Sunday, April 22, 2012

FILMORE (2011, Rouzbeh Rashidi, Ireland, 60 min, A+++++)

Like CREMATION OF AN IDEOLOGY, FILMORE is a film that I like much much more in my second viewing than in my first viewing of the film. In my first viewing of the film, FILMORE ranks as the most difficult film I have ever seen. "Difficult" here doesn't mean "bad" or "difficult to understand". It means difficult to sit through. I think the difficulty is partly because I didn't know what to expect or what would happen in this film. In my first viewing of the film, I didn't know how long the haircut scene would last. I was very anxious to know if there would be anything important or anything dramatic happening in the scene. I didn't know what I should pay attention to in the scene. I wondered if there would be a bomb hidden in a garbage can, if the woman would cut off the man's ear, or slit the man's throat, or if the viewpoint of the film is the viewpoint of a sniper who would shoot these two people at the end of the film. Because I didn't know what I should pay attention to in my first viewing of the film, I found this film the most difficult film to sit through in my whole life. But in my second viewing of the film, I know what to expect from this film. I know there will not be any other scenes in the film except the haircut scene. I know what will happen next. All my anxiety is gone. I can allow myself to fall asleep from time to time watching this film, instead of feeling stressful watching it like in my first viewing.

I give A++++++ to this film not because I get the ultimate pleasure from watching it. I just like its concept--trying to make a romantic film from watching a woman cutting a man's hair, observing their physical touches, but remain a little bit detached from the couple for the whole hour. Its concept is very interesting. I don't know what Rashidi wants from this film. If he wants the audience to feel erotic and romantic by an uncompromisingly minimal film like this, I think it is a failed experiment at least for a gay audience whose life is filled with hatred like me. But I think it is still an interesting experiment nonetheless. But if Rashidi doesn't want the audience to feel romantic or erotic, this cannot be called a failed experiment.

I describe myself as "a gay audience whose life is filled with hatred", because I think it is one of the reasons why I feel this film is difficult. I don't know what a straight man or a woman will feel watching this film. They may feel a little bit erotic watching the man's and the woman's body touching each other from time to time. These straight viewers may feel romantic when they see the man and the woman kissing each other. I don't know. I just know that I don't feel erotic or romantic watching it, and I suspect that my sexual orientation may play a part in it.

I also think my life story may play a part, too. I rarely have romantic experiences in my life. My life is filled with hatred, and that's why I find it difficult to identify with some romantic gay films such as THE ANGELIC CONVERSATION (1985, Derek Jarman, A+). There are many gay kissing scenes in THE ANGELIC CONVERSATION. I like them a lot, but somehow I still feel a little bit detached from these gay kissing scenes. It is much easier for me to identify with the angriness portrayed in JUBILEE (1978, Derek Jarman) or THE GARDEN (1990, Derek Jarman). So apart from my sexual orientation, I think the genre of FILMORE is also one of the reasons why I don't enjoy the film that much. FILMORE seems to belong to the romantic genre, but my life story doesn't allow me to identify myself with most characters in this genre.

But I guess Rashidi didn't intend to emphasize the erotic or the romantic quality of FILMORE in the first place. What is the most important thing for him here is the minimalistic quality. Hence, there is no music in this film. Watching FILMORE unintentionally reminds me how great the soundtracks of CREMATION OF AN IDEOLOGY and TENEBROUS CITY & ILL-LIGHTED MORTALS are. The soundtracks in these two films help build the atmosphere very much and thus chase the boredom away. The music would have helped build the romantic atmosphere and chase the boredom away too in FILMORE, but there is no music in the film. And we can't even hear the dialogues of the couple. The minimalistic quality of FILMORE have two important effects on me: it makes the film boring, but at the same time it makes the film an interesting experiment. In a way it reminds me of LUNG NEAW VISITS HIS NEIGHBOURS (2011, Rirkrit Tiravanija, 154 min, A++++++++++). LUNG NEAW VISITS HIS NEIGHBOURS is boring from time to time, but it is interesting as a film which may or may not parody the slowness, the comtemplative quality, or the heavily atmospheric quality of contemporary arthouse films. I don't think FILMORE is a parody, but it resembles LUNG NEAW VISITS HIS NEIGHBOURS in the way that it "intentionally" sits on the edge of boredom.  I don't think the boredom in these two films come from the ineptitude of the directors, or come from the low taste of the audience, but I think it comes from some experiments on the boundary of cinema intended by the directors. I still haven't watched any films directed by Andy Warhol, though. So I cannot compare the slight boredom of FILMORE with legendary films such as SLEEP (1963, 321 min). I also haven't seen POSSIBLE LOVERS (2008, Raya Martin, 95 min), which I think should be screened together with FILMORE.

I also ask myself why I found it very hard to watch FILMORE in my first viewing. I have seen so many films which are extremely slow, extremely contemplative, in which nothing dramatic happens. Why do I love these kinds of films so much and get the ultimate pleasure watching them, but not from FILMORE? Why do I find it extremely easy to attune my wavelength to these kinds of films, especially ZOETROPE, but not to FILMORE? I think the answers may include these things: the closed space, the detachment, the hour-long duration, the absence of the space for imagination/the absence of trance-like quality. These four qualities in FILMORE make it difficult for me to sit through the film.

These four qualities are the things that set FILMORE apart from other extremely slow films that I love. For example:

1. Because the story of FILMORE takes place in a closed space which looks a little bit dirty or ugly, it is hard to stare at this space for an hour. This makes it different from such films as RUHR (2009, James Benning) or YOU HAVE TO WAIT, ANYWAY (2007, Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, 22 min), in which we stare at the sky for 20-40 minutes, or such films as PSYCHOHYDROGRAPHY (2010, Peter Bo Rappmund), in which we stare at the sea for 10 minutes, or such films as PERU TIME (2008, Chaloemkiat Saeyong, 18 min), in which we stare at an open field for 18 minutes.

