Tag Archives: Lav Diaz

Literature Review 2.0: The Long Take

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a GIF from Florentina Hubaldo, CTE (2012)


Announcement of a New Blog Series: In this new blog series called Critical Literature ReviewI will be featuring a series of annotated bibliographies grouped per topic. I have already posted a summary review of David A. Gerstner’s essay The Practices of Authorship. Each literature review piece or annotation will basically contain three parts. The first part provides a brief summary of the main arguments of the book. The second part evaluates the book’s strengths and weaknesses, method of presentation and other elements. The third part is the assessment of the usefulness of the book in relation to my research on Lav Diaz. The bibliographic format to be used is APA. For more information on the critical literature review, check a handout here. All my literature reviews can be found here.


 

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The Long Take: A Cinematic Style? Or an Aesthetic Condition of Contemporary Culture?

Majority of literature in cinema has generally viewed long take as a stylistic device. Andrei Bazin’s essays “The Ontology of the Photographic Image” (1960) and “Evolution of the Film Language” (1968) are two of the inaugural essays that problematize the aesthetic practice of long take in relation to realism. The aesthetic practice of long take, whether used in contemplative cinema to deploy affects of emptiness, ennui and languor or used as a means to orchestrate complex cinematography, constitutes a smaller subset of a bigger set of stylistic devices used predominantly in art cinema and commercial cinema for several reasons. In today’s media culture, the long take has been appropriated in different platforms, in particular, amateur instructional videos in Youtube, surveillance footages, pornographic video productions among others. The digital platform has rendered the long take as a new stylistics to deploy spectacle. Hence, in this series of text, we will see how the concept of the long take is deployed in several writings.

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The Intrasequence Cut: The Long Take Between Bazin and Eisenstein

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Murnau’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927): Brian Henderson’s example of a film with intrasequence shot, where editing play no expressive role

Bibliographic Note: Henderson, B. (1980). The Long Take (1971). In A Critique of Film Theory (pp. 48–61). New York: E.P. Dutton.

 

In Brian Henderson’s essay titled The Long Take (1971), the idea of the long take is drawn from a classical film theory perspective. Henderson (1980) says

‘the true cultivation and expression of the image… requires the duration of the long take (a single piece of unedited film that may or may not constitute an entire sequence). [L]ong take… permits the director to vary and develop the image without switching to another image… Thus the long take makes mise-en-scene possible.’ (p. 49) [Emphasis mine]

A Question of Film trheoryHenderson wanted to create a film theory that does not exclusively privilege either Bazinian notion of long take, which is associated with his temporal realism, or Eisenteinian notion of montage. He wanted to create a theory that would deploy both principles halfway. However, Henderson’s idea is not the definitive long take we are after. For Henderson, the long take is not primarily the length of the shot. It interacts with the montage, but not in the way that it privileges the montage’s rhythm or the autonomy of the long take in itself.

Henderson (1980) defines this new idea as the selective cut, or the intrasequence cut, or the mise-en-scene cut, to distinguish it from the montage cut or the long take in a Bazinian sense. An intrasequence cut ‘does not relate, arrange, or govern the whole of the piece it joins; it merely has a local relationship to the beginnings and ends of the connecting shots…’ (p. 54).

Assessing the Intrasequence Cut

Henderson’s ideas are weakened by his incapacity to think beyond the stylistic dilemma of Bazinian-Eisensteinian aesthetic complex. Henderson is a typical film theorist caught in between a web of generalizations centering on aesthetic figure of the director-as-auteur and their corresponding styles on mise-en-scene and montage. Henderson flippantly weighs in on the lack of theoretical grounding of a set of films that falls between Bazin and Eisenstein. Henderson was not able to account, like many aesthetic theorists, the material dimension of the long take and its industrial relation to the whole production of the image. As a stylistic device, its capability to generate new theory of cinema is insufficient as it lacks a systematic distinction that would easily differentiate it from a rhythmic montage or a Bazinian long take. Henderson has not fully show its autonomy as a stylistic device nor its general relation to whole discourse of the production of cinema.

Usefulness in my Research

Lav Diaz’s style of editing may be something close to Henderson idea of the intrasequence cut: a paradoxical stylistic cut that is both autonomous and related to the other shots. However, due to Henderson’s delimitation that the long take as not necessarily related to the length of the shot, I am led to conclude that Diaz’s stylistic category is something more complex than the facile relationship between Bazinian and Eisensteinin categories. In Lav Diaz’ cinema, we also have to look at the technological aspect and the material conditions that allows for such a style to thrive.

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from Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan (2013)

Since the research aims to unmask the metaphysics of long duration, one has to ask first how does style contributes to the formation of metaphysics of long duration. Long duration here constitutes the general artistico-politics of slow cinema, in particular, the cinema of Lav Diaz. Remember however that the project is a materialist critique of the metaphysics of long duration. It reassembles the old time debate between materialism and idealism that Marx deployed in his readings on Feuerback, Proudhorn, Max Stirner. The best way to approach this is to constitute first the process of mystification in slow cinema by analyzing aesthetics categories, styles, narrative structure, and political content of the films. The research questions should be:

  • How does the process of mystification of slow cinema occur?
  • What are the contradictions and limitations (the aporia?) of these metaphysics of long duration?
  • What is the dialectical materialist opposite of long duration?

