This was my first time at the Film Society at Lincoln Center’s Francesca Beale Theater part of the new the Elinor Blum Monroe Film Center. This is a much more intimate and social setting than the Walter Reade across the street. The additional time and public space between programs offered a chance to decompress, mingle and become re-caffeinated. In the age of digital streaming it is quaint to build a $41 million dollar new cinema complex. The facility does deliver on the promise of great sound and vision, comfortable seating with generous leg room and the inability to get a mobile phone signal in the theater.
If there was one area I would suggest that some money be spent on improving is the remote/online ticketing system which is awful (and reducing the over the top per ticket charges from Center Charge). The self serve ticketing kiosk in the lobby seemed multi-plex quality so maybe there is hope.
THE SOUL AND THE STEM is the first of four programs I am attending on Day 1 of Views.
Señora con Flores / Woman with Flowers, Chick Strand, U.S./Mexico, 1995/2011, 15m
I had not seen any of Ms. Strand’s films before and there is little on YouTube that references her work which is a shame. I would have liked to have had a chance to sample either “Fake Fruit” or “Soft fiction” at least in part as the do touch on some of the same themes here. A sad tale in beautiful color and sound. The rogue husband, the wife beater, the child abuser are all too common place characters in today’s multi-channel/stream world for to raise my shock meter.
Two things came to mind. Having recently watched parts of a few episodes of Ken Burns’ Prohibition, it is clear the behavior that women and children are subjected to in homes where alcohol is abused is still a historical problem. I am sure the children are victim to women who abuse alcohol as well however that’s not the story Ms. Strand is telling.
Second since I don’t speak/understand Spanish, I would have liked a little of the Jean Marie Straub style I was exposed to last year – the film played all the way through without subtitles and then played all the way through with subtitles. The late Ms. Strand’s work was restored/completed by the Academy Film Archive. It is noted in the program that the completion did not have had any “creative interpretation/involvement” so I will keep my ideas to myself. I look forward to seeing more of her work and will make the effort to do so.
Jan Villa, Natasha Mendonca, India/U.S., 2010, 20m
A strong soundtrack with a well edited, visually interesting shot selection, Jan Villa is both a document and mini-operetta to Bombay (Can an operatta be mini? and do I have to call it Mumbai?). I think Ms. Mendonca’s insider view eliminated my own usual disdain for the western photography and films which emphasize the exotic, usual and/or poverty thus removing the naturalness, the quotidian, from their representations of India.
The Sole of the Foot, Robert Fenz, U.S/Germany, 2011, 34m
The film notes did a better job in explaining the work, then the work itself. I guess that is the problem with reading the program notes in advance. This seems like it is attempting an advocate’s point of view (from the notes) while using “experimental” constructs where no argument/point of view/antagonist is established. This piece lacks the drunk husband of Ms. Strand’s work. That said, the images themselves were beautiful on the big screen and the Cuba footage was particularly well done. All too often Cuba on film (to me) seems like a rehash of second unit takes for Godfather II.
Correspondence, Robert Fenz, U.S./Germany, 2011, 30m
The piece succeeded by making the primacy of image its focal point. I will not soon forget the snow framed views and pacing of this work. Mark McElhatten indicated before the screening that there was a Frenz book recently published. I would have bought it. I can’t find it online. Oh well!