5. Cinema in a Minor Key
Weekend 5 - Feb.14-16th
“minor key noun 1: a musical key or tonality in the minor mode; 2: a mood of melancholy or pathos; 3: a restrained manner: a small or limited scale.” in Merriam-Webster Dictionary
The fifth Harvard-Gulbenkian program focuses upon a trio of artists- Manuel Mozos, Argentine filmmaker Martín Rejtman and Quebec-based Canadian director Denis Côté - who similarly embrace a refreshingly alternate idea(l) of cinema - a deliberately "minor" mode of cinema grounded in the specificity of the resolutely local places explored by their films and in the delicate balance achieved by their greatest work between melancholy and wry humor, realism and fantasy. Offering nuanced, muted and minor reinventions of traditional genres, the deadpan screwball comedy of Rejtman’s Silvia Prieto and the minimalist melodramas of Mozos’ Xavier and Côté’s Curling are charged with profound political nuance and a lasting ambiguity revealed in their frequent hints of mysterious, at times almost magical, forces at work. Insisting on branding Mozos, Rejtman and Côté as representative filmmakers of their respective countries, critics have frequently named each, as a, if not the, key figure in one of those loose and briefly exciting categories of national "new cinemas" that ultimately serve to obscure these artists’ singularity - the New Argentine Cinema, the New Quebecois Cinema, and, for Mozos, that yet still unnamed generation of Portuguese filmmakers whose daring films attained sudden, yet all too often fleeting, fame in the late 1990s and early 2000s. And yet, just as Mozos, Retjman and Côté creatively reinterpret genre, so too do they also realign and reinvent questions of the national by carefully abstracting, and critically rendering different the iconic and dominant locations of their films- Lisbon, Buenos Aires and the Canadian tundras.
The relation of the films of Mozos, Rejtman and Côté to any specific national tradition remains one of the open questions to be explored by this weekend of conversations and screenings which also showcase these filmmakers innovative work in documentary as well as fiction. Decidedly unconventional documentaries, Retjam’s Basic Training for Actors and Côté’s Bestiare are- like Mozos’ Ruinas and documentaries on the history of Portuguese cinema (which are not included in this program)- united by a creative interrogation of the realist fundament of the cinema as a photographic art. In this way both the hilarious and bracing Entrenamiento and the crisply minimalist Bestiare offer spirited metacinematic commentaries, Rejtman’s a profound questioning of performance and actorly presence as cinematic truths and Denis’ a gently confrontational meditation on the cinematic gaze, beautifully embodied in the figures of the zoo animals who return the spectator’s gaze. Frequently placed within that exclusive yet ultimately limiting category of "director's directors", Mozos, Rejtman and Côté are filmmakers whose influence and importance was recognized before their work was sufficient seen and known.