The general framework, as I see it now, after writing my paper presentation on Marx contra Deleuze, is to extrapolate the debate of materialism vs. idealism and apply it within the framework of slow cinema.

 

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The Long Take as Effigy of the Wondrous

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Lutz Koepnick’s example of the long take as expression of the wondrous

Bibliographic Note: Koepnick, L. (2017). The Long Take: Art Cinema and the Wondrous. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.

 

In Lutz Koepnick’s recent book The Long Take: Art Cinema and the Wondrous (2017) takes on the notion of the long take closer to Lav Diaz’s approach. However, Koepnick’s notion of long take is still problematic.

For Koepnick, ‘that contemporary moving image practice often embraces long takes — extended shot durations and prolonged experiences of moving image environments — as a medium to reconstruct spaces for the possibility of wonder’(Koepnick, 2017, p. 1). Unlike Henderson who sees long take as a style situated between Bazin and Eisenstein, 978-0-8166-9588-1-frontcoverKoepnick constitutes the long take in a larger socio-historical fabric. For Koepnick, the long take is transmediatic, no longer local to cinema, but moves across various media platforms and spaces of spectacle. All these long takes share an ‘effort to rub against today’s frantic regimes of timeless time, against today’s agitated forms of viewership and 24/7 spectatorial self-management’ (Koepnick, 2017, p. 1).

As cinematographic style, Koepnick traces the prominence of long take in the 1990s when international arthouse filmmakers like Lisandro Alonso, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Pedro Costa, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Tsai Ming-Liang and others were recognized in the global arthouse market as a new force of filmmaking (Koepnick, 2017, p. 2). One of the key words in Koepnick’s book is wonder or the wondrous. For Koepnick, the long take is the ‘effigy of wondrous, the focal point to rethink notions of art cinema today’ (Koepnick, 2017, p.3). His goal is to ‘emancipate the long take from the grip of recent cinephilia (Koepnick, 2017, p.3).

The Wondrous

Koepnick defines the wondrous ‘as experience of something that defies expectation but need not to be encountered with fear, restless action or speechless defensiveness’ (Koepnick, 2017, pp. 1-2). The wondrous commands ‘a certain absence of expectation and a deliberate postponement of reaction, activity and interpretation…existing outside the realm of the will, defers any demand for instant reply and communication, and defies impatient efforts of narrative integration’ (Koepnick, 2017, p. 8). The wondrous, for Koepnick, is a perceptual event: ‘Wonder happens suddenly. It ruptures the fabric of time, yet unlike the traumatic experiences of shock, the wondrous neither overwhelms nor petrifies the senses’ (Koepnick, 2017, p. 9). Although a wondrous event ‘disrupts temporal continuity, it requires time and duration’ (Koepnick, 2017, p. 9).

In introducing the idea of the wondrous, the goal of Koepnick is not to reduce long take ‘as a palliative to the ills of contemporary speed’ (Koepnick, 2017, p. 4). He does not look at long take as a candidate to promote slow life agenda, nor does it physically slow down the speeds of the twenty-first century. Instead, Koepnick looks at the long take as one that ‘distends time, derails the drives of narrative and desire, and hovers above the border between film and photography’ (Koepnick, 2017, p. 4). Koepnick seems to zero-in on the politics of the long take in relation to contemporary notions of attention. However, Koenpick delimits his notion of the long take as not related to extended-shot durations intended for choreography of complex actions, or intended as performative space, or a space for deployment of special effects (Koepnick, 2017, p. 9).

Assessment of the Long Take and the Wondrous

While it prods on a new idea of the wondrous, Koepnick’s notion of the long take is a step back in terms of inclusiveness. It has identified its class position by privileging the wondrous as exclusively identifiable with art cinema. He outwardly declares it in one paragraph, and let me quote in length:

My interest, in other words, is in long takes that result not in spectators shouting, “Wow, how the heck did they do that!,” but in viewers who may find themselves investigating possible relations among the different temporalities on screen, the temporal orders of the projection situation, and the rhythms of their own physical and mental worlds. My interest is in moving image work that embraces extended- shot durations as a medium to provide a space not for mere spectacle and astonishment but for reconstructing spaces for wondrous looking in the face of its ever- increasing disappearance.

(Koepnick, 2017, p. 10)

In this passage, Koenpick’s bourgeois position as a writer becomes clear. While he is critical of the ever disappearing spaces of contemporary culture, he still does not overcome his own class contradiction. Consistent to our materialist stance on art cinema, Koenpick is guilty of concealing the role of the proletariat in the production of the long take and its spectatorship. He effaces the proletarian subjectivity by jumping over them with his words ‘not in spectators shouting, “Wow, how the heck did they do that!”’. The exclusion of mainstream cinema is a major loophole in Koenpick’s privileging of the wondrous in art cinema. While no true opposition exists between art and mainstream cinema, Koenpick has not fully looked into the problematic category of the wondrous in relation to its complicity with class ideology.

