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Things That Came to My Mind While I Was Watching the Film #1


The name of this modest column could sound like a pretentious imitation of a Mekas film title or (even worse) some fake-modest-yet-bombastic way of promoting one's "deep thoughts."

Blame it on the fact that the writer is not a native English-speaker, and believe in the absolute sincerity (and in the totally matter-of-fact) meaning of the title. Just that: what comes to one's mind while watching. Or watching again. Or putting two images together. It could sometimes be about a specific film but never an attempt to write about the film: many thoughts come to one's mind while watching, out of love, hate, doubt, distraction, perplexity, boredom, sentimentality, memory, state of mind and personal obsession of the day..."good" or "bad" are not the issue. Just an occasion to ask questions and to think about other films.

Therefore, in a language that will definitely sound foreign (in spite of the chief redactor's efforts to make it acceptable), these random notes from a European friend simply wish to trigger or revive memories—memories of films, or even memories of images or sentences that time has isolated from the film they come from—to trigger discussion, to circulate simple questions that come again and again to one’s mind when watching films. The writer is not a specialist nor a well-trained film historian, and not even a film critic. Just a person who has seen many films (mere mathematics of age) and still sees many (just cinephilia), but never could travel alone in the country of cinema. Looking for company. Let's travel, and let’s play, as children do: for real.



The Incredible Shrinking Man

Above: The Incredible Shrinking Man

I'm in Rotterdam, shortly before New Year (the Chinese one), watching a very promising first film. When the two main characters of the film eventually have their first conversation after they have so far only been seen separately—having been kept apart by the filmmaker in a sweet and elegant way that creates a pleasantly strong desire to see more—they are seen in a long shot, almost silhouettes against a seaside landscape. Far away, they talk. I hear...—impossible. Technique is back, between me and them. I shouldn't be able to hear them from that far. It means a wireless mic attached to the actors. I'm startled, the contract between the film and me, in the audience, is broken. I begin to think about all these other moments when the techniques of movie making are no longer transparent that I have noticed, with frustration and some degree of rage, in other films. Maybe it's even more noticeable, and even more frustrating, in this part of contemporary cinema which takes good care of time, space, reality, focusing on the mystery of the human figure and the uselessness of explicit narration. Well, it is true that technique is reality. The film I'm watching goes on, and it definitely has "something," as they say. I shall remember it and also the name of the director. But like the angry cat that really struggles with the young actress in one of the scenes—a cat that cannot act happy in her arms—I struggled with the film all along. Reality is a cat.

Great write up.

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