film, but not too much. The romantic feelings are presented by some stills of a woman and some scenes of a woman and a man. These stills and scenes seem to represent the romantic yearning of the protagonist, but what is important is that the protagonist seems to only observe them from afar, and not try to intervene in the woman's life or try to destroy the relationship of this woman and her man. I like it very much that the protagonist behaves like that. He wants something, but he will not do any people any harm just because he wants something which may be out of his reach.
The protagonist seems to communicate with some strangers from time to time, but it results in nothing meaningful.
3.TENEBROUS CITY & ILL-LIGHTED MORTALS may be one of the easiest feature films of Rashidi to watch. It is different from other feature films of Rashidi because the camera moves a lot in this film, while the camera is more static in other films of Rashidi. The storyline in this film is more easily to follow compared to some other films of Rashidi. I think it is as easy to watch as BIPEDALITY, because both films have main characters which lead us through the storyline. There are also the insertion of atmospheric scenes in both BIPEDALITY and TENEBROUS CITY & ILL-LIGHTED MORTALS, but while the atmospheric scenes in BIPEDALITY are enigmatic and defy explanation, the atmospheric scenes/stills in TENEBROUS CITY & ILL-LIGHTED MORTALS are much easier to be explained. It is easy for the viewers to think of these atmospheric scenes as the representation of the yearning of the protagonist.
4. I like the lights and the lighting in TENEBROUS CITY & ILL-LIGHTED MORTALS. There are various kinds of lights in this film, and I like them all. I like the neon lights or fluorescent lights in the streets at night very much. The lights on the streets at night in this film reminds me of such films as ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS (1958, Louis Malle), SHADOWS (1959, John Cassavetes), THE BREAD OF THOSE EARLY YEARS (1962, Herbert Vesely), ROUGH NIGHT (2001, Samart Imkham), and FIREFLIES (2005, Chawit Waewsawangwong), because these films show us extremely beautiful neon lights, too. The difference between TENEBROUS CITY & ILL-LIGHTED MORTALS and other films mentioned is that Rashidi might not intend to emphasize on the beauty of the neon lights that much. The neon lights in this film are not embellished. They look beautiful but a little bit realistic at the same time. I think the beauty of these neon lights come partly from the fact that the night scenes in this film are quite atmospheric. Because many scenes in this film don't try to tell a story, but present the atmosphere and the loneliness of the protagonist, so things in this film subsequently look more beautiful than when they are there to tell a story or to support a story.
I like the sunlight in this film, too. Like the neon lights, the sunlight in this film is not embellished, but it looks beautiful because we know it is out of reach of the protagonist. It looks beautiful because we look at it through the eyes of the protagonist and understand how precious it has become. The film makes me aware how beautiful some ordinary things in daily life are. The reflection of sunlight on the wall, the green grass in the sunlight, the talking with friends--all these things that we may take for granted suddenly look precious when we look at them through the eyes of the protagonist. However, I think this may not be the main theme of this film, and Rashidi dealt with this thing before in ZOETROPE, which is one of the most beautiful films ever made about ordinary things in daily life.
5.There are many interesting techniques used in this film, including the flickering lights around the protagonist, the violent shaking of the camera in some scenes, the sudden switch from a still in landscape format into a still in portrait format, etc. I don't know the meanings of these techniques in this film, but I think they are thought-provoking.
6. The music in this film is very good. It is brooding in some scenes and helps emphasize the vampire-like quality of the protagonist.
7.The scene of a woman lying on a bench with her two feet lifted up is quite memorable. It is as beautiful as a classic painting.