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The wondrous, if we are to put Koenpick’s politics in the context of cultural markets, is close to the affect produced by commodity fetishism. The exacting materiality of the wondrous, as only limited to art cinema’s deployment of the long take, tells us that it is nothing different to the affect associated with media fetishism. I therefore argue that Koenpick’s idea of the long take is a form of art cinema fetishism. However, I will suspend for a moment this assessment as I will have to read the rest of the work and see if this position is held throughout the work.

Usefulness in My Research

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Koepnick’s notion of long take has overlaps in Diaz’s aesthetics. Diaz’s aesthetics fits in the mold of Koepnick’s privileging of art cinema. Diaz’s cinema has never been fully integrated in the proletarian struggle of Filipinos. His cinema has gained recognition in Europe, in arthouse film festivals like in France, Berlin, Venice, Fribourg among others. Diaz’s orientation towards the art market, which reached its peak when he collaborated with bourgeois elite producers of Manila in 2012 for his film Norte, the End of History (2013), recently opened many doors to Diaz in a financial sense. However, unlike Koepnick, Diaz’s long take is built on a theological position of temporarility that he rigorously sought throughout his career: a liberation theology that instrumentalizes technology and long duration as both emancipatory forms of pedagogy for the spectator.

Koepnick has focused his profiling of the long take in relation to the economy of attention from the perspective of the art cinema spectator. It is a phenomenological rendering of the long take. However, Diaz’s long take is positioned from an aesthetic-political sense, not in a phenomenological sense, as in Koepnick’s the notion of the wondrous.

In order to calibrate our critique for Diaz’s long take and long duration metaphysics, the positionality of our approach would comprise constituting first the material base of the long take: its mode and means of production. To establish this, we have to constitute the political economy of long take in the Philippines and how films like Lav Diaz’s oeuvre are marketed by cultural agents in the West.

Clarification of Position: Subjecting Auteurism to Dialectical Materialist Critique

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Jean-Luc Godard on the set of Made in USA., photographed by Bruno Barbey, 1966 (From here)

In my earlier post regarding theories of authorship in film, I mentioned that Lav Diaz’s authorship must be constituted within an expanded framework beyond the politics of representation. The framework that I’m referring to is the dialectical and historical materialist framework which looks beyond the politics of representation by reconsidering the importance of material conditions, the distribution of capital, and the intensity of market exchange, in the production of a cinematic product. Aside from the political economic consideration, dialectics of history is important in looking at auteurism in relation to the works of Lav Diaz. What are the historical forces that constituted the cultural status of Lav Diaz as an auteur? And, in the process of questioning, we must also look into the larger social fabric that constitute the conditions of the long take and auteurism. We must look at the long take in a dialectical and historical materialist manner, and this can only matter, in a dialectical sense, if we reify the metaphysics of long duration of Diaz and a negation of such metaphysics. The negation of such metaphysics is a materialist form of duration – time as material.

 

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Research Log 1.0: Ground Zero

This post is reposted from Correspondence N.1: On the Epistemology of Arrival, Lav Diaz, Argentina x Brazil. In order to systematize my writings in preparation for my thesis proposal, I will keep a regular log of my research on Lav Diaz.

A Sneak Peak on my Archival Research on Lav Diaz

Day 1: Ground Zero (July 9, 2017)

IMG_6717One of my book finds in Lav Diaz’s library- Kubler’s The Shape of Time. I wonder if he ever read this.

My archival research on Lav Diaz will not be possible without the big help of Hazel Orencio who first sent me a message inviting me for a Lav Diaz-related event in Singapore this coming August 2017. This prompted me to ask if she has some of Diaz’s primary documents to back-up my historical research on him. Two Sundays ago, we agreed to meet in Diaz’s apartment in Marikina, Metro Manila where Diaz is residing. He’s on a three-week break in the Philippines before heading back to the United States. Marikina is a suburban city adjacent to Quezon City where I live, just two jeepney rides away from my place.

Since my study is historiographic in nature I asked Lav Diaz if he could provide all the primary documents in my checklist. These include scripts, production notes, behind the scenes photographs and videos, rushes, cinematographic devices, lighting equipment, sound equipment, old photographs from childhood, school records, birth records, etc. So we initially level off in terms of conducting my research. We also run through my checklist to identify the documents’ location. Diaz is not fond of storing photographs. He said I should ask his regular film crew like Larry Manda, his cinematographer and collaborator since 1998, and Cesar Hernando, production designer of Batang West Side (2001), to locate some the production/behind the scenes photos of his films. Diaz also suggested to visit the archive of the comics publisher Altas Publishing to check on some of his works. Diaz mentioned that he did two graphic novels. One of which is titled Prinsipe Maru. He also suggested to check the archive of PTV4, a local government-owned TV channel, for his works in television during the late 1980s (post-EDSA People Power). If one of you is aware of Diaz’s history, the earliest version of Heremias (2006) was an educational video he did for the TV Program called Balintataw, which can be found in PTV4.

