In less than a decade of activity, the four friends and polymorphously promiscuous collaborators Gabriel Abrantes, Alexander Carver, Benjamin Crotty, and Daniel Schmidt have made some of the most ravishing and least classifiable films in recent memory—and established themselves as a school of filmmaking unlike any other. These uncompromising young visionaries share a penchant for provocation, a taste for transgression, and a host of strategies and obsessions all their own. At once lyrical and perverse, by turns hilarious and delirious, their films obliterate distinctions—between high- and low-brow, between sensual and cerebral, between art cinema and the avant-garde—while remaining sharply attuned to the byproducts of globalization and the fluctuations of post-internet pop culture. The Film Society welcomes these playful iconoclasts for their first-ever shared retrospective, which includes the U.S. theatrical release of Crotty’s first feature, Fort Buchanan.
For Film Comment
magazine, Sullivan has written an excellent overview
of these filmmakers, "who, over the past decade, have quickly amassed a shared body of work that intoxicates, titillates, tickles, and scandalizes." On the Notebook, Alice Stoehr has explored the series in her article Sophisticated Engineering
We will be showing the following features and short film programs from the Film Society's series in the US and, for several of the films, other countries :
The Unity of All Things (Daniel Schmidt, Alexander Carver, 2013), 18 February in the US and UK, 20 February in most of the world
A hypnotic and erotic sci-fi tone poem, exquisitely shot on a mixture of Super 16 and Super 8, The Unity of All Things tracks the metaphysical and psychosexual changes undergone by a group of research physicists as they prepare for the construction of a new particle accelerator on the U.S.-Mexico border. Meanwhile, the group leader’s two teenage sons (played by actresses, in drag) find themselves exploring an incestuous romance. Daniel Schmidt and Alexander Carver’s film is a singular audiovisual experience, an entrancing and grainy hallucination in which bodies, the sea, haunting drones, neon lights, and gargantuan scientific apparatuses (three real-life particle colliders provide the location for much of the film) commingle to yield a portrait of desire that is nothing short of cosmic.
Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt’s first two collaborations are sublime stories of friendship and betrayal spanning the medieval past to a dystopian future.
Palaces of Pity (2011): After establishing their filmmaking partnership with A History of Mutual Respect, Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt co-directed this radically stylized, era- and genre-scrambling amalgam of coming-of-age melodrama, medieval pageant, and political allegory. Two teenage sisters cope with the death of their beloved grandmother, their long-standing rivalry, and their inheritance of an immense castle with a shadowy Fascist past. An exhilarating whatsit laden with awe-inspiring landscapes, surrealist flourishes, and stirring, unexpected juxtapositions of image and sound, Palaces of Pity is denser with aesthetic, historical, and political ideas than innumerable films twice its length.
A History of Mutual Respect (2010): The first collaboration between Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt is a playful yet serious meditation on friendship, competition, and carnal desire, cast against lush jungle settings and the modernist architecture of Brasilia.
The feature debut of American-born, Paris-based writer-director Benjamin Crotty marks the arrival of something rare in contemporary cinema: a wholly original sensibility. Expanding his 2012 short of the same name, Crotty chronicles the tragicomic plight of frail, lonely Roger, stranded at a remote military post in the woods while his husband carries out a mission in Djibouti. Over four seasons, Roger (Andy Gillet, the androgynous star of Eric Rohmer’s The Romance of Astrea and Celadon) seeks comfort and companionship from the army wives in the leisurely yet sexually frustrated community, while trying to keep a lid on his volatile adopted daughter, Roxy. Shot in richly textured 16mm, Crotty’s queer soap opera playfully estranges and deranges any number of narrative conventions, finding surprising wells of emotion amid the carnal comedy. A New Directors/New Films 2015 selection.
A program of Gabriel Abrantes’s three most recent shorts—ribald and irreverent films that mark his recent swerve toward popular comedy:
Taprobana (2014): A sensuous and debauched portrait of Portugal’s national poet Luís Vaz de Camões teetering on the borderline between Paradise and Hell.
Freud und Friends (2015): A freewheeling homage to both Woody Allen’s Sleeper and reality TV, Freud und Friends is a headlong dive (narrated by “Herner Werzog”) into the deepest, silliest recesses of Abrantes’s unconscious.
Ennui Ennui (2013): This delirious espionage farce (whose cast includes Edith Scob and Esther Garrel) resembles what might have happened if Zero Dark Thirty had been written by Georges Bataille.
"Friends with Benefits" was supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation