Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Communist Past: The Temperamental but Effective Results of a Rollei Film via an Olympus Trip

By Olivia Maria Hărşan

Although my favorite camera is undoubtedly my Porst Reflex, I decided against taking it to Europe this year and breaking my back with it (it gets heavy after a while, especially when you're backpacking!). I replaced it with my little Olympus Trip that I picked up for a ridiculous $3 at my local op shop. Little did I know that it had a light leak, but between this flaw and the intolerance of the Rollei film, my Olympus achieved some interesting results. Below are some photographs I took in Sighişoara, Berlin and Prague. P.S. The last three are taken on B&W Kodak film.

Props to my close friend Aaron Bensaude who helped me scan my film with his high tech photo scanner. Aaron is currently living in London and in the process of publishing a book on his grandfather's beautiful photographs, which focus on rural life in Portugal. He would not be happy with me as I have not yet tweaked these in Photoshop, but I'm all for imperfection in photography. So here they are in their imperfect state, enjoy.

Biserica din Deal/Church on the Hill in Sighişoara, Romania
(June 2012)

Casa Cu Cerb/Deer House in Sighişoara, Romania
(June 2012)

Turnul Cu Ceas/Clock Tower in Sighişoara, Romania 
(June 2012)

Abandoned Trabant in Kreuzberg, Berlin 
(July 2012)

Monument on Karlův Most/Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic
(May 2012) 

Musicians on Karlův Most/Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic
(May 2012) 

A back street in Prague, Czech Republic
(May 2012)

Karlův Most/Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic
(May 2012) 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Visual Diary: From Yugoslavia with Love

By Olivia Maria Hărşan

Dušan Makavejev's 'Sweet Movie' (1974)

You ain't seen nothing, until you've watched a Black New Wave film.... But before you decide to quickly judge the images below in a negative manner, it is important to remain open minded. Makavejev uses phallic images throughout his films to stand for the essence of dictatorship throughout Eastern Europe's communist history. Sex is another recurring motif playfully and sometimes dangerously portrayed by the auteur to represent death - the final image in this series is a reference to the Kachyn Forest massacre. Film scholar, Dina Iordanova speaks more fluently about the metaphors in a documentary featured on the Criterion Collection edition of the film.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Film Review: Aurora (2010) Cristi Puiu

By Olivia Maria Hărşan

On a recent visit to the La Trobe University library I surprisingly came across Cristi Puiu's latest film made, Aurora (2010). Readers, I have been on a rampage of destruction, trying to locate this DVD ever since it became a hit across festivals through Europe. Last year, I completed my Honours thesis in Romanian cinema with each chapter focusing on the following Romanian auteurs: Lucian Pintilie, Mircea Daneliuc, Cristi Puiu and Corneliu Porumboiu. Aurora was one film that I did not manage to incorporate in my examination and wish I had. It is a three hour reinterpretation and perhaps deconstruction of the drama genre. The plot follows the protagonist Viorel (Cristi Puiu) through his daily meanderings; re-claiming an overdue loan from a work colleague, alienating the staff at a clothing boutique, telling his mother's new lover to stay out of his face and murdering people with a rifle. The audience will come to understand that Viorel is going through a divorce, a separation that he does not agree with, hence the violent acts. He spies on his wife and children as they leave in the mornings and practices shooting in his apartment. And his motives are..?  Something for the audience to decide as the past becomes unraveled transcending into a climatic ending of about ten minutes, tops! Aurora is set in slow-cinematic form, which may be difficult for some viewers to maintain attention, but it is worthwhile as you will never see anything like a Cristi Puiu film.

Quite some time ago, my grandmother informed me, after watching her usual programs on Romanian TV via satellite, that Puiu searched and searched but did not find an actor who could fit the role, which is why he decided to play it himself. I confirmed this little piece of trivia with the lovely actress, Clara Vodă, on my trip to Romania this year, who stated that she convinced Puiu to portray Viorel. Clara plays a significant role in Aurora as a sister or friend of the protagonist (it is unclear) and also worked with Puiu in, what I believe to be, his greatest achievement thus far, The Death of Mr Lazarescu (2005).

Monday, November 5, 2012

Women in Film: Věra Chytilová

By Olivia Maria Hărşan

Half Feminist Filmmaker, Half Devoted Mother

I just sat down and watched Věra Chytilová's magnum opus Daisies/Sedmikrásky (1966) followed by a documentary on the director featured on the 'Second Run' edition of the DVD. As reputed, the film was impressive. A definite contributor to modern surrealist cinema and its existence within the Czech New Wave. In nature, Daisies is similar to its successor, Fruits of Paradise/Ovoce stromů rajských jíme(1970). Both carry a sense of foreboding while the characters are eerie and strange in their behavior. Chytilová delightfully shocks and pleases us, she is a rebel with a cause and that cause is to fight against restriction, the restriction of her time. She is disinterested in safety or in the momentary well-being of her audience. Chytilová is a concept artist, experimenting with the macabre and producing simple stories with a twist--she mentions in the documentary that it doesn't matter what story you tell, it is the way you tell it. It was so unfortunate to see that her children, now in their thirties and forties, do not share the same passions as their remarkable mother. Her son, depicted walking away from the camera throughout the documentary, wishing not to be filmed. Yet, Chytilová persists in asking him to collaborate with her on future projects, only to receive blasé responses (whereas I'm sitting there thinking "pick me, pick me!").

Daisies portrays a series of acts in which two young women, both named Marie, rebel against the system. They trick old men into buying them expensive meals, making them believe that they will sleep with them in exchange for champagne and cake, only to force them onto a train heading out of town. In another scene, they drink an obscene amount of alcohol only to be thrown out of a cabaret club. They have free love, steal, fight with each other and cut holes in their bed sheets. But the biggest act of all occurs at the end when they bombard an empty dining room--all but food. The Maries destroy and devour all the opulent dishes before resorting to a food fight and dancing in their underwear on the table--sounds like fun to me! (Oh and the utter absurdity of this film being band for the reason that it "depicts food wastage". Food shortage in a Communist backdrop was firstly a matter of the government itself exporting goods out of the country).

In the end, after the girls are punished, they return to the dining room to clean up. As they sweep the table with a floor broom and place the broken dishes in place, they are heard whispering: "if we're good and hard working we'll be happy". After all their 'hard work', they lie down on the table only to be crushed by a chandelier. And what the hell does this mean? Probably that conforming and following order is equal to death. Chytilová, after being kicked out of film school for her 'controversial' approaches, attempted suicide, because for her it was either filmmaking... or nothing. Perhaps it is a reference to this segment of her life, perhaps not. Nevertheless, Chytilová is an inspiring woman and without a doubt the Agnès Varda of New Czech Cinema.