His personal archive in Marikina contains mostly old scripts, old but highly important miniDVs containing the raw files of his mid-2000s works. All digitized raw files of his post-Good Harvest works are there. His digital cameras are also there. His editing station is also there. Hazel told me that Diaz only edits his films in one area – his editing room, a small room with a Mac computer and a small single bed. Ever since they transferred in Marikina, he never edited outside the confines of this editing room. This must be a very special place.

 IMG_6518Diaz’s Panasonic DVX-100 camera he used in the mid-2000s.

Also, I was surprised to find that all his filmmaking equipment and all his awards fit into one bookshelf, no more and no less, although I haven’t seen the Golden Lion, the Silver Bear and Golden Leopard.  This includes his cameras, lighting equipment, sound equipment, tripods, and lenses. Diaz was also not fond of displaying his trophies in glitzy cabinets and display tables. Instead, he places his trophies alongside his equipment without any distinguishing space for both types of materials. One is mixed with the other. Some of the trophies even have missing pieces.This only shows that Diaz is not really much after the awards. Continue reading

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Season of the Devil (2018) :: Links

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QUICK FACTS

Original Title :: Ang Panahon ng Halimaw
English Title :: Season of the Devil
Year :: 2018
Production Company :: Epicmedia, Sine Olivia Pilipinas, Globe Studios
Producers :: Bianca Balbuena, Lav Diaz, Quark Henares, Bradley Liew
Duration :: 3 hrs 54 mins
Written and directed :: Lav Diaz
Director of Photography :: Larry Manda
Editing :: Lav Diaz
Music :: Lav Diaz
Sound Design :: Corinne De San Jose
Sound :: Adrian Yew Erman
Production Design :: Popo Diaz
Costumes :: Mikee Dela Cruz
Make-up :: Syrel Lopez
Assistant Director :: Hazel Orencio
Production Manager :: Hui Yee Gan
Cast :: Pinky Amador (Kwago), Angel Aquino (Anghelita), Don Melvin Boongaling (Militia 1), Junji Delfino (Aling Maria), Bituin Escalante (Kwentista), Jonathan Francisco (Young Hugo), Bart Guingona (Paham), Dub Lau (Nong), Bradley Liew (Militia 3), Ian Lomongo (Ian), Shaina Magdayao (Lorena Haniway), Hazel Orencio (Tenyente), Piolo Pascual (Hugo Haniway), Lilit Reyes (Militia 2), Joel Saracho (Ahas), Noel Sto. Domingo (Chairman Narciso)

REVIEWS

Official

  • Padilla, A. (2018, February 22). BERLINALE 2018 : SEASON OF THE DEVIL BY LAV DIAZ. Desistfilm. Retrieved from [link]
  • Rithdee, K. (2018, February 22). Devil on the doorstep. Bangkok Post. Bangkok. Retrieved from [link]
  • Jagernauth, K. (2018, February 22). Lav Diaz’s Mesmerizing Political Musical “Season Of The Devil” [Berlin Review]. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from [link]
  • Chatrian, C. (2018, February 21). Reversing the Rules – A Brief Reflection on Lav Diaz and His Latest Film. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from [link]
  • Kasman, D. (2018, February 21). Berlinale 2018. It’s Dark Here. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from [link]
  • Romney, J. (2018, February 20). “Season Of The Devil”: Berlin Review. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from [link]
  • Chervel, T. (2018, February 20). Oper ist Aufopferung! Lav Diaz’ “In Zeiten des Teufels” (Wettbewerb). Perlentaucher.de Das Kulturmagazin. Retrieved from [link]
  • Lodge, G. (2018, February 20). Berlin Film Review: “Season of the Devil.” Variety. Retrieved from [link]
  • Sozzo, S. (2018, February 20). #Berlinale68 – Season of the Devil, di Lav Diaz 20. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from [link]
  • Tsui, C. (2018, February 20). “Season of the Devil” (’Ang Panahon ng Halimaw’): Film Review | Berlin 2018. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from [link]

ARTICLES

Official Photo

  • Escala, J. (2018, February 24). Piolo, Shaina at Lav Diaz, dala ang bandila ng ‘Pinas sa Berlinale. Balita. Manila. Retrieved from [link]
  • De Dios, K. (2018, February 22). World premiere ng pelikulang “Ang Panahon ng Halimaw” sa Berlin sold out na. DWIZ882. Manila. Retrieved from [link]
  • Awit, J. G. (2018, February 23). Diaz shows rock opera in Berlin. SunStar, pp. 1–6. Manila. Retrieved from [link]
  • Lav Diaz’s “Panahon ng Halimaw” debuts in Berlin: What critics are saying. (2018, February 21). ABS-CBN News. Manila. Retrieved from [link]
  • Sala, J. (2018, February 20). Crónica Berlinale 2018: “Season of the Devil” the act of killing. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from [link]
  • Ehrlich, D., & Kohn, E. (2018, February 12). 10 Must-See Films at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival. indieWire. USA. Retrieved from [link]
  • Lav Diaz returns to Berlin with musical movie. (2018, January 26). Business World. Manila. Retrieved from [link]
  • San Diego, B. J. (2018, January 22). Lav , Piolo make Berlinale comeback. INQUIRER.net. Manila. Retrieved from [link]
  • Cruz, M. R. (2017, October 2). Shaina , who hates singing , stars in Lav Diaz screen musical. INQUIRER.net. Manila. Retrieved from [link]

