Video of the day. Jean-Marie Straub's "Schakale und Araber" (2011)

"Admittedly, at 11 minutes, this most staggering of the three terrific new shorts [at the Locarno 2011 film festival] by uncompromising master Straub (one of them part of this year's Jeonju Digital Project)... no film this year has been so continually surprising and rich.

On repeated viewings, Straub's brilliant condensation of one of Kafka's more mysterious short stories has only become more mysterious itself, even as its point couldn't be clearer: As an acerbic look at the relationship of Western and Arab worlds this is one of the most timely films around. (It certainly would make an interesting double feature with the other competition notable: Nadav Lapid's muscular special jury prize winner Ha-shoter [Policeman].) Yet, Schakale und Araber couldn't be more timeless, making Kafka's ambiguous allegory even more complex by stripping away the "narrative" bridges and heightening the levels of transference. An invocation of the desert-set original etched into a European residence, presented with a singular sense for the essential sharpened over time—that scissors close-up!—down to the dialogues rippling with further layers of refracted meaning: "Wunderbare Tiere! Aber wie sie uns hassen!" Every inch of the screen is ablaze, and despite being prefigured in some ways be the great Corneille-Brecht ou Rome l'unique objet de mon ressentiment (2009), this is an astonishing achievement even within the refined Straubosphere, certainly making the veteran iconoclast all the more deserving of being the first person to actually win two Golden Donkeys for two different movies."

—The Ferroni Brigade, The Golden Donkey Locarno 2011

Hat-tip and gracious bow to AR/KS for the discovery.

Responses

8 responses to this post.  Join the discussion

  • Aaron G.

    This is really fantastic. Thank you!

  • anthony

    Subtitles?

  • Daniel Kasman

    Yes it has subtitles in English.

  • Aaron G.

    Press CC for subtitles.

  • Tag Gallagher

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/11/23/kafka-in-israel/

  • Daniel Kasman

    Many thanks, Tag!

  • Jon Jost

    Illustrated literature. Very very minimalist “cinema.” Political work done in a vacuum.

    So let’s look at it from a sorta Marxist viewpoint: this was made with about $50,000 given by the Jeonju festival for so-called “digital cinema.” To put it simply I could have made this, paying the actors, say, $5000 each (rather extravagant pay for a day’s work) and myself the same, for, well, $15,000. I guess the composer also gets something. Say $5000. OK. so where did the other $30,000 go?

    Who will see this? A (very few) audiences, most of whom will walk out in a few minutes. What will the effect be? A few intellectual cinephiles will be thrilled I guess. Maybe 10. Or 20.

    My point is what is the point of this? Purity for the sake of purity? Or is it a costly con, where someone gets paid X$ (most likely from public funding, as is the case with the Jeonju Digital Project) to make a film for max 100 people? 50K to make 100 people happy?

    I am about as removed from commercial cinema as you could get, but the above looks obscene to me. But they posture as “leftists.” As do a lot of very artsy left Euro filmmakers who are among those who were, uh, corrupt, and used public funding to make their very private films at if not Hwd costs, then a lot more than they can really justify.

    Hypocrisy.

    jon jost
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  • Andy Rector

    Everything Mr. Jost writes here about Straub and SCHAKALE UND ARABER is a distortion:

    1. SCHAKALE UND ARABER was not made for Jeonju. Straub’s AN HEIR was made for Jeonju. Jost only speculates on what was done with the Jeonju money, so it’s immaterial — not even a little Marxist. The greater possibility, still speculation, is that the Jeonju commission allowed Straub to make 3 more short films, which he did, all in 2011 — AN HEIR, SCHAKALE UND ARABER, L’INCONSOLABLE — all under the same Swiss production company “Belva GmbH”, which was established only after the Jeonju commission. In 2012, Straub made another short with the “Belva GmbH” production company, LA MADRE. All of these films are of astonishing quality, and at the forefront of digital cinema to boot.

    2. Jost maximizes the viewership of SCHAKALE UND ARABER at 100 people. The movie as it is on Youtube, where it works quite well as a movie in my opinion, has a little over 2,200 “views”. Let’s say that half of those who visited the movie on Youtube watched it through to the end; that would be 1,100 viewers. But that we cannot know. We can only know that Straub cannot be blamed for the fact that his film is not being programmed, thus more widely seen, by festival, cinema, and television programmers.

    3. Straub (and Huillet) have never proclaimed themselves “leftists” or “Leftists”. They have on the contrary expressed disdain for the term in a number of interviews.

    4. “llustrated (sic) literature. Very very minimalist ‘cinema.’ Political work done in a vacuum.” Anyone who has read the Kafka short story would know there is not a single moment of illustration in SCHAKALE UND ARABER by Straub.

    The only true statement that Jost writes about Straub is that he continues to do “Political work”. I agree. Whether it is done in “a vacuum” is always up to us.

    Long live Straub and company.

    - Andy Rector

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