2+3. The detachment between the characters and the viewers may be one of the reasons why I don't enjoy FILMORE that much. FILMORE doesn't allow us to really get to know the characters. The film doesn't allow us to hear the dialogues or know the backgrounds of the characters, thus I feel detached from the characters. I think the detachment is one of the reasons apart from the closed space, because I enjoy staring at some closed spaces in other films such as AFTERNOON TIMES (2005, Tossapol Boonsinsukh, 90 min). In AFTERNOON TIMES, there is a 15-minute-long scene in which the camera doesn't move. In that scene we watch a female restaurant owner slowly picking up things in her very small restaurant. That scene also takes place in a closed, small space, but that scene makes me want to cry. Why do the closed space in AFTERNOON TIMES make me feel very different from the closed space in FILMORE? The first answer is because I can totally identify with the character in AFTERNOON TIMES. I understand the feelings and emotions of the heroine in AFTERNOON TIMES very well, so though I have to stare at the closed space in AFTERNOON TIMES for a long time, my feelings and emotions still move a lot like the heroine. But I feel detached from the characters in FILMORE.

The second answer may be the duration. If the haircut scene in FILMORE lasts 15 minutes like the scene in AFTERNOON TIMES, certainly I will not feel a little bit bored like this.

To give another comparison about detachment/involvement with the characters, I would like to compare FILMORE with HEREMIAS (2006, Lav Diaz, 540 min). In HEREMIAS, there's a two-hour-long segment which also tests the endurance of the viewers a little bit like FILMORE. It's the segment in which Heremias is hiding in the grass, secretly listening to a group of youngsters who plan to rape and kill a girl. However, I find it easier to sit through that segment in HEREMIAS to FILMORE, because I feel involved with Heremias. I understand the feelings of Heremias in that scene. So the involvement with the characters helps chase the boredom away.

4. The absence of space for imagination/the absence of trance-like quality. I think this may be only me, but not for other viewers. I think each viewer has different things which can arouse his/her own imaginations or different things which can put them in a trance. I don't find the things which can arouse my own imaginations or put me in a trance in FILMORE, but I think some viewers may find this kind of things in it.

Some extremely slow or undramatic films give me the ultimate pleasure because they put me in a trance, for example, WINDOW (1999, Apichatpong Weerasethakul). I can stare at the window in WINDOW, or in ZOETROPE, or in THE NAKORN ASAJARN TRILOGY: NIGHTMARE (2011, Wachara Kanha), or in PASSING THROUGH THE NIGHT (2011, Wattanapume Laisuwanchai), or in AGATHA AND THE UNLIMITED READINGS (1981, Marguerite Duras) for many minutes and don't feel bored at all. Windows in these films can put me in an extremely blissful trance, and I don't know why.

Electronic music and some sounds are ones of the things which can arouse my imaginations a lot. That is why I like A LISTENER'S TALE (2007, Arghya Basu, India, 76 min) and EMPLOYEES LEAVING THE LUMIERE FACTORY (2010, Chaloemkiat Saeyong) very much, though these two films can be described as extremely slow. A LISTENER'S TALE presents us many scenes of beautiful nature with electronic music. That is enough for me to imagine many many things by myself and enjoy the imaginations in my own head. EMPLOYEES LEAVING THE LUMIERE FACTORY lets us stare at the darkness for a long time, but it has some strange sounds in it which arouse my imaginations a lot.

I also would like to compare FILMORE with NEVER CONGREGATE, NEVER DISREGARD (2007, Arin Rungjang, video installation with two channels). In one of the channels in this video installation, we see a man digging something for 50 minutes, but it is not boring for me to watch this video for 50 minutes, because there are some texts running at the bottom of the screen, and this stream-of-consciousness texts arouse my imaginations very much. So that's why I feel very captivated watching NEVER CONGREGATE, NEVER DISREGARD, but don't feel the same way watching FILMORE.

(The two video channels of NEVER CONGREGATE, NEVER DISREGARD are now available at Vimeo. Unfortunately, the texts in the digging channel are not available. I don't know why. I think the text is the most important thing in this video installation.

I wrote " each viewer has different things which can arouse his/her own imaginations", because I know about it from my conversations with cinephile friends. The electronic music in A LISTENER'S TALE and PSYCHOHYDROGRAPHY doesn't arouse my friends' imaginations, though it arouses mine. My friend Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa likes the faces of people in TIME WITHIN TIME (2009, Menno Otten, Netherlands, A+) a lot. I guess the faces of people in TIME WITHIN TIME arouse his imaginations much more than mine. Thus, I guess there must be some viewers who find something very captivating in FILMORE. This film may not be exactly my cup of tea, but I'm sure some will like it a lot.

In conclusion, though I find FILMORE a little bit boring, and may be fit to be shown in a gallery than in a theatre, I still give it A++++++ because I like its concept very much. It is different from other films I have ever seen, and I think it is good that sometimes I find a film with a kind of wavelength I have never known before and I have to find a way to attune my wavelength to it.

I remember that when I saw CALM REIGNS THROUGHOUT THE LAND (1976, Peter Lilienthal) about 15 years ago. I couldn't attune my wavelength to it. The film has some kinds of wavelength I had never known before. I didn't like it at all after I saw it. However, after a while I found this film very memorable, and my fondness for this film keeps increasing every time I think of it.
Who knows if FILMORE will turn out to be one of my most favorite films of all time in the future? I may find it a bit boring now, but my fondness for many films changes with time. FILMORE may be a film which is a little bit ahead of its time for me. Hopefully, my wavelength will catch up with it soon. :-)

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