 

AUDIO-VISUAL MATERIALS 

  • Official Trailer

 

  • Ang Panahon ng Halimaw | Press Conference Highlights | Berlinale 2018

  • WATCH: ‘Ang Panahon ng Halimaw’ makes world premiere at the Berlinale (RAPPLER, Feb 22, 2018)

  • FIFIRAZZI: Piolo and Shaina’s ‘Ang Panahon ng Halimaw’, sold out sa Berlin (PTV, February 22, 2018)

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Correspondence N.1: On the Epistemology of Arrival, Lav Diaz, Argentina x Brazil

 GlauberRochaBlackGodWhiteDevilBlack God, White Devil (Glauber Rocha / Brazil / 1964)

July 24, 2017

Dearest Raju and Fernando,

Greetings from the Land of Engkantos!

How are things there in Argentina and in Brazil?

Before I begin and before any proper inauguration, I would like to enact an incision: that this letter be subdivided into several reflection points.

Knowing Brazil/Argentina through Cinema

I only know Brazil and Argentina through cinema and pictures. My favourite Argentinian film is the landmark film of Getino and Fernando E. Solanas titled The Hour of the Furnaces (1968). If you haven’t seen this film, I suggest you go see it. It is one of the films that had a vision to change the world through cinema. Its main paradigmatic practice is to constitute a revolution through image, and perhaps a revolution from the image of cinema, for The Hour of the Furnaces also combats the bourgeoisie’s mode of production by deploying the guerrilla approach to filmmaking. In the same way, the film also shatters the dominant cinematic image of its time in an ontological sense via deterritorialization i.e. all signs point towards a deterritorialization of the image through dialectical practice of editing.

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The Hour of the Furnaces (Getino & Solanas / Argentina / 1968)

Lisandro Alonso is also an unforgettable figure in Argentinian cinema. He and Lav Diaz have similar approaches to duration, although Alonso has a more ambiguous and sparser style in narrative. I like La Libertad (2001) for its straightforward depiction of a day in a life of a proletarian woodcutter. There is a simplicity to it that blurs the boundary of documentary and narrative film. The camera provokes an elaborate and impenetrable silence as means of disclosure, of worlding, of existing. Jauja (2014) is also a beautiful film by the same director, but I don’t know much about its Argentinian roots. I remember watching it with eyes wide open, anticipating its idiosyncrasies and anachronisms. I can’t seem to make sense of its incongruities. Maybe the beauty of the film lies in its incongruities, pauses and ellipses. There is a scene where Gunnar Dinesen (played by Viggo Mortensen) sleeps on rock starring at the heavens. There is ‘infinity’ to that image that I want to re-experience again. I remember thinking that that scene has something to do with love, with longing, or an infinity of longing perhaps.

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Jauja (Lisandro Alonso / Argentina / 2014)

I have also seen a recent Argentinian film titled Taekwondo (2016) by Argentinian born filmmakers Marco Berger and Martin Farina, a film that explores male bisexuality. It might be one of the very few films I have seen in my waking life that cinematically explores bisexuality, and I liked it.

From what I have seen, Taekwondo is labyrinth of bodies. The male body in the film transforms into a generalized spectre, a site of struggle of sexuality. What I liked about the film is that it withdraws from the penetrative approach of contemporary gay films by exhuming the liminal power of the body to question the politics of visibility of LGBTQ cinema. In withdrawing from penetrative paradigm of gay identity politics, the film reconstructs a ‘minotaurian dilemma’ of bodies and orientations. In the end, Theseus, in parallel to the character of German (played by Gabriel Epstein), will slay the minotaur, in parallel to the character of Fer (played by Lucas Papa), at the center of labyrinth with a kiss.

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Taekwondo (Marco Berger & Martin Farina / Argentina / 2016)

As with Brazilian Cinema, I can only think of two unforgettable cinephilic experiences. The first one was watching Walter Hugo Khouri’s Noite Vazia (Men and Women, Brazil, 1964) which had a profound lingering effect on me. I can’t think straight for days. The other one was watching Glauber Rocha’s A Idade da Terra (The Age of the Earth, 1980). The Age of the Earth violated my vision of the world. It is pure deterritorialization of cinematic image. These two films were transformative experiences that troubled my senses to its very end. Rocha’s other films Entranced Earth (1967), Black God, White Devil (1964) and Antonio Das Mortes (1969) were also memorable. Rocha’s idiosyncratic and militant approach to filmmaking is somewhat unique yet formally similar to how some contemporary Filipino filmmakers would approach editing, mise-en-scene and narrative. Khavn dela Cruz is one Filipino filmmaker I can think of that channels the same energy as Rocha’s caustic style. Yet, they diverge in terms of stylistic restraints. I can talk more about this topic, but it will be too much for this letter.

 note-vazia-1965-01-1-gi0FfBTop: Noite Vazia (Walter Hugo Khouri / Brazil / 1964) | Bottom: The Age of the Earth (Glauber Rocha / 1980)

I wonder if Rocha, Khouri, Getino and Solanas’ approaches to film style remain influential in the contemporary cinema of Argentina and Brazil. What’s happening now in your respective locales in terms of moving image production?

The period of the 1960s in Latin American cinema was revolutionary. Third cinema emerged during this period as collective effort to decolonize Latin American culture and resist the cultural imperialism of the United States. How’s the Third Cinema project in your respective regions now? Is the tradition of militant filmmaking, as inaugurated by Getino and Solanas, still practiced among militant filmmakers?

In return, I would like also to know if you have an idea of the Philippines, Philippine cinema, or militant cinema of the Philippines. What’s the recent Filipino film you’ve watched? Also, a question to Raju, if you come from India, what circumstances led you to reside in Brazil? How long have you resided in Brazil? Has transferring to another country affected your subjectivity as an Indian-born cinephile/film critic?

Correspondence: An Epistemology of Arrival

The geographical and cultural distance between Philippines and Argentina or Brazil poses a challenge especially on the subject of knowing the other. I guess cinema provides a translational advantage, a bridge that allows for distances to appear closer, yet some areas in your culture still remain untranslatable. There are still images left to be interpreted, contextualized, and re-imagined. Transcultural dialogue is more important now than ever. With neoliberalism and US cultural imperialism dominating distribution networks of cinema around the globe through Hollywood, we must not let a day pass without rallying for what is at stake in this dialogical space of cinema. The disappearing cultural specific heritage, proletarian subjectivity and collective memory are now threatened to be erased by instantaneity and synchronicity as operated via a globalized capital disseminated at an infinite speed. Correspondence, as I see it, is a radical refusal of instantaneity and synchronicity. It reintroduces again the concept of delay, or knowing in delay, through a form of a letter.

In correspondence, the question of ‘knowing’ and ‘arriving’ collapses into a duality; as if, for a moment, to ‘know’ what is there from a distant is also to ‘arrive’ there prematurely. Is knowing also a form of colonization? Correspondence, as I understand it, is a means to ‘arrive’ as well as to ‘know’ a place outside of oneself. To correspond is to arrive in a place outside only to know that one is always already too late. In correspondence, we are always late. Time has passed: for in arriving, or for a letter to arrive, some of us have already departed. We cannot be in same place at the same time, yet technologies such as instant messaging allow us to appear as though we are synchronic: in two places at once. Correspondence, on the other hand, recognizes the limit of the distance between two points, two locales, two worlds, two cultures, two temporalities. It is governed by the law of the Two, which, for Alain Badiou, constitute the dialectical alternative of One. Correspondence restores the difference and the untranslatability of one culture from another.

To enter into the activity of correspondence, which, for now, will be through a ‘letter,’ is to come to terms with the vulnerability of exposure, of arriving at a place exposed, or arriving towards an exposure of the self. It has occurred to me that writing a letter would not be as easy as I thought it would be. Since the letter is a form of public correspondence, there is a risk of exposure. There is a risk of exposing too much of myself, too much of my world. Can a letter be a means of overexposure? Cinema, on the other hand, has its own of means of exposing the world. Cinema can also be a letter of exposure (or overexposure) in its own way. To expose through exposition, on the other hand, for a letter is also an exposition of oneself, is also, in itself, a movement, a positioning, a posturing, a step ahead. To ex-pose — as a movement from one pose to another — is an ex-position — a displacement, a change in position. Indeed, correspondence is both an exposure and an exposition, jointly and separately, one and the same.

There is a life out here in the Philippines that is worth a book or a poem or a film, but a letter of correspondence would not suffice to expose even the surface matter of phenomena and reality I see through my eyes. Hence, the term encounter offers a heuristic path towards knowing the other without risking exposure and colonization. Thus, in correspondence, we only write encounters.

Lav Diaz’s Cinematic Duration as Object of Study

I would like to share to you a little background of my writing and research life. I am twenty-eight years old. I live in Manila for more than ten years now. For now, I am not affiliated in any film journal or publication, but occassionally I do published some of my articles in magazines and film journals. The latest would be an article on Hegel and Lav Diaz in NANG Magazine Issue 2. I am also actively engaged in a film organization Cinema and Moving Image Research Assembly (CAMIRA). I am in-charge of organizing activities of the film organization in the Philippines.

As for my studies, I am currently finishing my MA Media Studies (Film) degree at the University of the Philippines Film Institute with key interest on film philosophy. I am now in my thesis stage with Lav Diaz’s cinematic duration as my main object of study.

I have been doing research on Diaz’s cinema since I started my MA degree in 2014. My interest in Diaz’s cinema does not come entirely from an appreciative perspective, but rather from a critical one. Diaz’s cinema has amassed a wide range of critical debates on various subjects of his cinema with film reception as one of the main areas of contestation. My thesis will focus on the problematic issue of Diaz’s long durations.

 maxresdefaultDeath in the Land of Encantos (Lav Diaz, Philippines, 2007)

With running time up to eleven hours long, and, on average, clocking at six to eight hours, his films no longer belong to the general criteria of entertainment cinema. In Diaz’s cinema, I consider cinematic duration as site of constraint generative of a new ontology, epistemology, ethico-politics and aesthetics of cinema.

Diaz’s eurocentric audience also poses a problematic politics of reception. One of my cinephile friends from Italy, Renato Loriga, expressed his distaste on European cinephilia’s instant positive appraisal on Diaz’s cinema after winning three successive major awards from the top European film festivals of Locarno, Berlin and Venice in the span of three years. Renato told me that the Italian critics, especially those who have ignored some of his early long-form works in the 2000s, were suddenly appreciative of his cinema because of the awards he won. Diaz was almost suddenly under the radar of critics, scholars, producers, distributors and the media, earning him a title as one of the world’s most renowned filmmakers.

While legitimizing his position as one of the forminable Asian auteurs that penetrated the European cinephile culture, the limited turnout of Filipino audience in most of his screenings in the Philippines proved contradictory. Diaz’s high cultural capital and idiosyncratic approach to filmmaking opened debates, critical appraisal and critiques in his home country. During the onset of his popularity, Diaz’s long duration was dismissed as anti-people and anti-audience for its demand for long endurance and extreme durative work from its audience. Diaz’s duration can be seen as a totalitarian conditioning of opticity. This and other problematiques would constitute the core problems of my thesis.

A Sneak Peak on my Archival Research on Lav Diaz

Day 1: Ground Zero (July 9, 2017)

IMG_6717One of my book finds in Lav Diaz’s library- Kubler’s The Shape of Time. I wonder if he ever read this.

My archival research on Lav Diaz will not be possible without the big help of Hazel Orencio who first sent me a message inviting me for a Lav Diaz-related event in Singapore this coming August 2017. This prompted me to ask if she has some of Diaz’s primary documents to back-up my historical research on him. Two Sundays ago, we agreed to meet in Diaz’s apartment in Marikina, Metro Manila where Diaz is residing. He’s on a three-week break in the Philippines before heading back to the United States. Marikina is a suburban city adjacent to Quezon City where I live, just two jeepney rides away from my place.

Since my study is historiographic in nature I asked Lav Diaz if he could provide all the primary documents in my checklist. These include scripts, production notes, behind the scenes photographs and videos, rushes, cinematographic devices, lighting equipment, sound equipment, old photographs from childhood, school records, birth records, etc. So we initially level off in terms of conducting my research. We also run through my checklist to identify the documents’ location. Diaz is not fond of storing photographs. He said I should ask his regular film crew like Larry Manda, his cinematographer and collaborator since 1998, and Cesar Hernando, production designer of Batang West Side (2001), to locate some the production/behind the scenes photos of his films. Diaz also suggested to visit the archive of the comics publisher Altas Publishing to check on some of his works. Diaz mentioned that he did two graphic novels. One of which is titled Prinsipe Maru. He also suggested to check the archive of PTV4, a local government-owned TV channel, for his works in television during the late 1980s (post-EDSA People Power). If one of you is aware of Diaz’s history, the earliest version of Heremias (2006) was an educational video he did for the TV Program called Balintataw, which can be found in PTV4.

His personal archive in Marikina contains mostly old scripts, old but highly important miniDVs containing the raw files of his mid-2000s works. All digitized raw files of his post-Good Harvest works are there. His digital cameras are also there. His editing station is also there. Hazel told me that Diaz only edits his films in one area – his editing room, a small room with a Mac computer and a small single bed. Ever since they transferred in Marikina, he never edited outside the confines of this editing room. This must be a very special place.

 IMG_6518Diaz’s Panasonic DVX-100 camera he used in the mid-2000s.

Also, I was surprised to find that all his filmmaking equipment and all his awards fit into one bookshelf, no more and no less, although I haven’t seen the Golden Lion, the Silver Bear and Golden Leopard.  This includes his cameras, lighting equipment, sound equipment, tripods, and lenses. Diaz was also not fond of displaying his trophies in glitzy cabinets and display tables. Instead, he places his trophies alongside his equipment without any distinguishing space for both types of materials. One is mixed with the other. Some of the trophies even have missing pieces.This only shows that Diaz is not really much after the awards.

IMG_6620

MiniDV tapes of Heremias 

Diaz is currently using a Sony A7s camera for his two upcoming films. This full-frame camera provided Diaz’s the necessary sensitivity to both light and darkness. He used this to shoot his previous film  Ang Babaeng Humayo. This is quite different from how Diaz organizes his shoots with his Panasonic DVX100, which he used to film the latter half of Evolution of a Filipino Family (2005) until Butterflies Have No Memories (2009). Panasonic DVX100 uses miniDVs while Sony A7s uses memory card. Although both are digital in terms of coding, they vary differently in terms data management principles and storage.

 IMG_6616

Diaz as the current archivist of his cinema

Diaz does not use sophisticated sound devices except for a simple boom microphone in some of his films. Most of his sounds are live sounds using his cameras’ respective microphone. He also rarely does sound editing or sound design. He also does not use sophisticated lighting equipment, just a few LED lights he used for the night scenes in A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery (2016). Other than that, all his light comes from natural sources.

This is ground zero of my Lav Diaz research. I wish to share more of my findings in the next letters. I wonder, have any of you seen a Lav Diaz film? What is your experience like? What do you think are the similarities and differences of Lav Diaz and Lisandro Alonso in terms of their approaches to slow cinema? Do you consider Lav Diaz’s cinema as slow cinema?

I am quite excited to hear from you two.

Yours truly,

Adrian Mendizabal
Manila, Philippines
July 24, 2017

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Hello 2017!

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Dropping by to say hi!  This note is intended to be short, just a run down on what happened to me these past few weeks of the year and some updates on my research on Lav Diaz:

  • At last, after two and half years, I’m done with my coursework for MA Media Studies (Film) last December 2016. I am currently awaiting for the decision of the Graduate Studies Department of UP CM if whether I am indeed qualified to take the dreaded MA Candidacy Exam this coming February 2017. Wish me luck! 
  • UPDATE: MA MS (Film) Comprehensives exam will be on February 11! Shiet! I got 25 books and 10 films to speed read and speed watch in less than a month. I’ll be charting my progress here, so stay tune. Hope I can put some of my digests on chapters/essays here. Wish me luck for the compre exams.
  • Also, after being unemployed for two years, I already landed a job last August 2016. So there.
  • As for my research on Lav Diaz, I’m currently doing a historical study of Diaz in relation to technology and the political economic history of Philippine cinema, following the framework of cultural materialism/techno-criticism. It’ll be a baseline study wherein I can finally look into Lav Diaz beyond his aesthetics and content and dwell on the necessary historical problems that haunt his cinema. One of the main questions that I want to problematize in this study is what were the technological and socio-economic conditions what led to the emergence of Diaz’s long form style.
  • Will try to draft something for DLSU’s 8th KRITIKA: National Workshop on Art and Cultural Criticism 2017 due tomorrow, Jan 15 and KRITIKA KULTURA CRITICISM WORKSHOP due on March 15. I already have ready-made unpublished essays. I just have to refine them. Hopefully, I will not be too distracted tomorrow.

Let’s rock on for 2017! Goals for 2017: more publications, more conference, more blogpost,  more papers!

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Aleiatorytexts for Augustus

libary-babel

Borgesian library-Google Data Bank. (from here)

1. Each text is a construct: a reduction of thoughts’ pluripotentials into a well-arranged, grammatically sound signifying system.  2. To arrange a text is to intervene in thought itself. 3. Hence, the arrangement of the texts in a hypertextual environment is a political act: a will to power is involved. 4. In this day and age of informational catastrophe, the author is self-aware of this text’s complicity with the politics of the digital. 5. This act of hypertextual writing is preconditioned by another construct: an assumption that there exist an anonymous individual X who will read the excess ‘i’ in the text’s title and wonder if it is something that the author of the text intends to typogrify.


 

Text 1.


Anti-Auteur
. I am currently developing a polemical piece that seeks to critically ‘deconstruct’ the tenets of auteurism tentatively entitled ‘Parricide to the Auteur’. The seed idea came from my reading of Jacques Derrida’s book Of Hospitality where I encountered the radical word ‘parricide’ (a passage of which will be provided in a separate text below). Derrida dispenses the radical potential of a Foreigner as parricidal speculum to the paternal logos. We commonly associate the logos to the rule of law, the central structuring force of all knowledge and discursive structures in the history of thought.

This parricide to the paternal logos is very much close to my developing polemic against the celebritification and mythologization of auteur in today’s film industry. In my developing study on Lav Diaz, I outwardly criticize the signifying logos of the auteur as all-encompassing concept to my philosophical investigation of the Diaz’s cinema’s relation to time.

In one of my papers submitted in Advance Film Theory and Criticism class (Film 270) (view here), I proposed a reconfiguration of the author-function as inherently complicit with the passage of time. In a way, I was trying to re-envision Diaz as a continuing process of constitution and deconstitution, an assemblage of significations and many other things beyond his body. That, in the cultural sphere, he no longer exists as One body, but as a continuous being-in-process , a becoming-in-transition. The massive circulation of texts within and outside the stratifying machine of culture, the free play between signifier and signified, and asubjective ruptures surrounding his work, all of which participate in the constitution and deconstitution of  his ‘being’, transforming him into a ‘differential immanent object.’  To simply put it, ‘Lav Diaz’ no longer exists as purely as Diaz-in-himself but rather his body becomes reconstituted and mediatized by informational, cultural and socio-political fields.

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